Pacific Northwest's Other Attractions

Crater Lake

In addition to its waterfalls, the Pacific Northwest has other attractions to keep you busy taking photos or admiring the scenery. I’ve singled out some of the features that you’re bound to see upon a visit to the region. Read below to get a brief introduction to these features.

The bustling Pike's Market and famous signSeattle: There are quite a few things going on that the average tourist must do when in the Emerald City. However, a couple that we think are worthwhile are Pike's Market and the Kerry Park view of the skyline.

Even though Pike's Market isn't a natural attraction, when it's bustling, this is a quintessential Seattle must-do activity and is basically the state's most famous farmers market. It's for this reason (which we found out by direct experience) that if you want to be part of the energy and action, you'll have to come here during the day (say mid-morning to mid-afternoon) on weekdays or even into early evening on Saturday when this place gets real busy.

Inside the main part of Pike's MarketCome on a weeknight and you'll wonder what the fuss is all about as most of the stands close until the next morning. Speaking of stands, mornings are best for their extensive floral displays, fresh fruits, as well as fresh catches of the day. There are also a couple landmarks within the market in addition to shops, stands, and cafes, and they are the gum wall as well as a pig statue.

Skyline and Mt Rainier from Kerry ParkAs for Kerry Park, if you're looking for a good place to view Mt Rainier along with the Seattle Skyline, this is a great place to do it on a clear day in the late afternoon. One thing to note is that it's a residential park that has become a somewhat of a famous lookout spot (much to the chagrin of homeowners there).

Mt RainierThe reason is because it sits on the hill overlooking the Space Needle with the rest of downtown Seattle's skyline behind it. Only on clear late day can you see Mt Rainier, but it tends to be too hazy to see it until the late afternoon (near sunset) when the volcano gets the warm glow of the setting sun or even the pink tinge of alpenglow. The obscure park is about a block or two west of Queen Anne Road not far from the Fremont area.

Bandon BeachBandon Beach: This quiet and relaxing beach sits on Oregon's southern coast. Featuring rocks that emerge from both the sand and the tides, it's a great place to take sunset photos or just relax and bask in the beauty of the scene. Given that it's a bit out-of-the way from cities like Portland or even San Fransisco, you truly do feel like you're in a different place here.

Bandon BeachWe only wished that the weather was better when we were here, but even then, we still appreciated the scenery as you can see in the photos here. The other caveat to this beach is that you'll probably be needing a wetsuit as the waters at this latitude are typically very cold.

Cannon BeachCannon Beach: Further up the Oregon Coast a little less than 90 minutes west of Portland, this very popular beach also features rock stacks protruding out of the sand and tides as well as provide gorgeous sunsets when the weather is agreeable.

Cannon Beach in the morningThe seaside town fronting the beach manages to maintain a more or less laid back feel to it despite its proximity to the city. Though it is becoming increasingly popular and developed and is becoming Oregon's version of Carmel on California's Central Coast.

Ecola State ParkIf you want a different perspective of Cannon Beach, check out Ecola State Park just to the north. There, you get more vistas looking southwards at Cannon Beach as well as a surprising waterfall spilling onto Crescent Beach. There's also a sea lion rock there featuring an arch through it though it's not easy to get a view through its span.

Cherry blossoms in the cityPortland: This very progressive and liveable city is also known as the city of gardens as there are numerous ones here to experience. Traffic (even in the downtown area) is practically nothing compared to what we're used to in Southern California. Their forward thinking on always re-investing within the city is definitely something other cities in our Nation can look to to make them more liveable.

The Chinese GardenThe city does tend to get a lot of rain, but that means you get to see gardens galore. We got a chance to experience the compact but beautiful Chinese Garden as well as the Japanese Garden. There are many others in the city. Also, there are cherry blossoms that bloom if you're here in early April, and we were fortunate to experience this on our trip.

Mt Hood seen from Council Crest ParkOn a clear day, this city also boasts breathtaking vistas of volcanoes such as Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, and of course, the conical Mt Hood. We were fortunate to experience such a good day when we were here as we managed to get ourselves tremendous views from the Japanese Garden as well as the Council Crest Park where you not only get views of Mt Hood, but the other three volcanoes on the Washington side as well.

Portland Saturday MarketIf you're looking for something a little more happening than gardens and vistas, we managed to find it at the Saturday Market. Here, there are numerous arts and food stalls, and it was amazing to see such a happening scene considering how quiet the city seems to be elsewhere.

Sea LionsSea Lion Cave: About 11 miles north of Florence, this unusual attraction features the namesake sea lions in their natural tunnel as well as a gorgeous view of a lighthouse on the other side of the cave. We don't think we had ever seen sea lions in their natural habitat this close before. Definitely worth checking out if you're exploring the Oregon Coast.

Jug Handle Arch at Cape KiwandaThree Capes Loop: This scenic drive features Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares. What you get in this scenic drive are sea arches, beaches, quaint seaside towns, lighthouses, and lots of birds. Among the main natural attractions here are a jug handle arch on a rock offshore from Cape Kiwanda, Three Arch Rock near the quaint town of Oceanside though you can see through some of the spans from Cape Meares.

Three Arch Rocks seen from Cape MearesThis is certainly a worthwhile excursion when exploring the northern Oregon Coast with at least a half-day to spare. In our case, we actually had to improvise and retreat to the coast after persistent rains caused snow problems in the mountains. And we think it was a good thing we got to see more of the coast than we had originally planned.

Sand dunesOregon Dunes: Something unusual about Oregon's Central Coast is the presence of large sand dunes separating the lush forests from the turbulent seas. There is plenty of recreational activities from sandboarding to ATV'ing as well as some sightseeing to experience the dunes up close.

Crater LakeCrater Lake National Park: This sapphire blue lake was once Mt Mazama before it collapsed in a massive eruption resulting in a large depression that ended up being this famous lake. It's one of the deepest freshwater lakes in the US (possibly the deepest) and it contrasts well with the surrounding landscape as well as some features within the lake like Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.

Phantom ShipThis is one of Oregon's major attractions and it easily gets busy as vacationers from around the world come here to gaze upon a sight that seems too beautiful to be true. There are plenty of lookouts, hikes, and even a boat tour on the lake itself so indeed there are many ways to experience this place.

Mt St HelensMt St Helens National Monument: In May 19, 1980, this volcano erupted violently obliterating much of its north face and the surrounding area within the blast zone. What's left is a large chunk of the mountain that's missing exposing a still steaming lava dome as well as a ghostly forest full of bare stumps, a Spirit Lake with a log mat, and a path of destruction that is still visible 30 years since the eruption.

Bear MeadowThere are two entrances to the monument. The west entrance takes you to the Lava Dome Observatory directly within the path of the pyroclastic flow that occurred here. There are facilities as well as a direct view of the still active lava dome. The east entrance takes you to Windy Ridge where you can see the scale of the destruction of the blast zone as well as get a perspective of where the famous time sequence photographs were taken of the actual eruption itself (the largest landslide ever documented live).

Mt Adams from Windy RidgeOn a good weather day (like what we were blessed with upon our visit), you could see in almost all directions around you enabling vistas of Mt Adams as well as Mt Hood. It's difficult to visit the monument from both entrances in a day due to the amount of driving and winding roads. So give yourself time or an excuse to come back to see how violent yet beautiful Nature can be.

Wild Goose Island on St Mary LakeGlacier National Park: This dramatic park encompasses the northernmost Rocky Mountains of the United States. Even though most of the glaciers in the park are in danger of being completely gone by either 2020 or 2030, its name is appropriate due to the hanging valleys and U-shaped valleys as well as the glacial lakes left behind in their wake.

St Mary Lake from Sun PointCutting right through the heart of the park is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Unfortunately for us, it was closed on our visit, but even for the parts that were open, there were beautiful vistas and shapely peaks capped with snow along with turquoise-blue lakes not to mention numerous cascades and waterfalls to be seen.

Swiftcurrent Lake and Many Glacier HotelAnd that road isn't the only thing the park has going for it. There were also a pair of other sections of the park in Many Glacier and Two Medicine Valley that were quite dramatic in their own right. Plus, there was always the chance to see wildlife in person whether it was the majestic grizzly bear or moose to some of the more common elk, deer, or bighorn sheep.

Mt Rainier reflected in a tarnMt Rainier National Park: Since this dominates the Seattle skyline and just about any other suburb or urban center or paddock through much of the west-central part of the state, it's no surprise that it's the state's most iconic volcano and highest mountain. But in order to truly appreciate the beauty of this place, you'll have to get right onto its slopes and take a hike.

Hiking beneath the imposing mountainWhile we came here for waterfalls, there were plenty of vistas as well as trails leading to glaciers. Some of the vistas even included tarns and lakes offering a chance at taking that photo with the mountain reflected in the water. Plus, some of the meadows are havens for wildflower displays in addition to more vistas. And with the intact ecosystems due to the conservation mentality in National Parks, let's not forget the chance of spotting wildlife such as bears and eagles.

Paradise InnIs it too far away? Well, it's technically only about 60 miles from downtown Seattle to the Nisqually-Paradise part of the park (i.e. the well-visited touristed side). But if you allow time for rural surface streets and some traffic as well as queues, then it's probably between 2 to 2.5 hours each way so it might be worth a stay closer to the park to see the mountain's other faces at Sunrise, Ohanapecosh, Carbon River, Mowich Lake, etc.

Ice chunks before Lamplugh GlacierGlacier Bay National Park: I would have to say that this nearly pristine wilderness is one of the highlights of an Inside Passage cruise to southeastern Alaska (you can only get here by boat). It's basically a series of glacial fjords, but in particular, we got to experience this wilderness at the Y-shaped inlets joining Johns Hopkins Inlet with Tarr Inlet. That's where we saw five tidal glaciers converging in this one area and that's not including a handful of glaciers that aren't terminating at sea level.

Cruise dwarfed by Marjerie GlacierWhen the weather's good like it was the day we were here, it could be a spiritual experience as well as one that could move you to tears. It's that breathtaking, and when you figure in the significance of the ice (especially with what they're telling us; e.g. with regards to Global Warming - it's real folks and we're the cause) along with the chance to spot wildlife like otters, harbor seals, whales, grizzly bears, and bald eagles among others, you know it's a special place where for once we could see on a large scale what happens when Mother Nature is allowed to operate without interference from us.

Historic Creek StreetKetchikan: Of all the American towns our cruise docked at, I'd say the one place I felt we could've spent more time was at this Alaskan town. It's said to be the rainiest in the US, but you quickly overlook this when you get struck by the town's charm especially on the historic and charming Creek Street. For it's here that you can see colorful houses on stilts flanking a creek full of sockeye salmon and arctic tarns. Plus there's an interesting museum tour of this former red light district. Plus, I'm sure a side trip to Misty Fjords National Park from here would've been a real icing on the cake.

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