The Puget Sound area is known for its natural beauty, charming coastal towns, and all of the big-city benefits Seattle has to offer. With hundreds of islands and miles of shoreline, it’s not surprising that many of the best local activities are water-based. Of course, there’s also plenty to see on land with several national parks and forests just a short drive away. Whether you like to spend your days taking in the fresh air on a mountain hike, exploring museums, or playing on the water, you’ll always find something to do in the Puget Sound region.
Go for a Paddle in the Sound
Sea kayaking is a popular activity in the area for both athletes and casual paddlers. If you don’t own a kayak, you can rent one for a day or a weekend, or go on a guided tour. Explore the waterways without an agenda to see what coastal treasures you stumble upon, or plan your day around one of the many trails outlined by the Washington Water Trails Association.
One hidden gem to uncover is Hope Island State Park, a small undeveloped island in South Puget Sound. You can easily explore the two miles of wooded trails in a day or claim one of the primitive campsites for a longer excursion. If the season is right, harvest your own shellfish, pick fruit from the orchard, or gather nuts from the trees that were planted there generations ago by the homesteaders who once lived nearby.
The Cascadia Marine Trail is packed with day-use and overnight camping sites on a 140-mile trail that extends from Olympia in the south to the Canadian border in the north. No matter where you are located on the sound, there is sure to be a trail stop nearby. For a more urban kayaking adventure, explore the Lakes-to-Locks Water Trail in the Seattle area.
Take the Ultimate Road Trip
If your adventurous spirit expresses itself by hopping in the car and going for a scenic drive, the Cascade Loop is a must. Made up of nine byways that make a loop from Puget Sound, through the Cascade Mountains, and along the Columbia River valley, The Cascade Loop allows you to explore rugged natural features, lovely small towns, and agricultural areas for days or weeks!
In the Puget Sound area, the closest byways on the loop are the Snohomish River Valley and Whidbey Scenic Isle Way. If you have an aviation lover in the family, start the Snohomish River Valley drive at Paine Field, where you can tour a flight center, view vintage aircraft, and go on a zip-line adventure. Stop for lunch in Everett to take in the stunning mountain views from the waterfront. Take the afternoon to go further inland to historic Snohomish, where you can find antique treasures at the downtown boutiques and shops.
Running 55 miles from north to south, Whidbey Island has historic towns, waterfront walking trails, art galleries, and a 72-acre nature preserve with trails and a sculpture garden. If military history piques your interest, explore Fort Casey in Coupeville to see the historically preserved installation that once stood guard at the entrance to Puget Sound.
Explore the Audubon Washington Puget Loop
Bird lovers and nature enthusiasts will love the Puget Loop trail maintained by Audubon Washington. You can access the trail’s 42 sites using multiple forms of transportation—ferry, bicycle, kayak, driving, and so on—making your birding adventure even more interesting.
If you are an avid bird-watcher, keep an eye out for some of the 220 species you might see, including bald eagles, Anna’s hummingbirds, and Pacific wrens. From Anacortes in the north and beyond Tacoma in the south, the Puget Loop can keep you occupied year-round.
For a quick family-friendly jaunt from Seattle, pop over to Alki Beach. With two miles of saltwater shoreline, you might spy waterbirds such as common loons, red-breasted mergansers, and multiple varieties of grebes. Head south toward Gig Harbor to Point Defiance Park, where the old-growth forest is home to double-crested cormorants and pileated woodpeckers. On Whidbey Island, you’ll find five sites with a range of habitats, including saltwater spits, evergreens, marsh, and mixed forest. With so much bird-watching potential within an hour’s drive, it’s a perfect option for a Big Day.
See the Sights in the San Juan Islands
With more than 170 islands to explore, the San Juan archipelago makes a perfect destination for a day trip or a more extended adventure. Nature lovers will enjoy seeing the flora and fauna in the San Juan National Wildlife Refuge, where you might encounter black oystercatchers, harbor seals, and Steller’s sea lions on the rocky coast. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of one of the resident orca pods that live in the area all year long.
There are four main islands that are accessible by public ferries, and although there’s plenty to conveniently explore, you can also get off the beaten path and make your way to 40 other inhabited islands using private ferries or seaplanes. Wherever you go, you’ll see communities that are a combination of the farmers and fishers who have lived on the islands for generations, and artists who are attracted to the area because of its serene setting and natural beauty. Bring your bike or kayak, or rent one there, to tour around the islands at your own pace.
Explore the Local Museums
If you’re looking for an indoor excursion, take a trip to some of the 90 museums in the Puget Sound area. If you’re a local resident, you can check out a Museum Pass at the library to enjoy many of these sites for free, including popular family destinations such as the Seattle Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo.
One of the lesser-known stops you might want to explore is the Center for Wooden Boats on Camano Island. Visitors will learn about the history of small craft in the area, salmon fishing, and Seattle’s longline fleet. Interactive exhibits allow you to build your own toy boat, tie knots, and use signal flags.
Budding astronomers might be interested in one of the many planetariums in Bellevue, Bremerton, Lakewood, and Seattle, while more serious stargazers should check out the Bainbridge Island Observatory (Ritchie Observatory)
While Puget Sound is home to majestic old-growth trees, it is also where you can find their tiny cousins at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, just northeast of Tacoma. Marvel at more than 150 miniature trees in an exhibit of diverse species from all over the world. The trees on display rotate with the seasons, so it’s worth a handful of visits to see the entire collection.
Go on a Guided Adventure
For a more extreme outdoor adventure, go on a guided tour with The Mountaineers, a nonprofit conservation club that leads activities and teaches courses for all ages and abilities.
Try classic outdoor activities like hiking or sea kayaking, or get out of your comfort zone on a backcountry skiing trip or trail running class. Learn how to navigate in the wilderness using both a compass and modern digital tools. Get closer to the earth by learning how to climb mountains using scrambling rope techniques. Stay safe by taking a course in wilderness first aid or avalanche awareness.
If athletic endeavors aren’t your thing, try a photography course to learn new tips and tricks for capturing breathtaking images with your smartphone. Take a moss and lichen workshop to learn more about the world that lives beneath your feet. Impress your hiking friends on the trail by learning how to identify flowers, plants, shrubs, animals, and insects in a naturalist course.
Make Puget Sound Your Home
In addition to countless outdoor activities, marine trails, and mountain adventures, the Puget Sound area has excellent schools and a wealth of cultural activities for families to enjoy. Whether you want to be in bustling Seattle, on one of the more secluded islands, or somewhere in between, you can create any kind of lifestyle in this diverse region.
If you love the Puget Sound area and are considering building a home here, check out the dozens of floor plans available from Adair Homes. We’ve been building affordable custom homes in the region for nearly 50 years. Whether you need help finding a suitable lot, aren’t sure how to finance a new home, or need some guidance on your design options, our dedicated Home Ownership Counselors are here to help. Contact us today to learn more, or schedule an appointment at one of our three Puget Sound area offices in North Bend, Olympia, or Silverdale.