Pacific Northwest 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary

I just got back from my first trip to the Pacific Northwest (and I can already tell ya, it won’t be my last!), so I thought I’d put together a little travelogue of my exact itinerary. 

There was sooooo much I wanted to do in Washington and Oregon, but I only had about 6-7 days. 

Now, you can see a LOT in 6-7 days, but you can’t see everything. 

If you want a little “travel sampler platter” of the PNW, then definitely do a split between Washington and Oregon, but if you really want to explore more thoroughly (or you’re committed to visiting all of the national parks, etc) then you could EASILY spend a full week in either Washington or Oregon. 

Since it was my first time to the area, I decided to go the road trip route through both states. Two nights in Seattle and two in Portland seemed like the bare minimum (in hindsight I liked Seattle and didn’t care for Portland — read all about that here) which left two nights in between. 

Since I did this trip at the end of May, I opted to spend those two nights in Forks, WA to see as much of Olympic National Park as I could and skip a day trip to Rainier National Park since it was still covered in a lot of snow. 

But if I was doing this trip in late summer when the wildflowers are blooming at Rainier, I would probably either add a day to squeeze in Rainier or skip a day in Portland to keep it at 6 nights. 

So if you’re keeping track, that’s 

2 nights in Seattle, WA

2 nights in Forks, WA

2 nights in Portland, OR

So here’s how it all went down: 

Day 1: Arrive in Seattle & Pike Place Market

Our flight landed in Seattle about 11:30 AM and we picked up our rental car and went straight to our hotel where we were able to check in a little early. 

Thompson Seattle

We stayed at the Thompson Seattle because we wanted to be within walking distance of Pike Place Market plus I like a boutique hotel with luxe vibes. 

It ended up being a nice choice. We loved the location and the rooftop lounge plus it’s a Hyatt property if you have status/perks with them. 

Pike Place Market

We were starving so we headed over to the market right away. Now, here’s something you need to know about me…I do a lot of research before I go places and decide what I want to do. I don’t just hit up the big tourist spots, but I also won’t avoid places because they’re touristy. I like what I like!

So when I looked over all of the options at the market (it’s dizzying), I knew I wanted to try Pike Place Chowder. Yes, it’s super popular and all the locals have better “hidden gems”, but you know what…I LOVE lobster rolls and chowder. So it was a must do for me. 

I was prepared for a monster line since it was about 1ish on a Saturday and it was a pretty big line, but it honestly moved really quickly. It stretched around the block when we got there but from the time we got in line until we sat down with our food it was about 30 minutes. That’s not a deal breaker for me, if it’s good. AND IT WAS. 

We had a Connecticut style lobster roll (warm with butter) and two kinds of chowder (New England clam chowder and seafood bisque) plus a strawberry lemonade. 

I’ve since eaten my way through Cape Cod and ordered lobster rolls and chowder pretty much everywhere I went, and these definitely hold their own. 

I’m not going to say you HAVE to come here (it’s a big market with hundreds of choices!), BUT if you like this kind of food (or you’ve never had it and want to try the best), then you’re definitely not going to be disappointed ; ) 

We spent some time walking around the market. Saw the gum wall (yuck!), sooooo many flowers, and checked out some of the shops on the lower levels. 

I stumbled onto the CUTEST shop called Marnin Saylor and it ended up being my favorite thing at the market. 

They started with a small booth at the market selling handmade “Pastry Pets” like Strawberry Sprinkle Donut Cat or Eclair Bear and now they’ve got the sweetest little shop full of the best merch you’ll find anywhere. 

And a lot of it is Seattle and Pike Place Market themed which makes for the best souvenirs. 

I also had a guava flavored ginger beer at Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I opted for just the straight ginger beer without any alcohol added, but they do full fledged cocktails too. 

And I highly recommend pretty much everything at Cinnamon Works. I stopped a couple different times during the few days I was here and I could’ve eaten one of everything in the case. The chocolate chip cookies are pretty marvelous but I also loved the pumpkin chocolate chip. They also have a lot of gluten free options. 

Day 2: Whale Watching & Seattle Center

We packed a LOT into today since it was our only full day in Seattle. Since I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, and seeing an orca whale in the wild was on my bucket list, I decided to devote a pretty big chunk of the day to a whale watching tour. More details on that below, but if you aren’t into whale watching, you could really do and see a lot in the city. 

Since we were staying close to Pike Place Market, we popped over for breakfast. There surprisingly aren’t a ton of places open early in the morning, but the Crumpet Shop caught my eye. 

It is the cutest little shop with the friendliest people around! 

They have sweet and savory crumpets and we tried both. I’ve honestly never had a crumpet before so I don’t really know how these stack up. They’re not overly flavorful, more like a vehicle for whatever they’re topped with. 

Whale Watching in Seattle

I did quite a bit of research about our best whale watching options near Seattle. Since we only had this one full day in the area, I didn’t have time to drive all the way up to the San Juan Islands (by far the best place in the area). 

I found a company that left right from downtown Seattle (walking distance from our hotel), but they had TERRIBLE reviews and so many people said they didn’t see any whales at all. 

I finally settled on the Puget Sound Express which is a third generation family owned business that has a GREAT reputation for whale watching excursions in the area. They do multi day trips to the San Juan Islands and even PUFFIN expeditions out of the Port Angeles/Port Townsend area. But their most accessible whale watching tours leave from Edmonds which is just about 30 minutes from downtown Seattle. That seemed very doable. 

We did the 9:30 AM departure and it felt really easy to grab breakfast and drive up to the port. 

I paid in advance for parking and it was pretty easy to figure out where to go and where to park. We checked in and then lined up to get on the boat. We got in line about 9:10 and there were already a LOT of people in line so if you want to get a window seat inside (it gets chilly!) line up early. 

The catamaran was super nice and comfortable which is good because we spent about 5 hours on the boat. I also prepaid for the blueberry buckle (you could buy it on the boat) and sandwiches (these have to be ordered in advance). 

Okay, so…five hours on the boat and here’s what we saw: 

One minke whale

A sea lion eating a shark


I’ve been whale watching quite a bit in Hawaii and I’ll never forget what one captain told us: “You need to check your expectations…we usually see whales and nothing’s impossible but if you’re going to leave disappointed unless you look a baby humpback in the eye, then…you’re probably going to leave disappointed.” 

It’s nature folks! Anything is possible, but those crazy videos you see on TikTok of whales mugging the boat are once in a lifetime experiences. 

That being said, pretty much every since review I read on TripAdvisor of the Puget Sound Express (and there are a lot) mentioned seeing orcas. 

And our crew really went above and beyond to find them. They’re in constant communication with other boats leaving from different ports so they know where they’ve been spotted. 

Sometimes they pop up in the Puget Sound, but we ended up going all the way into Canadian Waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca past Port Angeles. 

We saw a pod of six orcas (two moms with two babies each) and we were able to follow them from a distance for quite a while. 

They didn’t come close to our boat, but we got close enough that I could see the white patches around their eyes so I call that a win!

It definitely made me want to go again in the San Juan Islands and maybe even Alaska!

Some tips: It feels COLD out in the wind. We did this around the first of June and I was bundled up pretty tight and it was still too miserable to stand around outside unless we were stopped to watch whales. 

Be prepared for a lot of waiting. On our five hour tour, we spent less than an hour actually viewing wildlife. And after we saw the orcas, it was about a two hour ride back to port. 

The sandwiches you can order in advance are very good (they come from a local bakery), and they’re really big so you could easily share. Otherwise, bring your own snacks. 

Kerry Park

On the way back to Seattle, we stopped at Kerry Park to check out the view of the Seattle skyline. This is just a small neighborhood park, but it’s gotten really popular in recent years (thanks internet! ; ) because it has amazing views of the Seattle skyline with Mount Rainier in the background. 

There isn’t a ton of parking (everything is just on neighborhood streets) so you may have to park and walk a ways. 

Space Needle & Chihuly Gardens and Glass at Seattle Center

Okay, so besides Pike Place Market, Seattle Center is the other big tourist draw in Seattle. Seattle Center is home, most famously, to the Space Needle, and the whole complex was built for the World’s Fair in 1962. 

There’s actually a monorail that runs from downtown Seattle to Seattle Center (about a mile), but I didn’t have time to do that (next time!). 

We parked near Seattle Center and just paid since we were already out and about. 

Okay, so Seattle Center is a bit of a “hang out” area and it attracts crowds for different reasons. There are usually different events and festivals going on during the weekends, there’s a nice playground, etc. But there are three big “attractions” at Seattle Center that are on most visitors radar’s: 1) The Space Needle, 2) Chihuly Gardens and Glass, and 3) Museum of Pop Culture. 

Since I had limited time in the area, I decided to visit Chihuly Gardens and Glass and go to the top of the Space Needle. But I’ll definitely visit the Museum of Pop Culture on my next trip because it looks AMAZING. 

Everything I read online before my trip said that going to the top of the Space Needle wasn’t necessarily a “must do” but that if it’s something you want to do then you definitely should. And honestly, after having done it, that’s exactly what I would say. 

The argument for it not being a “must do”: Tickets range from $30-45/person depending on the time of day which isn’t insignificant. And while the view is good it’s not quite as spectacular as that you’ll see from the top of popular lookouts in NYC or Chicago. Seattle just isn’t quite the same magical metropolis. 

BUT…tell anybody that you went to Seattle and they’re probably going to ask you about the Space Needle. It’s iconic. I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower…it seemed silly to stand at the bottom of the Space Needle and not go to the top. 

So I did! And I’m glad I did it…it’s checked off my list. 

There are only a few elevators that go to the top so the line moves a lot slower than big skyscrapers in major cities. Even with timed tickets, we waited over 30 minutes to get on the elevator. But that gave us time to read through all of the exhibits. 

I honestly didn’t know anything about the history of the Space Needle or the World’s Fair in Seattle but I’ve always been fascinated by the Space Age. It’s very “Meet George Jetson!”

We probably only spent about 20 minutes at the top. For someone with a fairly significant fear of heights, it wasn’t tooooo bad, but when you go to the lower floor that rotates where the lounge normally is (it was closed for the season when we visited), the floor has see-through panels which are an absolute no go for me. 

I am however always mildly amused when I can stand/sit in a “safe place” and watch people walk over them without a care in the world. 

I do think the Chihuly Gardens & Glass are a must do though! I always go out of my way to visit Chihuly exhibits when they’re in a museum close to me, so I was VERY excited to see this. 

Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma, WA so it makes sense that they’ve built this longterm exhibit here in the shadows of the Space Needle. 

You can buy a combo ticket for the Space Needle & Chihuly Gardens, but make sure to time your days right because Chihuly Gardens is usually closed a couple days a week. 

We spent about an hour or so on the grounds (but we were in a time crunch to also do the Space Needle), but you could definitely spend longer. The cafe looked really nice and they displayed a lot of Chihuly’s personal collections there and in the gift shop (he’s famous for collecting random objects). 

Speaking of…the gift shop is not to be missed! They have a great collection of books, merch, and other fun things. 

I’ve got a photo diary post with more pictures from Chihuly Gardens & Glass here

I didn’t do a great job planning out meals on this trip because I didn’t always know where we’d be when, but we wanted a little something for dinner that we could walk to from our hotel. 

Most of Pike Place Market closes down by early evening, so we walked around nearby streets a bit and settled on Ben Paris in the State Hotel. It was like a chic little Parisian brasserie and we had a great dinner. Apparently I was very hungry because I don’t even have a single photo!

Day 3: To the Olympic Peninsula!

We spent our last morning in Seattle visiting a few more places at Pike Place Market. 

We had breakfast at Lowell’s and it was soooo good. You order at a counter and then find a seat on one of the different levels (I believe the second floor has table service). I had the crab benedict and it was 10/10. 

We also stopped at Metsker Maps which is probably the best travel bookstore I’ve ever been to. I have a semi obsession with maps so I really enjoyed looking around and their selection of local travel books was very impressive. 

I LOVE a good local bookstore and honestly, I’ll probably go out of my way to come back here next time I’m in the area. 

Olympic Peninsula

And onward to the Olympic Peninsula! 

I’ve got a full post here about how I spent two days at Olympic National Park so you should definitely read that. It has every little detail that you need to know…

But here are the highlights: 

We stopped at the visitor center in Port Angeles which is about 2.5 hours from Seattle. 

From there we drove up as far as we could do a lookout near Hurricane Ridge and then stopped by to see Madison Falls and the Elwha River. 


We also stopped at the Lake Crescent Lodge because I LOVE a good National Park lodge. You should definitely stop by for a drink on the porch overlooking the lake even if you’re not staying here. 

And then onward to Forks where we stayed the next two nights. 

We stayed at the Woodlands Inns which I can’t recommend enough. Forks is the perfect location for exploring the Hoh Rainforest and the coastal areas of the park (the best parts in my opinion) and if you’ve done much National Parks travel, you know how tricky it can be to find good places to stay in some of these tiny, remote towns. 

But the Woodlands Inns is a great (reasonable) place to stay and it’s soooo cute. There are a dozen or so stand alone cabins that have pretty much every amenity you could possibly need plus they’re decorated so cutely. 

We had dinner at Pacific Pizza which is one of only a handful of restaurants in Forks : ) 

Day 4: Olympic National Park (Hoh Rainforest & Rialto Beach)

This was a busy, busy, busy day hiking and exploring the National Park and this was the day that I got to see the sights that I came to the Pacific Northwest for. 

Again, read this post for all of the details of the two days I spent in Olympic National Park

And I’ve got even more detailed information in these posts: 

My Favorite Hikes in the Hoh Rainforest: We spent the morning doing a couple of short hikes in the Hoh Rainforest and IT. IS. SO. DREAMY. 

Hole in the Wall Hike at Rialto Beach: We spent the afternoon doing the Hole in the Wall Hike at Rialto Beach. And we got to see starfish and some really cool anemones in the tide pools!

And we had dinner at the In Place…one of the other restaurants in Forks ; ) 

Day 5: Drive the 101 to Oregon

We got up bright and early to head to Portland. Honestly, I’m glad I got a little taste of Oregon on this trip (it is sooooo beautiful!) but if I had it to do over again, I think I would’ve done just Washington for a week and done Oregon on a separate trip. There is just so much to see and do in the Pacific Northwest that it’s impossible to see on one trip. 

But onward we go!

We drove 101 south through Washington through Oregon. 

It’s really rugged and you get a few glimpses of the beach along the coast. 

We crossed into Oregon at Astoria and drove down the coast almost all the way to Cannon Beach. It’s a beautiful drive and I’m excited to come back and spend more time here when I do my big trip down the entire Pacific Coast Highway. 

We turned inland and headed on into Portland. 

Portland is called the City of Roses and getting to see it during peak bloom was quite the treat. We spent some time at the International Rose Test Garden. 

It’s a beautiful public rose garden, and I love its history. In 1915, Jesse A. Currey (the Oregon Journal editor and a hobby gardener) petitioned city leaders to create a park where hybrid roses could be sent from Europe to be protected during WWI. They got approval in 1917 and rose growers in England and Europe began sending their beloved flowers to Portland for preservation. 

The roses bloom in Portland from May to September, but peak bloom is in June. 

The International Rose Test Garden is in Washington Park which is home to a number of Portland’s attractions like the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden, and maybe the dreamiest tennis courts I’ve ever seen!

Next we headed to Nobb Hill to grab dinner and do a little shopping. 

We grabbed a bite at Fireside which has delicious food and a cozy little atmosphere. 

Then we did a little shopping in the area. There are a ton of boutique shops plus of course outdoor gear shops like Cotopaxi. 

And no trip to Portland is complete without a stop for ice cream from Salt & Straw. Their ice cream is small batch, made from local ingredients, and they have really interesting combinations like honey lavender, strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper, and pear & blue cheese. But don’t worry, even ice cream purists will be happy with flavors like chocolate gooey brownie, malted chocolate chip cookie dough, and cinnamon snickerdoodle. 

After a big day, we drove downtown to check into our hotel. We stayed at The Nines which is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. Honestly, we weren’t terribly impressed by it and partly it was the hotel and partly it was just downtown Portland. I’ve written more about that here

Anyways, I need to do more research on Portland, but for now I would say for sure to pick a hotel that’s NOT downtown. 

And if you do stay downtown (it’s where most of the major hotels are), then just plan to be in and out but it’s not really an area to be out walking around much. 

Day 6: Columbia River Gorge 

The half a day I spent in Portland was honestly enough for me and there is some SPECTACULAR scenery in the area so we decided to spend the last full day of the trip doing a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge just outside of Portland. 

I’ve got a full post here with everything you need to know about doing the Columbia River Gorge as a day trip, but here are the highlights: 

We visited Multnomah Falls which is probably the most famous waterfall in Oregon. Don’t forget to make reservations in advance. 

We stopped at the Vista House for some pretty incredible views of the gorge. 

And we stopped for burgers and ice cream at this cute little place in Cascade Locks which is considered the end of the Waterfall Corridor along the Columbia River Gorge. 

Day 7: Early Flight home from Portland

And we flew home bright and early from Portland! If you’re renting a car, there can be a pretty hefty charge for picking up and dropping off at another airport. It’s only about three hours from Portland back up to Seattle so if you can get a flight later in the day, it might be worth it to drive back to Seattle to fly home. 

Have more days? 

I knew this trip would just be my first introduction to the area and now there are so many places I want to visit when I go back: 

Mount Rainier National Park (WA)

San Juan Islands (WA)

North Cascades National Park (WA)

Cannon Beach & the Coast (OR)

Willamette Valley (OR)

Bend (OR)

Want to read more posts about the area? 

Seattle vs Portland

2 Days in Olympic National Park

Places I Loved in Seattle

Hoh Rain Forest Hikes

Hole in the Wall Hike at Rialto Beach

Columbia River Gorge Day Trip