Updated May 13, 2019
Most of us are pretty familiar with the ho-hum drive from Seattle to Portland. You hop on I-5, head south, put on a good playlist and zone through the miles until you cross the Columbia River from Washington into Oregon about 3 hours later. Or… do you?
It turns out there are some pretty cool places to check out en route. So next time you make the trip, add some extra time onto your ride and do more than just breeze by — hit pause at these healthy stops along I-5 instead.
About 33 miles south of Seattle, Tacoma offers outdoorsy and cultural activities alike. Stop in for something organic to go from Marlene’s Market & Deli. While there, you should also walk through the “Water Forest” at Tacoma’s impressive Museum of Glass.
2. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Take exit 114 off I-5 South, make a right at the light, go under the freeway, and then turn right into this beautiful wildlife refuge on the Puget Sound. There are several miles of hiking trails to explore, and more than 200 species of birds and all kinds of fish and reptiles visit this area each year.
Just 8 miles south of the Wildlife Refuge is the state capital, Olympia, where you can tour the Governor’s Mansion or visit the Olympic Flight Museum. Need a healthy pick-me-up? Stop in at the Batdorf & Bronson Tasting Room to sample a variety of coffees from the major growing areas of Africa, Indonesia and Latin America, or swing by their flagship coffee house downtown. Before you continue on your way to Portland, be sure to drive about 2.5 miles south to check out the beautiful, 15-acre Tumwater Falls Park.
The midway point between Seattle and Portland, Centralia is a city rich in culture and history. Take a walk through its historic downtown, and if you’re craving a fresh meal or snack, stop at Berry Field’s Café. If you’re feeling cooped up after all that driving, visit the Rotary Riverside Park & Fuller’s Twin City Skate Park, which is fully equipped with a 44,000-square foot regional skate park, or take a nice stroll around Borst Lake at Fort Borst Park.
5. Lewis & Clark State Park
Take exit 68 off I-5 and get onto Highway 12. A few miles in, you’ll arrive at the John R. Jackson House, the first American pioneer home built north of the Columbia River. Take a tour of the house, and then turn onto Jackson Highway. In less than a mile, you’ll hit Lewis & Clark State Park, a 621-acre park filled with giant trees, streams, wetlands and prairie land. There are also eight miles of hiking trails and five miles of horse trails to explore.
Be sure to make one last stop in Washington and visit Vancouver before you cross over into Oregon. If you come through on Saturday or Sunday, you might make it in time for the Vancouver Farmer’s Market, which features more than 250 vendors. Or, after a long drive, you may just want to sit and enjoy healthy snack outside with a beautiful view of the Columbia River at Vancouver’s 5-acre Waterfront Park. Don’t worry — you can literally see your final destination from across the water.