Take it easy on a beautiful winding road trip through the Pacific Northwest and travel north towards British Columbia.
The American and Canadian borders are open to vaccinated travellers. Now is a great time to start planning the trip of a lifetime through this stunning region, abundant with undisturbed nature. The Pacific Northwest is an uncrowded area of outstanding natural beauty. An ideal destination to get away from the crowds and far off the beaten track. Spring is the perfect time to see wildlife awakening and in summer, the weather is always pleasant. Take your time and set off on a spectacular road trip, beginning in Oregon and continuing up to Vancouver Island before heading to the Canadian Rockies. Stay in the most luxurious accommodations along the way and come home feeling completely refreshed.
There are many interesting activities to do on the way, from museums that tell the story of First Nations people to wine-tasting in surprising wineries. The whole region is ideal for hiking, kayaking and exploring the great outdoors. You can take a day for fishing or whale-watching on the Pacific Ocean and then arrive at your next hotel by seaplane. You need at least a few weeks to travel in style and to visit even just a few of the national parks at your own pace. Travel slowly and allow yourself to unwind, to truly take in the breathtaking landscapes of this region. Stay in some of the most unexpected and charming accommodations you can imagine.
On a trip like this, your accommodation should be more than a place to sleep, it should be an experience in itself. Plan on staying in high quality, small-scale accommodations. Local hosts pay great attention to hygiene and there will be no over-crowded hotel buffets or long queues. Where you stay overnight will be a truly unique aspect of this road trip, so it’s important to get this right and to make your accommodation a pleasurable part of the holiday.
Portland, a unique and friendly city
Let’s start our journey in Portland, Oregon’s largest city. Portland is a vibrant centre in the Pacific Northwest with a friendly atmosphere and plenty of comfortable coffee shops and interesting boutiques. There is a strong emphasis on sustainability here, and the city has many beautiful city parks, including the gigantic Washington Park.
Portland is located on the banks of the Columbia River and the Willamette River, where the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hood are usually visible. The city is also home to more than 75 microbreweries where happy hour is held twice a day. Portland has many unusual and high-quality hotels with a variety of award-winning cocktails bars where you can also enjoy live music from local artists and bands every weekend.
Just northeast of the city of Portland is the Columbia River Gorge, a stunning green Grand Canyon that stretches along the Columbia River on the border between Washington and Oregon. This spectacular gorge is lined with forests, fruit orchards, and basalt cliffs. You can explore this area on a day trip from the city and take hiking tours through the gorge, to the waterfalls.
Driving north of Portland you can take a bit of time out to visit Long Beach Peninsula, located in Washington State. This narrow peninsula is characterised by a beach that is 45 kilometres long. In the towns of Long Beach, Seaview, and Willapa Bay, you will find fun family attractions and interesting museums. Olympic National Park is located in the northwest corner of Washington State. This is a mosaic of mountainous areas, temperate rainforests, and forests that stretch to the rugged coastline.
Seattle, the Emerald City
Seattle is a lively cultural city located in the northwest of Washington; it is famous for being the home of Starbucks and the headquarters of many large tech industry companies. Nature is not far outside the city and on clear days Mount Rainier is visible in the distance. Olympic National Park is located in the northwest corner of Washington State and this area of stunning natural beauty is only a couple of hours’ drive east of Seattle. This is a mosaic of mountainous areas, temperate rainforests, and forests that stretch to the rugged coastline. Here you can stay in cosy cabins fitted with exquisite details and hike to the Sol Duc natural hot springs for the day.
Catch the ferry to the beautiful San Juan Islands
On the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington, it seems as if time has stood still for a while. The islands can only be reached by ferry. There are very few mainstream franchises here, just wonderful views and an authentic atmosphere.
Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands and here you can stay in individual luxurious cottages on the water’s edge and watch the sunset set across the bay. These exceptional properties are located on the sunny west side of Orcas Island, so this is the perfect place to relax and watch the wildlife. From your private terrace, you will have the chance of spotting orcas and steller sea lions. You even be lucky to see humpback and grey whales right there migrating south. You can also enjoy a barbecue on a sunny evening. Spot eagles and deer, and experience unforgettable sunrises over the East Sound. The area is famous for its hiking routes as there are endless forests, lakes, and waterfalls to explore.
Driving North into Washington State
From Seattle you start to drive north, winding your way up to Washington State, be sure to visit the Cascades National Park along the way. Take time to stop off at some truly charming cabins with their own private deck and an outdoor hot tub. These luxury cabins are situated right on the banks of the Hood River. You can swing back and forth on your porch swing and enjoy the views of the Pacific Northwest. You can take time to walk in the beautiful gardens or to chat with other guests around the firepit. There are many hiking trails close by so you can begin to explore the area.
Local activities range from exploring the vast caves of Washington State to hiking through peaceful meadows, full of wildflowers. Explore new bike trails and come across refreshing waterfalls. After an active day, you can relax outside on your porch with a glass of wine. On cooler evenings you can enjoy the bubble bath and open fire in your cabin. Crossing into British Columbia
Nestled between the coast, the mountains and the temperate rainforest of British Columbia lies Vancouver. It is a busy cosmopolitan city and yet nature is never far away. It is one of the few cities in the world where you can ski, surf, spot orcas while hiking all on the same day.
Be sure to visit the trendy neighbourhood of Gastown where fabulous cocktails are served in style; these are so large and ornate that they’re really something to remember. Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, founded by Chinese immigrants in the 1880’s. It has always been lively and buzzing. Try some delicious dim sum or buy some jars of ginseng. Granville Island is another interesting part of the city to visit; it used to be an industrial area but now it has become an artsy and hip open market, popular with locals and tourists alike.
Victoria, the city of gardens and historic buildings
Located on the south side of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. You won’t regret spending a day in the Inner Harbour, one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, and home to the Houses of Parliament. There are also many fascinating gardens and historic castles to visit, as well as cafes and restaurants with stunning views of the water. Take time to visit the Royal British Columbia Museum to gain insights into the history of the region.
Once you’ve explored the city centre, spend some time in the famous Butchart Gardens, stroll through Goldstream Provincial Park, or enjoy a ferry ride to nearby Sooke and keep a lookout for whales. Don’t forget to leave plenty of time for the Cowichan Valley, where dozens of small vineyards offer tours and tastings.
Get out in nature on Vancouver Island
Quadra Island, just off the east coast of Vancouver Island is the ideal place to unwind. Here you can treat yourself to a stay in a charming farm cottage surrounded by tall trees and just get away from it all for a few days. Wake up in the morning and stroll outside with a cup of coffee in hand to collect the hens’ eggs and feed the goats. There are plenty of interesting activities here on the island, like exploring the hiking trails around the island or kayaking to dinner to sample delicious fresh local crab.
This is the perfect starting point for your outdoor expeditions through the mountains or kayaking trips around Quadra Island. Your hosts can arrange for a local guide to show you the hidden hiking trails of Quadra Island and they can even arrange goat cheese-making workshops for you.
Explore the Rockies from the air
The West Coast of British Columbia is always a beautiful place to visit but seeing it from the air is truly an unforgettable experience. Many of the most remote areas on Canada’s extensive coastline are only accessible by boat or plane. Take a flight on a seaplane along the historic mail route out to the islands and enjoy taking off and landing on the water. You will fly past mountain peaks and glaciers and over ancient temperate rainforests and this will bring you a new perspective on the sheer vastness of this country.
After sampling the delights of Vancouver and its international cuisine head inland and follow the road up into the Rockies. Stop off to visit the charming towns of Kamloops and Revelstoke, then continue on the road to Canmore, passing by pristine mountain meadows of wildflowers. Arriving in Canmore it is highly recommended to book a spectacular helicopter flight in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Enjoy breathtaking views of The Three Sisters and soar over Mount Assiniboine, also known as the Matterhorn of the Rockies, due to its distinctive shape. Flying over Lake Moraine and landing back down in a pristine mountain meadow is certain to be a once in a lifetime experience and a great finale to your trip through the Pacific Northwest.
Andrew Morten is the Founder of Little America. Little America creates bespoke, tailored trips to the United States and Canada.
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