Plan on spending 2 weeks in Washington and you'll get a good sense of this state's diverse landscapes. Not only will you be able to spend more time relaxing in the San Juan Islands, but you'll also get to explore the rugged North Cascades and wildflower meadows of Mount Rainier National Park.
Days 1 & 2: Seattle
Start in Seattle, where you should make a coffeehouse your first stop. After your hands are wrapped around a genuine Seattle latte, you're ready to take on the city. Start at Pike Place Market, where you can stuff yourself with all kinds of tasty food samples and snacks. From the market, head to the waterfront to visit the Seattle Aquarium and the Olympic Sculpture Park and go for a boat excursion. The next day, spend time at Seattle Center, which is home to the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project, and the Science Fiction Museum. Also be sure to visit the large Seattle Art Museum.
Day 3: Woodinville Wine Country
Washington is second only to California in wine production, and no visit here is complete without sampling a little fruit of the vine. The most convenient place to do some wine tasting is 30 minutes north of Seattle near the town of Woodinville. Here you should be sure to visit Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery, the area's two biggest producers. Afterward, check out some of the smaller wineries in the area.
Days 4, 5, 6 & 7: San Juan Islands
Head north to the emerald islands known as the San Juans. These idyllic islands are way out of the mainstream and home to quaint villages, delightful bed-and-breakfast inns, and excellent restaurants. Plan to stay on Orcas Island and San Juan Island, or, if you're a cyclist, quiet Lopez Island. While you're in the islands, be sure to try sea kayaking, and, if it's summer, be sure to go whale-watching. The mountain-top views and hiking trails at Moran State Park and Turtleback Mountain Preserve also should not be missed.
Day 8: The North Cascades and the Methow Valley
Drive east over the North Cascades Scenic Highway, which passes through the most grandly rugged landscape in the state. Jagged snow-capped peaks rise all around, and tucked amid the mountain slopes are lakes of astonishing colors. Much of the region is preserved in the various units of the North Cascades National Park Complex. En route, stop at Diablo Lake Overlook, Rainy Pass, and Washington Pass. Spend the night in the Methow Valley, home to two of the state's finest mountain lodges.
Day 9: Leavenworth
From the Methow Valley, get an early start and take a boat tour on glacier-carved Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in the country. Boat tours go more than 50 miles up this lake to the remote community of Stehekin, which is so isolated that it has no roads leading to it. From Lake Chelan, continue to the self-consciously quaint Bavarian theme town of Leavenworth. Sure, this town can be tacky, but the natural setting is breathtaking in its ruggedness, and residents have done an impressive job of reproducing an alpine village in the mountains of Washington.
Days 10, 11 & 12: Olympic National Park
From Leavenworth, drive back up and over the Cascade Range, and first take the ferry to Whidbey Island from Mukilteo and then the ferry from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend. With its many B&Bs and historic commercial district full of galleries and eclectic shops, Port Townsend is a good place to spend your first night on the Olympic Peninsula. The next day, begin your explorations of Olympic National Park with a hike through the alpine meadows at Hurricane Ridge. In the Forks area, you can walk on the Olympic coast's wilderness beaches. South of Forks, head up the Hoh River Valley to explore one of the national park's rainforest valleys.
Day 13: Mount Rainier National Park
Today, get an early start, since it is a long drive to Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano, and its massive bulk dominates the horizon from all over the state. Popular with mountain climbers, the mountain is also known for its gorgeous displays of alpine wildflowers in July and August. The best place to see these wildflowers is in Paradise.
Day 14: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
While Mount Rainier is a dormant volcano, not far away you can visit the only active volcano in the contiguous United States. Mount St. Helens, which erupted with unimaginable force in May 1980, began another period of activity in 2004. You can see a new lava dome building within the massive crater left after the 1980 eruption. Several interpretive centers provide loads of information about the first big blast and the current state of things within this fascinating national volcanic monument.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.