Island-Hopping Road Trip from Vancouver, Canada to Washington's National Parks

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Totem pole in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Totem pole in Vancouver's Stanley Park

We hope you grabbed your passport for this trip, because you’re traveling from Canada to the United States and back again! Combine city culture with island life on this 5-10 day loop. Hop on 5 ferries to complete the trip to North Cascades National Park, Whidbey Island, San Juan Island, Olympic National Park and Victoria, B.C.

Map

Start: Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Start in lively Vancouver, BC, home to great food, museums, and beaches. Explore Stanley Park's natural West Coast rainforest, famous Seawall, Native American totem poles, and Canada’s largest aquarium.

Cross the border and head to Bellingham, a college town on Puget Sound.

North Cascades National Park

Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park

Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park

Continue south, then east, to visit North Cascades National Park, a rugged wilderness with excellent hiking. 

San Juan Island

Turn west to reach Anacortes and catch the ferry to San Juan Island, largest of the San Juan Islands. San Juan Island is an idyllic retreat that offers quiet beaches, lavender farms, quaint towns, kayaking, and whale-watching. Lime Kiln State Park, commonly known as Whale Watch Park offers dramatic west side views and trails lined with pacific madrone trees and picnic tables close to the waters edge.

Drive your car on the ferry to tour the whole island, or go it by foot for a day trip to explore the walkable Friday Harbor area with its seafood restaurants and whaling museum.

After a long day of sightseeing, take the ferry back to Anacortes.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island, Washington

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island, Washington

Deception Pass and Whidbey Island

Back on the mainland, head south through Deception Pass State Park via its iconic bridge and onto Whidbey Island. 

Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge

Catch the ferry from nearby Coupeville to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula and head west to Port Angeles.

By far the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula with 19,000 residents, Port Angeles, Wash., is home to one of the deepest harbors in the world. Walk along the 8-mile paved Olympic Discovery Trail and climb the harbor tower for views of the docks and boats arriving at the harbor.

The view from Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park.

The view from Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park.

Port Angeles also serves as the gateway to Olympic National Park with a visitors center just outside the park entrance. It’s a mere 17-mile drive from town to Hurricane Ridge inside the park, an area that offers beautiful wildflower hikes during the summer as well as peaceful snowshoe and ski trails in winter.

After a full day of exploring, we know what you’re in the mood for. Something fast and something greasy. Head to Frugal’s, a shiny chrome burger drive-thru that locals swear is better than In-N-Out. See for yourself. Pro-tip, order fry sauce on your burger and don’t skip the milkshake.

The ferry docking at sunset at Port Angeles Pier in Washington

The Black Ball Ferry to Victoria at sunset at Port Angeles Pier; your next destination

Victoria, B.C. Canada

On a clear day you can see the southern end of Vancouver Island from Port Angeles. The Black Ball Ferry will take you and your car, or just you on your feet, across the sound to experience the charming city of Victoria. If you’re just heading over for the day, we suggest leaving the car in the US and exploring on your own two feet. Victoria is very walkable.

The Harmonious Gate of Interest in Chinatown, Victoria BC

The Harmonious Gate of Interest in Chinatown, Victoria BC

First stop, Chinatown. You could get there by entering through the large, ornate gate, or you could get there through the narrowest street in Canada: Fan Tan Alley. Peruse the shops lining the street as you squeeze your way through.

The beautiful Fairmont Empress Hotel is one of the first things you’ll notice when the ferry docks in Victoria. Over a hundred years old, this iconic hotel is a must stop for a traditional English high tea. Indulge in finger sandwiches, scones and 21 varieties of loose-leaf tea. Reservations are highly encouraged and a dress code is enforced.

Dusk at Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour

Dusk at Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour

Head to Fisherman’s Wharf for a unique stroll. Colorful houseboats line the docks here. There are a variety of food kiosks, so grab a snack and keep a close eye on the water for harbor seals, otters and sea birds.

Make sure to check the ferry schedule so you don’t miss the last boat back to Vancouver, your fifth ferry ride.

End: Vancouver, B.C. Canada

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