Vacationing in Seattle Area - need ideas

-- Last Updated: Jun-07-14 9:30 AM EST --

I am coming to the Pacific Northwest and will probably have 3 (possibly 4) days that I will be able to dedicate to paddling. This will need to be in the greater Seattle area (non-paddling wife will be with me for first 2 weeks when we tour down through Portland, Jebediah Redwood State Park, Yachats and back to Seattle). I'm a pretty experienced paddler (bombproof roll, etc) and am trying to narrow it down to a few really nice day trips (possibly an overnight). Are Neah Bay, Freshwater Bay, and Cape Flattery fairly similar in terms of scenery? I see that Freshwater Bay is a highly rated destination by the tour company that goes out there. Cape Flattery looks more magnificent based on the pictures I see on the web but maybe that isn't really true (and of course its more exposed). Being from the east coast, one of my favorite pasttimes is just hanging out, floating and sipping coffee, in a salt marsh. Are there any good salt marshes out there? I had considered some sort of 2-4 hr trip of the Seattle shoreline. I have also wondered if one can paddle anywhere to see Navy Ships up close without getting in trouble. I think I would love looking at tide pool creatures (I hear Freshwater Bay is good for that). Well, if you only had 3 or 4 days, what would you do in the area? Thanks for your input.

OR is a waste of time. You’re visiting relatives in OR ? Ugh.

Stay in WA. Get legs in shape, hike up into the Alpine elevation in the Cascades

Circumnavigate San Juan Island.

Hike Olympic National Park from the Makah Reservation or Ozette.

Find a guide for kayaking the Pacific off Olympic National Park.

Find the Salt Recreation Area above Port Angeles on way to Makah’s boardwalk. Kayak down Juan de Fuca on an incoming tide.

Read Randy Washburne’s book on touring the area.

Dry suit is a good idea. The water is cold.

The area is crowded requiring reservations for everything. Leave the wife home.


Kayak from San Juan County Park to camp at the bay above Cattle Point below Friday Harbor. Paddle to Shaw Island or Ondin. Shaw to Jones Island to Stuart Park to San Juan County Park.

My first priority would be to get away from Seattle. Take the ferry to Bremerton; there should be some Navy ships to look at over there. Then drive up to Port Townsend; go to the Pygmy store and try out some of their kayaks. Take the ferry to Whidby Island and check out Deception Pass. Go on up to Anacortes and then to the San Juans.

If you go by Tacoma, stop in at NC Kayaks ( Arrange a demo ahead of time for a real treat in some fabulous sea kayaks.

Kayak rentals are available at Boston Harbor near Olympia for some kayaking in the lower sound.

On your way to Oregon, don’t miss my favorite, the Columbia River. I would recommend Alder Creek Kayaks on Hayden Island in Portland for renting kayaks. When you’re on the Oregon coast, take a drive over to Pacific City.

Paddling Opportunities

– Last Updated: Jun-07-14 8:56 PM EST –

If you don't already have a copy pick up Kayaking Puget Sound & the San Juans by Rob Casey. It's the third edition of Randel Washburn's book. Lot's of ideas and updated status on local sites. Also consider joining Washinton Water Trails. It's cheap and provides you with access to many campsites you wouldn't know about.

South Sound paddling is surprising in that there is very little power boat traffic. It's not the complete wilderness experience but there are plenty of places to camp, some current, some wildlife. Magooch mentions Boston Harbor and I agree that it is a good spot to start or end a day or overnight trip.

Launching at La Connor allows you the "marsh" experience by paddling into the Skagit River delta or the standard Puget Sound experience by traveling out to Skagit Island east of Deception Pass. The island is a State Park with camping.

Both Crescent Bay and Freshwater Bay are nice places. Expect some surf at Crescent Bay I've never seen surf at Freshwater Bay as it is protected from normal swell and typical winds. Camping at Salt Creek County Park. A nice day trip is to put in at Freshwater Bay towards the end of the ebb and paddle west to Crescent Bay. Return with the flood.

Midweek Pelican Beach on Cypress Island is a decent place to camp and poke around. Weekends should be avoided as all campsites will be packed. Do some study of the currents here to determine where to put in and what time to paddle. They can move pretty fast and cause trouble. The standard wind / current / topography planning applies here to insure that you have a good time.

If someone is willing to drop you off at a South Sound put-in and pick you up in Seattle you can have a nice one-way trip north. If you are dropped off at Point Defiance in Tacoma you can travel up Colvos Passage to Lisabuela or Blake Island where a WWT membership allows you to camp. On the opposite side of Vashon near Dolphin Point is the unusual Cascadia Marine Trail campsite Winghaven Park. Cross the Sound to Lincoln Park or Alki for pick up.

Some photos of South Sound, Vashon, Colvos Passage and Lisabeula are here from a winter weekend trip we took from Niqually to Alki several years back:


there are enumerable paddles for you
in the Puget Sound area, San Juan Islands, Juan de Fuca strait, and Olympic Peninsula. It just depends on how much time you have and whether you want to camp or not. Traffic can be really horrible around Puget Sound so you will need to plan you travel times carefully. Getting out to Neah Bay from Seattle will take most of one day by the time you negotiate the ferry across the sound and get through Sequim and Port Angeles. Sounds like you will be renting equipment? or use guide? If you are renting you should contact ahead of time and arrange things so they are confident of your skills. Not sure if they will rent to a solo paddler. Depending on where you choose to go you will need drysuit or wetsuit. As other poster said good paddling around Whidbey Island, with lots of variety. Sheltered on one side, open,exposed on the other. Nice paddling at Anacortes, Allen and Burrows Islands are reachable without exposure or ferry travel. Maybe Blake Island State Park and into Bremerton. Vashon Island circumnavigation is good.

But as other poster said. CURRENTS are there, be aware and plan for them with potential for wind.

And dismiss the shit comment about Oregon. While there are some downsides in any state the coast drive along 101 is great! Enjoy.

San Juan Island

I get to speak with visitors from Europe and East Coast. They ask, tho I don’t know why just talking I guess, 'where should we go ? ( I have the full rig -looks like I know what I’m up to (?) and so I’ll go thru what I wrote.

And they say…to a man…awwww we don’t have the time BECAUSE we’re going to see Seattle !

eyeyyahhhahhahhha. They should see Seattle when the rains come.

BTW, if you travel to godforsaken Oregon do drive up the Columbia on the North side, see The Stonehenge, Biggs Junction, the Deschutes River - bicycling and class 3 canoeing.

and don’t miss
the Trask River

All good suggestions. No need to go all the way out to the coast. The San Juans are a great place to paddle. Anacortes saves a lot of time as a put-in spot. Paddle to Guemes Island.

Lake Washington and Lake Union are great day trips Paddle to a great reastaurant. Look at the boats and houseboats. If you only have a few days, don’t spend them driving, spend them on the water.

Go out to Makah, Ozette. Find a guide.

San Juan Island is magical. Like Tillamook.

Drive over the hill, the Olympics are on the left, Canadians dead ahead, Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait/Fraser River below you.

If you can get there for a morning incoming tide series from Tatoosh to Roche Harbor then kayaking with Orca is possible.

SJI is in the rain shadow. Reservations inquiry is essential. The ferry ride excellent…bring long underwear, sweater, windbreaker AND gloves. For the ferry ride.

The Strait, scenery, kayaking are superb.

I’d move there but for the ‘mist.’

Orca’s and tides followup to your post
>If you can get there for a morning incoming tide series from Tatoosh to Roche Harbor then kayaking with Orca is possible.

SJI is in the rain shadow. Reservations inquiry is essential. T<

Do you mean reservations for the ferry. Also, can you elaborate on the tide situation and Orca’s. Of course, seeing some Orca’s from my kayak would be a dream come true. What sort of planning will increase the odds of this? Are you most likely to see them during an incoming tide? Is that true of all areas, or something specific about the Tatoosh to Roche Harbor stretch?

Statistically orcas are on the west side of San Juan Island more than anywhere else BUT they travel upwards of 100 miles a day. They typically do a loop of sorts up Haro and either Boundary Pass or Active Pass, across toward Pt Roberts/Coal docks then back down either through Rosario or Bellingham Channels or back down Boundary to Haro.

I ran a big whale tour boat som years back so I know their patterns. This is a rough guide and no guarantee but based on hard data if you had four days the West side of SJI would offer the best chance of seeing them. You’ll need to abide by the strict rules which are readily available.

If me I’d head to Patos Is and paddle around the northern islands. Sucia, Matia, Clark.

Be aware
With little time to gain enough local knowledge about the islands, it might be wise not to plan on paddling across the Rosario Straights to get there. Fog can move in from the Straits of Juan De Fuca faster than you can paddle. We once raced a fog coming up the Rosario and barely made it into Obstruction Pass as the fog filled in around us. Better to take the ferry into the islands. I have sat at Sunset Beach for days waiting for the fog to clear. Once you’re in the islands it should be okay; the islands seem to have a dome over them.

If you can visit only one island, I would choose Sucia–north of Orcas. This one has it all and then some.

Do not under any circumstances let someone talk you into paddling across Juan De Fuca. And stay way from the Admiralty Inlet off of Port Townsend.

to answer…
Tatoosh is the lighthouse island outside Cape Flattery. Hiking up the road opposite Makah’s boardwalk where the original coast may be viewed brings hiker to a parking lot looking down on Tatoosh.

There’s a tide gauge for the locale as this is the entrance for Juan de Fuca.

If you look thru the season, I’m not - I’m going to Glacier Bay, you will find 2-3 tides beginning a rise before dawn at Tatoosh then a progression of tides going up the Fraser River, the east side of Haro Strait. Salmon wait in the Pacific, group then head in on these tides. Orca come for the salmon.

I do successful animal communications research with the Orca but the power structure threw me out. THEY are paranoids with a private army of goons and thugs.

Orca are amazing creatures, a powerful force swimming thru the environment as they approach and pass. I would use the word ‘mystical.’

The locals have a 45 day summer, the touring force is from $omputer people, and an international touring invasion. Visit online San Juan County Parks. There is a Fairgrounds camping area and 2-3 private camping areas.

Experienced guides are there. I don’t know the names.

You may view these areas with Google Images and Utube. I may have a photo essay for SJI here in Paddlenet.

answer 2
yes, PN kept the photos in launch site under San Juan County, the red spot on the map of San Juan Island.

I use Garmin’s Blue Charts tide software but you’re stuck with NOAA:

Follow tides from Tatoosh down Juan de to Haro Strait, that is a separate listing down the page.

Kick back when you get there. If you have the dough, recommend finding a guide. There’s a club for this.

If you want to see orcas
…your surest bet would be to go on a whale-watching boat tour. Some of them guarantee a sighting or else you get another trip or similar sign of confidence they can predict where to see them. I went on one from Orcas Island, and yes, they nailed it, plus their tour guide actually knew individual whales’ names and which pod they were from. They also were extremely careful not to violate marine mammal distance laws, something that can’t be said of all operators.

Transportation between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula is slow and requires timing around the greater Seattle rush hours. You get to choose between combo ferry-and-drive routes or all-drive routes. Depending exactly where you’re going to and from, the ferry combo won’t necessarily save you time or money. On some ferry routes, advance reservations are strongly recommended, especially in summer. You can get info from the Washington state ferry website at

Before you get too excited about tidepooling, make sure your trip dates coincide with springs. The rocks at Salt Creek Rec Area would be good for this, and I’ve heard Shine Tidelands (near the Hood Canal bridge) is also good. Of course, there are other places as well.

You didn’t say where you were renting kayaks from; this and the rental car’s roof might limit where you go. There is a place called Kayak Brinnon listed in the phone book that might have boats right by the water; I have no idea what kind of kayaks they are. A shop in Port Gamble rents real sea kayaks right by the water. An outfit sometimes rents kayaks at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, but they have a rep for being flaky about dates and hours of operation. Other than that, I can’t think of any on the peninsula that have rentals at the water. At least one place will only allow you to use their kayaks on a guided tour, not self-guided rental.

As others have said, get informed about local currents, shipping traffic, naval-keep-away requirements, etc. Expect cold water even in summer (drysuit or full wetsuit recommended). You mentioned having a “bombproof roll” but didn’t say whether that includes ocean experience or was in inland rivers.

Oregon is beautiful, too. Even if you don’t paddle there, just driving the coast will blow you away.

so many good suggestions
Well, my prelim itinerary (very prelim) is to see about getting a guided trip (using Adventures Through Kayaking) from Neah Bay to Tatoosh. Then, on another day, camp at San Creek Recreation Area and do a day exploration of Freshwater Bay (renting a kayak through the same area). Then, if time allows, do an overnight from Moran State Park out to (and camping on, Patos island and back the next day. Finally, I would like to see if I could see some Navy Ships by leaving from Lions Park and paddling down in front of Navy Base Kitsap. I’ll look at Washburn’s book (which I purchased a few weeks ago). As always, any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

Moran State Park

– Last Updated: Jun-09-14 1:50 AM EST –

Great park, with a couple of lakes and a wonderful hike (Mt. Constitution--views), but it's inland, not along the seacoast. You can't paddle from it to Patos (or any other island).

I see why the orcas threw you out
Must’ve done a random drug test.

great input

– Last Updated: Jun-09-14 2:32 AM EST –

Roll is pretty solid in ocean conditions, surf etc. My main worry is water temp. I am use to southeast water temps, like upper 70's…even mid-80's in south FL. I will be wearing a drysuit but even getting that cold ass water in my ears gives me pause. I guess you get use to it, sort of….but you guys have some frickin' cold water!! May call Kitsap to see about Naval regs. Would only do Flattery with a guide. I see you also have some pretty significant tides. I hope the beach topography is such that the horizontal distance between the low and high tide line is not too long (e.g., don't need to drag your kayak 300 feet if you arrive at, or need to paddle away from your campsite at low tide). Do the islands (e.g., Patos) have bears? Can they be a nuisance? FWIW, also plan trip to the Hall of Mosses trail and Mt Ranier Natl Park to see some purity flowers and other sights.