Excursion to the North Olympic Peninsula

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Photo © Jeff Betinol - Chevy Chase Beach Cabins

You roll down your window on a seemingly normal fall afternoon. You smell the warm air, maybe put on some shades if it’s sunny enough, and then, out of nowhere, a yak mouth is very close to your face and, before you know it, it’s slobbering all over you. You gently push the big, furry face away and toss it a piece of bread.

Yeah, you read that right. A yak licking you in the face. It’s better than it sounds.

Let me back up.

Start your North Olympic Peninsula excursion by driving up the peninsula to Chevy Chase Beach Cabins and diving into a weekend of good food, great adventure and the best sleep you’ve ever had.

Port Townsend is an authentic Victorian seaport, known for its rich history and easy-going vibes. It’s easily reached from the Seattle area by ferry from Edmonds or Whidbey Island or via highway route across the Narrows Bridge.

Photo © Jeff Betinol
Photo © Jeff Betinol

As a base camp for your getaway, a perfect oasis on the peninsula is Chevy Chase Beach Cabins, tucked away only about fifteen minutes from the heart of Port Townsend. On the top of a bluff overlooking Discovery Bay, the cabins accommodate everything from “romantic weekend escape” to “bring the whole family—we’re having a reunion,” each with its own unique touches and character. When you arrive, there no doubt will be a personalized note from the hosts to welcome you to your getaway haven. Once there, cozy in and watch a movie from their extensive collection, take a stroll down to the beach or start your adventures around Port Townsend.

Assuming you’ve arrived early enough for dinner, head into town for what just may be the best pizza you’ve ever eaten. It won’t be hard to find. Even on the rainiest days, there’s usually a line around the corner for a hot slice or two at Waterfront Pizza. Have no fear though, because as you wait for those pizza masters to work their magic, you’ll find many shops nearby as well as Better Living Through Coffee next door that overlooks the water and serves a mean chai tea latte.

Back at the cabin, wake up with the birds the next morning—you have a full day, and there’s much to see and do.

First, drive 45 minutes west to Sequim (pronounced “skwim”). Chances of a sunny day? Better than good. This landscape, situated between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, sits in a rain shadow.

Without giving too much away about the experience that is the Olympic Game Farm, it’s where yak licking comes into play. One thing you need to know for this excursion: Buy the game farm’s whole wheat bread. If you don’t, you’ll regret having zero offerings for your new furry friends as you drive through the farm’s 84 acres, which (besides yaks) is home to bear, elk, bison, a variety of deer and other animals. Olympic Game Farm worked exclusively for Disney Studios in its early decades, and former resident animals were “actors” on the silver screen. Today, the game farm provides refuge for animals in need of a safe home.

After your close animal encounters, drive to nearby Dungeness Recreation Area, the portal to Dungeness Spit and the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Walking this 1-mile bluff trail and the 5-mile (one-way) scenic stretch of beach takes at least half a day, round trip. The Dungeness Spit is one of the longest natural sand spits on the planet. A beach walk there, after only a few miles, makes it seem as though you are surrounded by the sea.

At the opposite end of the scenery spectrum, head to Port Angeles and up to Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge. Why? For the jaw-dropping 360° panorama from the deep interior of the range to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At this point in the day, a yak has nibbled bread from your hand (and probably licked you), a bison has stared down your car, your legs are fully stretched from that walk down the spit and back—it’s time for a breather. Go home to your cabin; again, there is sure to be a personalized touch awaiting you. (Seriously, these hosts know how to make a cabin feel like home.) Rest, chat with loved ones and giggle over photos from the day. For dinner in Port Townsend, check out The Fountain Café for an excellent meal made with local ingredients and a Mediterranean flair in a charming bistro setting.

On your way home, stop at The Resort at Port Ludlow to experience their superb farm-to-table dining.

It’ll be tough saying goodbye to the North Olympic Peninsula. You’ll feel like a short getaway was a two-week vacation. Don’t worry though, you have only touched the surface and you’ll want to come back for more.