The Pacific Northwest is filled with iconic landscapes, dense forests, and coastline scenery so beautiful that it would turn even the most modest Instagrammer into a feed-spamming nightmare. After moving to the West Coast from New York, I’ve made the trip here many times, but on my most recent visit to what’s commonly referred to as the #PNW, I set out on a road trip to La Push in Washington. Though La Push has been glamorized by the Twilight franchise, there’s still a darkness and spirituality to the area that keeps it very real.
My girlfriend and I flew into to Seattle, picked up our car, and set out for Port Townsend–a transient town known for its shipyards and train hoppers. Crusty punks and new age characters flock to this little town nestled by the sea. (Fellow travelers, take note: from Seattle-Tacoma Airport, you can take the Ferry or drive to Port Townsend; we chose to drive so we could make some stops off HWY 101 along the way.) For the first couple nights of our trip, we stayed with a close friend—and his three pet deer, Dorian, Florian and Fenriz. We were cozy in his modern cabin nestled in the forest, surrounded by dizzying views from the giant cliffs around us.
Our first morning in Port Townsend began with a drive around the frosty coastline before making our way to Sweet Laurette Café and Bistro, a farm to table café known for their decadent treats, including the Apple and Pear Dutch Baby. This sugar slammed pancake is sure to satisfy—even I loved it, despite my preference for bacon and grits. Continuing our culinary adventure, we ate at Owl Spirit Café for lunch, where we sat at a family style table and ate delicious soups, flaky biscuits, and house made sausage. The atmosphere—both cozy, and funky—made us feel right at home. After an afternoon spent exploring the Peninsula, we had drinks and dinner at the Uptown Pub, which houses Blue Moose Uptown Grill, a local hangout with cheap beer and legit, mouth watering burgers.
After a few days in Port Townsend, we were ready to hit the road and get to the furthest point in America: Neah Bay. Surprisingly, the biggest attraction in Neah Bay (besides the spectacular views) is the famous Take Home Fish Co, which serves the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had, hands down. The salmon can essentially be made to order, as customers receive fillets fresh out of the smoker. When we arrived the owner, Kimm Brown, had just run out–but that was no problem for this authentic Native American eatery. He simply smoked more while we hiked along the scenic, 1.5 mile Cape Flattery Trail. As soon as we returned, the order was ready to be picked up, and we were on our way.
After Neah Bay, and fully stocked with smoked salmon, we headed to La Push. The small, unincorporated community lies within the Quileute Indian Reservation, where there’s only one hotel, no wifi, and definitely not a Starbucks in sight. What it does offer is a peace of mind and beauty that’s all its own; La Push is for travelers who like to get off the beaten path. We stayed at the Quileute Oceanside Resort, a tribal-owned resort that’s key to a peaceful stay on the Washington coastline. The hotel has oceanfront cabins, and we spent every night on the beach watching the sun set, and every morning watching it rise again.
After spending a few days relaxing on the shore, building fires, and eating our smoked salmon beachside, we headed to Forks, Washington to check out the town. On the way, we were lucky enough to stumble upon John’s Beachcombing Museum: a veritable warehouse-sized art installation of everything from hardhats, possessions lost during the Japanese tsunami, doll heads from overturned cargo ships, and glass bottles containing messages… all of which were collected during John’s 40+ years of scavenging the beach for hidden trash and treasure. Every found object is totally organized, beginning outside with a tower of floats—once inside, the collection is displayed from floor to ceiling.
After our last day in La Push, we drove to Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park. Legend has it that they still haven’t discovered the total depth of the lake–which, combined with the immense landscape and forest surrounding it, make it an awe-inspiring destination to contemplate existence or just hang out. During spring or summer, check out the Lake Crescent Lodge’s log cabins, restaurant, hot springs resort, and campgrounds. This area is also home to the legendary Quinault Rainforest, a temperate rainforest made up of massive fir, cedar, and spruce trees–not to mention, hanging curtains of moss, and lush fern carpeting the forest floor.
On our drive home after landing at LAX, we were saddened not to see the Northwest imagery that made us feel like we were living in an adventure novel: ferries pulling into docks, wild deer roaming freely on foliage lined streets, and driftwood campfires along the shore. As we drove through Los Angeles, the sunshine, cloudless sky, and bustling metropolitan energy were a stark contrast from the beauty we’d found in the overcast drizzle that shrouded our trip in cozy, comfortable solitude.