Time for a post-pandemic summer road trip around Western Washington?

Whether it's a day trip or an overnighter, now is the time to bust out of your rut and get out and about while the weather's good in our state
Ocean waves crashing at Cape Disappointment
Cape Disappointment, on the southwest coast of Washington Photo credit Jeff Huth / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Chances are, it's been a while since you've taken a real vacation.

Understandable. Ever since they started rolling out the COVID vaccine at the beginning of the year, we've asked ourselves, "Is it safe to travel? Do I need to be vaccinated? Does everybody need to be vaccinated? Is there someplace I can go where COVID's not an issue? Is there someplace close to home where I can drive instead of fly?" And lots more questions.

But look around you: It's summertime. People are coming out of their shells, or at least out of their houses. You don't need to wear a mask, mostly. Restaurants are filling up, freeways are busy, things are getting back to something like normal. It's time to travel.

I flew to Hawaii in March, which was my first plane trip in more than a year. It was weird, with the masks and the negative COVID tests and the feeling that most of the fun stuff was still closed. But it was fun. And it was Hawaii in March, as opposed to Seattle in March. Big difference.

Then, over the July 4 weekend, a friend and I took a road trip to Portland for a couple of nights to see some friends, and then continued on down to central Oregon, where we spent a couple more nights in an Airbnb while we explored the area around the Newberry Volcano.

The drive was beautiful -- a perfect reminder of how much stunning natural beauty, from mountains to ocean to high desert, is just a tank of gas away.

When we got back, I told a lot of people how much fun it was to get out there and see something -- anything -- besides my own neighborhood.

And then I came across this story in the Seattle Times by Ron Judd: Here are 10 soul-satisfying day trips you can take around Washington.

The story starts, "Sometimes, you've just got to pull up the stakes and go. For many of us, the tugging has already started." Exactly.

Ron runs down some gorgeous destinations within an easy drive of the Seattle area that you can do this weekend, or whenever you can rally your crew to hit the road.

A few of my favorites on his list:

Cape Disappointment, pictured above. A great spot to experience the spectacle and the power of the Pacific at the point where the Columbia River meets the ocean. If you're a camper (and if you can get a campsite) Cape Disappointment State Park is one of Washington's best.

Ebey's Bluff, on Whidbey Island. "Views northwest down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean; north to Canada’s coast range; north and east to rugged Mount Baker and the northern Cascades; south to Mount Rainier; and due west to Port Townsend, backed by the Olympic Mountains." This one is pretty dramatic even if you wait until summer's over and visit on a rainy fall day.

The Olympic Rainforest. The Olympic Peninsula is teeming with rugged, beautiful things to see that are unlike anything anywhere else in America. As Ron says, it can be a challenge to cope with the wind and the weather if you find yourself on the western edge of the peninsula, but it's "unique on the planet in topography, flora and fauna . . . they are places of sheer rainforest magic on occasion."

Read the whole story for more travel inspiration.

Me and my dog Hazel in the car
Road trip with Hazel

And if those ideas don't scratch the itch to explore, take a look at these -- some great ideas for Western Washington road trips from a blog I posted back in April, when things were juuuuust starting to open up around here:

Seattle Met posted a good list of 8 Best Road Trips From Seattle. These trips will take you anywhere between 66 and almost 300 miles from Seattle. You'll cruise through Mt. Rainier National Park, or along the legendary sweeping curves and vistas of Chuckanut Drive in Skagit and Whatcom County, or the North Cascades Highway. The Seattle Met list also includes lots of dining, shopping, and recreation suggestions for each of the drives they mention.

I love this next list because who knows more about great drives than a company that paves highways? On their website, Lakeridge Paving Company (based in Covington) posted 6 Must-See Scenic Drives in the Puget Sound Area. They recommend taking the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry to Whidbey Island and driving the length of the island up to Deception Pass. Along the way you can poke around in Langley, Coupeville, and Meerkeek Rhododendron Gardens before crossing the breathtaking Deception Pass Bridge.

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass Bridge Photo credit Marina_Poushkina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Finally, if time is tight and you need to stay close to home, CBS posted The Scenic Drives Within 60 Miles of Seattle. Some of these are way less than 60 miles, in fact, like the ride from Seward Park to the Washington Park Arboretum. You'll see lots of water along Lake Washington, the reopened Japanese Garden, and acres of trees from around the world in the Arboretum -- you could even do this one on a bike! Vahson Island, Bainbridge Island, and a trek out to Snoqualmie Falls are also on this list of close-in road trips.

Have fun, stay safe, and don't be a left-lane camper.