Exploring the Gateway Towns of Olympic National Park
Nestled in the northwest corner of the United States, Olympic National Park in Washington State is a picturesque wilderness famous for its diverse ecosystems, from the rugged Pacific coastline to temperate rainforests and the alpine heights of the Olympic Mountains. While the park itself is a natural haven with limited development, visitors can find accommodation, dining options, and local delicacies in the surrounding towns. Here's a guide to the communities on the doorstep of this majestic national park and what they offer.
Located directly north of Olympic National Park, Port Angeles is a significant hub for visitors entering the park. With a variety of hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts, this town caters to all accommodation needs. Restaurants in Port Angeles range from casual eateries to fine dining, with many emphasizing locally sourced seafood.
For a truly local taste, try the Dungeness Crab, named after the nearby Dungeness Spit. The CrabHouse restaurant is one of many spots where you can enjoy this delicacy, whether in a bisque, cake, or simply fresh and cracked.
East of Port Angeles is Sequim, known for its lavender farms and the annual Lavender Festival. The town provides cozy lodging options and has several dining establishments offering fresh local fare. Be sure to visit one of the many lavender boutiques and farms for unique culinary offerings like lavender-infused treats and dishes.
In Sequim, Alder Wood Bistro is a favorite among locals and visitors for its wood-fired cuisine with a focus on locally harvested ingredients. While there, don't miss trying the locally farmed shellfish, such as the delicious Manila clams.
To the west of the park lies Forks, a town made famous by the "Twilight" book series. While Forks is more modest in size compared to Port Angeles and Sequim, it offers several motels and inns, as well as eateries catering to hikers and adventure-seekers. Salmon is a must-try when visiting Forks; this regional staple can be found at many restaurants prepared in various styles.
The Forks Coffee Shop is a long-standing institution, offering hearty American fare. Their fish and chips, frequently made with local catch, is a menu highlight.
To the northeast of the national park on the Quimper Peninsula is the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend. This charming town offers historic bed-and-breakfasts, boutique hotels, and a well-preserved downtown with a range of dining options. With a focus on regional and organic ingredients, dining in Port Townsend can be an epicurean delight.
At the Silverwater Cafe, visitors can sample Penn Cove mussels, harvested from the nearby waters, known for their sweet flavor and tender meat. Another local favorite is the Olympic Peninsula cider, with several cidery tasting rooms located in and around Port Townsend.
Hoquiam and Aberdeen
South of the park, the towns of Hoquiam and Aberdeen provide gateways to the southern beaches of Olympic National Park. While more industrial in feel, both towns have accommodations, diners, and fast-food options for visitors traveling to and from the park. Seafood is again a highlight here, with chances to sample everything from oysters to locally caught fish.
Closer to the southwestern edge of the national park, Grays Harbor encompasses a number of small towns with quaint lodging and seafood-focused dining.
Bennett's Fish Shack in Ocean Shores, part of Grays Harbor, is where you can savor battered fish, while the Oyhut Bay Bistro offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a meal after exploring the nearby beaches.
Food Not to Miss
Visiting these towns, one shouldn't leave without trying the Pacific Northwest's famous smoked salmon, available at many smokehouses and markets in the area. Pair it with regional wines and cheeses for an authentic taste of the local cuisine.
For further information on accommodations, restaurants, and local dishes, the following websites can be helpful:
- Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau: olympicpeninsula.org
- Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce: portangeles.org
- Forks Chamber of Commerce: forkswa.com
- Enjoy Port Townsend: enjoypt.com
Each site provides comprehensive listings of lodging, dining, and attractions, along with local events and activities to help plan your visit to the Olympic National Park and its neighboring towns.