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Northwestern Washington & the San Juan Islands

Between Seattle, the Cascade Range and Canada lies Washington's most archetypal region, a 'greatest hits' of the Pacific Northwest with all the sights and sounds outsiders traditionally associate with the land of pure air and West Coast hedonism. There's the skyline-hogging volcano (Mt Baker); the wilderness-flecked natural parks (everywhere); the liberal, collegiate city (Bellingham); the antiresort ski 'resort' (Baker, again); innumerable islands (the San Juan archipelago); and even a stash of credible vineyards.

The Northwest's urban hub is laid-back Bellingham, while its rural highlight could be any one of the 200-plus islands that speckle the northern reaches of Puget Sound. Cultural life tends to be influenced by Seattle and Vancouver, BC, ensuring that the music's electric, the microbreweries plentiful and the coffee aromatic. And wherever you go you'll be sure to find an abundance of Northwestern cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients, from wild-caught salmon to the world's sweetest blackberries.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Northwestern Washington & the San Juan Islands.