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In the foreground is a body of water near Seattle. Lining the body of water are multiple houses and trees. In the distance are mountains. cpaulfell/Shutterstock

13 small towns near Seattle to visit car-free

A car-free vacation is more than possible

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Sometimes, you want to get away for a day or a weekend, but you can’t—or don’t want to—drive. Fortunately, between regional transit, the ferry system, and Amtrak, there are plenty of options that don’t require a car at all.

Of course, there are some bigger cities that are transit-accessible for a little getaway: think Bremerton, Tacoma, Bellingham, or Olympia. But there’s something about exploring a small town that makes a little vacation extra special.

Here are a few ideas for car-free trips around Seattle—typically with just one or two routes to keep your vacay low-stress. Even for those with their own ride, it’s typically a lot cheaper than a rental, and instead of watching the road you can read a book.

Some are good for a day, but all are good for a weekend—and all are worth the trip.

Looking for some general small town trip ideas? There are so many great choices near Seattle.

Want to hit the beach? We’ve mapped 18 beach towns near Seattle, too.

Looking for more of a camping trip? You don’t need a car for that, either.

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1. Anacortes

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How to get there: Amtrak Cascades and Skagit Transit route 615 or 40X.

Travel time: About two hours.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train, then $1 for the bus.

Add onto your Skagit Valley trip with a stop in the coast town of Anacortes, just a 30-minute bus ride from Mount Vernon. There are plenty of opportunities for boating, sightseeing (including whale-watching), and experiencing local arts. It’s also the launch point of most ferries to the San Juan Islands.

2. Mount Vernon

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How to get there: Amtrak Cascades or a Greyhound bus.

Travel time: About an hour and a half.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train or $13 each way for the bus.

Mount Vernon’s busiest season—along with the rest of Skagit County—is probably around the Tulip Festival in late spring, but there’s plenty to do here, especially for those into local agriculture and wildlife. Farms are abundant, and a cute downtown features a children’s museum, breweries, a farmers market, multiple parks, and a historic theater.

3. La Conner

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How to get there: Amtrak Cascades and Skagit Transit route 615.

Travel time: About two hours.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train, then $1 for the bus.

Also a 30-minute bus ride from Mount Vernon is La Conner—a cartoonishly cute small-town getaway. Located along the Swinomish Channel, La Conner’s adorable historic buildings contain specialty shops, locally made crafts and goods, and restaurants. It’s also the home of author Tom Robbins.

4. Port Angeles

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How to get there: Bainbridge Island Ferry to Clallam Transit Strait Shot, Amtrak Thruway Bus, or a good ol’ Greyhound.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Round-trip fare on the Bainbridge Island ferry is $8.50, then it’s $10 each way on the Strait Shot. Greyhound/Amtrak fare starts at $39 each way.

Twilight has kind of taken over this pocket of the Olympic Peninsula—Port Angeles is not far from the series’ setting in Forks—but it’s been its own destination for a while. It’s a popular launchpad for outdoorsy adventures in Olympic National Park, and a waterfront downtown has all the small-town trappings like small bookstores, gift shops, and museums. It’s also near tidepooling and all that other fun beach town stuff.

A body of water in Port Angeles near Seattle. There is a boat on the water. In the distance are mountains and clouds. Courtesy of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce

5. Sequim

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How to get there: Bainbridge Island Ferry to Clallam Transit Strait Shot.

Travel time: Just over 2 hours.

Fare: $28.50 round trip.

The “Lavender Capital of North America” takes about as long to get to without a car as it does with one, taking the same ferry and then hopping on a Clallam Transit bus designed for these kinds of trips (complete with room for up to three bikes). If you’re not a fan of lavender—or you just get sick of it—hit the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for the titular crabs and even some elk.

6. Clinton

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How to get there: Bus to Mukilteo—Community Transit 417, the Sound Transit Sounder, or a combination of Sound Transit 512 and Community Transit 113—then a ferry to Clinton.

Travel time: Between 2 and 3 hours.

Fare: $5.10 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $3.75 each way for the bus.

Langley and Coupeville get a lot of the attention for Whidbey Island day trips—and there are certainly options to get there car-free if you’re willing to hop on another bus. But the easiest car-free trip is Clinton, where the ferry drops off. It’s full of parks and beach strolls, plus a distillery and a brewery.

7. Poulsbo

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How to get there: Seattle/Bainbridge ferry from Colman Dock, then take Kitsap Transit route 33 or 90.

Travel time: Between 2 and 3 hours.

Fare: $8.50 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $2 each way for the bus. (The Clallam Transit Strait Shot is also an option from Bainbridge, but it’s $10 each way.)

Poulsbo was founded by Scandinavian immigrants, and has become somewhat of a tourist attraction thanks to a Scandinavian theme that includes buildings and shop offerings. The Poulsbo Bread at Sluys is a cult favorite. It is also—like many small-town destinations in Washington—along a waterfront.

8. Bainbridge Island

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How to get there: Seattle/Bainbridge ferry from Colman Dock.

Travel time: 35 minutes.

Fare: $8.50 round trip.

Above all, Bainbridge Island is gorgeous, known for its beaches and vistas, plus the world-renowned Bloedel Reserve gardens. Bainbridge is also a key part of Washington State history, though, for better or for worse. It’s more than worth a visit to the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial, a kind of outdoor museum that tells the stories of interned Japanese residents of Bainbridge Island.

9. Leavenworth

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How to get there: Amtrak Empire Builder.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Starts at about $20 each way.

Leavenworth started out as a logging town—with a collection of historic brick buildings to match—but was overhauled as the Bavarian village its known as today in the 1960s. Use it as a jumping-off point for hiking, skiing, or river floating, explore the weird ubiquity of Bavarian architecture (even gas stations and fast food joints are required to conform), or get a good sausage with sauerkraut.

10. North Bend

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How to get there: King County 208/Sound Transit 554.

Travel time: About an hour and a half.

Fare: $2.75 each way.

Car-free Twin Peaks fans can rejoice, because its real-life counterpart North Bend is accessible by transit. We’ve mapped some of the key locations, mostly in North Bend or nearby Snoqualmie—but you can also do non-Twin Peaks things here, like climb Mount Si or visit the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.

11. Vashon

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How to get there: King County Water Taxi, Washington State Ferries (plus the C Line from downtown if you’re not already in West Seattle), or Metro route 118 or 119, which travel on the ferry.

Travel time: Between 20 minutes (Water Taxi) and an hour and a half.

Fare: $5.55 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $2.75 each way for the bus. Water Taxi fare is $5.75 with an ORCA card or $6.75 with cash.

Vashon offers a sweet downtown to walk through full of stores, shops, and restaurants in a pretty island setting, all as little as 20 minutes from Seattle, depending on when and how you go. If it’s a weekday, buses serve the rest of the island, too—or maybe bring a bike to see the sights.

12. Wenatchee

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How to get there: Amtrak Empire Builder.

Travel time: About four hours.

Fare: Starts at $28 each way.

Wenatchee is a great jump-off point for hiking, but it’s also home to a public market, wineries, breweries, and even a botanical garden.

13. Centralia

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How to get there: Amtrak Cascades or Coast Starlight.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Starts at about $20 each way.

Those who have never strayed far from I-5 in this town might know it more for an outlet mall and a wide, sprawling highway—but those arriving by train are ushered right into the best of the city via the brick railroad depot, built in 1912. The downtown historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is full of cute little shops. It also includes one of McMenamin’s adaptive reuse hotel projects, the Olympic Club, offering little Gold Rush-styled accomodations in addition to a pub and a theater.

1. Anacortes

Anacortes, WA 98221

How to get there: Amtrak Cascades and Skagit Transit route 615 or 40X.

Travel time: About two hours.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train, then $1 for the bus.

Add onto your Skagit Valley trip with a stop in the coast town of Anacortes, just a 30-minute bus ride from Mount Vernon. There are plenty of opportunities for boating, sightseeing (including whale-watching), and experiencing local arts. It’s also the launch point of most ferries to the San Juan Islands.

2. Mount Vernon

Mt Vernon, WA

How to get there: Amtrak Cascades or a Greyhound bus.

Travel time: About an hour and a half.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train or $13 each way for the bus.

Mount Vernon’s busiest season—along with the rest of Skagit County—is probably around the Tulip Festival in late spring, but there’s plenty to do here, especially for those into local agriculture and wildlife. Farms are abundant, and a cute downtown features a children’s museum, breweries, a farmers market, multiple parks, and a historic theater.

3. La Conner

La Conner, WA 98257

How to get there: Amtrak Cascades and Skagit Transit route 615.

Travel time: About two hours.

Fare: Starts at $17 each way for the train, then $1 for the bus.

Also a 30-minute bus ride from Mount Vernon is La Conner—a cartoonishly cute small-town getaway. Located along the Swinomish Channel, La Conner’s adorable historic buildings contain specialty shops, locally made crafts and goods, and restaurants. It’s also the home of author Tom Robbins.

4. Port Angeles

Port Angeles, WA
A body of water in Port Angeles near Seattle. There is a boat on the water. In the distance are mountains and clouds. Courtesy of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce

How to get there: Bainbridge Island Ferry to Clallam Transit Strait Shot, Amtrak Thruway Bus, or a good ol’ Greyhound.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Round-trip fare on the Bainbridge Island ferry is $8.50, then it’s $10 each way on the Strait Shot. Greyhound/Amtrak fare starts at $39 each way.

Twilight has kind of taken over this pocket of the Olympic Peninsula—Port Angeles is not far from the series’ setting in Forks—but it’s been its own destination for a while. It’s a popular launchpad for outdoorsy adventures in Olympic National Park, and a waterfront downtown has all the small-town trappings like small bookstores, gift shops, and museums. It’s also near tidepooling and all that other fun beach town stuff.

5. Sequim

Sequim, WA 98382

How to get there: Bainbridge Island Ferry to Clallam Transit Strait Shot.

Travel time: Just over 2 hours.

Fare: $28.50 round trip.

The “Lavender Capital of North America” takes about as long to get to without a car as it does with one, taking the same ferry and then hopping on a Clallam Transit bus designed for these kinds of trips (complete with room for up to three bikes). If you’re not a fan of lavender—or you just get sick of it—hit the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for the titular crabs and even some elk.

6. Clinton

Clinton, WA

How to get there: Bus to Mukilteo—Community Transit 417, the Sound Transit Sounder, or a combination of Sound Transit 512 and Community Transit 113—then a ferry to Clinton.

Travel time: Between 2 and 3 hours.

Fare: $5.10 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $3.75 each way for the bus.

Langley and Coupeville get a lot of the attention for Whidbey Island day trips—and there are certainly options to get there car-free if you’re willing to hop on another bus. But the easiest car-free trip is Clinton, where the ferry drops off. It’s full of parks and beach strolls, plus a distillery and a brewery.

7. Poulsbo

Poulsbo, WA 98370

How to get there: Seattle/Bainbridge ferry from Colman Dock, then take Kitsap Transit route 33 or 90.

Travel time: Between 2 and 3 hours.

Fare: $8.50 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $2 each way for the bus. (The Clallam Transit Strait Shot is also an option from Bainbridge, but it’s $10 each way.)

Poulsbo was founded by Scandinavian immigrants, and has become somewhat of a tourist attraction thanks to a Scandinavian theme that includes buildings and shop offerings. The Poulsbo Bread at Sluys is a cult favorite. It is also—like many small-town destinations in Washington—along a waterfront.

8. Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island, WA

How to get there: Seattle/Bainbridge ferry from Colman Dock.

Travel time: 35 minutes.

Fare: $8.50 round trip.

Above all, Bainbridge Island is gorgeous, known for its beaches and vistas, plus the world-renowned Bloedel Reserve gardens. Bainbridge is also a key part of Washington State history, though, for better or for worse. It’s more than worth a visit to the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial, a kind of outdoor museum that tells the stories of interned Japanese residents of Bainbridge Island.

9. Leavenworth

Leavenworth, WA 98826

How to get there: Amtrak Empire Builder.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Starts at about $20 each way.

Leavenworth started out as a logging town—with a collection of historic brick buildings to match—but was overhauled as the Bavarian village its known as today in the 1960s. Use it as a jumping-off point for hiking, skiing, or river floating, explore the weird ubiquity of Bavarian architecture (even gas stations and fast food joints are required to conform), or get a good sausage with sauerkraut.

10. North Bend

North Bend, WA 98045

How to get there: King County 208/Sound Transit 554.

Travel time: About an hour and a half.

Fare: $2.75 each way.

Car-free Twin Peaks fans can rejoice, because its real-life counterpart North Bend is accessible by transit. We’ve mapped some of the key locations, mostly in North Bend or nearby Snoqualmie—but you can also do non-Twin Peaks things here, like climb Mount Si or visit the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.

11. Vashon

Vashon, WA 98070

How to get there: King County Water Taxi, Washington State Ferries (plus the C Line from downtown if you’re not already in West Seattle), or Metro route 118 or 119, which travel on the ferry.

Travel time: Between 20 minutes (Water Taxi) and an hour and a half.

Fare: $5.55 for the round-trip ferry ride, plus $2.75 each way for the bus. Water Taxi fare is $5.75 with an ORCA card or $6.75 with cash.

Vashon offers a sweet downtown to walk through full of stores, shops, and restaurants in a pretty island setting, all as little as 20 minutes from Seattle, depending on when and how you go. If it’s a weekday, buses serve the rest of the island, too—or maybe bring a bike to see the sights.

12. Wenatchee

Wenatchee, WA 98801

How to get there: Amtrak Empire Builder.

Travel time: About four hours.

Fare: Starts at $28 each way.

Wenatchee is a great jump-off point for hiking, but it’s also home to a public market, wineries, breweries, and even a botanical garden.

13. Centralia

Centralia, WA

How to get there: Amtrak Cascades or Coast Starlight.

Travel time: Between 3 and 4 hours.

Fare: Starts at about $20 each way.

Those who have never strayed far from I-5 in this town might know it more for an outlet mall and a wide, sprawling highway—but those arriving by train are ushered right into the best of the city via the brick railroad depot, built in 1912. The downtown historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is full of cute little shops. It also includes one of McMenamin’s adaptive reuse hotel projects, the Olympic Club, offering little Gold Rush-styled accomodations in addition to a pub and a theater.