Best Day Trips from Seattle
Seattle is a bustling urban center known for many things. It is favored for its rich coffee and food scene, the booming tech industry, and many iconic attractions, including the world-renowned Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Great Wheel. While there’s no shortage of things to do in this remarkable city in the Pacific Northwest, there are many incredible day trips from Seattle that will complete your experience.
Bounded by Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east, Seattle is an ideal spot for sightseeing cruises, nature exploration, and water recreation. You can easily reach the state’s amazing landscapes in just an hour or two, from some of America’s best national parks to scenic beaches and majestic mountain ranges.
Whether you want to relax with breathtaking views or engage in adrenaline-pumping thrills, a day trip from the city center is all you need. After visiting the best museums in Seattle, you could spend a day on a ferry for island hopping or escape the city’s crowd for a tranquil nature retreat. Just bring your essentials and leave the rest of your belongings at secure luggage storage in Seattle, and you’ll be ready for an extraordinary adventure in Washington state.
How to get out of Seattle
One of the common concerns among travelers planning Seattle day trips is transportation. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get out of the city, even without a car. Of course, renting a car provides you with maximum freedom and flexibility. Plus, some areas, like huge national parks, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, have vast land areas and would be challenging to navigate without a car.
Besides driving, you can take advantage of organized day tours. They offer comfortable experiences, as you don’t have to worry about driving, parking, or getting lost. Some tours have personable tour guides who will explain popular places.
Another alternative is a private transfer. However, it’s often suited for groups. Public transportation like buses and trains are also great options, depending on where you’re headed. For island trips or traveling to nearby towns from Seattle across Puget Sound, ferry rides are a unique way to see more of the state of Washington.
If you're only traveling around downtown Seattle and the neighborhoods, learn about your transport options from our guide on how to get around Seattle.
From Seattle to Lakewold Gardens
Set on the shores of Gravelly Lake is the famous Lakewold Gardens, a historic estate garden featuring a beautiful venue for weddings and special celebrations. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, offering visitors glorious views of the lake and an inspirational experience.
This historical landmark boasts landscape architecture, where you’ll be surrounded by native and rare plants. Besides the lovely setting, the estate features a Georgian-style mansion, a gazebo, a pool, brick walks, and natural pathways with ponds. It welcomes group tours on Thursdays in summer and spring, but you can schedule a visit on other days if you’re group has more than fifteen members.
How to get to Lakewold Gardens
The estate is a private area and is not easily accessible by public transportation. The best way to get there is to rent a car, giving convenient access to the gardens and the surrounding area. The driving distance between Seattle and Lakewold Gardens is 40 minutes to an hour, depending on your stops and the traffic.
From Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park
If you’re visiting Seattle on a clear day, it’s the best time to venture out and embrace the beauty of nature from above at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s one of Washington state's most visited national parks, offering great adventures year-round. Travelers can stroll through the rainforest in spring, see powerful waterfalls in summer, hike with the beautiful wildflowers and admire the fall colors. In winter, it boasts epic activities like snowboarding, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Many people may not realize Mount Rainier is an episodically active volcano. It stands 14, 410 feet above sea level, making it an icon in the wonderful Washington landscape. Wildlife abounds in its ecosystems, with ancient forest shrouding its lower slopes and subalpine wildflower meadows surrounding the icy volcano.
There are five developed areas at Mount Rainer National Park; each can serve as your base for discovering the park. Be sure to plan ahead and wear attire when tackling the trails to enjoy the experience. But if you’re not fond of hiking, visitors can drive up to Sunrise at 6,4000, where you can still soak in breathtaking views.
How to get to Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is an easy 90-minute to two-hour drive from Seattle if you bring your car. Alternatively, you can rent one or organize a transport service to take you to the park, which is ideal for groups. There are also tours if you prefer someone to manage all the logistics.
From Seattle to Puget Sound
Puget Sound is an inland estuary west of Seattle, connected to the Pacific Ocean. It’s about 95 miles long and comprises several picturesque islands. It’s a popular destination for Seattle day trips, offering a number of incredible attractions and activities, from ferry rides and sunset hikes to whale watching and diving deep into scenic nature. However, before exploring the many islands, consider taking a walking tour at the Puget Sound Estuarium. You can either go for a shoreline tour or go birdwatching.
Puget Sound is ideal for those who want to get in touch with nature. A day trip here from the city will require time in the water to get around the many islands. Some of the must-visit are Bainbridge, San Juan, Anderson, Blake, Camano, Fidalgo, Vashon, and Whidbey, among many others.
How to get to Puget Sound
How to get to Puget Sound depends on which island or city you plan to visit. The estuary spans from Admiralty Inlet in the north to Olympia City in the south. Therefore, start by determining your destination, then take a bus or train to the nearest ferry port.
From Seattle to Bainbridge Island
One of the most-visited islands in the Puget Sound Basin is Bainbridge Island. It’s the second largest city in Kitsap County, with countless attractions and activities to try. While it’s a popular destination for day trips from Seattle, exploring the island for only one day may not be enough.
If you love nature, Bainbridge Island is perfect for you. Its protected forests cover about 1,400 acres, 1,100 of which are open for public visits. One of these is the 150-acre Bloedel Reserve. Besides the botanical gardens, the island is also home to many beaches, including Lytle Beach, offering many family-friendly activities.
Also, a short ferry ride from Seattle is the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. It’s a local museum housed in a 1908 Island schoolhouse. It was one of the last one-room schools in operation but closed in 1923. The museum currently features old tide and nautical charts, diaries and logs of early settlers and explorers, music, postcards, maps, photos, and other essential objects.
How to get to Bainbridge Island
The recommended route to this small city is a 35-minute ferry ride from Washington State Ferries at Colman Dock in Seattle Waterfront at Pier 52. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go by ferry, there’s another way to get to the island, although it will take about two hours. You’ll have to go around Puget Sound, requiring you to cross the bridge on Highway 35, which connects the mainland to Bainbridge.
From Seattle to the San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands group comprises an archipelago of over 450 smaller islands, massive rocks, and pinnacles. The most notable are the Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez islands, which are the first, second, and third largest in the group, respectively.
Each island has unique attractions and experiences, and going through everything will take more than a day. Therefore, it’s recommended to plan your best Seattle day trips in advance, including the transportation options, whether you’ll go by public ferry, water taxi, or charter plane.
When in Orcas or San Juan Island, consider the scenic byway tour, stopping by some of the most notable attractions in the location. Meanwhile, since Lopez Island is relatively small and quiet compared to the two, it’s recommended to follow the main road. You can take it slow by having a relaxing ride, either by bike or car.
How to get to the San Juan Islands
Getting to the Islands will be easy but may take about four hours. Ride the San Juan Clipper from Seattle, which will bring you to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. Alternatively, you can go by private boat or chartered seaplane.
From Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls
Snoqualmie Falls is the place to go if you’re planning affordable day trips from Seattle with your family. It’s one of the best waterfalls in Washington, whether you’re there for sightseeing, picture-taking, or hiking.
Since the Snoqualmie Falls trail is short, wide, and fairly even, it’s easy enough for even children to hike. Following the route gives you access to some of the best angles of the attraction. However, if you have mobility issues or are not into hiking, you can go to the Snoqualmie Depot instead. The park can give you a fantastic panoramic view of the falls.
How to get to Snoqualmie Falls
One of the many reasons Snoqualmie Falls is a popular tourist destination for day trips from Seattle is its proximity to the city. Going from either point will only take about 30 minutes on the road. However, if you’re going by bus, go to S Jackson St & Maynard Ave S to take the bus line 554 towards Issaquah. Then, go from the Issaquah Transit Center - Bay 4 bus line 208 towards North Bend Snoqualmie Ridge. Walking from there will take you about two hours.
From Seattle to North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park isn’t as close as other national parks to Seattle, but it’s still possible to plan a day trip here from the city. It’s a rugged mountain area with vertical landscapes, jagged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, sprawling forests, and valleys with blue lakes. It’s definitely a place thrill seekers and nature lovers shouldn’t miss.
Numerous viewpoints, nature activities, short, paved walks, and tons of outdoor recreation await you at the national park, making it a family-friendly park. For serious hikers and mountaineers, there are also steep mountain hikes and challenging hiking trails waiting to be tackled.
It’s free to visit the national park and doesn’t require a parking pass or a reservation. The only time you may need to pay a fee is if you plan to backcountry camp or car camp in North Cascades. Otherwise, you can explore and soak in nature for free! Outside the national park, farther north is the Mount Baker Ski Area, a famous downhill ski destination known for high amounts of snow. It’s one of the state’s best ski resorts if you want to take your family and friends skiing.
How to get to North Cascades National Park
The scenic byway is less than an hour’s drive from Seattle, but you’ll need about another hour to reach the national park properly. It isn’t accessible by major public transportation, so renting or driving your car is the best way to get there.
Have Amazing Day Trips from Seattle
Don’t limit your experience in Downtown Seattle! While the city has plenty to offer everyone of all ages and interests, many more fun adventures and nature escapes await you outside Emerald City. So rent a car and drive, catch a train, or go on a ferry for endless entertainment and thrill.
Any time of the year is great for an exciting journey outside the city, but summer is undoubtedly one of the best times to plan a day trip from Seattle! If a day tour is not enough, you can always extend your stay for an overnight trip and gain a different perspective on the scenic Washington landscapes.