The Lowdown on Washington’s HWY 101

If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, then no doubt you’ve heard the adage “write what you know.” And I’m here to tell you, it is, without a doubt, the best advice you will ever get when it comes to writing—yes, you’re welcome ; )

But seriously, although I have written about a gazillion topics over the years, some certainly more interesting than others, when it comes down to “what’s in my wheelhouse,” well, hailing from the Pacific Northwest, seafood and oceans and just about everything related to the beaches is my game. So for this installment of Tuesday Travels, I’m giving you part one in a four-part series on the magnificent stretch of highway that borders the West Coast—U.S. HWY 101.

HWY 101

The 101 on the One-OH-One

U.S. HWY 101 runs all the way from Tumwater, WA, to San Diego. Admittedly, even though I was born in Seattle, I haven’t spent much time on the Washington section, but here’s a ten-minute read on what I do know. (Stop by next week for a 15-minute read on Oregon’s 101.)

Washington’s section of the 1,540-mile north-south highway runs from Tumwater—a suburb of the state capitol, Olympia—directly north along the Hood Canal (Seattle is due east). It then rounds towards the west, encircling Olympic Park, before turning south towards Oregon. Most of the northern portion is surrounded by old-growth (and newly-planted) forest lands and the scenery is picturesque. If you drive straight, the Washington section is just over 350 miles and can be done in one or two days depending on how much time you spend exploring. Note, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path spots you can stop, and you can veer off of the 101 and explore more, but this post is centered around the 101 specifically. With that being said, don’t be afraid to explore more. There are a ton of small, family-owned restaurants serving some of the best seafood in the world, and there’re quaint coastal towns everywhere that I’ve never visited—so if you do stop, please let me know. I’d love to learn more about the lesser-known sections.

IMG_9624Stop for West Coast Oysters
Traveling north from Olympia, you should stop for fresh shucked PNW oysters from one of the following hotspots along the Hood Canal: Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, which is right outside of the city, or one of these two eateries about an hour and a half north of Olympia: Dockside Grill or Salty Girls Sequim Seafood. Open the links and choose for yourself, you can’t go wrong at either place! Next up, you’ll soon make your way to Port Angeles—a great place to spend the night if you want to checkout the hotprings.

Windsurfing and sailing are AWESOME on the Hood Canal and throughout Puget Sound

Olympic_Hot_Spring_(1702481372)Olympic Hot Springs
Located approximately two and a half miles uptrail from the trailhead (NOTE, make sure you check with rangers to see if the trail is closed before you go), the pools are made from seven hot springs; some pools have mud bottoms, some rock. All are warm and vary in temperature from around 80 to 135 degrees fahrenheit. Be aware that the springs aren’t regulated or maintained by the National Park System and in the summer when the water is stagnant, the pools can contain infectious bacteria. Also, if you do go, be prepared to bare all as nude seems to be the preferred bathing “suit” of choice. For the record, yes, I have been … no I didn’t drop all, but I was in the minority. I didn’t come home with any infectious disease either. SO maybe there’s something to be said for a little, huh-hum, cover down there ; )

If you love vampires, stop in the rainiest city in the U.S.
When you leave Port Angeles, you’ll make your way slightly inland until you hit the Twilight-famed town of Forks. I can’t tell you if there’s much to do in Forks, but if I were into the whole vampire thing, I’d totally hang out and check out this small town and who knows, maybe I’d even be inspired to write my own supernatural trilogy.

640px-2016._Mt._Olympus._Olympic_National_Park,_Washington._(38897209971)Mt. Olympus (the other one)
No, not where Zeus and the other 11 Olympian gods reside, but the one in Washington—not that it wouldn’t be fun to visit the other one. The mountain, according to, requires over 5,000 feet of elevation gain by its shortest route, and is, by no means, a summit hike that should be attempted by novice hikers. But there are some shorter hikes around the base as well as some lovely photo ops for the ever-necessary Instagram shot. I mean, hey, even if you don’t hike it, at least you can tell your followers you thought about it, er, um, sort of.

If you came to fish
There are umpteen, no … there are a gazillion rivers and lakes and various bays where fishing is excellent along Washington’s coastline; and the town of Aberdeen is a fabulous place to spend some time if you want to fish. Named for a local salmon cannery, Aberdeen is situated at the mouth of two rivers: the Chehalis and Wishkah—both excellent for fishing. Aberdeen is also home to  a full-scale reproduction of the 18th century American-flagged ship, Lady Washington—as part of the Boston-based Columbia Expedition, she was the first American vessel to round Cape Horn.

Hungry? Stop in at Brady’s Oysters for some of the best West Coast bivalves

640px-North_Head_Light_WAGray’s Harbor Lighthouse
I know, I said this post was strictly about the 101, BUT, this next section is pretty dismal so I suggest veering west along HWY 105. You can visit Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse and the Westport Aquarium and be back on the 101 within two hours. Oh, and if you’re hungry, stop anywhere. Ask locals. There are many places with fresh salmon, clams, crab and more.

Cape Disappointment
Your last stop should be Cape Disappointment and the lighthouse within the state park. And no, I’m not going to tell you why it’s named Cape Disappointment, you can find out when you visit. But do note, this area sees more than 100-days of fog so be prepared to lose your way, just a little.

Astoria-Megler_Bridge_(Clatsop_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clatDA0002c)Next up you’ll be driving over the longest bridge in the U.S. as you leave the state of Washington and enter Oregon. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is just over four miles and crosses the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s an impressive site and one you’re bound to remember. Make sure you take a selfie and tag me 😉

Coming up NEXT on the blog … flatbread with crème fraîche and lox and more on the wild-caught vs. farmed debate.

Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler

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DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox