The Pacific Northwest (or PNW) is a beautiful region located on Puget Sound and surrounded by stunning mountains and lush greenery. It’s not every day you find a city like Seattle, where an escape into nature is just a stone’s throw away.
With the global Covid pandemic, you might not be able to hop into a plane to get out of North America, but a weekend camping trip is just a quick road trip away.
And instead of a typical hotel or Airbnb, why not rent a campervan for a different kind of escape? With your own RV, you can go anywhere your mind takes you! (Within the United States, of course.)
Whether you want to explore the hiking trails of a state park, get some salty breeze by the seaside, or learn about history and culture at a town’s visitor center – the Seattle area has something to offer.
Here are some of our favorite weekend getaways in the Pacific Northwest in order of distance from Seattle.
First, let’s start closest to home. Bainbridge Island is just an easy ride on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island Ferry. Some might consider this a day trip, but it’s a very convenient weekend trip idea too! Take a campervan and enjoy a complete camping experience.
If you’re looking for picturesque walks, this is an ideal location. Explore Bloedel Reserve and find some moments of peace in their beautiful gardens. Even just walking on the island’s sandy shores will also offer uninterrupted views of Puget Sound and the Cascade mountains. You might even see the peaks of Mount Rainier National Park in the distance.
If you’re looking for something indoors, there’s an aquatic center for a family-friendly swim spot, or you can visit the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art to learn something new. Bainbridge Organic Distillers is a great time, too, go on their tour and learn about how they make their spirits. And, of course, you’ll get some tastings!
After a full day, retire at Fay Bainbridge Park & Campground. They offer 26 RV sites with water and electrical hookups, as well as bathrooms and showers. With its ideal location, you’ll enjoy beautiful views out into the ocean. Be sure to book at least 10 days in advance!
Tacoma is next on our list, just a 45-minute drive south of Seattle. It’s been titled one of the best small towns to live in, but we also think it makes a great weekend getaway.
In Tacoma, you’ll find the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, which features stunning works by the artist. Here you’ll see similar pieces to those in the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum but completely free of charge! And if you discover you’ve got a taste for glass art, Tacoma has its own Museum of Glass.
Films buffs will enjoy visiting Stadium High School, where the movie “10 things I hate about you” was filmed.
For automotive enthusiasts, LeMay America’s Car Museum is a must-visit. From retro classics to supercars, you’ll find them all here in this museum, which has made it onto Today’s list of Top 10 Museums in Seattle.
Stay at Majestic RV Park, just a few minutes from downtown Tacoma, has all the essentials for a cozy stay. In addition to full hookups, you’ll get a heated pool, general store, laundry facilities, and WiFi.
San Juan Island
This trip idea is yet another combination of a road trip and a ferry ride—double the fun.
The San Juan islands actually consist of four islands serviced by the Washington State Ferries. San Juan Island is the biggest of the lot and has the most activities.
Go on a whale watching tour, pick up paddle boarding, go hiking, or head to Roche Harbor to admire some fancy yachts. The choices are endless.
While on the road to San Juan Island, stop at Anacortes on the way. It’s a perfect opportunity to visit Deception Pass State Park and its waterside hiking trails.
Once you’re on San Juan Island, the San Juan County Fairgrounds makes a lovely stop for a night or 2. This RV park is super close to Friday Harbor, and they have water and electrical hookups. This makes it a little more convenient than the other RV sites on the islands. However, these spots are very limited, especially in the peak summer months. Locals advise visiting during off-peak periods as the sights are equally beautiful.
Columbia River Gorge
If you’re truly looking for an escape into nature, Columbia River Gorge is a must-do. This incredible canyon is a 3 hours’ drive out of Seattle.
The unmissable sights at this nature preserve are definitely the rivers and waterfalls. There are countless options, but some of the most noteworthy are Multnomah Falls, Eagle Creek, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Creek Falls, and Fairy Falls.
If you prefer wheels and adrenaline instead of hiking, there are over 100 miles of mountain biking trails for those who love the sport. The mountain biking routes here vary from beginner to advanced, so they cater to individuals of different levels.
While you’re in the area, you should try to spend some time at Trillium Lake – it’s a 1-hour drive further South. A magical setting with the dramatic backdrop of Mount Hood is a perfect spot to swim, go kayaking, or simply relax and enjoy the view.
After a day of exploring the Columbia River Gorge, Bridge RV Park & Campground is just an 8-minute drive across to Hood River, so you can get the rest you need. They provide full hookups on paved sites.
City of Portland, Oregon
A short distance away from our previous destination, Portland, is another great weekend road trip from Seattle. This city makes an exciting urban trip idea.
Within its urban setting, however, there is no shortage of greenery whatsoever. Visit the International Rose Test Garden and be amazed by the thousands of roses in bloom. You’ll also want to see the Portland Japanese Garden, famed for its authenticity and experiential, cultural village.
And if you get hungry, Portland is a gastronomic paradise. There is something for every foodie who visits this city, from top tier restaurants to underground donut tours.
For the seaside lovers, you won’t be left out. The Oregon coast is a very doable drive from Portland, so if you’ve got a bit of extra time, make a trip out to Cannon Beach.
Get a good night’s sleep just 8 miles outside of Portland, at Portland Fairview RV Park. Here you can retreat to the surroundings of lush trees with a little creek. Rest easy, knowing full hookups, cable, WiFi, and even a fitness center are provided.
Leavenworth is a great road trip from Seattle in the northern part of Washington; it’s about a 2-3 hour drive. If you’ve got some time to spare, head an hour further down South to see more of the Cascade lakes like Lake Chelan.
Leavenworth’s biggest draw is the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, where you’ll find the beautiful Colchuck Lake and stunning views of the cascade mountains. Many come here to see The Enchantments; the intensely blue mountain lakes and striking granite faces are well worth the challenging full-day hike.
Be prepared to cover some steep elevation and wear warm gear!
Leavenworth attracts many in the summer for hiking. However, in wintertime, this town turns into a ski resort perfect for snow lovers. There is truly a nature activity for everyone to pick up at any time of the year.
If you need a little rest from all the physical activity, Leavenworth is an authentic Bavarian Village nestled in the Cascade Mountain Range. Explore the town and their 96 ft maypole, nutcracker museum, and hear the Alp Horn serenade every morning. Foodies will love the Bavarian restaurants for their authentic cuisine and German beer.
A perfect base to explore the village and the surrounding nature would be Alpine View RV Park & Campground. They offer full and partial hook-ups, bathrooms plus showers, WiFI, picnic tables, and fire pits. All the necessary amenities for a stress-free weekend in this charming locale.
While not technically in the USA, this city is an essential location to visit in the Pacific Northwest. Just 3 hours drive, and you’ll be in a different country. Bring your passports (or proof of ID)!
Vancouver boasts a host of activities. Go sightseeing and visit Capilano Suspension Bridge or Stanley Park and its famous aquarium. The cityscapes here are incredible. While wandering around, be sure to try one of the numerous Asian restaurants. Vancouver is well-known for its diversity!
Don’t worry, nature lovers aren’t neglected here in Vancouver. Whistler – the resident mountain region provides plenty of outdoor activities both during summer and winter. In the warmer months, you can go whitewater rafting, hiking, and bungee jumping. And when the snow starts to fall, the fresh powder transforms Whistler into a world-famous ski resort.
The Capilano River RV Park is located right in the center of the city, providing you and your campervan easy access to all there is to see and do in Vancouver. All sites here have full hook-ups and 24-hour security. You’ll also find additional amenities like whirlpools and laundry facilities.
The Olympic Peninsula is a bucket list trip idea in the PNW. As it is a longer drive to see the key sights, it could be considered more of a long weekend trip, ideally done in 3-4 days.
Some must-sees include Port Angeles and Dungeness Spit for marine wildlife and seaside exploration.
Go hiking on Hurricane Ridge within the Olympic National Park for immense views of the Olympic Mountains. Within this national park, you will also find the Hoh Rainforest. This area takes the idea of greenery to an entirely new level and is worth visiting for its incredible flora.
During the road trip, take some time to soak away your hiking aches at Sol Duc Hot Springs or Olympic Hot Springs.
The town, Forks, is a place to visit if you are a fan of vampires, more specifically, those from the Twilight book series.
While driving on the Pacific Coast of the Olympic Peninsula, you will find several RV parks for your camping needs. One we recommend would be Elwha Dam RV Park – named after another famous site in the area and located near the Olympic National Park; this campsite provides full hookups amongst landscaped gardens. They also have a small general shop and a large BBQ Pavillion for events.
We hope you’re inspired to spend some time outdoors in the coming weekends, rent a campervan in Seattle and start planning your next trip.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.