Going on a Seattle to Vancouver road trip is a drive that I love taking multiple times a year, whether I’m headed to Whistler or stopping by Vancouver. However, as much as I enjoy the drive, it can be a bit tiring to go the full distance without stopping. That’s why I always make it a point to break up the trip a bit, especially if I’m dealing with traffic on a Friday.
After doing the Seattle to Vancouver drive dozens of times over the years, I now know exactly where to stop if everyone is getting hungry or just bored of driving. Many people don’t know about all the fun towns just a bit off the freeway, so I wanted to highlight some of my favorite ones. Whether you want a scenic place to take pictures or need a good local beer, I have you covered.
In this article, I’ll help you plan your drive from Seattle to Vancouver with some helpful tips as well as all the details on my favorite 15 stops on a Seattle to Vancouver road trip, so let’s get into it!
Tips for Planning a Seattle to Vancouver Drive
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your trip easier:
- When making plans, remember that entering Canada can take some time. Between Washington state and British Columbia, there are 13 crossings, and four offer a direct route from Seattle to Vancouver.
- Of course, most individuals will require a passport, just like with any other international border. If you are a U.S. citizen and live in the border states such as Washington, you can enter Canada without a passport if you have an Enhanced Identity Card (EIC) or Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL).
- I highly recommend getting NEXUS if you don’t have it. My whole family has this, so we can quickly get past the border with this expedited crossing. I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than 5 minutes to cross the border with it, to be honest!
How Long is the Drive From Seattle to Vancouver?
The driving distance between Seattle and Vancouver is about 140 miles (but that’s if you follow I-5 straight and don’t stop anywhere). That means the drive time from Seattle to Vancouver takes roughly 2.5 to 3 hours, but it’s one of the best scenic drives from Seattle.
While you can get there somewhat quickly, I recommend you spend time at some of these stops for a long day. If you want to see all of them, you can make your Seattle to Vancouver road trip last several days (and these are all amazing destinations, so it’s worth it!).
Crossing the border into Canada can add more time to your drive, especially on weekends when many people take the same route. The primary border crossings are Peace Arch, Pacific Highway (Truck Crossing), Lynden/Aldergrove, and Sumas/Abbotsford.
The Peace Arch crossing is the most popular because I-5 N leads right to it; however, if your route allows it, I recommend using an alternative one like the Aldergrove crossing because it tends to get much less backed up. This is the one I usually do if I can’t leave for my road trip near Seattle to Vancouver until Friday afternoon.
You can also check border wait times before you go to help you decide which one to take.
When is the Best Time to Drive From Seattle to Vancouver?
Spring or fall would be the ideal seasons for a road trip from Seattle to Vancouver. While you can go any time of the year, as we don’t often get snow in this area, weekends during Seattle in the summer are absolutely packed at the border crossing. I’ve waited for hours before in the hot sun – not recommended!
The fact that the highway in Canada and the interstate in Washington are well-maintained makes the trip easier and safer all year round. Spring in Vancouver has gorgeous blooming flowers, while winter in Vancouver is packed with beautiful snow.
Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and find new places to add to my itinerary!
Is It Worth Driving From Seattle to Vancouver?
Yes, absolutely! So many people I know here think it takes so long, and it’s a hassle to get up there, so they never end up visiting Canada. The drive from Seattle to Vancouver is very much worth it, and you’ll be so happy when you get up there and are at a cozy restaurant eating poutine.
There are many things to do between Seattle and Vancouver, and I recommend spending 3 days in Vancouver if it fits your schedule because it’s such a fun city.
That said, I have also done plenty of trips that were only one day in Vancouver (albeit very long!).
However, there are loads of exciting things to do in Seattle, and the city also has a lot of beautiful sights to see before you leave.
Take Your Time
Make sure to do all your essential planning in advance, including travel arrangements, lodging, and packing. That way, you won’t have to rush in the morning.
Get up early, drink some coffee, and take your time driving. Instead of hurrying to the finish line, the goal of this tour is to take it all in along the way. When you get to Vancouver, you can start your jam-packed weekend schedule.
Plan Your Route
An essential part of a road trip is knowing exactly where you are going and what you want to see. The drive will be significantly easier, and you’ll be sure to catch everything if you plan your route, similar to what I recommend for a road trip from Seattle to Glacier. Be sure to have alternative ways, as the weather and road conditions can be unpredictable.
Where to Stay During Your Seattle to Vancouver Drive
You’ll likely need somewhere to stay on this short Pacific Northwest road trip, so I’ve given you some options whether you’re ending up in Vancouver or do this backward and go on a Vancouver to Seattle road trip.
- Crowne Plaza Seattle, an IHG Hotel – This hotel in the heart of Seattle’s city center offers delightful amenities, including an on-site restaurant. It is close to locations like the iconic Pike Place Market.
- citizenM Seattle South Lake Union – The citizenM Seattle South Lake Union is a conveniently located hotel in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The hotel has its own app that you use to control the lights, TV, curtains, and more.
- The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver – This five-star hotel in Vancouver’s downtown provides a gourmet restaurant, magnificent suites, and the Vida Spa on-site.
- Douglas Guest House – This is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a locally owned and operated bed and breakfast. They have tidy, welcoming rooms that are accessible to everything Vancouver offers.
15 Stops on a Seattle to Vancouver Road Trip
While planning your road trip itinerary from Seattle to Vancouver, you’ll want to include most, if not all, of these stops.
Distance: 19 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: Sandy beaches
This is one of my favorite small towns in Washington, and I find myself here on a weekly basis. The downtown area has plenty of amazing coffee – try Waterfront Coffee right by the ferry for a latte and pastry, and then head down to the beach.
There are actually sandy beaches here, which aren’t always common in Seattle. This is one of my favorite things to do in Edmonds, as I love getting food to go or bringing a picnic and watching the ferry go back and forth. After, head back downtown to find a place to eat lunch or dinner (I love Las Brisas for quesadillas).
Another drive you’ll love is the road trip to Banff from Seattle.
Distance: 27 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: Amazing seafood
Cost: Depends on the meal
Another charming town on this list of places to stop on your Seattle to Vancouver road trip is Mukilteo, which also has a ferry you can watch. An ideal place to watch this from is by one of the many seafood restaurants there – you can sit at the iconic Ivar’s right on the water for fish and chips, or head up the hill to Arnie’s for a more gourmet seafood dish.
The Mukilteo Lighthouse is a beautiful place to stop after to get pictures, and you’ll be able to see the next stop on this list from there to decide if you want to go on or not.
3. Whidbey Island
Distance: 30 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The small town feel
Cost: Ferry rate ($8 per car + passengers)
While you’re in Mukilteo, I recommend jumping on the ferry to go on one of my favorite Seattle day trips – Whidbey Island. You can easily spend an entire day on Whidbey shopping in downtown Langley or wine tasting in Coupeville.
While there are many things to do in Whidbey, and you may choose to spend the night there, you can easily add this to your drive by going up the island, stopping in Anacortes (further on this list), and then heading east to getting back on I-5.
4. Boeing Factory Tour
Distance: 27 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The Boeing Future of Flight Tour
Cost: Tickets range between $5 and $12. Kids under 5 get free admission.
Everyone interested in aviation, or anyone who has ever flown, should stop in Everett, Washington, and take a tour of the Boeing Factory.
Workers here assemble a number of the most frequently used aircraft in the world, including the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787. The tour lasts a few hours and presents an alternative viewpoint on travel encounters.
Be sure to take the Boeing Future of Flight tour. The 90-minute tour brings you to the plant, where you can witness the plane assembly lines and learn how they are made. You don’t see stuff like that daily, so it’s a fun stop to add.
5. Mount Vernon
Distance: 71 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The tulip and daffodil fields
Just north of Everett lies the picturesque Skagit Valley, which I feel is often overlooked on a Seattle to Vancouver road trip. Bursting with colorful tulips and daffodils in the spring and home to a bounty of berries all year round, it’s no wonder this is one of Washington State’s key agricultural regions.
I come here every April to visit the famous Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and walk among the fields of beautiful flowers. There are also plenty of activities to do, such as tractor rides for kids, making it high on many people’s Washington bucket lists.
You can also stop at one of the many roadside farm stalls and pick up some rhubarb, corn, or whatever other fresh produce is in season. When you’re done shopping for produce, this makes an ideal spot to stop for lunch.
Skagit Valley is home to some of the best breweries and restaurants in the state, serving up top-notch food and drink made with local ingredients. You’ll love the waterfront town of La Conner, where you’ll find plenty of activities to do.
I love stopping at Skagit River Brewery for a drink and pizza before getting back on the road.
Want to extend your trip? Take a drive northeast to go on some stunning North Cascades hikes.
Distance: 82 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The views.
I love visiting Anacortes, which is why I’ve been here so many times over the years. While many people come here on the way to islands like Orcas Island (with so many Orcas Island activities to do), it’s worth a stop in itself. It’s a gorgeous area with views of the harbor, mountains, and San Juan Islands.
No trip to the city is complete without getting a bowl of hot chowder at Bob’s Chowder Bar & BBQ Salmon. After, you can head into the downtown area to check out some of the stores, like the local bookstore Watermark Book Co.
7. Chuckanut Drive
Distance: 72.5 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The slopes (especially in fall).
If you’re planning a drive from Seattle to Vancouver, make sure to add a detour to Chuckanut Drive to your itinerary. This two-lane road between Mount Vernon and Bellingham is a must-see for anyone who loves breathtaking views and stunning natural beauty.
I went to college up here and purposely took this longer route over I-5 because it’s just incredible. In fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Seattle in the fall when you want to drive to see fall foliage.
As you wind your way along Chuckanut Drive, you’ll see some of the best views, making it one of the best parts of a Seattle to Vancouver scenic drive. From sweeping sights of the Salish Sea to glimpses of the San Juan Islands in the distance, you’ll want to take your time going down this road.
One of my favorite hikes here is Oyster Dome, which will get you high enough to see Canada on a clear day. This is a moderately challenging hike but worth it for the views at the top.
There isn’t a clear sign for this on the road, but you’ll want to have it pulled up on your map to see when you’re next to it. From there, look for a small trail on the right side of the road (away from the water), take it for a bit, and then you’ll reach the official trailhead.
If you can visit Chuckanut Drive in the fall, even better – there are some amazing Washington fall hikes up here. When the leaves start to turn into a rainbow of vivid hues, this scenic Washington drive becomes that much more impressive. Chuckanut Drive is only a brief detour off of I-5, so it’s easy to include as part of your journey.
For those who enjoy shellfish, Taylor Shellfish is a must-visit location with delectable seafood. Another worthwhile beachside destination is Larrabee State Park, which offers a variety of forest trails and campgrounds.
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver in the fall, you’ll definitely want to add this to your itinerary to see all the fall foliage.
Distance: 88.9 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: Whatcom Falls.
Cost: Free (most of the attractions).
Another one of my favorite small towns is Bellingham, a charming city south of the Canadian border. I went to college at Western Washington University, so I spent many fun years exploring the restaurants, bars, and shops of this rea.
Start your adventure in the hip seaside historic center, where you’ll find quaint shops, cozy cafes, and stunning views of the Salish Sea. La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza was always one of my go-to’s when I lived up here due to the variety of options you have.
Take a stroll through one of the city’s many parks and trails, perfect for hiking, biking, and soaking up the natural beauty of the area. And don’t miss the chance to gaze in awe at the snow-capped Mount Baker, a towering volcano with forest treks and ski routes just to the east of the harbor.
For a truly magical experience, head to Whatcom Falls Park, a 241-acre oasis with well-kept walking trails and not one, not two, but four breathtaking waterfalls cascading down from Whatcom Creek. I recommend staying in this town overnight if you’re doing a Seattle weekend getaway.
9. Birch Bay State Park
Distance: 109 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The clam digging.
Cost: One day pass is $10. Annual passes are $30.
Birch Bay is another stunning, serene beach to put on your Seattle to Vancouver road trip itinerary. Birch Bay State Park, located in a blue cove between Bellingham and Blaine, has a tranquil, remote air while still being close to the city.
Enjoy the stunning Canadian Gulf Islands and North Cascades mountain views as you stroll along the rocky shoreline. A rare saltwater and freshwater estuary filled with animals, including great blue herons, may be reached by hiking along the Terrell Marsh interpretive route.
A large mudflat is visible at low tide, where clams and other shellfish can be picked when they are in season. Start digging with the buckets, shovels, mud boots, and permits in hand!
Distance: 111 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The lighthouse.
Cost: Free. Tickets for the lighthouse are $10.
The quiet village of Blaine, which has a focus on its waterfront, sits just off the highway at the last exit before the border. There is a bustling marina and a Starbucks designed like a lighthouse, which I find adorable.
If you’re traveling with little ones, be sure to stop by the park next to the marina. It’s a great spot to let your kids run wild on the playground equipment, which includes a fun pirate-ship-themed play area.
And as if that’s not enough, a fantastic fish and chips food truck is nearby for when you need to refuel. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the car and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
11. Peace Arch State Park
Distance: 112 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The White Peace Arch.
Cost: Free. There is a $10 parking fee though.
Looking for a unique picnic spot with a view of two countries? Look no further than Peace Arch State Park. Situated right at the border where the freeway between Seattle and Vancouver passes into Canada, this lovely open and grassy park offers stunning views of the river and the border crossing.
That’s not all – the park’s defining feature is the white Peace Arch, with American and Canadian flags flying proudly. And what could be more special than enjoying a picnic at a location that straddles an international boundary between two democracies?
12. Deas Island Regional Park
Distance: 130 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: Horseback riding.
This sizable woodland park is the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. Whether you’re looking to hike or horseback ride through lush forest trails or cast a line and reel in a big catch, Deas Island has something for everyone.
But that’s not all – this beautiful island park is also steeped in fascinating history. It’s named after an African-Canadian tinsmith, John Sullivan Deas, who founded a cannery on the island in 1873. Today, the park pays tribute to his legacy while offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the area’s natural beauty.
Distance: 137 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The waterfront village.
I first visited this town years ago and was surprised I never heard of it before. It’s right on the Fraser River and the cutest little riverfront town, making it perfect for a scenic drive from Seattle to Vancouver.
They have plenty of waterfront dining, and I recommend stopping at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant for the seafood linguine. This is especially scenic when it’s summertime in Vancouver.
You’ll also love visiting the shops in town, such as the Best of British store, where you can find all your favorite candies, snacks, and drinks from the UK. I stocked up on so much when I was here a few months ago!
If you need a drink, head over to Britannia Brewing to get a sampler of their local beer. When you’re done, walk along the river to see more of the town.
Want to expand your trip? Head over to Vancouver Island to spend one day in Victoria, BC.
Distance: 136 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The Asian-inspired foods.
Cost: Free. Admission to the temple is also free.
Richmond, a nearby city, is well-known for its Asian heritage and influence, much like Vancouver. Whether you prefer eating Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Filipino food or shopping, you must stop in Richmond to experience one of the exceptional Asian food courts. This was the first place I ever tried dim sum, and I fell in love with it.
The vibrant neighborhood of Richmond is the last suburb you pass on your trip from Seattle to Vancouver before entering the city center. The Vancouver International Airport and a significant Asian community are in Richmond, British Columbia.
Have a look at the International Buddhist Temple, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in North America. It is a stunning, ornate structure built in Beijing’s Forbidden City style.
Afterward, have a bite to eat at one of the many Asian restaurants, such as Golden Coin, and go shopping in the Golden Village District on your Seattle to Vancouver road trip.
15. North Vancouver
Distance: 144 miles from Central Seattle.
Highlight: The view from the North Shore Mountains.
Nestled in the heart of British Columbia, North Vancouver may be small, but it has a personality all its own. I stop here yearly on the Sea to Sky Highway drive to spend a weekend in Whistler because it has much less traffic than downtown Vancouver.
You can take a breathtaking cable car journey up Grouse Mountain and look at the beauty of the North Shore Mountains when you need a break on your Seattle to Vancouver drive.
Feeling adventurous? You’ll love the popular suspension bridges at Lynn Canyon or Capilano Canyon. If you’re ready for a snack, bring a picnic and enjoy the sun at Cates Park, the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon.
Get your ticket in advance for the Capilano Suspension Bridge to save time and money!
There are also many weekend trips from Vancouver to take if you really want to extend your vacation.
Before you get back on the road, I also recommend heading over to Lonsdale Quay Market, a coastal marketplace with over 60 locally-owned shops and restaurants. This marketplace has everything from mouth-watering pizzas and juicy burgers to savory souvlaki and delectable banh mi.
Now it’s time to start planning your Seattle to Vancouver road trip and experience this beautiful part of the country!