Southwest Washington is a lush, forested region of Washington.
- 4 Vancouver (Washington) — oldest permanent settlement in the Pacific Northwest and seat of Clark County; not to be confused with Vancouver, BC (Canada)
- 5 Camas (second largest city in Clark County)
- 6 Washougal
- La Center
- 7 Ridgefield
- 8 Centralia (largest city in Lewis County)
- 9 Chehalis (seat of Lewis County)
- 10 Mossyrock (Heart of East Lewis County)
- 11 South Bend (seat of Pacific County)
- 12 Ilwaco
- 13 Long Beach
- 14 Naselle
- 15 Ocean Park
- 16 Oysterville
- 17 Raymond
- 18 Seaview
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site - a gem of a park whose story as an economic and cultural center fascinatingly portends that of the modern-day Pacific Northwest
- Lewis and Clark National Historical Park - 12 park sites located on a 40-mile stretch of the Pacific coast from Long Beach, Washington to Cannon Beach, Oregon
- 22 Mount St. Helens site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in known United States history.
- The North Head Lighthouse is located along the coast.
The Southwest Washington region includes the Cowlitz, Clark, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties.
Southwest Washington is bordered to the south by the mighty Columbia River and the scenic Columbia River Gorge. To the west, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and includes many broad sandy beaches and popular tourist towns.
Southwest Washington includes mountains and volcanoes such as Mount Saint Helens, which experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the known history of the United States.
Like the rest of Washington state, English is spoken with a Pacific Northwest accent very similar to the General American standard accent (native to the Midwest), popularized in the 20th century by radio, TV and movies. People in the area generally have little to no problem understanding different accents of the English language. The Pacific Northwest attracts tourists from around the world, and it is common to hear many foreign languages being spoken in public in major tourist areas.
- Portland International Airport (PDX IATA) is quite convenient for this region, being just across the river from Vancouver. Flights to many major US airports and a few international connections.
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA IATA) is located about 2 hours north of Kelso by car. Greater number of international flights than Portland.
Interstate 5 connects the region to Seattle and Portland. If coming from the Columbia Plateau/Central Washington, take US-12 or SR-14 west. From the Oregon Coast, take US-101 across the Columbia River on the Astoria Bridge.
Bus services operate on limited schedules and routing but is doable between some of the major cities and towns:
- Greyhound, Bolt Bus, ☏ , toll-free: . passes through the area, along Interstate 5, with stops in Olympia, Centralia, Kelso and Portland on its way to Seattle or Los Angeles. Other bus companies just pass through between Olympia (or Tacoma) and Portland without stopping.
- Grays Harbor Transit, ☏ . Connects Aberdeen to Olympia (Rt #40) and to Centralia (Rt #45) on two separate routes.
Distances between gas stations can some times be vast so make sure your aware of your fuel level before heading out. I-5 travels north south through the east side of this region and is a major connector for the entire west coast. US Highway 101 is closer along the coast as a two lane highway for a slower more scenic pass through the area. There are different roads that connect the I-5 corridor to the US Hwy 101.
There are county operated buses serving the cities and towns of southwest Washington. Some only offer in-town public transportation while others offer transport across rural areas, between cities and towns. The intercity services operate on less frequent schedules, check schedules:
- Lower Columbia CAP, ☏ , toll-free: . Rural public bus system to the 99th Street Transit Center (reachable by C-TRAN buses #32, 71 and 105) from Longview, Kalama, and Woodland. They also have a separate, less frequent, route from Longview to Castle Rock via Lexington. $2 Each Way.
- Rural Transit, ☏ . Office Hours M-F 9AM-3PM; Bus services M-F 6AM-6PM check schedules. Rural Transit (rT) connects the communities of Rochester, Tenino, Bucoda, Rainier, Yelm, and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation to the greater tri-city area of Tumwater, Olympia, and Lacey in the north and Centralia in the south on three routes. This service is offered by the Chehalis Confederated Tribes west of Rochester.
- Rt #2 Goes from Tumwater Square along Old Hwy 99 SE to Tenino and east towards Rainier along Sussex Ave E
- Rt #3 Goes from Tumwater Square along I-5 and Case Rd Sw to Grand Mound P&R (Exit #88 from I-5) and then west on US Hwy 12 to Rochester and the Chehalis Tribal Center on the Chehalis Indian Reservation.
- Rt #4 goes from Centralia to Grand Mount P&R, to Tenino (Tenino Library), Bucoda and back to Centralia from Bucoda.
- C-TRAN, ☏ . Operates local city buses in and around Vancouver and to Battle Ground, Camas, Washougal, and Yacolt. The also operate express commuter buses to Portland from Salmon Creek, Fishers Landing and Vancouver on multiple routes. $2.50 from Vanport or Parkrose Transit Centers, $3.85 express from downtown Portland.
- Pacific Transit System, ☏ . Operates buses in Pacific County, between Illwaco (#24 & 50), Long Beach (#20), Raymond (#14 & 32), South Bend (#32) and Naselle (#50, connections with 'Wahkiakum on the Move' at Rockets Diner). Interstate/county connections to Astoria (Rt #24 & 50) and Aberdeen (Rt #14) are also available.
- River Cities Transit, ☏ . Local city buses within Kelso and Longview only.
- Twin Transit, (transit station) Mellens St & Old Airport Rd, Centralia, WA, ☏ . Twin Transit operates fixed route service throughout the twin cities of Centralia & Chehalis from the Mellen St Transit Station (P&R) on the west side of town. They operate the 'Green Line' bus to Olympia and the 'Purple Line' to Castle Rock from the Mellen St Transit Station.
- Wahkiakum on the Move, (office & bus garage) 42 Elochoman Valley Rd, Cathlamet, WA 98612, ☏ . Connects Rockets Diner in Naselle, WA to Kelso via Cathlamet, WA (major town and county seat) on a single route along WA-Hwy 4 in Wahkiakum County.
Southwest Washington is an outdoorsy place that offers an intimidating 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 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.
Fresh fish such as salmon, crab and other seafood are regulars along the coast. But Northwest regional cuisine is known for more than just seafood. Local chefs are noted for their use of seasonal abundant locally gathered ingredients. Wild mushrooms, cranberries, and blackberries are frequently used alongside plentiful local organic produce.
The areas mild climate, rich soil and abundant water resources have created a bountiful climate for local farmers. Farmers markets are common in both urban and rural areas and a great way to experience local culture and foods.
Coffee is hugely popular all across the Pacific Northwest including Southwest Washington. 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. Southwest Washington borders Oregon and benefits from the many larger brewers are located just across the border such as Full Sail Brewing in Hood River and are therefore plentiful in the area.
When people think of regional wine it's usually about Eastern Oregon and Washington. Areas such as the Columbia River Plateau of Washington and the Willamette Valley in Oregon are both close to Southwest Washington and it's easy enough to be happy with those selections. However Southwest Washington wines are a well kept secret as several dozen wineries dot the area including Chehalis and Vancouver.
Being on the Pacific Rim means that earthquakes and even tsunamis are a possibility; 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 and should be followed in case of an emergency.
There are also several large volcanoes in the region such as Mount St Helen's which in 1980 was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded American history. The risk of a volcanic eruption is very low however and usually comes with weeks if not months of warning. Simply using common sense and heeding any warnings should be more than enough to keep any traveler safe. Lahars are a type of volcanic mudslide associated with an event and cities near volcanoes have Volcano Evacuation route signs that should be followed in case of an emergency.
- The Puget Sound region lies to the north
- The Olympic Peninsula is also to the north, along the coast
- Over the Cascade Mountains to the east is the Columbia River Plateau
- Across the Columbia River in Oregon are the Oregon Coast and the Portland Metropolitan Area