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 Ocean City State Park
- 3 The Quinault Rain Forest - is located the northern part of Grays Harbor county.
- 4 The Makah Indian Reservation - has a great museum and is easy access to the Olympic National Park.
- 5 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.
- 1 Black Ball Ferry Line (MV Coho), 101 E. Railroad Ave, Port Angeles, ☏ , toll-free: . Is a passenger and vehicle ferry running between Port Angeles and Victoria, British Columbia across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crossing time is 90 minutes. Service runs all year except for an annual refit for one week in winter time. In the winter, this ferry runs 2 sailings a day and in the summer up to 4 sailings per day each way are scheduled. Located a block west of Gateway Transit Center, where all public transit bus routes servicing Port Angeles terminate. Fares are US$70.00 for car and driver and US$21.00 per passenger 12 years old and older, US$10.50 for children 5-11 years old, free for children 4 years old and younger.
- 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.
- From Interstate 5 on can go through:
- Westbound , north of Centralia from Exit #88
- in Olympia at Exit #104
- 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.)
- in Mountlake Terrace (follow signs to 'Edmonds Ferry') at Exit #177 (going north) or #178 (going south)
- 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 (Greyhound Connector), ☏ , 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 a 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.
& 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, ☏ , toll-free: . 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.
- Bus Route 14 goes around the peninsula from Port Angeles to Forks. Transfer to the Olympic Connector to continue south towards Amanda Mercantile.
- Bus Route 16 Forks - Neah Bay
- Bus Route 30 "101 Commuter" between Port Angeles and Sequim. Transfer to Jefferson Transit #8 from Sequim to Port Townsend.
- Strait Shot 123 Port Angeles and Bainbridge Island Ferry via Sequim, Jamestown, Discovery Bay, Suquamish Way & SR305, and North Viking P&R in Poulsbo. Transfer to Jefferson Transit #8 from Discovery Bay to Port Townsend.
- Grays Harbor Transit, 705 30th St, Hoquiam, WA 98550, ☏ . ... operates local buses in Aberdeen & Hoquiam and to Elma, Montessano, Olympia (Rt #40), Centralia (45), Oceanshores (60), Moclips (70), Westport (Rt#55-56), Quinault (#50) in Grays Harbor County. Connects to Intercity Transit and Mason Transit in Olympia and to Jefferson Transit at the Amanda Mercantile,. $1.50 or $1.00 reduced fare for Medicare card holders and qualified seniors, disabled, youth and low income riders.
- Bus route 40 Olympia, Montessano, Elma, Aberdeen, Hoquiam. Transfer to Intercity buses to Olympia, Tumwater, & Lacey. Rt #620 to Lakewood.
- Bus route 50 Amanda Mercantile,Quinault, Hoquiamm, Aberdeen
- 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. Free ride, $8 for #14 bus.
- Olympic Connector Amanda Mercantile -Forks through Jefferson County. Transfer to Cllalam Transit #14 to Port Angeles and Grays Habor Transit #50 to Aberdeen.
- Bus route 1 Port Townsend to Brinnon (Trifon Cove State Park). Transfer to Mason Transit #8 to Belfair.
- Bus route 7 Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, Poulsbo. Passengers connect to Kitsap Transit #390 from Poulsbo to Bainbridge Island Ferry
- Bus route 8 Port Townsend, Discovery Bay, Sequim
- Bus route 14 Port Townsend, Kingston Ferry Terminal. Passengers continue on Kitsap Transit's Fast Ferry into downtown Seattle.
- 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.
- Bus route 301 Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo (Rt #202 between Silverdale & Bremerton is suspended)
- Bus route 307 Poulsbo - Kingston Ferry Terminal
- Bus route 390 Poulsbo - Bainbridge Island Ferry
- Purdy Connector Port Orchard to Purdy P&R, north of Gig Harbor. Transfer to Pierce Transit #100 or 595 to continue to Tacoma and the Kitsap Ferry from Port Orchard to Bremerton.
- Kitsap Fast Ferries connect downtown Seattle from Kingston, Bremerton and Southworth on three separate routes.
- Mason Transit, 790 E Johns Prairie Rd, Shelton, WA 98584, ☏ . ... operates local buses in/around Shelton and to Belfair, Bremerton, & Olympia. Free ride.
- bus route 1 Shelton-Belfair (NE Clifton Ln @ Bill Hunter Pk)
- bus route 3 Belfair (NE Clifton Ln @ Bill Hunter Pk) -Bremerton Ferry Terminal
- bus route 6 Shelton-Downtown Olympia Transit Center. Transfer to Intercity buses to Olympia, Tumwater, & Lacey. Rt #620 to Lakewood.
- bus route 8 Belfair-Brinnon (US 101 @ Trifton Cove State Park). Transfer to Jefferson Transit #1 to Port Townsend
- 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.