A new year deserves a new roadmap. While you may have already visited Seattle and Victoria on a past journey, have you actually explored everything our mighty and beloved Pacific Northwest has to offer? Time to sit down and start planning out those 2018 trip ideas! Whether sightseeing in Washington state or traversing Vancouver Island, we’ve done the legwork and highlighted some of the best vacation spots in the PNW to help you build an extraordinary 2018 travel bucket list.

1. Relax at a Seaside Oasis

If relaxation is the name of your travel game, there is no better place to soak the stress away than at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and Spa. Treat yourself to a dip in one of the steaming, outdoor mineral pools and enjoy panoramic vistas of the coastline.

Pop into the aptly named Snug Pub to nosh on classic pub fare such as fish and chips or the “Ploughman,” a charcuterie tray boasting artisan meats, cheese and bread. Inside Tip: bundle up and head out for a moonlit walk along one of Oak Bay’s trails. Away from the sprawling city, it’s just the two of you and the stars overhead.

Rejuvenate with a relaxing soak in a steaming hot seaside mineral pool. Photo: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Rejuvenate with a relaxing soak in a steaming hot seaside mineral pool. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

2. Explore Victoria’s Tea Trail & Warm Up with a Cozy Cuppa

One of the best ways to stay toasty throughout the year is by indulging in as many warm cups of tea as you can handle. Get your proper tea fix with Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress, where a selection of 21 fine loose leaf teas, plus a three-tiered platter stacked with tasty treats will leave you feeling like royalty. Still thirsty? Follow Victoria’s unofficial “tea trail” and swing by one of the many other amazing tea shops scattered around the city.

3. Embark on a Sea to Sky Northwest Adventure

Allow your inner travel junkie to experience both of the Pacific Northwest’s unique forms of transportation with a sea and sky adventure between Seattle and Victoria, BC you’ll never forget. Glide through the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a sleek, Victoria Clipper catamaran and soak in incomparable views from the back deck.

The magical return journey on a Kenmore floatplane is equally exhilarating. Unrivaled vistas of the downtown Victoria and Seattle skylines and scenic countryside take center stage as you soar between the two cities. If the views alone weren’t enough, you can also watch your veteran pilot fly the plane with a complex array of controls, knobs, levers and switches.

4. Spend Valentine’s Day in Canada’s Most Romantic City

With glistening waters, stunning historic buildings, intimate carriage rides and no shortage of cozy restaurants to snuggle up in with your sweetie, Victoria flat out nails it when it comes to romantic date night spots. As such, it comes as no surprise that it has wound up on the list of “Canada’s Most Romantic Cities” year after year.

Kick your feet up at the serene environs at the Inn at Laurel Point and soak in jaw-dropping views of the tranquil Inner Harbour with your S.O. and a bottle of bubbly at your side. We can’t think of a better way to indulge in a little quality R&R.

5. Have a Whale of a Time in Puget Sound

Almost like clockwork, our beloved “Sounders,” the handful of 10-12 gray whales cruise into the Possession Sound and Saratoga Pass area each March and April, heralding the unofficial arrival of spring in the Pacific Northwest. Hop on the San Juan Clipper to embark on a gray whale watching trip to catch a rare glimpse of these majestic creatures as they make a pit stop in our waters to feed on the tasty ghost shrimp. After all, it’s not very often a 50-foot-long mammal weighing up to 35 tons (the equivalent of five adult male African elephants) takes up residence in your own backyard!

The 50-foot-long gray whales use their giant jaws to scoop up mouthfuls of shrimp.
The 50-foot-long gray whales use their giant jaws to scoop up mouthfuls of shrimp.

6. Celebrate the Glory of All Things Green at The Butchart Gardens

Get your garden fix and immerse yourself in the lush 55-acre grounds of The Butchart Gardens. Stunning any time of year, The Gardens are an absolute must in the spring. Feast your eyes on an explosion of colorful and sweetly-scented blooms as tulips, magnolias and daffodils burst to life.

You might even pick up a little inspiration for decking out your own yard. Bonus points for making a repeat visit in the summer to experience another side of The Gardens as thousands of sparkling lights transform the ground into an enchanting fairyland on the Night Illumination Tour.

7. Scout the San Juans for Mighty Orcas

Delight in a whale of an adventure and hop on our San Juan Island Whale Watching Day Trip from Seattle in search of the region’s showstoppers – Transient and Southern Resident orcas as well as minke and humpback whales. Clamber outside for top-deck views of our friendly aquatic neighbors as they splash and play in the sparkling waters. If you’re lucky you may even catch a breach!

8. Visit Seattle’s Classic Spots

Tucked directly under the Space Needle, the popular Chihuly Garden and Glass brims with an amazing collection of remarkable art created by world-renowned hometown artist, Dale Chihuly. Wander through the museum’s eight incredible exhibits, the outdoor garden and the 40-foot tall Glasshouse, which is home to an expansive 100-foot long sculpture.

If you are after amazing photos, we recommend strolling through these stunning gardens in the evening to catch them during Seattle’s glorious “golden hour,” before heading up to the observation level of the Space Needle to soak in unmatched views of Queen Anne, downtown and Puget Sound at sunset on our exclusive Chihuly + Space Needle Sunset Experience.

9. Sip Your Way Through the Cowichan Valley Wine Country

Drive along the rugged Malahat Drive for incredible vistas of the glistening Saanich Inlet before descending into the heart of Vancouver Island on the Cowichan Valley Wine Tour to discover one of the region’s best-kept secrets – its burgeoning wine scene. The perfect mini-adventure right in your own backyard, you’ll spend a wonderful day sampling liquid perfection at three boutique vineyards while someone else does all the planning and the driving.

Soak in stunning vineyard views from Blue grouse Estate Winery & Vineyard
Soak in stunning vineyard views from Blue Grouse Estate Winery & Vineyard.

10. Explore the City of Victoria on Two Wheels

A haven for cyclists, one of the best ways to experience Victoria is from behind the handlebars of a trusty bicycle. Roll through the streets of Victoria and geek out over the stunning architecture of Craigdarroch Castle or cruise through the lush grounds of Beacon Hill Park on the Pedaler’s guided Castles, Hoods and Legends Tour.

Have the itch for adventure? Ride along the famously scenic 40-mile long Galloping Goose Trail, a former rail line that runs from the urban streets of Victoria to the bucolic countryside of Sooke.

11. Watch the Sun Set on Capilano Suspension Bridge & Grouse Mountain

Venture 230 feet off the ground to experience Vancouver, BC from a new perspective as you stroll across the 460 feet long Capilano Suspension Bridge. Take in awe-inspiring views of the thriving coastal rainforest and the rushing Capilano River.

If you want a truly exhilarating experience, check out the park’s Cliffwalk for a heart-pounding adventure along the granite walls high above Capilano Canyon. Afterward, kick back at the neighboring Grouse Mountain and watch the sun sink behind the horizon as the lights of the city click on below.

Wander through the mists in Capilano Canyon. Photo Courtesy of Capilano Suspension Bridge
Wander through the mists in Capilano Canyon. Credit: Capilano Suspension Bridge

12. Check Out Lime Kiln’s Historic Lighthouse

Often called “Whale Watch Park,” the 36-acre Lime Kiln Point State Park offers a spectacular lookout around the western shore of San Juan Island. It is, hands down, one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of one of the more than 80 orcas that make the waters of the Haro Strait their home during the summer and fall. Don’t forget to check out the list of recent sightings or give the park’s two hydrophones that stream live sounds of nearby whales a listen while you wait to spot friendly oceanic passers-by.

13. Kayak Vancouver Island’s Wild and Rugged West Coast

Experience the natural beauty of British Columbia as you paddle through the tranquil waters surrounding an amazing archipelago of islands on a kayaking trip to Discovery Island. With the magnificent Olympic Mountains and driftwood-strewn shores as your backdrop, you’ll skim through the water while keeping an eye out for sea lions, eagles, dolphins, orca, humpback and minke whales. This is the Northwest at its finest!

Keep an out for wildlife as you paddle between the stunning Discovery Islands. Credit: Ocean River Adventures
Keep an out for wildlife as you paddle between the stunning Discovery Islands. Credit: Ocean River Adventures

14. Meet Mt. Rainier

Skip waiting for just the right moment when “the Mountain is out” and head straight to the iconic peak itself on our Mt. Rainier tour to experience the glacier-clad landmark from more than just a distance. Visit Paradise or Sunrise, hike a little or a lot and delight in stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding Cascade Range, cascading waterfalls, wildflower-filled meadows and dense old-growth forests.

15. Chase Portland’s Epic Waterfalls

Get your camera ready to snap some FOMO inducing selfies (fear-of-missing-out) in front of the magnificent and iconic falls such as Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls, Horse Tail Falls and more that drape the cliffs of “Waterfall Alley.” As an added bonus you’ll soak in views of the mighty Columbia River along the way AND sample sweet sips at two unique wineries in the Hood River area.

Feel the spray of the famous Multnomah Falls from Benson Bridge. Credit: Evergreen Escapes
Feel the spray of the famous Multnomah Falls from Benson Bridge. Credit: Evergreen Escapes

16. Wander Through Stanley Park’s Urban Paradise

A spectacular green oasis set amid the cosmopolitan city of Vancouver, Stanley Park’s 400-hectare grounds offer the perfect opportunity for outdoor exploration. Stretch your legs and follow the uninterrupted, six-mile pathway along the Seawall, go for a dip on the secluded Third Beach or pay a visit to the 700- to – 800-year-old “Hollow Tree.” Love animals? Be sure to stop by the Vancouver Aquarium (one of the five largest in North America) to check out their menagerie of more than 90,000 fascinating and exotic creatures from all over the globe.

17. Trek Through Washington’s Unexplored Rainforests

Escape from the urban sprawl of the city and venture across the Sound to the rarely explored reaches of Washington’s Olympic National Park. Visit the impressive Hurricane Ridge, where you will be surrounded by peaks upon peaks (and perhaps a few local deer or elk if you’re lucky) before continuing west to dip your toes into the deep blue water of Lake Crescent before heading back to Seattle.

Deer graze on wildflowers in one of Hurricane Ridge's subalpine meadows. Credit: Evergreen Escapes
Deer graze on wildflowers in one of Hurricane Ridge’s subalpine meadows. Credit: Evergreen Escapes

18. Practice “Water Yoga” in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Find your inner Zen and bond with your friends while you cruise around the calm waters on a stand up paddling tour of Victoria’s Inner Harbour and scenic Gorge Waterway. Don’t be surprised if you are joined by a local harbor seal or two, who have been known to pop up next to boarders to say a friendly “hello.”

19. Explore Vancouver Island’s Underground

Step into a whole new world as you crawl your way through the passageways of the Horne Lake Caves that have been carved by Mother Nature into the mountains near Qualicum Beach. If the pristine beauty of these glittering crystal formations or scaling to the top of an underground waterfall doesn’t take your breath away, we don’t know what will.

Explore deep within Horn Lake's limestone caves. Credit: Kyle Greenberg
Explore deep within Horn Lake’s limestone caves. Credit: Kyle Greenberg

20. Take a Bite Out of Seattle

If you consider yourself a foodie, a trip to the Emerald City is not complete without a visit to the city’s famous public market. Tempt your taste buds with phenomenal bites from local artisans and restaurants on a Food and Cultural Tour of Pike Place Market or give in to your sweet-tooth on the Chocolate Indulgence Tour and sample creamy cheesecakes, cupcakes and cookies from the likes of the Confectional, Frans Chocolates and Cupcake Royal. If the tours weren’t sweet enough on their own, you’ll also leave armed with insider tips on how to create these tasty goodies at home.

21. Cruise Along Vancouver Island’s Scenic Marine Circle Route

To truly absorb Vancouver the region’s beautiful green stretches, incredible wildlife, hidden lakes and streams, slow down, rent a car and command your own journey from the road. If you only have one day to explore, the scenic Marine Circle Route the should be at the top of your list. Travel along Victoria’s coastal roads for what may be the best waterfront views around. You’ll also pass by Avatar Grove, which is home to a spectacular stand of old-growth giant red cedars.

Take time for a stop along the serene waters of Lake Cowichan. Credit: Dale Simonson
Take time for a stop along the serene waters of Lake Cowichan. Credit: Dale Simonson

22. Tour the Famous Hiram Chittenden Locks

Glide through the popular Hiram Chittenden Locks on an Argosy cruise and experience what it is like to navigate through the complex system where fresh water meets salt water first-hand as well as ogle the fantastic houseboat community from the movie “Sleepless in Seattle.” Time your visit right to see massive king and Coho salmon fly up the fish ladder as they migrate into the fresh water of Lake Washington to spawn between mid-August to September.

23. Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Whistler’s Frosty Forests

Soar like an eagle on an exhilarating high wire adventure over the icicle-laden treetops of Whistler’s forests. Featuring five incredible ziplines varying from 200 feet to over 1,000 feet long, our Whistler Ziptrek Bear tour allows you to brave great heights (or conquer your fears) and soak in incredible aerial views of snow-capped peaks and the snaking waters of Fitzsimmons Creek. Inside tip: When you’ve exhausted the ziplines and the trails for the day, check into the amazing Scandinave Spa for a truly magical rejuvenating experience.

Fly through the tree-tops between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Credit: ZipTrek
Fly through the tree-tops between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Credit: ZipTrek

24. Dive into the Depths of Nanaimo’s Waters

The serene Up Island town of Nanaimo may be best known for their drool-worthy, signature sweet treat of the same name, but they also happen to boast one heck of an underwater park. Plunge deep into the cold, clear waters outside the city’s harbor to explore three sunken shipwrecks and view a myriad of sea life, including rockfish, wolf eel, octopus and starfish. Or try snorkeling with the playful harbor seals found in the shallow water off the shore.

25. See the Bavarian Town of Leavenworth Come to Life with Thousands of Lights

When it comes to the Christmas spirit, Leavenworth takes the cake. During their annual Christmas Lighting Festival, the quaint Bavarian town all but radiates pure joy with the help of more than half a million lights. With a winning combination of snow-filled landscapes, holiday decorations, seasonal drinks and a treasure trove of shops, it is hard not fall in love with mountain town.

With a variety of unique and fascinating regions to explore, the opportunities for epic adventures in the Pacific Northwest are endless. After all, how can you say no to scenic mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, expansive gardens, amazing eats and phenomenal wildlife?

Start planning your PNW travel bucket list now and make 2018 an unforgettable year. Whether you do one or do them all, we always want to hear from you and see your photos. Be sure to share to share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #DiscoverClipper. Happy exploring!

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