The two famous Washingtons in the United States could hardly be further apart – and not just geographically.
Admittedly, both were named after the first president of the USA (and some would add that both are now home to a fascinating array of wild animals), but when it comes to breathtaking beauty and location appeal, Washington State knocks the national capital right out of the park.
Framed by the rugged white peaks of the Cascade Mountains, the sprawling pine forests of the Olympic National Park and the deep blue of the ocean, Washington State is the jewel of America’s Pacific Northwest, home to fashionable, forward-thinking cities, friendly locals and a world-class wine scene.
Most cruisers will find themselves in Seattle, the state’s major seaport and the gateway to Canada and Alaska, but to get the most out of this amazing part of the world you’ll have to venture outside the city limits and the confines of your standard pre or post-cruise stay.
That’s because Washington isn’t just the state of Microsoft, the Twilight sagas, Kurt Cobain and Starbucks. It’s also a land of majestic mountains, dramatic wildernesses and unspoiled coastlines.
In the west lies the kayaker’s paradise of the San Juan Islands; to the east, the enticing wine region of Walla Walla. In this unique destination, travellers can explore a national park in the morning, ride across the desert in the afternoon, and spend the evening in a sophisticated global city. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more exciting and enchanting place to visit in the USA.
Bright lights, small cities
Seattle is a sparkling techie metropolis and major cruise hub on the Pacific coast. Home to one of the world’s great food markets – Pike Place – and cultural landmarks including the Museum of Pop Culture and the iconic Space Needle, the Emerald City is a great place to visit.
But those with time to explore further will discover lesser known gems such as Bellevue, a youthful and affluent small city on the shores of Lake Washington, which offers sculpture parks, stylish boutiques, a bustling marina and a thriving arts scene.
Head further east and you’ll discover quirky Spokane, the state’s second city, and home to the impressive Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture with its outstanding exhibitions paying tribute to indigenous Native American tribes.
And then there’s the state capital – not Seattle, as most assume, but tiny Olympia, an hour’s drive to the southwest. Here you’ll find attractive boardwalks, historic buildings and a lively musical culture, while keen ornithologists will love the Billy Frank Jr Wildlife Refuge, which is home to more than 200 bird species.
Wine and wilderness
Its cities may be world class but nothing compares with the wild, mountainous terrain of Washington State’s hinterlands. At the heart is the Olympic National Park, where American black bears and mountain goats roam freely, and grey whales and harbour seals frolic in the cold waters of the fog-blanketed bays.
Just a two-hour drive from Seattle, the park spans nearly 1,500 square miles and embraces four distinct eco-systems, stretching from snow-capped peaks to the temperate rainforests on the park’s west side. Hikers have a wide choice of trails to explore, though the park’s highest point, Mount Olympus, is the preserve of serious climbers.
Wildlife watchers should spend time in the alpine forests, lower valleys and the lush Hoh rainforest, while everyone
will love the famous Olympic Hot Springs – a popular destination for visitors from all around the globe, where natural, emerald- green waters bubble up from deep below ground, reaching steamy temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius.
Washington’s wide-open landscapes aren’t just for adventurers and nature- lovers, however. The state is also a major wine producer, second only to California in the USA.
In the region of Walla Walla, spread over green valleys and framed by mountains and streams, you’ll find more than 100 innovative and acclaimed wineries, many offering tours and tastings for thirsty travellers, and between them growing no fewer than 80 varieties of wine grape.
The area is a four-hour drive from Seattle but it’s well supplied with boutique B&Bs, serving local produce and providing a comfortable place to stay after a few too many Cab Savs.
With so many contrasting attractions, Washington State offers something for every visitor. A few days here will make
a rewarding addition to any cruise, and with more lines than ever sailing out of Seattle, there has never been a better
time to get exploring.
• It’s best to explore Washington State during the summer months between June and September, where rainfall is at its lowest and the weather is mild.
• Pack for city walks, adventure rambles and vineyard visits. And bring your waterproofs – it rains a lot here.
• Washington State hosts many exciting food, drink and arts events throughout the year. If you’re visiting
in October, look out for the Dungeness Crab and Seafood festival in Port Angeles, and the Fresh Hop Ale Festival
Get on Board
7-night ‘Alaska Dawes Glacier’ cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice, round trip from Seattle via Juneau and Skagway, departing 21 August 2020, from £809 celebritycruises.com
7-night ‘Olympic Wilderness & San Juan Islands’ cruise aboard Safari Quest, round trip from Seattle via Orcas Island and the Olympic National Park, departing 3 October 2020, from £3,657, uncruise.com