The greatest outdoors: 12 things to do in the Pacific Northwest


The greatest outdoors: 12 things to do in the Pacific Northwest

Set your sights on autumn travel with a foliage-filled trip to Seattle, Vancouver and Vancouver Island

Lauren Coffey

BY Lauren Coffey5 August 2017

Contrary to rumour, the chunk of Canada and smattering of states that make up the Pacific Northwest aren’t exclusively a land of rainy days and plaid shirts (although you’ll find plenty of both); this great green swathe of forest and mountain is the ideal place to don those autumn layers, get outside and go explore. Here are three of the region’s hottest spots, and four things to do in each…

Thompson Seattle hotel


Home to an impressive range of grunge, rock and alt bands, the Space Needle, that famous fish market, and enough coffee shops to keep you awake well into the 2020s…

1 Make your gluttonous way through the Chinese- and French-inflected weekend menu at Vietnamese-inspired Stateside. Once fuelled by the power of brunch, stroll the streets of Seattle for your second, third and fourth coffee of the day.

2 Cycle out to the rolling green hills of Woodinville, but skip the wineries in favour of a cockle-warming locally distilled small-batch whiskey flight at Woodinville Whiskey Co.

3 Stay the night at Thompson Seattle, where you can catch water views right from your bed. For dinner, go luxury locavore at the hotel’s Scout restaurant, and try Puget Sound shellfish, Cascade Mountain wild mushrooms and locally raised grass-fed beef. For a thorough culinary sampling, settle down at the chef’s table for a 15-course showcase.

4 Catch a ferry to Vancouver Island, and keep your eyes open for aquatic wildlife – such as porpoises, seals and even the elusive grey whale – along the way.

Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada

Vancouver Island

Oft cited as one of the prettiest places in the world, a whale-watching hotspot and home to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, with outdoor pursuits aplenty…

5 Break in your board skills in Tofino, Canada’s surf capital. Chesterman Beach, with its kinder, gentler swells is a good spot for beginners. Say yes to the wetsuit, and be sure to stop by Shelter restaurant for post-surf sustenance and cocktails.

6 Pick from prime hiking routes, kayaking tours and cycling trails (the 40km Galloping Goose is a pedal-pushing favourite) if you’re feeling actively outdoorsy; or rent some wheels and go for a splendour-strewn coastal road trip around the island. Budget a few days for the latter.

7 Bunk at the Wickanninsh Inn, a coast-hugging hotel in Tofino. Each room has a balcony that overlooks the craggy shore, as well as a fireplace. Be sure to stop by the Ancient Cedars Spa, where you can get an ‘awakening treatment’ that incorporates cleansing techniques inspired by the region’s indigenous people.

8 Make one last stop in garden-filled Victoria, where you can hop on a floatplane to your next destination for sightseeing from a serious vantage point. If you’d prefer to stick to the waterways, board a Prince of Whales boat to try your luck at spotting les animaux sauvages on your way to the mainland.


Mountain-surrounded metropolis, neighbour of Whistler, home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, unexpected beaches and peculiarly polite locals…

9 Start your day with with a fresh carb-haul from punny Purebread; grab goodies to go and stroll around Stanley Park before it’s overrun with day cyclists.

10 Download a map and track down the Vancouver Biennale art installations, which include some very cheeky concrete silos on Granville Island and beach-perfect benches in cute-as-can-be Kitsilano.

11 Stop for mid-afternoon sustenance in the form of expertly concocted dairy delights from Earnest Ice Cream, and go for a casual mod-Japanese dinner at any of Guu restaurant’s outposts, which are scattered around the city.

12 Hike up Grouse Mountain – a leg-wobbling feat  – in the afternoon, then perch high above the city with a hard-earned drink to watch the sun set. A gondola will effortlessly transport you back down to sea level (and indeed up from it, should you prefer). Stay at Shangri-La Hotel and hit up the property’s Chi spa for a massage to soothe your tired legs afterward.