This short but impossibly scenic road trip from Vancouver to Seattle takes you from some of the most stunning parks that dot the Canadian border, alongside the beautiful islands of Washington before arriving at one of America's most beautiful, bustling cities.
The 230km (145 mile) road trip from Vancouver to Seattle will take you under 3 hours to drive. Key stops include Orcas Island, North Cascades National Park and Whitby Island, as well as Richmond, Golden Ears Provincial Park and Olympic National Park.
Despite this being a relatively quick trip, there are many scenic detours that you can take along the way, so please keep reading until the end to learn about them all - plus our top tips on where to stay, what to see, and the best time of year to travel from Vancouver to Seattle.
How far is Seattle from Vancouver, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Direct Route||230km (145 miles)||2 hours 30 minutes|
|The Scenic Route||345km (215 miles)||7 hours|
The most direct route between Vancouver and Seattle spans a distance of 230km (145 miles) and will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes to drive without stopping.
A longer and more scenic option is available which covers 345km (215 miles) but takes much longer to drive at 7 hours. Both routes can be completed in a single day if you are really pressed for time.
That said, we would strongly recommend you plan an overnight stop en route, especially if you are following the scenic journey. A minimum of 2 days would be advisable.
Regardless of which option you choose, your trip will involve crossing from Canada into America. Therefore, you will need to ensure you have the correct documentation and proof of identification with you, to make your border crossing as smooth as possible.
Best road trip route from Vancouver to Seattle
There are two distinct options to drive between Vancouver and Seattle. The Direct Route is the quickest and means that you can take off after breakfast and be in Seattle for lunch. Following the interstate, it's also a simple drive which may appeal to some.
That said, the Direct Route does miss out on some of the spectacular scenery on offer in this part of Canada and the US. Our recommendation would be to follow the Scenic Route and pass through more of the lush national parks and forests and alongside beautiful islands.
If you are pressed for time, then you might opt for the quickest route, otherwise spend a few extra days and explore the exciting attractions and landmarks in the vicinity on this delightful road trip. You can always take the Direct Route on your return leg if you're making this a round trip back to Vancouver.
The Direct Route
This straightforward route begins in Vancouver and will see you follow the BC-99 south through Richmond before crossing the Fraser River and passing Delta and White Rock.
At Blaine you will cross into the US and the road merges into Interstate 5 (I-5) which you will follow for the rest of the trip. Head south past Custer, Ferndale and Bellingham. Travelling this close to the coast means that you can veer off the interstate and spend a few tranquil hours watching the sea.
Continue on I-5 past Alger, Burlington and pass Mount Vernon. You could take a couple of extra detours and visit Big Lake or Lake Cavanaugh, or from Marysville, you could take a drive to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Back on I-5 heading south, you'll pass through Everett and Mountlake Terrace before arriving at your destination of Seattle.
The Scenic Route
The alternative option begins the same way at the Direct Route, following BC-99 south through to Richmond and crossing the river, before crossing into the US at Blaine and then margining with the I-5.
Follow this road south all the way past Custer, Ferndale, Bellingham and Alger. You could take several detours on this stretch, including to visit Larrabee State Park or Bay View State Park.
Turn left on WA-20 and head west to Anacortes. From here you can take the ferry to Orcas Island, which would also make a fantastic overnight stop.
Next take the ferry to Fidalgo Island where you will pass Alexander Beach, Rosario Beach and drive through Deception Pass State Park into Whidbey Island. Continue on WA-20 past Moran's Beach County Park and to Oak Harbor.
This section of your journey passes some stunning beaches, parks and forests. You'll continue to follow WA-20 through Greenbank, Freeland, Bayview and Clinton.
At Clinton, you'll need to take the ferry to Mukilteo. Follow WA-525 and I-5 south through Mountlake Terrace and Northgate before arriving at Seattle.
Best places to stop between Vancouver and Seattle
If you are pressed for time and opt for the direct route, you can manage the trip from Vancouver to Seattle in a single day. However, if you want to make more of the stunning scenery on offer and include a few island visits, then an overnight stop is a must.
Of all the great hotels you can book along the way, here are a few of our favourites:
Stop at "The Gem of San Juans"
If you decide to follow the Scenic Route, then just over 3 hours from Vancouver, a stay on Orcas Island is highly recommended. Not only is it situated halfway through your trip, but known as "The Gem of San Juans", it's a fantastic setting for exploring island life.
Known as an artists' hub, Orcas Island is full of small artisan shops dotted around the island. It is however probably best known for its pristine lakes, hilly landscapes and lush greenery.
Spend some time discovering the marine life that make this island its home, and you might even get to spot orcas and minke whales. There's also a Scenic Byway to explore, Moran State Park and Turtleback Mountain Preserve.
To make the most of your visit, a stay at the beautiful Otter's Pond Bed and Breakfast is a must. This charming bed and breakfast is located in the heart of a nature preserve, so you can expect amazing views all around, plus it is only a short walk from the beach.
Otter's Pond has a hot tub for guests can relax in, as well as comfortable rooms with stunning views. Gorgeous Moran State Park is less than 5 minutes away by car, meaning you can easily enjoy orca watching, swimming, kayaking, hiking and sailing from the comfort of your resort.
A cultural city break at Seattle
Seattle is an incredible city, combining great architecture, rich musical history and great cafes, shops and restaurants. There is so much to explore in Washington State's largest city.
Set in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, Seattle also contains thousands of acres of parkland making it a destination that can appeal to everyone.
Home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area, Seattle is probably best known for its futuristic and iconic Space Needle, a 1962 World's Fair legacy, as well as more recently famed for Starbucks and its coffee culture.
To complete your trip, a stay at The Alexis Royal Sonesta Hotel Seattle will guarantee you'll leave feeling on top of the world. This 5-star hotel is located right in the Seattle city center. Despite its high level of luxury and style, The Alexis Royal Sonesta is also very reasonably priced.
A short walk from the waterfront, Pike Place Market and Seattle Art Museum, the hotel's bar and cafe is also well known for its large whiskey library and features a cozy atmosphere of a working bookstore.
For comfort, style and an ideal location, this glamorous hotel really has it all ensuring that your stay in Seattle is as impressive as the city is itself.
Things to see on a road trip from Vancouver to Seattle
There are plenty of attractions and incredible scenic detours you can take on this road trip from Vancouver to Seattle. Of all the great places it passes, these are the things you'll want to look out for:
- Golden Ears Provincial Park - Prized for its recreational opportunities, this park is perfect for the adventurous souls who also enjoy amazing scenery.
- Richmond - This seaside city has a rich cultural and historical heritage. Steveston Harbor and Iona Beach Regional Park are hotspots to visit in the city.
- Sehome Hill Arboretum - Escape from the chaos of the city in this beautiful 175.5 acre forested area on the south side of Bellingham. Enjoy a hike or walk and take it the beautiful views this oasis has to offer.
- Campbell Valley Regional Park - Whether you are a nature lover looking for beautiful trails or an avid horseback rider, you will have a great time here.
- Bay View State Park - This amazing park is the go-to spot for camping enthusiasts. It boasts great facilities and unparalleled scenic views.
- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest - A diverse landscape, this forest encompasses 3.8 million acres of gorgeous slopes. You can also go mushroom picking in spring and fall if you are experienced.
- Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - Snowy peaks and gorgeous mountain meadows will welcome you during your visit to this historically rich national forest.
- North Cascades National Park - This rugged beauty is the perfect destination for hikers with the abundance of its scenic trails that overlook crystal clear waters.
- Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens - Another beautiful garden that is conveniently located just off the interstate, you will want to spend a whole day here and contemplate among gorgeous flowers.
- San Juan Islands - This network of islands, which also include the immensely scenic Orcas Island, are natural wonders that are definitely worth a visit, especially if you love the great outdoors.
- Whidbey Island - This island is deservingly famous for its scenery, so it isn't surprising that it is the preferred destination spot for Seattle dwellers.
- Olympic National Park - One of the most stunning parks in the vicinity of Seattle, you can enjoy all sorts of recreational activities here, including winter sports.
- Meerkerk Gardens - Enjoy these beautifully landscaped gardens in Greenbank that are sure to impress and wash away all your weariness from driving.
Best time to go on a road trip from Vancouver to Seattle
This road trip from Vancouver to Seattle is one that can be enjoyed all year round, depending on what activities and attractions you'd like to view along the way.
Perhaps the most obvious time to visit would be in summer. Being predominantly a northern route, the weather - even in the peak of summer - will be mild and enjoyable with highs averaging around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
That said, you will experience larger crowds at some of the tourist hotspots in mid summer, as well as experience higher prices at nearby hotels. The San Juan Islands might well be worth the crowds however, as summer will give you the best opportunity to enjoy its beaches.
If winter sports are more appealing that beach days, you may want to consider a trip between December and March. Vancouver is surrounded by top-notch winter resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb and Grouse Mountain ski resorts.
While Vancouver has some of the mildest weather in Canada, it's worth keeping in mind that temperatures do drop to around 45 degrees in the colder months, so you'll definitely want to pack extra layers.
Spring and fall are also good options, which will allow you to enjoy seasonal foliage in the vast variety of parks you'll pass. With temperatures around 55 degrees during the day but dipping to 45 at night, make sure you pack warm for those cozy, chilly nights.
For a trip with a bang, why not combine it with a festival or two. Vancouver has its Dine Out Vancouver Festival in January, meanwhile Seattle has a great Independence Day Parade on 4th July that's always an enjoyable experience.
On a Vancouver to Seattle road trip, stop to admire the sunset at Wildcat Cover along Chuckanut Drive. If you are pressed for time but still want to enjoy a scenic drive, Chuckanut Drive is the shortest and easiest scenic route to incorporate into your journey.Is it an easy drive from Seattle to Vancouver? ›
How is the drive from Seattle to Vancouver? Going on a road trip from Seattle to Vancouver is a pleasant one and only takes two hours and 28 minutes. Interstate-5 North is the most direct route between Seattle and Vancouver in British Columbia.How long does it take to cross the border from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
Driving from Seattle to Vancouver takes two and a half to to three hours under normal conditions in reasonable traffic and with no excessive lineups at the border.How many days do you need in Seattle? ›
How many days in Seattle is enough? 3-4 days is a good amount of time to see and explore Seattle. However, visitors should plan on staying at least 5 days if they want to take a trip outside of the city. If you have less time, you can still get a taste of the city with my one day in Seattle itinerary.What is the most scenic route from Seattle to Vancouver? ›
Chuckanut Drive, Washington
The route is incredibly gorgeous, especially in autumn, when the slopes are aflame in a cornucopia of vibrant colors. As it's just a short detour off of I-5, it's a must as part of a scenic drive from Seattle to Vancouver.
Rules of the Road. Seattle's geography—having hills, lakes, and bordering the Puget Sound—creates unique challenges for driving. Add in rush hour traffic, which tends to get worse as the week wears on, and special issues related to buses, pedestrians, and bike riders, and you have some real navigation problems.What documents do I need to drive to Seattle from Vancouver? ›
A valid Passport, USA Passport Card, USA Enhanced Driver License (EDL) or an Enhanced ID Card (EDL/ID) is required to cross the USA/Canadian border by land and sea.Which is the best border crossing from Vancouver to Washington? ›
Vancouver's Peace Arch Border Crossing
Situated between Surrey BC and Blaine Washington, the Peace Arch border crossing is the main Canada-US border crossing in British Columbia. It is also the busiest one west of Windsor Ontario. Note: Border crossing hours of operation and other details are subject to change.
SEATTLE — Amtrak service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia resumed Monday after being suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return of the Amtrak Cascades train is welcome news for travelers who have been relying on Amtrak's four daily buses.Do you have to go through Customs Vancouver to Seattle? ›
Because all the US formalities take place before your connecting flight, there's nothing left to do once you actually land in the United States. US security screening, passport control and Customs checks are all completed during your transit in Vancouver.
a valid passport. a Trusted Traveler Program card. an enhanced driver's licence (EDL) or enhanced identification card (EIC) from a province or territory where a U.S. approved EDL/EIC program has been implemented.What's the best time to cross the border? ›
Drive at non-peak times
Plan your drive south so that you're crossing the border during the slowest times, which tend to be early mornings. Avoid extremely busy periods, such as weekend evenings and the Mondays of holiday long weekends. Look online to see the current US Customs and Border Protection wait times.
The best time to visit Seattle is from September to October. Summer marks the city's high season, meaning room rates rise and availability drops, while cold winter weather can deter even the most avid sightseers.Is Seattle walkable for tourists? ›
Seattle's high walk score means it's not hard to explore on foot. Many neighborhoods are walkable, particularly those with large commercial areas. You can easily walk around some of Seattle's best neighborhoods like downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, and Fremont.Is Seattle a walkable city for tourists? ›
An impressive 99% of Seattle residents can walk to a park within 15 minutes and 97% can walk to a downtown bus in that time, according to Henry's calculations, based on 2020 census data.What is the most beautiful drive in Vancouver? ›
Whistler. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is one of the most breathtaking drives you can take in the province, thanks to the incredibly scenic Sea to Sky Highway. The highway stretches from Vancouver all the way to Pemberton, which is just north of Whistler.What town is between Seattle and Vancouver? ›
The top cities between Seattle and Vancouver are North Vancouver, Bellingham, Port Townsend, Bellevue, Richmond, Delta, and Burnaby. North Vancouver is the most popular city on the route — it's 3 hours from Seattle and less than an hour from Vancouver.Which is the best way to drive the Pacific Coast Highway? ›
What is the best direction to drive the Pacific Coast Highway? Driving from North to South is the best direction to take on a drive for Pacific Coast Highway. It's got the best landscape view that you will ever see because you'll be driving the coast side.When should you avoid traffic in Seattle? ›
Seattle Rush Hour Times and Traffic Conditions
Seattle traffic conditions tend to get heavy during the morning and evening commute hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and around 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each workday.
The real question though: do you really need a car to get around Seattle? Answer: No. You can absolutely get around downtown, most of the metro area, and even some of the suburbs without a car. Public transit downtown and from the airport is easy.
Unless you're planning on taking a lot of day trips out of the city, you don't need your own car to enjoy a vacation in Seattle. Central Seattle—including downtown, Belltown, Seattle Center, South Lake Union, the waterfront, and Pioneer Square—is fairly compact and walkable.Can I bring food from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
We recommend that you keep receipts and original packaging of agricultural products as proof of the country of origin. Some foods are generally admissible if they are unopened and commercially packed. Many prepared foods that are unopened and commercially labeled are admissible (excluding meats and meat products).Do I need Covid test to fly Seattle? ›
Washington state does not require COVID-19 testing for any inbound or outbound domestic travel.Can you go to Canada from Seattle without a passport? ›
Entry into Canada: Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry proof of citizenship and identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. Children under 16 only need proof of U.S. citizenship.What are the wait times for Nexus border? ›
Border Wait Times. Infrastructure permitting, the processing goals CBP has set for travelers are: SENTRI/NEXUS Lanes: 15 minutes; Ready Lanes: 50% of general traffic lane wait times. For cross border travel impacts due to COVID-19, please visit the DHS website and USA.gov website.Can you walk across the Peace Arch border? ›
Pedestrian Crossings Are Always Free! Over 6,000 pedestrians crossed the Peace Bridge in 2016 and took in the amazing views of the Niagara River, Lake Erie, and the City of Buffalo skyline. The Authority welcomes travelers to walk across the bridge.What is the least used border crossing in Washington state? ›
Though it has a new US Port of Entry building, with just a few cars passing through every day, the Nighthawk/Chopaka crossing is the least busy of all of the crossings in Washington state. West of Nighthawk is the most remote part of the entire boundary of the lower 48 states.How much does it cost to take the train from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
|Average Ticket Price||$65|
|Minimum Trip Duration||4h25m|
|Average Train Trip Duration||4h25m|
Amtrak Cascades offers two round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, four round trips between Seattle and Portland; with two extending to Eugene, Oregon. Amtrak Cascades food and beverage service offers yummy and savory hot food plus beer, wine and spirits. All trains stop at all stations.Do you have to pay for the train in Seattle? ›
Sound Transit requires fares on all buses and trains, except for youth 18 and under and Tacoma Link light rail. Use your ORCA card or the Transit GO Ticket app for touch-free payment.
It typically takes 60 or more minutes to clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection, though it may take longer during peak periods when multiple flights arrive at once.Can you take luggage on the train from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
Each passenger can check up to four bags. Two free of charge and two more for $20 per bag, each of which may not exceed 50 lbs or be larger than 75 linear inches (length + width + height).Do you need a passport to take the ferry from Seattle to Vancouver? ›
Do you need a passport to take the ferry from Seattle to Victoria? Yes, since you are crossing into another country, you will need a passport to enter Canada and re-enter the United States upon return. A Passport Card, Enhanced Driver License, Enhanced ID Card or NEXUS Card is also acceptable.When you cross the border what do they check for? ›
Any criminal history you have. Your citizenship status. Employment information. Your phone numbers.What is needed to cross into US from Canada? ›
Canadian passport. Enhanced Driver's License/Enhanced Identification Card. NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES.Can Canadian citizens travel to US without visa? ›
Canadians typically do not require visas to enter the United States, although there are some exceptions. Citizens of certain other countries also do not require entry visas to visit the United States. For more information, please visit the Visa Waiver section of the State Department website.Is there an app for border wait times? ›
CBP Border Wait Time Mobile App
The BWT app is a free service provided by the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Below are links to the CBP Border Wait Time Mobile App for both iPhone users and Android users.
The world's most dangerous border is North Korea's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which splits the Korean peninsula in half creating a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. It's the most militarized border on earth.What are ready lanes at the border? ›
What Are Ready Lanes? Ready Lanes are dedicated processing lanes for both vehicle passengers and pedestrians traveling with Ready Lane-eligible travel cards, such as those listed below.What is the rainiest season in Seattle? ›
The rainy season extends from October to March with December normally the wettest month, however, precipitation is rather evenly distributed through the winter and early spring months with more than 75% of the yearly precipitation falling during the winter wet season.
Seattle C.O.'s coldest month is January when the average temperature overnight is 36.0°F. In August, the warmest month, the average day time temperature rises to 74.9°F.Is it safe to walk downtown Seattle at night? ›
That said, visitors should exercise caution when exploring at night. Capitol Hill, Northgate, and Queen Anne have higher rates of property crime. While the downtown core and areas adjacent are relatively high crime areas, they also contain some of the best things to do in Seattle. So don't completely write them off!Is driving in Seattle difficult? ›
Rules of the Road. Seattle's geography—having hills, lakes, and bordering the Puget Sound—creates unique challenges for driving. Add in rush hour traffic, which tends to get worse as the week wears on, and special issues related to buses, pedestrians, and bike riders, and you have some real navigation problems.What is the best way for tourists to get around Seattle? ›
The best way to get around Seattle is by car, especially if you want to explore outside the city. However, be prepared for heavy traffic during rush hour and high prices for parking around downtown and at your hotel (nightly parking rates can cost as much as $50).Is it safe to take public transportation in Seattle? ›
Many people said it's safe and they have not had any issues whatsoever. But some people said they are not going to take light rail or the bus as much anymore. When it comes to King County Metro bus and Link light rail-- a lot of riders said, "no major safety concerns" and "no major issues."Is it safe to drive in Seattle right now? ›
Conditions for driving are good. Stay alert of any changes to the weather forecast.Is Seattle worth a visit? ›
From the iconic Space Needle to the Seattle Art Museum – there is no shortage of things to do and see. So whether you are looking for a day out with friends or family or want to explore all this beautiful city has to offer, visiting Seattle is worth visiting.Is a day trip to Vancouver from Seattle worth it? ›
Seattle to Vancouver drive — a day trip of unique detours
Get an early start, be open to the possibilities and enjoy plenty of stops and food along the way. All in, the meandering of this complete itinerary could take up an entire day, and is well worth it to enjoy these diverse options.
Peace Arch Historical State Park is a unique 19-acre day-use park that lies on the boundary between the United States and Canada. The Peace Arch monument sits on the border at the 49th parallel.How long does it take to drive from Seattle to Vancouver? ›
How long is the drive from Seattle to Vancouver? The direct drive from Seattle to Vancouver is 142 mi (229 km), and should have a drive time of 2 hrs 30 mins in normal traffic.
A valid Passport, USA Passport Card, USA Enhanced Driver License (EDL) or an Enhanced ID Card (EDL/ID) is required to cross the USA/Canadian border by land and sea.How many days in Vancouver is enough? ›
How many days do you need to visit Vancouver properly? A proper visit to Vancouver should take three or four days. This involves getting a hotel in the downtown core and spending one-day exploring areas like Gastown, Yaletown, and Stanley Park.Is one day in Seattle enough? ›
While I would recommend a trip to Seattle of at least a couple of days, you still can see a lot with just 1 day in Seattle. If you've never been to Seattle, Washington, the Emerald City, I highly recommend that you make a point of getting there someday. It's a beautiful city surrounded by amazing natural scenery.What do you need to cross the Canadian border by car? ›
Ensure that you have proper identification for you and your family readily available. Acceptable forms of identification for entry into Canada include a passport, a NEXUS card and an enhanced driver's licence.Is there a ferry between Vancouver and Seattle? ›
Ferry. It is possible to travel by ferry from Seattle to Vancouver if you've got time to explore Victoria and Vancouver Island. Hop the Victoria Clipper at Pier 69 in downtown Seattle, for a trip across the sparkling Puget Sound to the B.C. capital, Victoria, that will take you just under three hours.What is the best time to cross the border? ›
Drive at non-peak times
Plan your drive south so that you're crossing the border during the slowest times, which tend to be early mornings. Avoid extremely busy periods, such as weekend evenings and the Mondays of holiday long weekends.
August is the hottest month in Vancouver with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F) and the coldest is January at 3.5°C (38°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 13 in July. The wettest month is November with an average of 200mm of rain.Can you take a rental car from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
If you're planning a trip to Seattle, Portland, or any part of the wonderful Northwest any time soon, you can easily do your car hire from Vancouver and drive directly to your destination, cutting down on travel time immensely.Is there a train line from Vancouver to Seattle? ›
There are usually 5 daily train trips available from Vancouver to Seattle. Traveling by train from Vancouver to Seattle usually takes 3 hours and 13 minutes, but the fastest Amtrak Cascades train can make the trip in 3 hours and 7 minutes.