11 Late Summer Road Trips to Take Before School Starts
Summer is flying by and before you know it, you’ll be gearing up for the back-to-school grind. Before that happens, make the most of your last days of summer by planning an end-of-summer road trip. Whether it’s a last-minute weekend excursion to the mountains or an extended trip to a seaside town, scroll down for 11 family road trip destinations—all within a few hours drive or less of Seattle.
Located on the Washington coast, Seabrook offers an expansive Pacific Ocean shoreline and adventures to match. Start with the newly launched, guided tour service, Pacific Coast Wonders, a brilliant collab between the Quinault Nation, Seabrook's founders and Buck's Northwest. They provide cultural guided experiences surfing the waves of Point Grenville, a true hidden gem, or hiking Elephant Rock. It's a chance for families to learn about Quinault history and the protected places they're exploring. Families can also book guided kayaking, SUP and canoe tours through Buck's Northwest in Seabrook (psst... add a lifestyle photo package to your trip to savor the memories). Beyond booking tours, kids and parents can spend time building sandcastles, flying kites and digging for razors (when they're in season).
Stay at: A Seabrook beach cottage. Seabrook’s got pet-friendly cottages, cottages with ocean views, cottages with a touch of farm life; and each one has different perks, like bicycles guests can use, hot tubs for soaking or gas grills for a summer BBQ, that make this an oh-so-easy place to stay with kids. Add in two just-opened spots—the drop-in childcare center, Our Pod by the Sea and Rising Tide Tavern (opened by a Canlis alum)—and you've got the perfect day date when you stay.
The San Juans
If you're looking for a little of this and a little of that, you’ll love everything about the San Juan Islands: the ferries, the slower pace and the downright other-worldliness of these eclectic islands. No matter which one you choose for your summer trip, the kids will have fun kayaking, glamping and exploring historic parks. Everyone will enjoy boating, learning about Orca whales, swimming in island lakes and gourmet dining.
Stay at: Choosing where to stay is probably the hardest part of this vacation. When it comes to Friday Harbor resorts, Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes combines resort amenities with a summer camp vibe. The Earthbox Inn is another local fave. A farm stay on Orcas is always a hit with the kids and Pebble Cove Farm has everything you need to keep your kiddos happy. The Rosario Resort & Spa and West Beach Resort are two other Orcas Island hot spots. For Lopez fans, try the Lopez Islander Resort.
Clean mountain air? Check. Spa treatments? Check. Hiking? Check. You’ll love all of the above, give or take the cheese factor of this faux Bavarian village about two hours east of Seattle. After all, Leavenworth is all about family fun. The kids can play a round of Bavarian mini golf, catch a movie or play arcade games at the Icicle Junction Activities Center. Everyone will enjoy nearby hikes, fantastic bike rides, eating bratwurst and visiting the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm (yep, it's open all year long).
One of the easiest beach towns for Seattle families to hit is Port Townsend. Less than two hours from the city, with a big chunk of travel time taking place on the ferry, it's a great option for families with tots and babies, and with so much to do, you could spend a few days and not get to everything. We're fans of Fort Worden State Park, where families will find everything from beaches to a marine science center to bunkers to explore, and the expansive yard space means you can kick balls, ride wheels and fly kites wherever you please. Chetzemoka Park is another outdoor spot to play, and exploring the downtown shops on Water Street should also be on your list. Don't pass up a chance to get a scoop at Elevated Ice Cream—nothing tastes better on a sunny day. Future aviators will want to stop at the Port Townsend Aero Museum to see planes and get a slice of the best pie ever at the Spruce Goose Cafe nearby.
Stay at: Fort Worden State Park. You'll be steeped in history when you book a house on Officers Row or in the Courtside Collection. Both have ample room for families of all sizes and they come with everything you need for a comfortable stay, so you can pack the car full of games and activities to keep the kids busy on the short trip from the ferry to the park.
Just a short drive from Port Townsend you'll find Sequim. Known for its lavender farms and sunny days (it's in the rain shadow), things move a bit slower here. Make the Dungeness Spit the first stop on your travels. Five miles of sandy shores with views that make you think you're in Maui instead of the PNW, it's easy to spend an afternoon on this beach. Also worth a visit is the Olympic Game Farm where enormous elk, friendly alpacas, enthusiastic yak and other animals greet you as you drive through the park. A drive up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park is another area-must; just remember to head out early in the morning as the park gets crowded as the day goes on. This summer, enjoy Music in the Park concerts on Tuesday nights through August and the Saturday Farmers Market. You can also take advantage of the season's bounty at u-pick berry and lavender farms during the summer months.
Stay at: Although the lavender has been harvested for the year, the Purple Haze Lavender Farm offers families a quiet respite with plenty of space to stretch out and settle in for a few days. Kids will love the chickens out back and the hot tub has parent retreat written on it once the kids are soundly asleep. The Spruce Street Birdhouse Aibnb is right in town as is this classic 1930s home that's available through Airbnb.
If you're looking for a place where you can get in some serious R&R, you’ll love Lake Chelan and the fact that there’s not much to do here except park your rear and relax. If you must get up, nearby wineries are a fun diversion as well as shopping in downtown historic Chelan. The kids will have fun swimming, building sand castles, playing putt putt, driving go karts at Rally Alley and taking a boat cruise up the lake. And everyone will love splashing around at Slidewaters, Lake Chelan's awesome water park that is also home to the newly opened Lakeside Surf, the world’s largest and the first deep water stationary wave in the US. The 52 ½ foot wide Citywave will allow you and your little surfers to catch six-foot waves on standard ocean boards and fins. Psst! Lakeside Surf is a stand-alone surf park that operates both independently and in connection to Slidewaters and will remain open into the late fall.
Stay at: The Lookout is a win for families any time of year, but it's especially true in summer when the community's private beach and marine make it easy to enjoy Lake Chelan's biggest draw (the water) without the crowds. Add in the fact that each vacation home comes with comforts you and your kids need and can count on packing light for this road trip. Other great stays include: Campbell’s Resort, Wapato Point, Mountain View Lodge & Resort or Lake Chelan Shores for a quintessential laid-back family resort experience.
Super easy to get to (assuming there isn't any major construction on Snoqualmie Pass), the city of Cle Elum offers lots of outdoor family fun including hiking, biking, horseback riding and water activities on Lake Cle Elum where you can rent boats, jet skis and more. The city of Rosyln (remember the TV show Northern Exposure?) is a great place to explore with kids and to grab a meal at The World Famous Brick Salon, Roslyn Cafe or Roslyn Village Pizza.
Stay at: Suncadia Resort, A Destination Hotel for a posh experience yet casual, kid-friendly and a bit adventurous. Families visiting Suncadia can enjoy golfing, biking, hiking trails and horseback riding as well as fab hotel amenities. Kids will love the ice cream socials in the lobby, nightly s'mores around the campfire and the new pool and Backyard BBQs at Suncadia's Nelson Farm. And everyone in your crew will love the Suncadia Club Swim & Fitness Center (with two indoor water slides, an indoor pool and a ginormous outdoor pool with poolside service) as well as the fine and casual dining options, outdoor amphitheater and spa services. Check Suncadia’s website for special end-of-summer packages.
If you’re looking for a road trip with options (like ferries vs. bridges), Hood Canal is the place to go. Located between the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, this fantastic family destination will take you less than two-hours to get to (that is…if you don’t encounter road and ferry traffic), with some fun stops along the way. Fantastic state parks where you can kayak and SUP, like Twanoh and Potlatch, keep kids busy on the water. And the Hamma Hamma Oyster Salon and Hook & Fork at Union City Market offer amazing seafood eats. Or stick to land-loving activities like hiking at nearby Olympic National Park or Theler Wetlands (a great pit stop by the way if you drive over). Trade high-rise buildings and busy freeways for sea-creature filled tide flats and beautiful beaches. Your kiddos will think they’re in a whole new world in Hood Canal.
Stay at: Alderbrook Resort & Spa. Tucked away towards the south end of the Hood Canal, Alderbrook is a true family-friendly showstopper. Kids of all ages will think the hiking trails are awesome and will love dining on the patio, roasting s'mores by the campfire, beach combing and playing lawn games near the cottages. Everyone will love the indoor pool with restaurant service (Margaritas poolside, anyone?), daily resort activities, plus kayaks, boats, SUP boards, paddle boats and more at the marina.
Semiahmoo & Birch Bay
Craving a beach experience without the high surf? Consider a trip up North the Birch Bay area. If a less than two hour car ride doesn't draw you in, the fantastic Birch Bay Waterslides water park will have your kids begging to go. Trade swim trunks for shorts when you head to Station 49, Birch Bay's family entertainment center, offering mini golf, train rides, go karting and more. And although families can't take a ferry ride on the beloved historic Plover (it's still out of commission due to COVID), they can visit the Saturday market in downtown Blaine all summer long. A trip to the Peace Arch Park at the Canadian border is something else to put on your summer list.
Stay at: Semiahmoo Resort for a low-key family trip. You can park your car at the resort and never have a reason to leave for the rest of your stay. The hotel, reminiscent of a New England seaside resort, has an outdoor swimming pool and sprawling beachside lawns for volleyball, croquet, horseshoes and running around. The hotel also offers evening bonfires with s’mores fixings, complimentary movies for families in their theater, kids craft kits, kayak rentals on-site and more. The only thing you have to pack, besides your clothes? Bikes and scooters. The resort is at the end of a long spit where kids can bike safely till they tire out. Another option on Semiahmoo spit is to rent a condo at the adjacent Beach Walker Villas and purchase passes to use the hotel's pool and gym.
After a year of distance learning and digital nomad adventures, families need to unplug. There's no better spot to get away from it all than Lake Quinault. Tucked into the Olympic National Forest, families will find easy wooded trails to hike, looming giants, hidden waterfalls and a lake just waiting for your water adventures. Bring your kayaks, canoes, SUPs and fishing poles to take advantage of the tranquil waters or rent them locally. Plus, nearby adventures like Kalaloch and Ruby Beach mean you can spend time at the Pacific too.
Stay at: Lake Quinault Lodge. Your kids will be charmed by this restored 1920s historic lodge that has a welcoming Sasquatch and oversized fireplace in the lobby, where you can play board games late into the evening after eating at the Roosevelt Dining Room. The indoor pool gets kids out of the heat and the lack of cell reception means everyone gets to focus on what counts most—spending time together. If your road trip includes an RV, consider parking it at the Rain Forest Resort Village.
Trade your Seattle city life for life in the capitol when you visit Olympia and the surrounding areas in the summer. It's such an easy trip, especially with toddlers and babies on board, because the drive time is minimal, and there are oh-so-many places to stop along the way. In addition to visiting the always-popular Hands On Children's Museum, families can stroll the boardwalk at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, rent kayaks at Tugboat Annies and visit the brightly blooming sunflower fields at Schilter Family Farm. A trip to the farmer's market is a must and even toddlers will enjoy the easy hike at Tumwater Falls, just south of the city. If you travel after Labor Day, you'll likely spy some salmon making their way up stream.
Stay at: If a cozy vacation rental is on your list, try this modern Craftsman that's walking distance to the farmer's market and other downtown amenities. This vintage home in the Eastside neighborhood has a game room in the basement that'll keep your kids busy for hours when you stay.
—Allison Sutcliffe, Kristina Moy, Allison Ellis & Katie Kavulla