Perhaps the best kept secret on the Olympic Peninsula is that you do NOT need the Hood Canal Bridge to get here. Faced with a 6-week closure for installation of a new span, the Washington State Department of Transportation and local Chambers of Commerce focused on alerts to area residents who use the Bridge every day to commute to Seattle to work and delivery truck drivers who make hundreds of daily runs to & fro. Unfortunately, their message inadvertently brought tourism to a screeching halt during the peak Spring travel season of May 1 to June 11, 2009.
In fact, if you’re planning a weekend getaway or spring vacation, our scenic "road less traveled" only adds about 45-minutes to one-hour to your overall travel time. Are we all in such a hurry that we can’t take time to enjoy one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the entire country? A good friend once said: It's all about enjoying life's little detours along the way. So here’s our updated Travel Advisory on the best route to get here from there.
The drive along Highway 106 passes right by the Bill Gates’ family summer compound, and as you take in the amazing views of snow-capped mountains and shimmering blue water, you’ll start to understand why one of the richest men in the world enjoyed spending his childhood summers in this protected inlet. If you have time for lunch, you might drop by The Oyster Bar at the Alderbrook Resort, a landmark on the Hood Canal since the 1920s. In 2004, former Microsoft- exec Jeff Raikes acquired the Resort and spent millions transforming a run-down cluster of cottages and motel units into a quintessentially Northwest lodge, Spa, golf course and corporate retreat center. Hiring world-class chef Christopher Schwarz to run the restaurant helped put Alderbrook on the culinary map. In fact, if you’re arriving from the Airport after a long flight, you might want to bed down here for the night and continue your journey the next morning so you travel the whole scenic length of the Hood Canal in daylight.
After leaving the Alderbrook Resort, Highway 106 meanders through a stretch of picturesque salt marshes known as The Great Bend because the Hood Canal makes a huge horseshoe turn around an outcrop of the Kitsap Peninsula. While the Hood Canal, San Juan Islands and Puget Sound were all carved by glaciers during the last ice age, the Olympic Mountains in the rugged interior of the Olympic Peninsula were NOT under ice--one reason several dozen species of birds, plants, mammals, and marine life are found here and nowhere else on the continent.
As you cross the Skokomish River valley, you will link up with Highway 101 North. The road hugs the coastline through the small towns of Hoodsport, Lilliwaup, Hamma Hamma, Duckabush and Dosewalips crossing bridges over rivers and creeks with the same unusual names. You’ll gaze across the narrow Canal to an opposite shore that is steep and heavily forested with few signs of civilization. We drove this route last week on a rainy, overcast day. Wisps of mist floating in the tree tops and small boats bobbing at anchor in foggy coves lent a mystical quality to our journey. On our return trip the very next day, bright pink cherry blossoms in seaside cottage gardens danced in a gentle breeze and the sun sparkled so brightly that sunglasses were required while gazing at those inspiring views.
Just past Brinnon, the highway begins its climb over Mount Walker through almost pristine stretches of the Olympic National Forest where the moss seems to have been draped on tree trunks by a Hollywood set designer. The Mount Walker Viewpoint is worth a stop to enjoy vistas that include Quilcene Bay, the snow-capped Olympics, and even the skyline of Seattle in the distance. Quilcene, of course, is world famous for its oysters (packed on ice and flown to trendy restaurants from Manhattan to Laguna Beach). As you drive along the outskirts of town, you’ll see huge mountains of oyster shells. Once past Quilcene, the road traverses fertile farmland dotted with dozens of small fishing lakes and bucolic old barns.
Finally, in Discovery Bay, you'll connect with Highway 101 West to Sequim and the Olympic National Park. This is the point where the 2-lane Highway 101 converges with the 2-lane Highway 104 and meets up with the standard route taken via the Hood Canal Bridge. Perhaps after taking the “road less traveled,” you won't feel deprived by the bridge's temporary closure.
After a few days of relaxation here at the Lodge, you can return using the same route or you might like to book passage on the Port Townsend-Keystone ferry—one the few Washington State Ferries where you can actually make a reservation 888-808-7977 or 206-464-6400 (you can also reserve a space for your car online). From Keystone, you would drive up Whidbey Island and across the Deception Pass Bridge back to the mainland. This is the route that our guests from Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., Bellingham, and north Puget Sound suburbs travel in reverse to get to our beautiful corner of the country.
Your Travel Guide at
Lost Mountain Lodge