When talking about the Great American Road Trip, Route 66 usually comes to mind, but we think heading north is an even better choice. The Pacific Northwest is a fantastic area for a bus trip, as it is chock-full of hip towns and eye-popping wonders that most don’t realize exist in North America.
The Bolt Bus has excellent, budget friendly routes from all major cities and towns in the Pacific Northwest, including Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. You can also utilize local bus companies for day trips to the plethora of National Parks, beaches and wineries in the area, which will not only get you directly to harder-to-reach destinations, but provide the most scenic route; a must in a region so saturated with breathtaking views.
Planning a trip to such a unique and diverse region can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a list of ten tips for traveling in the Pacific Northwest to make the process as painless as possible.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SEASON
In Vancouver you don’t have to go far from the city center to find both ski slopes and beaches, and in Washington you’ll get great whale watching opportunities in the winter, and awesome festivals in the summertime. The fantastic activities that the Pacific Northwest offers vary by season, so when planning your trip it’s important to choose the season that fits the kind of trip you want.
In winter you may get some rain, but the temperatures don’t drop too low and provide an ideal climate for outdoor activities as well as a cozy city break. Summertime is generally dry throughout the region, and is perhaps the best time if you’re looking to catch some rays, practice water sports or hop from rooftop to rooftop sipping craft beer and munching on fabulous food.
2. STAND ON YOUR OWN TWO FEET
When traveling the Pacific Northwest, your feet are your best friends. From hiking the National Parks on a quest to find the most beautiful gorges and waterfalls, to strolling the riverwalk in Portland, you’re sure to earn your meal at one of the thousands of fabulous restaurants that line the cities’ streets.
If biking is more your thing, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver all offer outstanding bike routes, along with rentals and tours, making for an easy and cheap way to see the city. The region rewards those that venture out to find its hidden gems, so prepare to be active.
3. PACK RIGHT
Speaking of walking and biking, we must mention the importance of comfortable shoes! If you’re spending most of your time in the Vancouver, Portland or Seattle, we recommend bringing two pairs of shoes: one practical pair for the day time, and one for nights out at one of the many chic restaurants or clubs. Check the forecast before you head out so you know whether or not a jacket is necessary. No matter what the weatherman says, bring an umbrella; the skies often open up without warning!
4. DO AS THE LOCALS DO
The residents of the Pacific Northwest are part of what makes it so unique. No matter where you are, try to dedicate a day in each place to spend doing what the locals do. Check out Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market in the early morning before the tourists get there, and be sure to chat with the vendors and pick up snacks for later.
Hit up Powell’s Bookstore in Portland and then take your new novel for a relaxing afternoon in a cool café. The best way to find out what underground place the locals are loving is to ask one, and with cities full of friendly of residents you’ll be feeling like you belong in no time.
5. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GREAT OUTDOORS
As we’ve mentioned already, the natural wonders in the Pacific Northwest are not to be missed, and the excellent bus routes makes it easy for any traveler to reach them. For a stunning bus and ferry ride, incredible waterfalls and great mountain biking, head to the North Cascades in Washington State.
If sipping wine among the vines is more your idea of a day in nature, head to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for a day of wine tastings and tasty food. Whether you’re an expert hiker or prefer to relax in the sunshine, the Pacific Northwest’s great outdoors have something for everyone.
6. GET ON THE WATER
Between the proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the plethora of breathtakingly beautiful islands, you’d be hard-pressed to make a trip to the Pacific Northwest without coming across a body of water. Rent a kayak and whale watch in Washington, catch some waves on the beaches of British Columbia, or hop on a booze cruise in Oregon; whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to take in the stunning views from the water.
7. FUEL UP
In such an active region, you’ll need plenty of fuel to keep your energy up. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest is foodie heaven and its mountains of fresh produce and meat are transformed into fabulously innovative dishes by the area’s creative young chefs. Don’t miss the wide variety of food trucks in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle, as they are the best places to get a taste of local flavor at a fraction of the price. Check out food tours, and even food truck tours in each city to ensure you don’t miss any of the best bites.
Though it’s tempting to jam pack your itinerary in such a diverse region, be sure to leave a little time to unwind like the locals do. Check out the artisanal beer scene, pop into the newest cocktail bars, and relax with a cup of coffee at one of the local haunts; whether you’re in one of the big cities or passing through a small town, there’s sure to be a local who will point you in the direction of the best spot to take a break.
9. TRAVEL COMFORTABLY
When taking on such a big region, it’s important that travel is as comfortable as possible. In order to see all of the spectacles it has to offer, you will have to spend a lot of time on the road. Since buses are the best mode of transport between cities and countryside in the Pacific Northwest, don’t forget to throw a neck pillow and snacks into your backpack so you can catch some Z’s and stay energized while taking in the incredible views from your window seat.
10. PLAN FOR YOUR TASTES
No one knows your tastes better than you. Though the Pacific Northwest is well known for both dynamic cities and powerhouse natural wonders, if you prefer the café scene to hiking and kayaking, don’t force yourself to do anything you won’t enjoy. Likewise, if you want to spend your time camping in National Parks in Washington and surfing in British Columbia, there’s no reason to dedicate a day to the major cities.
Many people get roped into doing all of the activities that TripAdvisor and fellow travelers deem the best, but this is your time and your money, so don’t be afraid to stick to your guns and build your own dream trip.
This post was written by Liz Carlson from Young Adventuress. After studying a semester in Salamanca, Spain, Liz grew in love with travel. Now, a few years later, Liz has visited more than 40 countries around the globe and is currently living in New Zealand.