Port Angeles isn’t only a place to provision en route to the San Juan Islands, British Columbia, Alaska, or other western destinations. In fact, owners, captains, and crew alike welcome the marine expertise available and time to explore. With approximately 26 miles of marine shoreline, the harbor is considered the largest natural deep-water harbor on the U.S. west coast, with depths exceeding 90 feet. Port Angeles also offers protection from the southerly winds.
I was born and raised in Port Angeles and returned as an adult. I’ve worked both at Platypus Marine and for the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, too. Here’s what’s so special about the area.
Water activities—including surfing—and hiking dominate. In spring and fall, the weather is usually mild, and there’s plenty to do with fewer crowds. One of our favorite activities is kayaking in clean, clear Lake Crescent or nearby Freshwater Bay (above). Adventures Through Kayaking (ATK) rents gear if needed and provides a knowledgeable guide for excursions. Additionally, ATK rents bicycles to explore the Olympic Discovery Trail or the Adventure Route.
With its nearly 1 million acres of wilderness and miles of hiking trails, high alpine lakes, wild beaches, and temperate rainforests, UNESCO-designated Olympic National Park is the ninth most-visited national park. Folks are often surprised when we tell them we have a rainforest. It doesn’t have tropical palm trees, of course. But, about 14 feet of rain per year soaks the country on the western side of the Olympic Mountains.
When it snows in the mountains, meanwhile, low-land hiking is almost always possible. One of our favorite short hikes is Madison Creek Falls and along the Elwha River. Furthermore, three of our favorite hikes start on the same trail near Lake Crescent Lodge. Firstly, Marymere Falls trail takes about a half hour to walk to a lovely falls. Secondly, Storm King trail is straight up, with stunning views at the top. Plus, it’s easy to get further into the backcountry by continuing on the main trail.
Hurricane Ridge (elevation 5,242 feet) offers both downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter. The ‘Ridge has two rope tows, a poma lift, and tubing park. Equipment is available to rent. Take a snowshoe walk with an Olympic National Park’s Ranger. Sign up at the day lodge early as the walks fill up quickly. Winter activities at the ‘Ridge are subject to weather conditions, so check the Olympic National Park website or phone the hotline before you go and observe winter travel regulations.
A section of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) runs by Port Angeles’ marina. Sections of this 130-miles project are paved and excellent for walking and biking. It has recently been added to the The Great American Rail-Trail that stretches an extraordinary 3,700 miles from Washington, D.C. to La Push, Washington. Part of the ODT is the Spruce Railroad Trail (above) that winds along the shore of Lake Crescent. Another trail is the 25-mile single path, dirt Adventure Route, rated as “difficult” and used primarily for mountain biking.
You can follow your tastebuds around the Port Angeles Olympic Culinary Loop. There are some excellent wineries and cideries in the area, too. Try some mushroom ravioli at Bella Italia (are you a Twilight fan?). Join the hipster set at Bar Hop, Spruce, The Roosevelt Room, or Next Door Gastropub, all within blocks of each other downtown. For a quick take-out, Country Aire Market is the local choice. Little Devil’s Lunchbox (below) is an eight-time best-lunch winner. The Saturday Farmers Market is entertaining and nourishing. McFee’s Grocery on Race Street near the National Park Headquarters building might have that something you can’t find anywhere else.
One of the local wineries on the Culinary Loop, Harbinger Winery, is in the same building as ATK. How convenient!
A DAY IN VICTORIA, CANADA
A short walk from the marina and maintenance areas is the Coho ferry terminal, offering daily sailings between Port Angeles and Victoria, British Columbia. The 90-minute crossing delivers you to Victoria’s inner harbor (below). If you’re lucky, you might see orca or humpback whales. We often walk across for the day, catching the early sailing and returning on the final run. No need for a car.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel (high tea here is a must!) and the beautiful Parliament Building are within eyesight on arrival. When the weather is clear, we take the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to shopping areas and parks. Chinatown is authentic. Crew are especially thrilled with the IMAX theater in the Royal BC Museum. Our secret breakfast place is the Parliamentary Dining Room where you can get a proper cup of tea and good food served at white tablecloth tables. It’s like a step back in time. But don’t try to ascend the main stairs unless you are Queen Elizabeth! They are solely for her.
A stop-over on the Olympic Peninsula in Port Angeles can be a memory-making visit. Please, come knowing you and your vessel will be welcome. Chances are, you’ll want Port Angeles to become a regular stop-over.
Olympic Peninsula olympicpeninsula.org
Superyacht Northwest synw.org