The Olympic Peninsula is a region of the state of Washington in the United States of America. Centered around Olympic National Park this sparsely populated area includes 100 km of wilderness coastline, the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States.
The Olympic Peninsula is centered around the Olympic Mountains and the Olympic National Park. To the east it is bordered by the Hood Canal which is one of the largest fiords in the United States. To the north it is separated from Canada by the Admiralty Inlet and to the west it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean.
- 1 Forks -logging town, also known today as a key setting in the Twilight series.
- 2 Neah Bay- close to Cape Flattery which is the northwestern most point of the contiguous United States.
- 3 Port Angeles -Clallam county seat and the largest city in the county. The ferry to Victoria, BC starts here.
- 4 Sequim in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains enjoys more days of sunshine than the rest of the region.
Grays Harbor County
- 5 Aberdeen and Hoquiam are called the "Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula," because of their proximity to the southern end of the peninsula and to Olympic National Park. Together they make the largest metropolitan area in the county at the east end of Grays Harbor Bay where the Chehalis River empties out into the Bay.
- 6 Elma
- 7 Moclips -historic oceanside resort town.
- 8 Montesano -Grays Harbor county seat.
- 9 Ocean City
- 10 Ocean Shores -large beach community popular with tourists.
- 11 Pacific Beach -historic oceanside resort town.
- 12 Westport a fishing town located on a peninsula (south of Grays Harbor) and known for its beaches, jetty fishing and lighthouse.
- 13 Port Hadlock - (Port Hadlock-Irondale)
- 14 Port Townsend - this hugely popular Victorian town has a ferry terminal connecting it to Whidbey Island and is also Jefferson county's seat.
- 15 Hoodsport- located on the Hood Canal.
- 16 Potlatch
- 17 Shelton -Mason county seat and principal city.
- 1 Olympic National Park - Here you will find Pacific Ocean beaches, rainforest valleys, glacier-capped peaks and a stunning variety of plants and animals
- 2 The Quinault Rain Forest - is located the northern part of Grays Harbor county.
- 3 The Makah Indian Reservation - has a great museum and is easy access to the Olympic National Park.
- 4 Fort Worden State Park - is an old military fort right next to Port Townsend.
For the purposes of this article, the Olympic Peninsula region consists of Clallam, Jefferson, western Mason, and Grays Harbor counties. The eastern part of Mason County, including Allyn and Union, is covered by the Kitsap Peninsula article.
By car and ferry
The ferries crossing the San Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound are capable of transporting vehicles.
- MV Coho by Blackball Transport, 101 E Railroad Port Angeles WA (.), ☏ . Crosses the San Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles from Victoria BC. $63 for car and driver (0-18ft)+$5.25 per lineal ft over 18ft. $18 per adult passenger & $9 per child..
- Washington State Ferries, ☏ , toll-free: . The nearest ferry terminals to the Olympic Peninsula are:
Port Townsend from Coupeville on Whidbey Island.
Bremerton (WA-Hwy 304/Hwy 3) or Bainbridge Island (WA-Hwy 305/Hwy 3) from downtown Seattle
Kingston from Edmonds (WA-Hwy 104/Hwy 3). Follow WA-Hwy 104 from the ferry terminal up towards the Hood Canal Bridge via Port Gamble. From there continue towards US Hwy 101.
- Interstate 5
- Westbound US Hwy 12, north of Centralia from Exit #88
- US Hwy 101 in Olympia at Exit #104
- WA-Hwy 16 through Tacoma at Exit #133. Hwy 16 goes across the Narrows Bridge up to Bremerton where it merges into Hwy 3. ($6 toll to cross the Narrows Bridge from Gig Harbor to Tacoma. No toll going the other way.)
- WA-Hwy 104 in Mountlake Terrace (follow signs to 'Edmonds Ferry') at Exit #177 (going north) or #178 (going south)
- WA-Hwy 20 in Burlington at Exit #230. Follow Hwy 20 through Anacortes, Deception Pass and down through Whidbey Island to the Coupeville Ferry Terminal
By bus and Airport shuttle
- Dungeness Line (Olympic Bus Lines), ☏ , toll-free: . Their service coverage is the northern rim of the Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles, Kingston, Sequim) with a twice daily departure from Sea-Tac and downtown Seattle. $28 to $49 OW depending on how far you're going..
- Rocket Transportation, ☏ (Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM; Saturday 10AM-2PM), toll-free: . Their service coverage is to the Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks) from Sea-Tac From $66 to $150 one way, 30% discount for additional persons with one full fare passenger.
If you are not with tour coach, it is strongly recommended that you hire a roomy, good quality sedan, SUV, or minivan upon arriving in Seattle. Driving around the peninsula is very enjoyable but can involve long distances.
US Hwy 101 is the primary highway around the peninsula starting from Olympia (Exit #103 from I-5) and goes west of Olympia and north to Shelton, Hoodsport, Sequim and Port Angeles. The highways turns southwards towards Forks and Aberdeen. The shortcut to Aberdeen from Olympia along Hwy 101 without going all the way around would be to continue west along the highway, past the US Hwy 101 turn off towards Shelton. That same highway becomes WA-Hwy 8 going west towards Aberdeen where it intersects US-Hwy 101 at S 'H' Street & W Wishkah Rd west of downtown Aberdeen. Turn left at 'H' and over the bridge to go south on Hwy 101 or follow Wishkah Rd to S Alder to go Hwy 101 north. There are NO roads across the Olympic Mountains like from Hoodsport/Hood Canal or Shelton to Forks.
US Hwy 12 continues westward from I-5 at Exit #88, which is a shortcut towards Grays Harbor if coming from Centralia or anywhere south along I-5. The highway intersects WA-Hwy 8 at Elma.
WA Hwy 3/104 turn-off 3mi south of Discovery Bay (WA Hwy 20 turn-off towards Port Townsend) along Hwy 101 connects to the Kitsap Peninsula via floating Hood Canal Bridge.
There are public buses available for travel around the peninsula without a private automobile. There are five counties in the Olympic Peninsula which operate their own transit buses in town and along rural routes between towns in their respective counties and to adjacent counties (or the county line) to the meet the onward bus into the next county. The buses are usually timed for one to arrive several minutes before the next one leaves. They are not fastest way to get around but are the cheapest for the budget traveler. Check schedules. They are:
- Clallam Transit, ☏ . ... operates buses in Port Angeles (Rt #20-24), Joyce (#10), Forks (Rt#14 - 17), Neah Bay (Rt#16), La Push (#15) and Sequim (Rt#30-52) in Clallam County. Connects to Jefferson Transit in Sequim and Forks. $1.00 or $0.50c reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders..
- Grays Harbor Transit, 705 30th St, Hoquiam, WA 98550, ☏ . ... operates local buses in Aberdeen & Hoquiam and to Elma, Montessano, Olympia (Rt #40), Oceanshores, Moclips, Pacific Beach (Rt#50-51), Westport (Rt#55-56), Quinalt, Amanda Park (Rt#60) in Grays Harbor County. Connects to Intercity Transit and Mason Transit in Olympia and to Jefferson Transit at the Amanda Mercantile (at county line along US Hwy 101 on Rt #60) $1.50 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders..
- Jefferson Transit. ... operates local buses in Port Townsend and to Brinnon, Quilcene, Sequim (Rt #8), Port Ludlow, Poulsbo (Rt #7) and a separate 'Olympic Connector' bus between Forks and Amanda Mercantile along Hwy 101 through Jefferson County. $1.50 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders..
- Kitsap Transit. ... operates buses in Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo, Kingston, Suquamish, Silverdale,and Port Orchard in Kitsap County. $2.00 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders paying with an ORCA card..
- Mason Transit, 790 E Johns Prairie Rd, Shelton, WA 98584, ☏ . ... operates local buses in Shelton and to Belfaire, Bremerton and Brinon Connects to Intercity Transit and Grays Harbor Transit in Olympia; to Kitsap Transit in Bermerton and to Jefferson Transit in Brinnon. $1.50 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders traveling across the county line otherwise it's a free ride for all within Mason County..
- Dungeness Line (operated by Greyhound Connector), ☏ . The Dungeness Line, operated by Olympic Bus Lines provides two trips daily between Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend, Discovery Bay, and Kingston, to and from Edmonds, downtown Seattle, and Seattle Tacoma International Airport. It is a privately operated bus between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula $28 to $49 OW depending on how far you're going..
Unlike city buses in town the rural routes run infrequently so plan accordingly. There are no bus services into the Hoh Rain Forest (nearest stop is at the turn off at Hwy 101 which is another 17mi/27.2km to the visitors center) and up into the Hurricane Ridge and Elwha from Port Angeles or anywhere in the Olympic National Park from along Hwy 101. They can drop passengers off along the highway and from there it is up to you to hike your way into the park.
The Olympic Peninsula is an outdoorsy place that offers a wide variety of places to experience nature.
- Beach combing is hugely popular along the Pacific Coast, however due to its size and vast expanses between towns it is easy to find your own isolated patch to explore. Be warned that sea shells and driftwood are considered part of the natural environment and should not be removed. Be gentle with sea creatures and keep a wide distance away from nesting birds, seals and other shore animals and always put back anything removed from the shoreline.
- Boating The Pacific Northwest is one of the most popular places for recreational boating in America. Breath taking views of the snow-capped mountain ranges mingle with thick forests and clear bays and streams to create a humbling cacophony of natural sights for area boaters.
- Hiking and Backpacking are very popular throughout this region, especially in along the coast and in Olympic National Park but other opportunities for hiking/backpacking can be found nearly everywhere including the areas many state parks.
- Sea kayaking as a sport developed in the Pacific Northwest and the area offers hundreds of miles of convoluted shoreline to explore.
- Scuba diving the cold waters of Pacific Northwest takes a bit more gear and training than other warm water locations, but the rewards are incredible. The area contains some of the best diving in the world and many dive sites are completely covered with colorful sea creatures that defy description.
- Whale watching is good along the coast in spring and fall during the Grey Whale migration and Orca Whales can also frequently be seen. Many professional tours are available or check online for recent updates from various whale watching groups.
- Whitewater sports Guides are available to take travelers down the rapids of the Elwa River and others. Not only thrilling but a wonderful way to see and experience the region.
Be mindful of the time of day particularly in early summer. Restaurants in remote areas may have limited hours of operation, and reservations are recommended where available.
If traveling by car, consider packing a picnic basket as a contingency measure.
Coffee is hugely popular all across the Pacific Northwest including the Olympic Peninsula. Look for small road side espresso stands even in small towns.
Like the rest of Washington State, microbreweries and beer in general is hugely popular, and the area has many to offer for beer enthusiasts. Some brews can only be found in local stores or bars (some notable brewers don't even bottle their product). Ask your servers for local beer recommendations and search out regional microbrews in stores.
Although the Olympic Peninsula is not known as wine country, many Washington State wines are still and plentiful in restaurants and stores.
Being on the Pacific Rim means that earthquakes and even tsunamis are a possibility, so no matter how remote the chances are, it’s best to be aware and prepared. Areas along the coast have tsunami evacuation routes well marked.