Perfect vacation planning – Olympic Peninsula from Portland

We had the opportunity this past summer to take an awesome road trip to the Olympic Peninsula. After researching on tripadvisor, google maps and various travel websites, decided on the perfect itinerary. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so had flexibility worked into the schedule and enough downtime so the kids didn’t poop out. Goals were to see the major sites, minimize daily travel and have fun! Here’s how it worked:

Day 1: Portland to Lake Quinault.
drive time 3:30 hours.
accommodations: camping at Falls Creek Campground

Lake Quinault CampsiteThe drive was nice. Intended to find a nice spot in Aberdeen to look at the ocean and have a quick snack from the cooler. Headed towards the wildlife refuge thinking it would be like a park and have picnic tables etc… but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. Had snacks along the side of a road swatting at mosquitoes. Next time will find an actual destination ahead of time. The campgrounds at Lake Quinault don’t take reservations, but figured between the 3 of them, there would be availability. Drove through them to find a good spot. Chose a nice private walk-in spot close to the lake at Falls Creek Campground. Lots of excitement about the first night camping! The kids called the big tree in our campsite “the guardian”! Not much to do around the lake. Waded in the water a bit. Walked to the cafe across the street from the lodge and got some snacks. Very nice people running the kitchen and decent food.

Day 2: Lake Quinault to Kalaloch
drive time :45
accommodations: reserved camping at Kalaloch

The next day walked to some of the big trees (world’s largest spruce tree) Did the rainforest walk on the south side of the lake and then drove to the north side of the lake and then the ranger talk at the Kestner Homestead (it was okay, not super exciting, but nice info about the rain forest). Inside largest red cedar At Kalaloch there are no showers. Closest showers are back south to the gas station or up north to Forks. So was difficult to get all the sand off, but we survived. Beach was very windy but beautiful.

Day 3: Kalaloch to Ruby Beach to Hoh Rain Forest
drive time: 1:00
accomodations: camping at Hoh Campground

Ruby Beach was one of the most beautiful beaches. Got there early in the morning and it was lovely. No wind, a touch of fog. Enjoyed a ranger talk and learned about the tide pools. Found a nice spot along the river to setup camp. Did the Hall of Mosses trail. Since it was the end of July and it hadn’t rained for several weeks, there was no lush, dripping moss, but it was still beautiful and green.

Day 4: Hoh Rain Forest to Rialto Beach via Forks
drive time: 2:00
accomodations: Olympic Suites Hotel

Had planned to hike up the beach at Rialto and camp at Hole-in-the-Wall. Picked up a back country permit and the bear canister at the ranger station at Quinault. After 3 days of camping, we were a little tired. Went out to Rialto and it was windy so that confirmed the decision — no camping on the beach. Took the hike up to Hole-in-the-wall. Beautiful, but very windy. Found a real bed at Olympic Suites Hotel. Got caught up on laundry. Kids got to watch TV and we relaxed that evening. Went out for dinner in Forks. That was a story just in itself. That day was the annual Native Paddle and so a lot more people in town (I’m imagining that Forks does not normally have 20 people in the local mexican diner dive)> Here’s the scoop. Found Taqueria Santa Ana on Yelp and looked good so decided to make a go of it (compared to camping food and living out of a cooler for 3 days, how bad could it be?) Well….. Place was full, but a couple empty seats. Walked in and placed our order at the counter. Found a spot to sit and waited. and waited. and waited. Finally got chips and water. and waited. and waited. Nothing was coming out of the kitchen. (sidebar): we love watching Master Chef and Hell’s Kitchen so I’m feeling like a professional restaurant critic at this point (end sidebar). Finally another person went into the kitchen and food started coming out. But by this time, the server/order taker had no idea where it went. She took a dish of chicken enchiladas to a person in need of food and asked if it was what they had ordered, sadly it wasn’t. So she walked around and asked “who ordered the chicken enchiladas?” finally found someone to take it. about 10 minutes later more food came out, again had to ask around for someone who remembered what they ordered and still wanted it (ignoring of course those who had gone into a starvation coma in the meantime. The group ahead of us and us were exchanging glances in wonderment and fright. She asked what we had ordered and asked what they ordered to see where it was in the kitchen. At this point it felt like something from a Hitchcock movie. You’re going up an elevator with a random group of strangers. The elevator get stuck on the 13th floor. Doors open, food comes out. Doors close elevator starts to move. Somehow stays on the 13th floor. After a few iterations of this, the bonding that comes from being held hostage together kicks in. you are now invited to each other’s family reunions, are facebook friends and besties for life. Food finally arrives. Of course, mine (the adult in our group) comes first. I eat slowly, share it with my starving children who’s stomachs have sunken in from lack of nutrition. Eating slowly so that I might still be able to eat WITH my kids, but fast enough so that it’s still at least tepid and I’m finished before my kids’ food comes out. The youngest one gets hers last. She had ordered taquitos and they couldn’t get the fryer to work. Should have spoken up and said we’d take the soft tacos instead. Seriously almost broke a tooth on the hard taquitos, but since she’d eaten half of mine, color started to come back to her face and we were able to walk back to the car, glad the evening was over.

Day 5: Forks to Cape Flattery

cape flatteryWhat a beautiful spot!  Loved the little town of Neah Bay.  Stopped and got Indian Fry Bread.  Greasy yummy deliciousness.   Loved the walk to Cape Flattery.  A truly amazing spot.  Saw baby seagulls in a nest on the cliff.

Visited the Makah Museum – definitely worth a stop.


Day 6: Shi Shi Beach

Another amazing beach.  The walk to the beach was mostly flat until you get to the end — then it’s straight down a cliff to the beach.  Fortunately there’s a rope to hang on to, it’s not too treacherous, but rather fun!