Knowing which towns near Olympic National Park offer the best accommodations, places to eat, and proximity to park attractions is a game changer for first-time visitors.
I live in Poulsbo, one of seven towns on this list, twenty minutes from the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve made fantastic memories on weekend trips to every other town mentioned.
In this guide, I share what makes each town uniquely appealing, from top-notch dining experiences to hidden gems – from a local’s perspective.
Read on, as I’ll reveal a charming small town that might not yet be on your radar.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Quick Guide: Olympic National Park Towns
- Best for Hurricane Ridge & Lake Crescent: Port Angeles
- Best for Coastal Beaches & the Hoh Rain Forest: Forks
- Best for Cape Flattery & Shi Shi Beach: Neah Bay
- Best Downtown Area: Port Townsend
- Best “Back-Up” Town for Accommodations: Sequim
- Best for European Charm: Poulsbo
- Best for Historic Charm: Port Gamble
Best Towns to Stay In
1. Port Angeles
Gateway to Olympic National Park
If you plan to drive the Hwy 101 loop counter-clockwise, coming from the Kitsap Peninsula, Port Angeles is the last city, making it a fantastic home base or a timely pit stop before continuing on the loop.
It offers plenty of accommodation options, a variety of restaurants and grocery stores, and a transit hub that includes buses, a ferry to Canada, and even a small airport.
Port Angeles is where I stop for coffee on my way out west and where I eat a substantial meal on my way home after adventuring. My top spots are The Great Northern Coffee Bar and New Day Eatery.
Plentiful Accommodation Options
Here, you’ll find the most accommodation options condensed in one region on the Olympic Peninsula.
I choose clean and comfortable motels because it’s hard to justify spending a lot of money when I live an hour and fifteen minutes away! But not having to drive nearly two hours to get to Hurricane Ridge before 8 am makes the expense worth it.
I haven’t yet stayed at Emerald Valley Inn, close to Lake Crescent, but I’ve often wanted a reason to book the house they rent out.
Granny’s Cafe next door serves satisfying American comfort food. Pop in for a burger and a blackberry milkshake.
Swain’s General Store
This store is the go-to for travelers who forgot to pack a much-needed item for their Olympic National Park tour, like a fleece or rain jacket.
Maybe you’re camping and forgot a fuel canister? They’ve got you covered.
Why Stay Here
Sequim is a fantastic option when you discover that places to stay in Port Angeles are fully booked. It’s also great when you have more than three days on the Olympic Peninsula and want to explore things to do in Sequim.
You drive a little more to get to popular destinations like Hurricane Ridge and Lake Crescent, but accommodations and restaurants are plentiful.
I’ve stayed at the Dungeness Bay Cottages and loved the easy access to the beach across the street.
Top Outdoor Attractions
Sequim is home to one of my favorite beaches on the Olympic Peninsula, the Dungeness Spit, the longest sand spit in the country. It’s a gorgeous 11-mile round-trip beach stroll – if you walk the entire length to the New Dungeness Lighthouse.
I’ve walked the spit a few times and always get a thrill seeing views of the Olympics from the beach.
Located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, Sequim gets less rain than the rest of the peninsula. Lavender thrives here. You’ll see it everywhere!
Sequim’s annual Lavender Festival in July is a big attraction, timed for peak blooms of vivid shades of purple and pink.
Groups with kids should visit the Olympic Game Farm to see bison, elk, lions, and other wildlife.
Saturday Farmer’s Market
I often stop at the Farmer’s & Artisans Market on Saturdays from May through October on my way to park destinations. It’s rare to find comfort vegan food as delicious as Vegetari makes it.
The market is in the heart of town, close to other shops and restaurants, like Pane d’Amore Bakery and the Sunshine Cafe.
On your way to Sequim, you’ll drive by the S’Klallam Tribe’s Longhouse Market & Deli, the peninsula’s nicest and biggest gas station market. It’s the perfect stop for a quick meal to take on the road.
Best for Coastal Attractions
Forks is centrally located for access to Rialto Beach, La Push beaches, Ruby Beach, and the Hoh Rainforest.
Book a spot in Forks if your park tour includes these popular spots.
Of course, you can get to all these places from Port Angeles, but you’ll spend less time in the car and more time outside staying in Forks.
But if I were to spend a few days in Forks, I’d choose a cabin at Woodland Inns, without a doubt.
What Makes it Unique
Forks is known as the “Logging Capital of the World,” a title reflecting its deep-rooted history as a mecca of the timber industry. This heritage is a significant part of the town’s identity and cultural backdrop.
It gained worldwide fame as the setting for The Twilight Saga series. The “Forever Twilight in Forks” festival is an annual event that brings fans together to celebrate author Stephenie Meyer’s characters and stories.
Food & Groceries
Find out why Texans say D&K BBQ serves some of the best they’ve ever had. The food can sell out on busy weekends, so get there early if you can.
Since it was getting late, I stopped at Forks Outfitters Thriftway and picked up everything I needed for a sufficient dinner in my motel room.
This grocery store also stocks toiletries, outdoor apparel, and camping gear.
Off the Beaten Path
4. Neah Bay
Why Stay Here
I found this small coastal town on the Makah Reservation to be the perfect base for exploring Neah Bay attractions and activities.
Theoretically, you can probably do Shi Shi Beach, Cape Flattery, and the excellent Makah Museum all in one day. But with the drive time to get here and the drive time to the next destination, it would be an exhausting day.
Neah Bay Beaches
The beaches in Neah Bay are stunning. Point of Arches at Shi Shi Beach offers the best coastal scenery in Washington State.
But there’s also Hobuck Beach, which you can visit as long as you have a Makah Recreation Permit, and the beaches of Shipwreck Point, which you pass on your way to Neah Bay.
There are also beaches along the Sooes River to enjoy.
The Makah Tribe
The tribe has worked hard to provide the infrastructure required for all the tourism this region sees.
They built the wooden boardwalks and platforms at Cape Flattery and manage the traffic flow to this world-class destination.
You won’t regret spending an hour at the Makah Museum to learn about their history and deep connection to the land and water.
5. Port Townsend
Why It’s Special
Port Townsend is a small coastal city near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Striking and well-preserved Victorian architecture gives the town its distinctive character.
It has a charming yesteryear vibe with homegrown, artsy spunk.
If checking out galleries and local shops, taking your pick of delicious restaurants to eat at, walking along the waterfront, and watching the ferries go by sounds like a good time, Port Townsend is for you.
Top Outdoor Attraction
Fort Worden is why I eventually fell in love with Port Townsend. It’s a military base turned state park minutes away from the town’s commercial area, where you can RV or tent camp or stay in one of their historic vacation rentals.
You can see the Cascade Mountains across the Puget Sound from its sandy beaches.
I vividly remember one of many trips, walking its hiking trails along the beach with my family, past the Point Wilson Lighthouse, and exploring old bunkers. We caught a sunset I’ll never forget from atop a bluff.
Past the ferry, Water Street is where the action is. Locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants rule here.
I’ve never had a bad meal at the Owl Spirit Cafe. And the craft cocktails at Sirens Pub are legit.
Stop by the historic Rose Theatre, if only to look at its walls.
6. Port Gamble
Why Stop Here
Port Gamble is just minutes from the Hood Canal Bridge, the northwest entrance to the Olympic Peninsula, making it a convenient detour on your way to or from Olympic National Park.
It’s a historic mill town with the aesthetic of a New England village, twenty minutes from where I live. It’s so small that I can walk the loop, on which all shops, restaurants, and attractions are located, in under twenty minutes.
Despite its size, Port Gamble is one of the most compelling places on the Kitsap Peninsula.
It’s also a hidden gem for first-time park visitors.
The S’Klallam Tribe lived on this land for thousands of years before Josiah Keller arrived at Port Gamble in 1853. He and fellow Maine businessmen Andrew Pope and William Talbot established a logging camp here despite the S’Klallam village already present at the site.
The town was home to one of the earliest and longest-operating sawmills in the Pacific Northwest. For over a century, the mill shaped the region’s lumber industry until its closure in 1995.
This colonial legacy is preserved in the town’s Victorian-era homes and general store, which features a museum showcasing Port Gamble’s logging history.
You can rent or buy all the gear you need to kayak or SUP at the Olympic Outdoor Center in Port Gamble.
Enter the Puget Sound from the spit that’s walking distance from this outfitter and start your journey on the Kitsap Peninsula National Water Trail.
You’ll glide over saltwater shoreline, observing this region’s natural beauty from the water.
If you’re taking the Bainbridge ferry from Seattle en route to the national park, you’ll drive through Poulsbo, making it a convenient stop for food and sight-seeing.
Not only is it convenient, but downtown Poulsbo is also pretty cute.
I live here and love walking on Front Street to pick up donuts from Sluy’s or the tastiest vegan burgers from Juicy J’s. (Honestly, even my carnivore husband loves their burgers.)
If you’re in the mood for Italian, Sogno di Vino is excellent.
Poulsbo is affectionately known as “Little Norway.” Smithsonian magazine even featured it in an article titled “Ten American Towns That Feel Like Europe.”
You’ll see it in the architecture of our local shops along Front Street, where wooden facades and decorative Norwegian motifs transport you to a quaint Scandinavian village.
Here, or more specifically, at Tizley’s EuroPub, you can eat schnitzels and sausage and wash it down with a lager.
One of the smartest things you can do on your national park tour is load your car with snacks and foods. Town & Country Market is a standout place to do just that. It’s a straight shot from the Bainbridge ferry on Hwy 305 to get to it.
The market serves yummy pizza and hot dogs. It has a BBQ silo where you can get beef brisket and delicious ginger lemonade, and also a sushi stand, which I frequent weekly.
For a quick and easy meal on the road, I like to grab charcuterie meat and freshly baked bread for sandwiches.
Map of Olympic National Park Towns
To help visualize your journey, I’ve created a map showing the locations of these seven towns.
Tips for Visiting the Olympic Peninsula
Below are helpful things to know before you embark on your Olympic National Park tour.
Getting to the Olympic Peninsula
Take the Bainbridge Island Ferry
You can drive around the Puget Sound by heading south on the I-5 through Tacoma, then onto Hwy 16 to the Kitsap Peninsula.
But if it works with your schedule, take the Bainbridge Island Ferry. It’s only a thirty-minute ride, and if it’s a clear day, you’ll get one of the best views of Mount Rainier.
From Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo or Port Gamble are convenient stops.
Rent a Car
Having a car is the best way to explore. Public transportation options are limited and will require you to do extensive pre-planning.
Always drive the speed limit, especially on winding drives. It’s not uncommon for deer and other wildlife to run across roads.
Pad your schedule with extra time for driving and show up with patience.
What to Pack
The weather is much more predictable in July and August, but I still pack a water-resistant, hooded, soft-shell jacket in my backpack. In June, September, and the rest of the year, a Gore-tex rain jacket is mandatory.
A backpack is essential for carrying water, snacks, and valuables.
Sturdy shoes with good tread are a must.
Carry Extra Supplies
I always stock my car with extra water and snacks when I travel around the peninsula. I keep a first aid kit in my car.
I stop at grocery stores to ensure I have something for dinner on me in case I finish my adventures long after restaurants close.
I try not to let my gas tank get lower than a quarter full, even though I know where the gas stations are.
I recommend filling up your gas tank when it’s half-empty if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Bring Extra Cash
Carry cash on you. Some of the smaller establishments on the peninsula don’t take cards.
I’m always glad to have cash when I need it, and never sorry to carry it even if I don’t use it.
Wrap-Up: Towns Near Olympic National Park
As a local who lives just two hours from the park, I always look forward to weekend trips to the Olympic Peninsula! I love discovering new places to eat and hidden gems as I adventure.
Explore at least one of these seven towns near Olympic National Park to add value to your park tour.