Want to make the most of your Seattle to Vancouver drive? From harbour towns and historic fishing villages to state parks, vineyards and aviation museums, there are an abundance of hotspots to visit on the relatively short drive from Seattle to Vancouver.
Despite being in two different nations, only 140 miles separates the cities of Seattle and Vancouver – you can drive the entire distance in under three hours if the traffic is on your side. But when you see just how many amazing destinations and attractions there along the route from Seattle to Vancouver, you might agree that it’s worth dedicating at least a couple of days to this epic road trip.
While making your way from the States to Canada, you can pass through historic coastal cities, charming fishing villages and harbour towns. Prefer nature? Beaches, mountains, rolling vineyards and state parks are just of the landscapes you’ll encounter on your Seattle to Vancouver road trip.
Here’s a selection of my favourite stops on the drive from Seattle to Vancouver to help you plan your adventure on wheels.
Where to visit on a Seattle to Vancouver road trip
From the charming stateside town of Edmonds all the way north to the peak of Canada’s Grouse Mountain, here are the best places to visit on your Seattle to Vancouver drive.
Edmonds is a charming little coastal town with delightful restaurants, cute stores and public beaches. It’s known to many Seattle locals as the ferry terminal to the Olympic Peninsula, home to the Olympic National Park. You can watch the ferries coming and going with a hot drink from a café such as the Waterfront Coffee Company.
While you’re here, you might want to check out the travel centre of famous American travel writer Rick Steves. There are also a few museums, including the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Cascadia Art Museum.
Edmonds is just 19 miles from central Seattle, and you’ll probably only need to spend around an hour here.
2. The Boeing Everett Factory
After relaxing by the waterfront in Edmonds, drive 11 miles north to the Boeing Everett Factory. Here, you can embark on the 90-minute Boeing Future of Flight tour to witness real planes being made on the assembly lines.
This peak into the process of manufacturing aeroplanes is obviously a must for aviation enthusiasts, but I’d recommend it to anybody who’s interested in how flying works. If you don’t have enough time to take the tour, you can still take in panoramic views of the Boeing Everett Factory, Paine Field and the North Cascades mountain range from the Sky Deck.
You’ll probably need to set aside one to two and a half hours to visit the Boeing Everett Factory, depending on whether or not you want to take the Future of Flight tour.
3. Wenatchee Wineries
Enjoy a tipple of the fine stuff from time to time? It might not be as well known as Sonoma or Napa Valley, but Wenatchee has earned itself a stellar reputation as a top wine producing region over the past few years.
This rural agrarian community produces 99% of all Washington’s wine grapes. Some of the most delicious varietals grown here include Riesling and the highly acclaimed Chardonnay.
If you fancy treating yourself to some of the state’s finest, you can take a tour of a winery such as the Stemilt Creek Winery, the Martin Scott Winery or the Chateau Faire Le Pont Winery.
It takes about two and a half hours to reach the wineries of Wenatchee from the Boeing Everett Factory, and given that this wine region isn’t on the way to Vancouver, it’ll add five hours of driving plus a few hours of exploration time to your Seattle to Vancouver road trip. Still, it’s a worthwhile addition to your getaway if you’re a wine connoisseur.
Just a note, if you’re driving through Washington, you’ll need to obtain an international driving permit to drive legally. If you’ve got your own licence, you can get one very easily on that link.
4. Whidbey Island
While driving from Seattle to Vancouver, you might want to squeeze in a visit to Whidbey Island after touring the Boeing Factory. This popular weekend getaway spot is home to quaint towns, miles of coastline and scenic hiking trails that traverse state parks.
You can soak up some of the most beautiful settings of Whidbey Island at attractions such as the Deception Pass Bridge and the Deception Pass State Park. I’d also recommend navigating the Kettle and Bluff Trails in the Fort Ebey State Park.
Of all Whidbey Island’s pretty towns, my favourite is probably Langley, which is a haven for local artists. Just up the highway from Langley is Greenbank Farm, home to a century-old barn and several trails running through fields once occupied by the largest loganberry farm in the United States.
If you have time, I’d also recommend visiting the historic downtown area and pier of Coupeville as well as Fort Casey before leaving Whidbey Island.
To reach Whidbey Island, you can board the ferry with your car at Mukilteo near the Boeing Factory. You can then drive north to Burlington to rejoin the freeway to the border with Vancouver. You’ll need a minimum of two hours for this detour, but you could easily spend a night or two on Whidbey Island.
5. Chuckanut Drive
Stretching for about 20 miles around the perimeter of the Chuckanut Mountains between Bellingham and Mount Vernon, Chuckanut Drive is a short and more-than-worthwhile detour off the I–5.
This two-lane road offers sweeping views of lush forest backdropped by the Salish Sea and the San Juan Islands. Several pullouts offer space to park your car and absorb the sights. If you have enough energy to hike, you can soak up even better views along the Oyster Dome trail.
If you need a food break while exploring Chuckanut Drive, I recommend stopping at Taylor Shellfish to dig into delicious, local seafood. If you want to spend the night amid the area’s nature, you can camp at the Larrabee State Park.
Next up on your Seattle to Vancouver drive is the small coastal city of Bellingham. Home to the Western Washington University, Bellingham is a charming and historic place with a slightly funky vibe thanks to the younger members of its population.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of art, culture and history, browse the fascinating displays of artworks and artefacts at the Whatcom Museum. Prefer hands-on exhibits? You’ll probably love the SPARK Museum of Electrical Innovation, which showcases four centuries of human evolution from the 16th century.
If you’d rather spend your time outside, I’d recommend the 241-acre Whatcom Falls Park, where you can follow hiking trails to natural wonders that include four sets of cascading waterfalls.
7. Birch Bay State Park
Situated in a serene cove between Blaine and Bellingham, Birch Bay State Park is a tranquil rocky beach that offers incredible views of the North Cascades and the Canadian Gulf Islands.
At low tide during clamming season, you can search for a variety of shellfish on the exposed mudflats. No matter what time of year you visit, you can rustle up an al fresco meal in nature using firepits, grills and picnic tables dotted along the beach.
As Birch Bay is more about soaking up the sights than sunbathing and swimming, you’ll probably only need to spend an hour or so here on your Seattle to Vancouver drive.
Blaine is a quiet and adorable village located just off the highway before the US-Canada border. With its charming waterfront outlets, bustling marina and excellent playgrounds, Blaine is a fantastic place to visit with the kids on a road trip from Seattle to Vancouver.
You’ll find a pirate ship-themed playground right next to the marina, so the kids can wear themselves out while you enjoy the boats bobbing up and down on the water. You can grab snacks and coffee from the lighthouse-shaped Starbucks just around the corner.
While Blaine is a delightful coastal town, there’s little to do beyond the marina. I’d recommend stopping here for a 30-minute pit stop so the kids can stretch their legs before crossing the border into Canada.
9. Peace Arch State Park
Just before crossing the border into Canada (or perhaps I should say while crossing the border), you might want to find a picnic spot in the Peace Arch State Park, which sits right on the border of Seattle and Vancouver.
The highlight of the park is the centrepiece from which it takes its name – the Peace Arch. This monument dons the US and Canadian flags, making it a fantastic selfie spot.
10. Deas Island Regional Park
Your first stop after crossing the border into Canada will be the Deas Island Regional Park, which occupies an island in the Fraser River in South Vancouver. Popular activities at this sprawling wooded park include boating, fishing, hiking and horse riding.
While you’re here, you can immerse yourself in the local history. The park is named after John Sullivan Deas, an African-Canadian tinsmith who opened a cannery here in 1873.
While technically a part of Richmond, Steveston is a distinct community that lies on the Fraser River delta. It may be a relatively small town, but it’s steeped in history. There are also quite a few great waterfront shops and restaurants.
You can gain insights into the history and heritage of Steveston by visiting the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, where you’ll discover 19th-century canneries, residences and boatyards by the river. At the Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Site, you’ll find out about Steveston’s past as British Columbia’s leading producer of canned salmon.
While you’re here, you might want to stock up on sweet treats, drinks and snacks from the UK at the Best of British Store. When you’re feeling peckish, indulge in a spot of waterfront dining at a restaurant such as the Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant. If you simply want to kick back and let your hair down, sample a few local beers at Britannia Brewing.
Richmond is the last stop on your Seattle to Vancouver drive before your reach the city of Vancouver itself. While Richmond is technically a city, it lies just to the south of central Vancouver within the Greater Vancouver Regional District. It’s also home to the Vancouver International Airport.
Like Vancouver, Richmond is famous for its Asian heritage. You’ll find many restaurants specialising in cuisines such as Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese. Golden Coin Restaurant is one of my favourite Chinese eateries in the city. You’ll find more restaurants as well as shops in the Golden Village District.
The most famous landmark in Richmond is probably the International Buddhist Temple, an ornate structure that takes design influence from Beijing’s Forbidden City palace complex.
13. North Vancouver
After seeing the sights of Richmond, I’d suggest driving on to North Vancouver so that you can take in birds-eye views of the entire city and coast to conclude your road trip.
My favourite activity in North Vancouver is the Skyride cable car ride to the peak of Grouse Mountain, which is where you get the best views of the North Shore Mountains and the Strait of Georgia. After the cable car ride, face your fear of heights again by crossing the suspension bridges over Lynn Canyon and Capilano Canyon.
When you want to relax, you can fill up on local bites and buy a few souvenirs from the Lonsdale Quay Market, which is home to over 60 locally owned outlets. If the weather is on your side, you can pack a picnic to enjoy at Cates Park by the waterfront.
What are your favourite stops on a Seattle to Vancouver drive?
To say that the distance between Seattle and Vancouver is less than 150 miles, there are an astonishing number of fascinating and beautiful destinations to visit along this road trip from the States into Canada. Above, I’ve detailed 13 of my favourite places to stop on your Seattle to Vancouver drive, but there are many more I could’ve added.
If you have the time and want to squeeze more attractions into your road trip from Seattle to Vancouver, you might want to consider the Olympic National Park, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the Golden Ears Provincial Park. There’s also the Boundary Bay Dike, Skagit Valley, Anacortes… the list could go on and on.
If you have any more time, you could drive from Vancouver to Banff, to make your trip even more epic.
Where are your favourite places to visit on the drive from Seattle to Vancouver? Let me know what I should add to this article in the comments below.
Quick list of the best stops on a Seattle to Vancouver drive
- The Boeing Everett Factory
- Wenatchee Wineries
- Whidbey Island
- Chuckanut Drive
- Birch Bay State Park
- Peace Arch State Park
- Deas Island Regional Park
- North Vancouver