How to See the Olympic Peninsula

Don’t tell me I can’t learn from my mistakes. I absolutely can. And now, so can you. If you’re off to the Olympic peninsula and only have three days, take, please, my advice and do the following.

Go ahead and do exactly what we did and book yourself a place at Ocean Shores Resort. I can’t say a whole lot for the rooms, but there’s easy beach access and the drive doesn’t take forever. But the restaurant, while pricy, is Worth Every Nickel. Okay, we were the spoiled guests of our companions for the meal, but seriously, this place dishes up some mighty yummy chow and in large portions.

I, for one, have had it with places that make you sign over your mortgage for a paper thin slice of ahi tuna with a matchstick of green onion as garnish. This place offers no such indignities, and, as I mentioned, it’s delicious. On the table? Smoked duck breast, a wild green salad (okay, it was a little overdressed) two orders of King salmon, halibut in broth, and a whopping platter of linguine with shrimp. Every single bite of the mains, perfectly cooked and generously portioned. Dessert, I can’t even write about without blushing. All this with an ocean view. Plus, hey, it’s the Washington Coast, so never mind that you’re having your fancy dinner in the same clothes you spent all day hiking in.

But just book ONE night there, okay, not two. Pack the car and in the morning, head north. Off you go to Lake Quinalt for a hike or two, and lunch at the lake. You can get fish and chips at the Mercantile and then eat your ice cream bar at the lake, or splash out at the lodge for a fancy lunch, or, hey, take a picnic, there are many fine spots. Odds are you will still be plenty full from the night before. Anyway, hike the one trail near the south entrance and then, do the short walk through the Maple Glade because you’re not going to see too much else that looks like this in your life.

Here’s the thing you ought to do before you leave the hotel. Pay attention, because you will forget. Check the tide charts. This has nothing to do with the lake. See, after you are done in Quinalt, you will go up to Ruby Beach. If you have planned it correctly, which we did not, you can be there for low tide and the tidepooling there is primo. We missed it this time, though that is not to say we did not enjoy the beach. After all, it’s really crazy gorgeous.

After you’ve filled your eyeballs with mossy trees and spectacular ocean, you can spend the night in Kalaloch or some other nearby beachy inn. Forks isn’t far, and while it’s not really that nice, it’s just a hotel, right? Then, on the following morning, you can head around the top of the peninsula with a stop at Sol Duc for a swim and/or another short hike near there.

If it was just the two of us, I’d go midweek without reservations. I would, really. There are plenty of little hotels and motels where you can just show up. On the weekend, I’d think I’d make reservations. I’d certainly check to see if there are any events on, because while there’s plenty out there, I don’t know how easy it is to get a room on short notice if you happen to arrive the same weekend that the 2000 bikers arrive. Also, I’d stock up on groceries before leaving town. There are a few markets out there, but they’re not that great and they’re expensive.

If you have more time, there are lots of other possibilities, but this plan works just fine for the three day tour. We went back the way we came and spent two nights at Ocean Shores. I wish we’d done the loop route. It’s not like we didn’t have a great time, though. It’s amazing out there and we had incredible weather. I’m just saying, if you find yourself wanting to get out to the Olympic Peninsula, take my advice.

Naturally, there are pictures.

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