From craggy snow-capped mountains and lush rainforests to windswept coastlines and even arid deserts, the Pacific Northwest is extraordinary and an astonishingly varied holiday destination. When you add in some of the most vibrant, exciting, and dynamic cities in North America, a holiday in the Pacific Northwest is an experience not to be missed.
With so much to see and do, you’ll want to plan your vacation carefully. The Pacific Northwest is a pretty huge geographical terrain, stretching from Canada all the way down to California, so you’ll want to have a fair idea of what you want to see, and how you are going to get about.
Read on for a few suggestions of the best things to do and sights to see, where to eat, and how to have the most exciting adventure possible in the Pacific Northwest.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver offers a more laid-back charm than its American city cousins, but should not be underestimated. With a gorgeous setting sandwiched between majestic mountains and the grey, wild Pacific Ocean, the natural world is never far away from life in Vancouver. The city itself has a superb arts and culture scene, with museums and galleries like the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Museum of Anthropology that are some of the best examples of their type. You are just a stone’s throw away from experiences like the Grouse Mountain Resort and the Sea to Sky Highway, and in Stanley Park, Vancouver has one of the best urban parks in the world.
The Pacific Rim National Park, Canada
Canada’s Pacific Rim National Park is part of the absolutely gorgeous Vancouver Island, which is well worth exploring further in its own right. The Pacific Rim itself offers rainforests, over 100 remote islands, extraordinary wind-swept coastline, and one of the finest walking trails in the country in the West Coast Trail. It is also the birthplace of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and is a wonderful place to learn more about the rich history and cultures that make up these 14 nations.
The home of the Space Needle, Starbucks, Nirvana, and Frasier Crane, Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, and probably the most vibrant and exciting. A real cultural hotspot, the music scene here is hard to beat, and the city has a seemingly unending supply of superb craft breweries, wineries, and world-class food joints that forge a seriously buzzy vibe.
A paradise for hipsters, creatives, and lovers of alternative lifestyles, Portland easily lives up to its oh-so-trendy stereotypes and often exceeds them. However, the city is much more than just flat whites, lumberjack shirts, and fixie bikes. It boasts an extraordinary dining scene, with everything from eclectic, imaginative street food to full-on haute cuisine, and has a nightlife to match. The surrounding landscape is genuinely stunning, and the city itself offers excellent attractions like Powell’s City of Books and the International Rose Test Garden to provide something for travelers of every stripe.
The Northern Cascades
The variety of ecosystems in the 789 acres that makes up the Northern Cascades National Park and the Cascades mountain range is simply mind-boggling. With everything from glacier-topped mountains and deep forested valleys to marshes, swamps and wetlands, Crater Lake National Park (the deepest lake in the US), and even the dangerous volcanic majesty of Mount St Helens, this is a truly extraordinary place. Hike, ski, climb, fish and ride horses, or just gaze in awe at some of the most dramatic and remarkable landscapes in the USA.
Cruise to Alaska
Once you get tired of road-tripping via car, the Pacific coast itself is an exceptionally beautiful sight, and can provide remarkable views when seen from the ocean. With cruise ports right up the coast from California to Canada, one of the best ways to see as many sights as possible, and really take advantage of the amazing diversity of the region, is to take a cruise to Alaska. Relax onboard in luxury, comfort, and style, and watch the gorgeous scenery drift past off the starboard bow.
Whales, Birds, and Beasts
Nature and the natural world are the main events in the Pacific Northwest, and wherever you go you are never far from discovering something beautiful, rare, and exciting. The PNW includes half of the states and provinces in North America with a Pacific Ocean coastline and boasts a ton of beautiful beaches that are perfect for whale, dolphin, and orca watching. Alternatively, take a boat trip from Vancouver or Seattle to get even closer to these magnificent marine mammals.
The San Juan Islands are home to more than 125 nesting pairs of bald eagles, while puffins, guillemots, and cormorants are regularly sighted in the Salish Sea. Porpoises, seals, sea otters, and sea lions can be seen up and down the entire Pacific Coast, and the forests, mountains, and valleys of Washington State, Victoria, and Oregon are filled with bears, elk, mountain lions, and wolves. For animal lovers, this can be a truly exceptional holiday destination.