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Weekend on the Olympic Peninsula

by Amanda Phillips
Weekend on the Olympic Peninsula

I began to plan for Memorial day weekend on a chilly night in February, hoping for a sunny weekend to wander the 26-mile Enchanted Valley Trail in the Olympic National Park. Alas, with shin splints limiting my mileage to two miles per day, it was not meant to be. Despite my injuries, I determined I needed to be on the Olympic Peninsula, even if it wasn’t my dream backpacking trip. I rallied my friend Meg, and we decided a mini-road trip up the 101 North was in order.  We embraced adventure and only planned where we would sleep Saturday night, leaving the rest to whim.  We swam in Hood Canal, lounged on Lake Cushman and stuffed ourselves with Hama Hama oysters.


Ferry to Bremerton


We started by hitting a PCC for provisions, and enjoyed the luxury of picking groceries regardless of weight.  Peonies, purple haze goat cheese, cashews and wine filled our cart (and bellies). We made our way to the Seattle ferry terminal–Bremerton bound. With an hour wait, we broke out some temporary tattoos from Tatouage to decorate our weekend.  What is a girl’s weekend without silly tattoos?

Seattle skyline from ferry Bee tattoos on neck

We made our way to Union and arrived at my Uncle’s cabin in the early afternoon.  Quickly changing into swimsuits, we hurried to the dock for swimming, kayaking, sunbathing and beers.  We spent some time making epic floral tattoo combinations.

hood canal beach

Kayaking on hood canal


As the sun set, we made our way back to the cabin and ate steamed clams, grilled oysters, pesto pasta and more wine.  It was incredible to eat on the porch looking out over the beach where my uncle harvested dinner.

sunset on hood canal


The next morning, we packed up and made our way to Hoodsport Winery.  We did not do any tastings since it was about 10:00 in the morning but admired the uniquely flavored wines and cordials.  Coffee seemed more appropriate given the time and we grabbed lattes at Hoodsport Coffee Company.  Once we procured the coffee, we made our way to Lake Cushman.

After driving the entire length of the road paralleling the lake, we found a small, unassuming pullout that we hoped we would be able to swim from. Little did we know, as we stepped out of the car, that we had found the most spectacular spot on the entire lake, with a sun-bleached driftwood dock.  We squealed with delight and quickly changed into swimsuits, grabbed our lattes and books and lay on the dock, occasionally jumping in the frigid water.  Lake Cushman claims some of the warmest water of any lake in the state. However, I think that statistic may hold truer in August, and not in May when the primary source is snowmelt.

dock on lake cushman


We abandoned our plan to stay at Lake Cushman for an hour and instead jumped into the lake and sunned ourselves like beached seals for four hours.  We eventually left when the winds picked up and made our way back to the 101.  People filled the road as soon as we left our secluded cove.  We felt especially lucky to have found an inlet of solitude among a busy lake on Memorial Day weekend.

After driving along Hood Canal up the 101, watching eagles soar above the car and acres of oysters revealed by a low tide, we arrived at the Hama Hama shellfish farm.  While we had hoped to make it to Brinnon’s shrimpfest, our excessive relaxing at Lake Cushman made that unlikely and after seeing the oysters at Hama Hama’s Saloon, we couldn’t drag ourselves away.

Hama Hama Oysters

Hama Hama Oysters

We ordered a plate of grilled oysters with a garlic, chipotle and parsley-mint butter, a grilled cheese with onions and a glass of Pinot Gris.  It was the perfect peninsula dinner and we filled our stomachs to the brim.   Hama Hama’s oyster saloon had live music and you really cannot beat the location. We stayed for a while enjoying the sun then waddled back to the car to make our way to Kingston.

Hama Hama Oysters

We stopped at Port Gamble; despite driving through several times a month, I have never left the car. The entire town is a museum and the least creepy part was an old cemetery.  Port Gamble has the vibe of a ghost town, but apparently real (living) people do live there, despite the fact the downtown seems primed for a horror movie.  The cemetery had an amazing view, and many tombstones from the 1800’s.  Our final stop was the Butcher and the Baker but we could not bring ourselves to eat any of the amazing looking desserts, due to the still very-full-of-oyster tummies.


We arrived at Kingston and got in the ferry line with enough time to hit up Mora for some gelato.  Mora has a Marsala wine gelato that I simply cannot say no to.  After finishing our gelato we boarded the ferry, took a quick nap, then made our way back to Seattle.

It was a spectacular sunny weekend with just the right amount of spontaneity.





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