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  Washington State Travel Tip

Following information courtesy seeseattle.org


Travelers heading for the Pacific Northwest have the opportunity to sample two national cultures in a single visit. Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria form a triangle that makes a local cluster of destinations to include in a single visit. In the space of a week or less you can visit all three with plenty of time for sightseeing, dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation. And, the routes that connect the three make delightful sightseeing trips in themselves.

Regularly-scheduled air service connects all three cities with conventional jet and propeller plane flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In addition, float-plane service from Seattle's Lake Union to Victoria's Inner Harbour and to Vancouver's Burrard Inlet provide low- altitude flights from which you can get bird's-eye views of fishing boats and freighters plying Puget Sound, of driftwood-strewn beaches, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.

The new high-tech Spanish-built Talgo train offers rail service between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. The Mt. Baker International offers daily round-trip service with the train departing Seattle in the morning, arriving in Vancouver mid-day and returning to Seattle in the early evening. Stops along the way include the towns of Edmonds, Everett, Mt. Vernon/Burlington and Bellingham.

Victoria Clipper's three high-speed passenger-only catamarans make the trip between the Seattle Waterfront and Victoria's Inner Harbour in just 2« hours. Sailings are offered year-around. Motorists have several options for visiting the three cities, all of them scenically rewarding. It's 141 miles from Seattle to Vancouver, about a 2« hour drive on Interstate 5. If you have some time to linger, consider stopping at Mount Vernon to view hundreds of acres of commercial bulb fields ablaze with color in the spring.

The glistening snow-capped peaks of the Cascades punctuate the skyline to the east of I-5. A detour at Burlington will lead you over the North Cascades Highway and through North Cascades National Park. You can drive up the shoulder of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker by detouring 62 miles east at Bellingham. The waterfront community of Bellingham is another good stop with its well- preserved 1890's historic buildings and the Whatcom Museum of History and Art containing the works of turn-of-the-century photographer Darus Kinsey.

Victoria-San Juan Cruises offers passenger-only boat service between Bellingham and Victoria via the San Juan Islands, late May to October. The cruise to Victoria is narrated and includes a one-hour stop in Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island, en route to Victoria's Inner Harbour. San Juan Island Shuttle Express offers daily passenger-only service from Bellingham to Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, late May through September. The narrated cruise makes a brief stop on Orcas Island and a 4« hour stop in Friday Harbor.

A detour via Whidbey Island provides a relaxing change of pace and doesn't take you very far from your northbound course. Whidbey is pastoral and indented with may coves and bays where you can camp or stop for a picnic lunch beside Puget Sound. The island is also the location of several first-class bed and breakfast inns with fine views.

From Seattle, drive north on I-5 and take the Mukilteo ferry to the southern end of the island. Langley, an artists community, with neat, trim houses, a white-steepled church and a false- fronted main street overlooking Saratoga Passage is the place to browse for antiques and collectibles. At Fort Casey State Park, pause to explore the turn-of-the-century coastal defense fort complete with a vintage lighthouse and huge, old artillery pieces. Take a walking tour of Coupeville, one of the oldest settlements in the state. The charming 19th-century town has been preserved and now houses shops and restaurants along its main street. Here, too, are the Island County Historical Museum and 1855 Alexander's Blockhouse.

The automobile ferries depart from Anacortes, 21 miles west of I-5 at Mount Vernon. Plan to arrive early for the often-crowed summer ferry sailings through the San Juans. For more information, call Washington State Ferries at (800) 843-3779.

The big green and white vessels thread their way through the islands, coming so close to conifer-clad bluffs in places you can almost reach out and touch them. You pass secluded coves, uninhabited islands and other ferries that suddenly spring into view around a rocky point. The ferries stop at Lopez, Shaw, Orcas and San Juan Islands. Lopez, Orcas and San Juan have small resorts, motels and bed and breakfast inns where you can stop overnight. Accommodations are limited, so its best to call ahead for reservations.

The three-hour voyage through the San Juans terminates at Sidney on Vancouver Island, a short drive to Victoria. British Columbia Ferries travel from Sidney to Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver).

Schedule two days if you plan to reach Victoria from Seattle via the scenic and rugged Olympic Peninsula. You cross Puget Sound on automobile ferries from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, or from Edmonds to Kingston, on the Kitsap Peninsula. In either case, you're heading for Washington 104 and the floating bridge across Hood Canal. Adjacent to the bridge is Port Gamble, a painstakingly restored lumber mill town of the 1880's.

On the Olympic Peninsula, be sure to spend some time in Port Townsend, the best collection of Victorian gingerbread architecture north of San Francisco. There are dozens of fancy old homes (some of them bed and breakfast inns) with turrets, bay windows, ornate woodwork and stained glass. It's a good place to shop for antiques as well. Nearby, Fort Warden, a turn-of-the- century fort now a state park, offers accommodations in the handsome refurbished officer's quarters.

Port Angeles is the departure point for the Black Ball Ferries' Coho that crosses the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria. Heart O' The Hills Highway, just south of town, climbs to Hurricane Ridge, a lofty viewpoint in Olympic National Park from which you can view the park's rugged wilderness interior.

 Travel Tips in Related Destinations
  Bellingham Whatcom County Highlights
  Bellingham Whatcom County Museums
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  Lewis County Adventures
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  Walla Walla Highlights
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