If you’ve dreamed about seeing orca whales, one of the best places to see them as well as an abundance of other wildlife is off the shores of the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. By staying in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, you’ll be right at the edge of the spectacular San Juan de Fuca Strait and just minutes from the magnificent Olympic Mountain range and Olympic National Park.
Here is a look at just three of the reasons this is an ideal destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts and wildlife lovers of all types to come to this breathtakingly beautiful region.
Whale watching with Puget Sound Express
While I’ve been fortunate to go on a number of whale watching trips in different areas of the country, my most recent experience with Puget Sound Express, located at the Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend, surpassed my expectations. My daughter and I went out with the crew on the Olympus for a 4-hour tour over this past Fourth of July weekend.
We sped out through Admiralty Bay and into San Juan de Fuca Strait with the magnificent Olympic mountains as the backdrop. As the boat slowed to a stop, several orca whales came into view, dipping below the surface momentarily before coming into view once again. We were mesmerized by the family of Spirit, also known as L-22, and her two boys, Solstice (L-89) and Skana (L-79).
Spirit even decided to treat us to several breaches, with her audience on board especially appreciative of the show. When it was time to leave, we headed over to an area where two minke whales were feeding and got an up-close view of both. Just minutes later we watch a stellar sea lion sunning on the rocks, posing and preening for photographers. Heading back to Port Townsend, we spotted numerous bald eagles as well as a number of harbor porpoises gliding through the water.
Fort Worden State Park
While in the area, Fort Worden State Park offers numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure. Just two miles from downtown Port Townsend, this former 19th century military fort sits atop a high bluff overlooking the San Juan de Fuca Strait with over two miles of saltwater shoreline and panoramic views of the Olympic and Cascade mountains.
Visit for the day, or spend the night here at a beach or forested campground. Indoor accommodations are offered in stunning century-old officers’ housing as well as a castle and one-room houses.
Port Townsend Marine Science Center is housed here and provides the opportunity learn more about the resident orca whales and other marine life. There are also 12 miles of hiking and biking trails as well as kayak rentals available for getting out on the water and a picturesque swimming beach.
Olympic National Park
Just an hour’s drive west of Port Townsend and you can be in Olympic National Park. The scenic 17-mile drive to Hurricane Ridge is one of the most beautiful in the country. At the top you’ll be surrounded by peaks of the Olympics and beautiful wild-flower filled meadows. This is also the home of mountain goats, marmots, bobcats and numerous black-tailed deer who often come right up to surprised visitors.
Hike to one of the many gorgeous waterfalls in the park like Marymere Falls, plunging 90 feet into an emerald pool below; explore hidden turquoise colored lakes or take a dip in soothing Sol Duc hot springs.
There are few places on earth that are as magical as the Olympic Peninsula, and I feel very grateful to live here.
K.C. Dermody is a freelance writer and a Featured Contributor for Travel. She has traveled to nearly all 50 states and many countries worldwide and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others.
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