We traveled to the pacific northwest for our yearly Thanksgiving trip. This trip lasted about a week and included time in Bainbridge Island, Seattle, and Vancouver. As a first during this trip we stayed at a vacation rental home. We also stayed well off the beaten path versus a major downtown center. Going during a time that was not exactly the peak of tourism for the areas visited made for a relaxing vacation with many economical advantages. Our routing including a direct flight from Dallas, TX to Seattle, WA, then a train from Seattle to Vancouver, and finally a direct flight back to Dallas.
Travel into Seattle
While there many places to choose from in the Pacific Northwest, we chose Seattle to fully explore since the last trip there was before our cruise and only lasted a day. As a bonus, it was a quick sprint up to Vancouver by train. The flight time to Seattle is about four hours depending on how much head wind the plane has to fight. I always prefer to fly direct if possible, and found some tickets on Alaska Airlines, which is different from our usual American Airlines.
Alaska Airlines saved us about $100 even after factoring in the bag fees that we avoid on American Airlines because we have their credit card. The aircraft seemed about the same as American Airlines and the service was maybe a notch higher, but not something I would seek out if I had to pay more money. After all I really just want to get efficiently and safely to my destination, the service in flight is really a blip on the radar when making travel decisions.
After arriving in Seattle we picked up our rental car and headed to our vacation booking on Bainbridge Island. While Seattle and the surrounding area has great public transit, we had a plan to really explore the area freely so a rental car was a must. We choose to avoid the ferries and drive around to Bainbridge which offered some time to enjoy the bridges and mountain backdrops.
We stayed three nights on Bainbridge Island in a vacation rental run by Vacasa that we found as a listing on my favorite hotel site, Hotels.com. The name of the property is Artist Retreat and was spectacular. It is a fully equipped house that can sleep up to four and offers great views. It was a big plus to having a working kitchen allowing us to prepare basic breakfasts and lunches. While we explored the island for dinner, none of the restaurant selections stood out. However, we began making plans to return to the island before we even left.
While on the Bainbridge Island we spent at least one day just relaxing and taking in the views. Another day we dedicated to driving to the most northwestern part of the continental United States, Cape Flattery. Cape Falttery is located within the Makah Indian Reservation. The Makah Indian Reservation is about a three and a half hour drive from Bainbridge Island. In our case it took closer to four because of the intermittent rainy weather. The road is very curvy and steep in parts so make sure you are awake and alert. There are a few small towns along the way where you can stop and take a mental break (which is highly recommended).
Once on the Makah Indian Reservation, make sure to stop and get a recreation permit. They are very reasonably priced, only $10 per vehicle on our trip. Permits can be purchased at the gas station on the way up to the cape. Once you get up to the Cape Trail Head there is no place to buy the pass, so make sure to buy one before you go up. Try to be there first thing in the morning because it will offer the best views before it gets busy.
On the way back from Cape Flattery, we tried to stop and explore the Olympic National Park near Sequim, Washington. We had a quick lunch at Robin’s Place Diner which was a cute little diner that has great fresh food at a reasonable price. After lunch we tried to get up to the Ned Hill Trail Head in Olympic National Forest. Due to the amount of rain that had recently fallen, the road up to the trail head was blocked. Unfortunately we did not have time to go the alternate route, so we just enjoyed the peace of the forest before heading back to Bainbridge.
The rest of the time in Bainbridge consisted of relaxing and exploring the neighborhood. There is a trail or park to explore no matter what direction you walked. A grocery store on the island offers a great place to stock up on meal supplies and fire wood. Along with a nice bottle of wine it offered all the essentials to enjoy a long soak in the tub. Having a glass of wine and watching the fire made every worry in life melt away. We did venture out to the Harbour Public House for dinner the first evening. The food was forgettable, but the selection of local beers was great.
Check out our pictures from the Seattle and Bainbridge area.
Train to Vancouver
We stayed the last night in Seattle, which was helpful when it came to returning the car and getting to the train. It also gave us a chance to embrace the city experience of Seattle and wrap up our time in Washington. Our train was scheduled to leave at 7:45 from King Station in Seattle. Boarding the train was a breeze, the door to board opens about 30 minutes before departure. After a quick check of your passport and travel documents you are assigned a seat with your party on the train.
The train is scheduled to take about four hours between Seattle and Vancouver. Train travel is great because it takes you from one city center to the next. Unfortunately just like planes, trains can also be delayed. Due to issues with the tunnels and the amount of rain that had come down recently, we were delayed while engineers made sure everything was safe. I am never one to complain about delays due to safety, but that does not mean it is fun to sit trapped on a train.
As seen in the video above, at least we had peaceful views out of the window. After those delays we lost our arrival slots on the busier tracks leading into Vancouver. All told we were a little shy of 10 hours total, so about an 6 hour delay. The staff on the train did a great job keeping things light. They were constantly providing snacks to make things as tolerable as possible. They were about as stoked as we were about being so delayed.
You do not go through customs until you arrive in Vancouver. Have your paperwork filled out prior to arrival as there is no place once in line to complete forms. A quick interview with the Canadian Officials at the border, and inspection of our documents and we were out the door in the middle of Downtown Vancouver. Once we got to Vancouver and through the customs check we were out and could not care less about the long train ride.
We stayed in North Vancouver at Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier. It is a great location which is walking distance to the Lonsdale Quay Ferry Terminal. This terminal has vending machines for transit tickets, which are a must if you stay on the north-side. The day passes can be used unlimited on buses, and the ferry. A few trips on the ferry and the day pass pays for itself. The terminal also serves as a hub for buses to get around North Vancouver with ease.
Our hotel was really nice on the inside with very friendly staff. The restaurant inside the hotel was great food and friendly service. On the downside the hotel was not very relaxing due to construction that started at the break of dawn every morning, and frequent late night parties in the ballroom with poor sound dampening between the floors.
We selected to spend a whole day exploring Lynn Canyon which has a wide choice of trails to select from depending on difficulty and distance. Vancouver Trails is a great resource for people planning a trip for hiking around Vancouver. Check out their information on hiking trails in the North Shore. The trails of Lynn Canyon are just a short twenty-minute bus ride from Lonsdale Quay Terminal. The bus accepts the Compass Day Pass that can also be used on the ferry. Here is another chance to use those tickets from the terminal. You could easily pick a different trail every day and fill all your time in Vancouver. The close proximity of nature allowed for a mixture of nature and urban experiences.
Be sure to check out all the pictures from our hike and time in Vancouver.
Eats, Drinks, and More
Vancouver has to be one of the favorites in terms of finding good food and drinks. Texas is known for hospitality, but Vancouver takes it to another level. When people found out we were tourists they were friendly with discussions on what we had done, and places we had traveled. The locals were always quick to offer suggestions for other things to do with our time. Some of the highlights were Craft Beer Market that offered a wide selection of beers, great food, and great service. There was a bit of a wait because it is very popular so do not head out to this place when you are already starving. Another memorable evening was bingo at The Lamplighter Public House, which had opening seating when we walked in and offered a wide selection of beer and good service. A gem during a walk around town was The Arbor where we stopped in at lunch which was delicious.
While walking around town we also stopped in the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The botanical garden was a nice escape from the bustling city and provided a nice tour of the native plants and trees we had seen on our hiking through Lynn Canyon. After our lunch and walk through the city we stopped in at Bird on a Wire Creations. Bird on a Wire Creations offers great shopping with hand-made items from local artists with helpful staff that really know their product.
We really enjoyed the time in Vancouver, but all great things must come to an end. A downside to staying in North Vancouver is that the ferry does not always run early enough in the morning. If you need to get to the airport in the morning hours, you may have to splurge for a cab. During our visit ride shares were not allowed in Vancouver.
The airport in Vancouver is really nice, and very convenient for coming back to the US. After checking in for the flight you actually go through US customs in the airport before departure. This allows for a much easier arrival, or connection when you get back home. No long lines waiting in the international terminal, but do make sure to allow enough time before your departure from Vancouver. Allowing about two hours was plenty of time for the screening, customs, and even a little breakfast before heading home and back to reality.