WASHINGTON’S COASTLINE is a mix of throwback charm and rugged, untouched landscape, best explored by following Highway 101 as it leads to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Start your expedition at Grays Harbor Lighthouse, the tallest in Washington, located at the base of the peninsula in Westport. At 107 feet in height, this beacon can be glimpsed from up to 20 miles away, luring sightseers to this quaint coastal town just as surely as it warns sailors of the rocks below.
Leading east from Westport, Highway 105 provides stunning views as it skirts the southern shore of Grays Harbor. Next, join Highway 101 at Aberdeen and follow it inland 38 miles north to Lake Quinault, adjacent to the Quinault Rain Forest. Set in a glacier-carved valley, this pristine realm is a great place to stretch your legs; the Rain Forest Nature Trail, a quick half-mile jaunt through a grove populated by 700-year-old trees, connects to some five miles of additional trails, one of which leads to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. (Maps are available at the Lake Quinault Ranger Station, next to the Lake Quinault Lodge.)
From here, Highway 101 breaks west and darts straight for the coast, satisfying travelers anxious to reconnect with the Pacific. They won’t be disappointed once they view the ocean from Kalaloch, an oceanside fishing village that attracts stormwatchers who come to observe the elements in action. Even in calm weather, the area’s vast stretches of white, sandy beaches inspire.
Highway 101 veers back inland and north through Forks before heading east toward Port Angeles. But you’ll veer north onto Highway 113 to reconnect with Washington’s shoreline along Highway 112. You’ll be paralleling the Canadian border along the Strait of Juan de Fuca as you drive to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the continental United States. Along the way, scenic turnouts will pull you along Washington’s unspoiled coast until you simply run out of land—and linger, captivated by the prospect of open ocean, before turning back.
> EAT TAKE HOME FISH COMPANY, NEAH BAY
This white plywood shack may not look like much. But trust us, it’s worth the visit to sample the succulent smoked salmon, made from fish that owner Kimm Brown buys fresh each morning. 360-640-0262
> SEE CAPE FLATTERY, NEAH BAY
A series of platforms overlooking caves and sheer cliff faces—and myriad birds and seals—makes this 3/4-mile trail a must-see. Because the trail is on tribal lands, you’ll need to buy a recreational use permit in Neah Bay. Signs through the town point to the unpaved road leading to the trailhead.
> PLAY LADY WASHINGTON, GRAYS HARBOR
This tall ship still plies the local waters of Grays Harbor and is available for tours or adventurous sails. Families can also book passage for Expedition Voyages, on which crewmates get a taste of what it takes to sail an 18th-century ship. www.historicalseaport.org