Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, B.C., are two of the region’s most diverse metropolitan cities. Separated by an international border but just a short distance apart, each features ample opportunities for all types of travelers, from art aficionados and foodies to history and culture buffs, backpackers, nature lovers, Sasquatch chasers, and everyone in between. If you’re planning a Seattle to Vancouver drive, use this itinerary to ensure an unforgettable adventure.
Planning a Seattle to Vancouver Drive
The route from Seattle to Vancouver is an oft-traveled one, both by locals and road trippers. As in most of the west side of Washington state, the greater Seattle area’s roadways are generally well-kept, with frequent rest areas and gas stations along the main routes.
When planning, bear in mind crossing into Canada may take some time. There are 13 crossings between Washington state and British Columbia, four of which provide a direct Seattle to Vancouver route. Unsurprisingly, these ports are by far the busiest.
The process of getting into Canada is usually straightforward and unintimidating. As you might expect, Canadian officers generally tend to be cheerier than those on the other side of the border.
However, the queue can be long, extending your travel time by several minutes or up to four hours, depending on how unlucky you get. You can check Canadian Border Traffic to see current wait times at each crossing point.
If possible, avoid making your northbound crossing between 6 and 10 p.m. on the weekend, as this is usually the busiest period. Also, note going back into the U.S. typically takes longer, so plan accordingly.
July, August, and September are the busiest months. Of course, they’re also the nicest weather-wise, but it is something to consider when deciding when to take your Seattle to Vancouver drive.
Another factor to keep in mind is both Emerald City and Vancouver are notoriously jammed during rush hour. If you’re doing this Seattle to Vancouver road trip during the week, avoid traveling at peak times to avoid wasting time inching down the highway amid a deluge of car horns when you could be out exploring.
Obviously, most people will need a passport to cross this international border, like any other. But if you are a U.S. citizen and resident of Washington state, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, New York, or Vermont with an Enhanced Identification Card (EIC) or Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), you can pass from the U.S. into Canada without a passport.
If you’re renting a car, you’ll need your rental documentation as well. You can check out Rentalcars.com for deals on car hire, or alternatively, visit Outdoorsy for RVs and campervans which can be used to extend your trip.
How Far is Vancouver from Seattle?
The distance from Seattle to Vancouver is about 140 miles. Naturally, the duration will vary depending on the route you take and your travel method. But the average Seattle to Vancouver drive time is about 2.5 to 3 hours non-stop.
You have a few options when it comes to transport, including a BoltBus or Greyhound, plane, train, or driving.
Public transit is doable, but it will require more planning compared to driving your own vehicle, so the latter is highly recommended.
If driving, you can take the Seattle to Victoria Clipper from the Pier 69 in downtown Seattle to Victoria, B.C. This ferry runs twice daily from May to September and once daily the rest of the year. You’d then take a second ferry to Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, which takes about 90 minutes. From there, you can drive to downtown Vancouver in about an hour.
You can also drive to Port Angeles and take the Black Ball Ferry Line to Victoria, B.C., from there. Again, you’d need to take a second ferry to get to downtown Vancouver, but if you enjoy being out on the water and want to see more of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, a maritime route might be the one for you.
Another option is to follow Interstate 5 from Seattle to Canada. You can either stick to the freeway if you’re on a tighter schedule or take one or more side trips via the network of connecting highways.
After crossing the border, you’ll take Highway 99 the rest of the way to Vancouver.
There are four main border crossings: Peace Arch, Pacific Highway (Truck Crossing), Lynden/Aldergrove, and Sumas/Abbotsford. Peace Arch is the highest traffic, with the longest lines. Pacific Highway is usually less congested.
Best Seattle to Vancouver Stops
Olympic National Park, Washington
If you decide to take the ferry from Port Angeles on your Seattle to Vancouver road trip and have the time, consider staying here for a night or two and checking out nearby Olympic National Park.
Just 15 minutes away from the city center, Olympic National Park is one of the state’s most revered treasures, encompassing nearly one million acres and 70 miles of coastline, as well as several distinct ecosystems, from mountain range to rainforest. Yes, a rainforest in the U.S. I know it’s wild, but that’s the Pacific Northwest for you.
You can also camp in the park, which I highly recommend if you’re traveling between late spring and early autumn.
Boeing Factory Tour, Washington
Alternatively, if you’re taking the land route via I-5 and are interested in aviation and industry, stop by Everett, WA, and take a Boeing Factory Tour. The Boeing Factory employs multitudes of locals and is, as you can imagine, a huge source of local pride.
Here, workers assemble some of the world’s most widely-used airplanes, including the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787. The tour takes a couple of hours and offers a different perspective on the travel experience.
Wenatchee Wineries, Washington
Another of the best things to do between Seattle and Vancouver is to get a taste of Washington wine in Wenatchee.
Though little-known compared to other American mega-producers like Napa Valley or Sonoma, Wenatchee, a rural agrarian community nestled against the Canadian border in Washington state, has earned aplomb in the wine world over the past several years.
The community grows 99% of the state’s wine grapes, including highly-acclaimed Chardonnay and Riesling.
Visit a tasting room or tour one of the wineries, like Chateau Faire Le Pont Winery, Martin Scott Winery, or Stemilt Creek Winery, and be sure to grab some local produce as well. The wineries aren’t the only ones with incredible taste!
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington
The greater Wenatchee area is also home to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, another lesser-known gem and a worthwhile stop on a Seattle to Vancouver itinerary.
The forest encompasses 1,735,394 acres, with 137 miles bordering the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain Range. Remote and relatively low-traffic, it’s the ideal place for those who’d prefer to hike, or forest-bathe, in solitude.
However, it is essential to note that the Okanogan-Wenatchee region, and much of the state’s Central area, is highly susceptible to forest fires from about May until September each year, with July and August being the highest risk.
Obviously, you’ll need to avoid the area if there’s a blaze, so I recommend visiting in spring or autumn to err on the side of caution.
Whidbey Island, Washington
Instead of heading straight north, you can go west from I-5 to Mukilteo and take the ferry to Whidbey Island.
A popular weekend getaway for Seattleites, the misty isle features miles of coastline, quaint small towns, and the famous Deception Pass State Park and Deception Pass Bridge. While this can add several hours to your trip, it’s worthwhile if you have the time to spare.
Stop first in Langley, a laid-back and proudly quirky artists’ haven with an unusual, adorable bunny “problem.”
Then head up the highway to Greenbank Farm to stroll the grounds, check out local art, and stock up on locally-made provisions. Next, stop by Coupeville and check out the historic downtown core, including its iconic pier, as well as Ebey’s Landing, with its sweeping views of fields and sea.
Then head a few minutes up the highway to Fort Casey, a mid-20th century Naval Air Force base. Finally, drive through Oak Harbor to Deception Pass State Park.
Take a hike on one of the many forest and seaside trails and stop for a photo at awe-inspiring Deception Pass Bridge, with its jaw-dropping views of rugged cliffs and evergreens enshrouded in mist, tumbling into the churning blue water below.
Chuckanut Drive, Washington
Known as Washington state’s Big Sur, Chuckanut Drive is a scenic 20-mile stretch of highway skirting the perimeter of Mount Chuckanut.
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.
Bellingham is a small coastal city just south of the Canadian border. Home to Western Washington University and surrounded by farmland and fishing, it’s similar to Olympia, WA, in that it’s a little bit hippie and a little down-home. If you’re hankering for some vegan or vegetarian eats before breaching the border on your Seattle to Vancouver drive, this is the place.
The port has ferries to Alaska, and to the east is snow-capped Mount Baker, a massive volcano with forest hikes and ski runs.
Within city limits, the Whatcom Museum is a great stop for art and history-lovers, while the SPARK Museum of Electrical Innovation is the place for science enthusiasts, with interactive, hands-on exhibits.
Whatcom Falls Park is another must in Bellingham. This 241-acre park features well-kept walking trails and a remarkable four sets of waterfalls stemming from Whatcom Creek, which connects Lake Whatcom to Bellingham Bay.
Campbell Valley Regional Park, British Columbia
Campbell Valley Regional Park is a bit unusual as it’s built on six historical farmland plots. Located in Langley, B.C., it’s a lovely spot for a casual hike in its extensive trail network.
The Campbell Valley Little River Trail, a short 1.4-mile loop suitable for all skill levels, is one of the most popular routes.
Golden Ears Provincial Park, British Columbia
I must admit I was a little disappointed Golden Ears Provincial Park is not named after someone’s beloved golden retriever or butterscotch-hued bunny rabbit.
In fact, its moniker comes from the two prominent peaks of Mt. Blanshard, commonly called Golden Ears, formerly spelled Golden Eyries.
Initially, the name may have referred to golden eagles spotted from the mountain’s summit, which makes a lot more sense since the peaks really don’t look anything like golden ears.
But the park has much more to offer than an unusual name.
At just over 214 square miles or 555 kilometers, the park is one of the province’s largest. It features beautiful forested hiking trails, camping, and water recreation (swimming, windsurfing, canoeing, fishing, boating, etc.) at sparkling Alouette Lake.
Richmond, British Columbia
Like Vancouver proper, nearby Richmond is known for its Asian heritage and influence.
Check out the International Buddhist Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in North America, a magnificent, elaborate complex designed in the fashion of Beijing’s Forbidden City.
Then head to the Golden Village District to shop and grab a bite at one of the many Asian eateries and shops.
Deas Island Regional Park, British Columbia
Located in South Vancouver on an island in the lower Fraser River, Deas Island Regional Park is a sprawling wooded park with hiking and horseback-riding trails plus fishing and boating.
Named after an African-Canadian tinsmith who established a cannery on the island in 1873, it’s the perfect place for a peaceful stroll before continuing your Vancouver to Seattle drive heading into the buzzy big city.
North Vancouver, British Columbia
As the name denotes, North Vancouver is just north of Vancouver, B.C. But it is a distinct city. Go for a hike in the North Shore Mountains and take a cable car ride on Grouse Mountain.
Take a mildly terrifying stroll along the suspension bridges of Capilano Canyon and Lynn Canyon.
Then spend some time at Lonsdale Quay Market, a seaside market featuring over 60 locally-owned shops and eateries serving everything from burgers and pizza to souvlaki and banh mi.
On a nice day, take your eats to the waterfront for a picnic at Cates Park.
Where to Stay on a Seattle to Vancouver Road Trip
While you can stay in and around any of these amazing stops on this beautiful Pacific road trip, you’re likely going to need to find a great place to stay in both Seattle and Vancouver.
Wedgewood Hotel & Spa — If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Vancouver, you cannot go wrong with this lovely hotel. Centrally located in the heart of Vancouver, they have a range of plush rooms available, a luxurious spa on site and countless other amenities that will ensure your stay is an excellent one. Click here to see their availability
Douglas Guest House — If it’s a locally-run bed & breakfast you’re after, then this is a great option. Located close to everything Vancouver has to offer, they have a handful of clean ond comfortable rooms available and a delicious homemade breakfast available each morning. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you’re more interested in experiencing this Canadian city like a local, then a private holiday rental may be your best option. There are countless private rentals available, such as this lovely, self-contained suite situated minutes from downtown Vancouver. Click here to browse more Vancouver private rentals!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Vancouver hotels!
The Mediterranean Inn — Located a stone’s throw from the iconic Space Needle, this hotel is an excellent place to rest your head in the Emerald City. They have a number of chic and modern rooms available (all with their own kitchenette!) and a rooftop patio offering panoramic views of Elliot Bay and Mt Rainier in the distance. Click here to see their availability
Inn at the Market — Situated within spitting distance of the Pike Place Market, this boutique hotel is an excellent stay for those looking for a bit of luxury on their stay in Seattle. They have a myriad of plush rooms on offer, an incredible rooftop bar with incomparable views, and countless other amenities to ensure you have an unforgettable stay in the Emerald City. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If having your own place to stay appeals in Seattle, then you should consider a private apartment rental during your trip. There are a number of fantastic properties to choose from, ranging from unique stays like this urban treehouse to basic one-bedroom apartments. Click here to find the best private rentals in Seattle!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Seattle!
A Vancouver to Seattle road trip is the perfect weekend adventure with so many things to see and do in such a short distance!
Are you planning a Seattle to Vancouver drive? Have any questions about this route? Let us know in the comments!
Hi On May 26 we dock in Vancouver at Saturday at 8am and plan to hire a driver to get to Seattle airport hotel around 6pm. What to do? The cable car looks like a good start. No hikes Pleasant stops and views with no stress.