When we drive west from Idaho, we’re usually heading toward the Seattle area to visit friends and family. But for restful family vacations, we drive just a little further west to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s an amazingly diverse place, and we never know what we’re going to find when we go there to explore.
Last summer we spent a day in the area around the town of Sequim (that’s pronounced “skwim”) on the northern shore of the Peninsula. Our first stop was at a lavender farm. Sequim bills itself as the lavender capital of North America, which explains why there is lavender everywhere you look. Each July the town holds a 3-day Lavender Festival to celebrate the fragrant purple flowers. Any time of the year, you can find all things lavender at dozens of farms and shops throughout town. Take a chance and sample some lavender ice cream. It leaves an interesting aftertaste. We spent about an hour strolling the beautiful grounds of the Purple Haze Lavender Farm. There’s no charge to just wander around admiring the flowers and the view. There’s a gift shop, stocked with all things lavender, as well as a quaint farm house available as a vacation rental
The kids were restless, so we moved on to what turned out to be the great surprise of the day. We found it at The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Sequim. The main geographic feature of the Refuge is the Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the country. Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much at the Spit. A lot of sand, to be sure. But the simplicity of the place is what charmed us. The Spit is five miles of sand and driftwood, with ocean on either side. It was absolutely mesmerizing.
I’ve never seen my kids happier than when they gazed out over all that driftwood and began mentally designing tri-level forts and castles. The sand and the ocean were a blur to them. All they cared about was building stuff. There is no shortage of material to work with, and there is certainly no shortage of sunshine on the northern coast of the peninsula. The dry climate of Sequim (only 15 inches of rain a year) almost guarantees that rain won’t ruin your family vacation.
This is the kind of outing where you don’t need to bring anything but a few chairs, towels, and snacks. If you’re not in the mood to build driftwood forts, you can take off your shoes and enjoy a leisurely barefoot stroll down the beach. Or sit and stack rocks (talk about a stress reducer).
It’s surprising finds like Sequim and the Spit that is making my family fall in love with the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. It’s one of the most diverse, and least crowded, areas I’ve ever visited. It’s easily accessible from Seattle by ferry, the roads are good, the distances not too far, and the scenery is some of the most spectacular in the country. You can hike on a glacier, stroll through a rain forest, and then enjoy a driftwood fire on a spectacular ocean beach, all in one day.
Most of all, the Peninsula reminds me that the simple things are sometimes the best. Children certainly don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to have fun on vacation. A simple walk on the beach can spur imagination and creativity like nothing else. That’s what will keep us returning to places like the Dungeness Spit.
All photos by Phil Corless