Seattle to Vancouver Pacific Explorer
If you've ever thought about combining the style & sophistication of Seattle and Vancouver with some of the unspoilt beauty of both Washington State and Canada's stunning British Columbia, then you will love this exciting new 17 day self drive tour. Otherwise, known as the 'The Evergreen State', Washington still remains unspoilt by mass tourism and is not only home to the beautiful city of Seattle, but also quiet beaches, giant forests and two amazing national parks - Olympic and Mount Rainier. Meantime, lying just a short distance across the straits of Juan de Fuca lies the equally amazing Vancouver Island, home to the beautiful city of Victoria, and neighbour to friendly Vancouver. Both regions of these two countries offer a wide range of sight seeing and activities and such as bear and whale watching that will captivate any first time traveller to this fascinating part of North America.
- Mt Rainier National Park
- Tofino and Vancouver Island
Seattle's compact and clean downtown area and fantastic transportation system make it an absolute delight to discover by foot. Seattle also offers a perfect mix of urban attractions and outdoor recreation as it is surrounded by lakes and acres of lush green forest. Visit Pike Place Market where local merchants sell fresh cheeses, meats and a variety of mouth-watering delicacies, and enjoy a little people watching over a good cup of coffee at one of the many cafes this jewel of the Pacific Northwest is famous for. Later visit the famous Space Needle for a dramatic view of the city and its surroundings. With so many great restaurants, clubs and bars, open air festivals and cultural activities to enjoy your stay in Seattle will leave you wanting to return for sure.
Mt Rainier National Park
Today, it's time to leave the city and slowly head south east towards Mt Rainier National Park. This is the Chinook Scenic Byway, home to the highest of the Cascade Mountain passes - Chinook Pass. Just west of the pass, the highway enters Mount Rainier National Park, passing Tipsoo Lake. This is a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch with the stunning Mt Rainier behind you.
Spend the day exploring the park. At At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is Washington's tallest and best known peak as well as being the fifth highest mountain in the continental 48 states. The National Park surrounding Mount Rainier is a recreational paradise that you will delight in discovering. Enjoy stunning drives, like the one from Longmire to Paradise - a 13-mile drive that climbs through evergreen forests. At Paradise you can enjoy 360-degree views of the park from the Visitor Centre. The Sunrise area is a high plateau reached by a series of switchbacks along 11 miles of road. Whilst, the Wonderland Trail is a 94-mile trail which goes around Mount Rainier. The visitor center here has telescopes to allow you to view the park sights close up.
Begin your journey early today, as you travel from Mount Rainier further west through the state and Olympia, on towards the scenic Olympic Peninsula and your first sight of the Pacific Ocean. Break your journey somewhere en route, like the lovely seaside town of Ocean Shores, at the mouth of Grays Harbor. Then continue to head north into the Olympic National Forest and on to beautiful Lake Quinault - a deep, clear lake located on the southwestern side of the Olympic National Park. The lake is over eight miles long and plunges more than 1000 feet at its deepest point. The valleys that cradle Lake Quinault, the Quinault Rain Forest and the Hoh Rain Forest are truly the "Valleys of the Rain Forest Giants" where the trees are some of the country's largest. Tonight you will stay at the Lake Quinalt Lodge - a historic property located in the midst of the rain forest.
After a leisurely start, continue on Highway 101 which takes you back along the Pacific Coast and then follows the Olympic National Forest to the Northeastern Olympic Peninsula and the city of Port Angeles. Logging ships and fishing boats still visit the city's busy harbour daily, and it makes an interesting base from which to explore the Peninsula and surrounding area for a few days.
There are many places to explore form here including Hurricane Ridge where you can take the 18-mile road to over 5000 ft and pick up hiking trails for stunning views. From here you can also easily access the stunning Olympic National Park. Here the roads do not penetrate very far into the park so the majority of the park is for hikers and climbers, although there are many river trips and fishing can also be enjoyed here too. Neah Bay on the very northwestern point of the peninsula is the centre of the Makah Indian Reservation. Here you can visit the Makah Cultural & Research Centre where the permanent exhibits include artifacts from the Ozette collection, uncovered from a Makah village partially buried by a mudslide nearly 500 years ago. Inside the museum you will find a full-size replica long house, and four cedar dug-put canoes. Whaling, sealing, and fishing gear, basketry and other tools are also on display, preserved by the unique conditions created by the mudslide.
Today you will be leaving the shores of America and crossing into Canada's beautiful province of British Columbia, by taking the 90 minute ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. As there are only 4 crossings a day, it is worth catching a morning ferry to guarantee your space on board and then you will have the rest of the day free to enjoy the lovely city of Victoria. This pretty provincial capital standing at the southern tip of Vancouver Island remains the most British of cities in North America, but the lure of nature is now as much of a draw as the call of the Empire. Spend the afternoon enjoying a leisurely stroll along the waterfront or browsing around the Royal British Columbia Museum. The city's well preserved inner city streets are lined with well preserved old buildings, and trendy shops that now occupy restored historic areas. Horse drawn carriages are even available to get you around if your feet do start to tire!
Enjoy a full day at leisure in this picturesque city where you can easily explore all the downtown attractions by foot, as most of which are within a short walk of each other. Spend time exploring the Inner Harbour, Beacon Hill Park and the Empress Hotel. Meantime, nearby Butchart Gardens is a must see if you are interested in horticulture and gardening. Here breathtaking floral splendour greets you at every turn with some of the finest displays in the world. The gardens come alive with colours and scents and throughout the summer. Also in the evening the Concert Lawn stage comes alive with a variety of performing artists. Take a picnic and sit on a bench or lawn and enjoy marvellous music and entertainment in the open air. Alternatively, If you want to see some of the world's greatest mammals then pre book one of our immensely popular coastal excursions and spend the day in search of orcas, minke and grey whales, as well as porpoises, harbour seals and other marine wildlife. On this exhilarating round trip of 50 to 80 kms, you will ride aboard custom built Zodiac boats that offer high speed with stability giving you a safe and intimate whalewatching experience. Expect the taste of ocean spray at some point along the route!
From Victoria you will heading further north west on the Island Highway, winding through ancient rainforests and provincial parks. Stop en route at Duncan, located just north of Victoria as it is known as the city of totems and has a display of around sixty all over the town. It is also home to the Native Heritage Center and is a good place to buy Indian crafts. Whilst nearby Chemainus, is famous for it's many murals painted around the town. Just start at the information centre and follow the yellow footprints around the town!
The picturesque, coastal district of Tofino is an intriguing contrast of old growth forests, white sand beaches, and the ever churning Pacific Ocean. Tofino, in the centre of Clayoquot Sound, was just designated British Columbia's first United Nations Biosphere Reserve and now offers many exciting and interesting excursions such as whale watching, Local Bear viewing excursions, rainforest visits and fishing. For a more leisurely afternoon, explore the area on a gentle trail such as the one along famous Long Beach and and then relax in Hot Springs Cove, the only hot Springs on the island. Here you will find several pools set in the hillside getting cooler as you get nearer the sea.
Leaving behind the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island, today you will journey through the eastern plain, rich in farmlands, fishing streams and tiny communities to the World famous resort of Campbell River. Otherwise known as the 'Salmon Capital of the World', the area is not surprisingly a huge destination for fisherman and nature lovers alike. The town itself has a few things worth visiting such as the 'Museum at Campbell River' where you can learn about the history of Northern Vancouver Island through the numerous exhibits and an extensive research library.
This beautiful part of the Vancouver Island offers you a variety of things to see and do as well as give you a chance to relax and enjoy the amazing scenery. Nearby Strathcona Park is in fact British Columbia's oldest provincial park and contains more than 210,000 hectares of scenic wilderness with many hiking trails ranging from short walks to several-days-long expeditions into the parks interior. Whilst Della Falls - Canada's highest waterfall, at a height of 440 meters, also some wonderful viewing opportunities from it's many hiking trails. If you haven't already experienced the thrill of seeing the worlds biggest mammal up close then you can also go Whale Watching from here and see the almighty Killer Whales in their natural habitat. Alternatively learn to fish on a 17 foot Boston Whaler on a Guided Salmon fishing excursion in the area. For the ultimate excitement, why not pre book one of the overnight excursions that are available from Campbell River to see the magnificent Grizzly Bears of Knight Inlet, 50 air Miles north of Campbell river.
Departing early after breakfast for your drive south back along the Island Highway as far as Nanaimo where you will catch the ferry back to Vancouver for the final 3 nights of your holiday. Make time for a quick stop in Coombs, where you can have a drink or an ice cream and watch the goats graze on the roof of the Old Country Market! Catch the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver (north of downtown) and continue your journey to the city of Vancouver. Downtown Vancouver is an intriguing mixture of steel, concrete, mirrored glass buildings, modern sculptures and old-fashioned fountains. There is so much to see and do in the city. You can rent a bike to ride around the Seawall in Stanley Park or try rollerblading if you are feeling adventurous! Dinner can be taken at the top of Grouse Mountain for a spectacular view of the city lit up at night and you can reach the summit by the Skyride Gondola.
Take the ferry across False Creek to the refurbished Granville Island - the place to be on a sunny day. Here you can shop in the Public Market, walk round the marina, browse in the gift shops or sample some of the local food. A visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge is well worth it for the spectacular views and stunning forest scenery. Alternatively spend some time at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge nearby. Take along your bathing suit and you can have a dip in Lynn Creek after a short walk in the forest. There will be plenty of time for shopping on Robson Street in its trendy shops and the Robson Public Market.Visit Chinatown - the second largest Chinese community in North America and home to the beautiful and peaceful Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden. No visit is complete without wandering through Gastown where Vancouver started. The brightly painted buildings date back to 1886 and old gas lamps and trees line the red cobblestone streets. There are many galleries, restaurants and gift shops here The Boathouse Restaurant is a great place for dinner, while watching the sunset over English Bay and people watching all the evening.
- Direct return flights from London (please ask about other departure airports)
- 16 nights' hotel accommodation and room tax
- Fully insured compact car hire (larger vehicles are available)
- A detailed travel pack containing a day by day itinerary, driving instructions, maps and suggested excursions
Daily departures from June to September.