Inventive eateries, elegant fin de siècle hotels and an unusual stash of year-round festivals make Port Townsend an Olympic Peninsula rarity: a weekend vacation that doesn't require hiking boots. Cut off from the rest of the area by eight bucolic miles of US 101, this is not the spot to base yourself for national-park exploration unless you don't mind driving a lot.
Despite the name, there's nothing Spanish or particularly angelic about Port Angeles, propped up by the lumber industry and backed by the steep-sided Olympic Mountains. People come here to catch a ferry for Victoria, Canada, or base themselves here for excursions into the northern parts of Olympic National Park. The town itself is not a draw.
Northwestern Olympic Peninsula
Despite not falling within the boundaries of Olympic National Park, the northwestern section of the Olympic Peninsula remains sparsely populated and remote. Logging is a primary industry here and, in the cultural sphere, four Native American reservations offer plenty of local legends and history.
The Pacific side of the Olympics is the most remote part of the park and home to the foggy, moss-draped temperate rain forests. It is also the wettest area, receiving 12ft of rain annually, and you can expect a soaking at any time. US 101 is the only road that accesses this vast, heavily wooded area.
Forks, a small lumber town on US 101, was little more than a speck on the Washington state map when Stephenie Meyer set her now famous vampire novel Twilight here in 2003. Meyer had never been to Forks when she created the ghoulish legacy with the first of what has become a series of insanely popular 'tweenage' books.
Isolated Neah Bay is a rather lackluster settlement that sits amid breathtaking coastal scenery at the end of Hwy 112 in North America's extreme northwestern corner. Hit hard by decline in the salmon-fishing industry, this small town, characterized by its weather-beaten boats and craning totem poles, is the home of the Makah Indian Reservation.
Olympic Coastal Strip
Coast-lovers in the Pacific Northwest tend to head for Oregon, where the beaches are famously wide, windswept and accessible. Further north in Washington the facilities gradually thin out until beyond Gray's Harbor you'll arrive at one of the most undisturbed slices of coastal wilderness in the US.
Former home of the Makah tribe, whose ancient cliffside village was destroyed in a mudslide in the early 18th century before being unearthed in the 1970s, Ozette is more than just a well-excavated archaeological site. It is also one of the most accessible slices of isolated beach on the Olympic coastal strip.