Sequim Washington is called the “banana belt” of Western Washington. It’s warmer there. Rain touches the ground a mere 65 days a year because the town lies in the rain shadow of the scenic Olympic Mountains. But that isn’t the only reason you’ll want to visit Sequim (pronounced squim rhyming with swim) on the Olympic Peninsula. If you want to get away from traffic, enjoy meandering country roads or sitting down to a true local seafood dinner, you’ll love Sequim.
1—Sequim is the Lavender Capital of North America
Sequim’s small downtown area is home to three lavender shops, the lightposts and benches are painted lavender and the local lavender farms draw thousands during lavender season. Lavender grows well in the mild climate but what I’ll remember are the friendly people.
It was a fall day, the lavender fields were trimmed, yet the sign was out welcoming us to Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm. We were told they had a good shop with locally made products and ten acres of fields.
Dash, the Lavender Dog, greeted us and we checked out the shop. We smelled the soaps and lotions and enjoyed the view of the fields out the quaint window. Jordan Schiefen joined us and pointed out some of the new additions to the shop. She told us that the soaps were made by a neighbor… and we bought some to enjoy at home.
Nothing in the shop smelled strongly of lavender scent. The scents were natural… soothing. After all, in Victorian times, lavender was touted as a tonic for nerves. Jordan invited us to stroll through the fields and enjoy their laid back farm. My friend was intrigued by the geese and I took Cinnamon the Coonhound for a long walk in the fields.
Over 110,000 lavender plants are grown annually in the Sequim area. Many of the varieties are unique to Sequim. And lavender is celebrated big time. While you can enjoy the rolling purple fields from spring through summer, the prime time for a visit is summertime. Sequim’s Lavender Weekend is held the third weekend each July.
During Lavender Weekend you can visit the farms, of course, but there is also the Lavender Festival Street Fair, and side events such as a quilt show and driftwood sculpture show. Look for musicians and a street dance. Often farms have their own mini-celebrations with music, food and distillation demonstrations.
2—Outdoor Recreation and Wildlife Abound in Sequim
From eagles to elk in one day. That was my experience encountering some of the wildlife of the Sequim area. And you don’t need a guide to find them. I wanted to see the famous New Dungeness Lighthouse so headed down to the boat launch at Dungeness Landing County Park. It was a foggy morning so I couldn’t see the lighthouse well and I wasn’t up for the 5-mile hike out to the light station, so I stood there, quietly enjoying the misty scene. I heard a whistle from the treetops behind me… a familiar sound. I had communed with eagles while visiting Haida Gwaii, Canada and learned to love the sound of their call. Sure enough, there were two eagles looking down at us from a skeleton of a tree not far from the boat launch. I was thrilled to see them.
The Dungeness Spit, one of the world’s longest natural sand spits, is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a marvelous place to see water and shore birds, and harbor seals haul out to rest and give birth to pups on the end of the spit.
When we left the park, we headed out to another county park—Marilyn Nelson Park—so Cinnamon the Coonhound could wander the beach and do dog-like things like sniff seaweed. On the way, we spied a herd of Roosevelt Elk in the distance. The herd is a Sequim attraction. Elk-crossing signal lights on Highway 101 are triggered by elk wearing radio collars.
Sequim is ideal for outdoors lovers. You can hike through old-growth forests, play golf, and bike and walk the Olympic Discovery Trail. Fishing and kayaking are popular as is foraging and berry picking. The area is bounded by bays and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the ever-visible rugged peaks of the Olympic Mountains are not are not that far away by car.
Being less adventurous on this trip, I headed out to Railroad Bridge Park, which is on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Just a short drive from downtown brought us to a beautiful riverside park where you can cross an old railroad bridge and view the rushing waters of the Dungeness River below. We also visited the Dungeness River Audubon Center nearby.
3—Sequim’s Shopping and Dining Keeps it Local
With all that outdoor activity, it wasn’t hard to convince us we should spend our evenings discovering the culinary delights of Sequim. The Sequim and Chimacum area are full of small farms that grow produce for the area’s households and chefs. So we knew we would encounter some fresh farm to table and boat to table cuisine.
Since we stayed at the John Wayne Rustic Waterfront Resort we were just a short walk from the The Dockside Grill on Sequim Bay. The wine list had some excellent Washington wines and we chose a red blend to enjoy with Dungeness crab fritters with roasted garlic and lemon aioli for an appetizer. The special, featuring local salmon, sounded enticing. The perfectly cooked salmon was topped with fresh Dungeness crab.
On another evening we enjoyed Blonde’s Plate in downtown Sequim. We entered from the parking lot to find a very busy small bar serving craft cocktails. A favorite is the Blonde’s Signature Moscow Mule made with locally brewed ginger beer complemented by a French ginger liqueur, freshly squeezed lime and sprigs of mint broken over the top. That’s where we first noticed the dachshund dog décor.
We were hungry so were pleased that we made a reservation. The table near the kitchen afforded us a peek in so we saw some fresh caught salmon being prepared for diners. Blonde’s has a vibrant youthful vibe and so it’s just plain fun to spend time there. We were intrigued with additional dachshund art and found out that the owner, and several of the staff, have and love their dachshunds!
Dinner that evening was perfect. I enjoyed a lamb shank from an Umpqua, Oregon farm, cooked to ultimate tenderness in a savory tomato broth along with local greens and a dash of lemon zest. I have to say it was the most tender lamb shank I had ever eaten. And, while Blonde’s advertises they feature small plates, our plates that evening were certainly not small and I ended up taking a portion of the lamb shank home (it made excellent leftovers).
The next day we were in the mood to find out a bit more about local farms and where you could purchase farm-fresh produce. So we headed out Sequim-Dungeness Road to Nash’s Organic Produce Store. They feature local, organic produce as well as an interesting selection of healthy foods, some preserved and packaged. I picked up a beautiful red pepper and two very fresh Walla Walla sweet onions to cook with once I returned home. We drove down country roads, noticed U-pick berry farms, the herd of Sequim’s famous Roosevelt Elk in a field and doubled back into town.
Downtown Sequim is a delight. The flowers cascaded over their lamppost baskets and shops offered enticing window displays. Sequim’s small and easily walkable downtown is filled with locally-owned unique stores that include home and garden objects, hand-printed linens, local lavender, craft supplies, art, antiques, and fine clothing boutiques. When you shop downtown, be sure and go into each shop. A visit to Pondicherri surprised us with colorful hand printed East Indian linens and clothing items.
When you are downtown you’ll want to continue exploring the Olympic Peninsula foodie scene. Sequim Spice and Tea sells culinary herbs, spice blends, gourmet salt and, of course, teas. The Savory Drizzle is an olive oil and vinegar shop where you can taste and select your favorites to take home.
And, in the desire to keep it local, you’ll find a co-op art gallery and Forage Gifts and Northwest Treasures with fun souvenirs from the area and beyond.
4—Sequim has Unique Accommodations
We had the fortune of staying in a cabin out at the John Wayne Rustic Waterfront Resort. The views of Sequim Bay were mesmerizing… from dawn to sunset, the water and skies changed. We could walk to the John Wayne Marina, to dinner at the Dockside Grille for seafood and steaks and were close to the extensive Olympic Discovery Trail. And, the resort was dog friendly.
But we investigated some other options as well. One day we stopped by Red Caboose Bed and Breakfast Getaway, not all that far from central Sequim. You’ll get your own railroad car, primarily cabooses, which includes a decorated theme room and nice bathroom. You’ll awake to a gourmet breakfast in their 1937 Zephyr private dining car.
And since Sequim is all about lavender, you can actually stay in a modern farmhouse right on the beautiful Purple Haze Lavender Farm. You’ll not only stay in a beautiful rural setting, you can watch the operations of a working organic lavender farm firsthand. But you don’t have to join in and work. This is not a typical farm stay. You’ll have the run of the two-story modern home with three bedrooms (one with King, two with Queens.) You just move in and bring your purchases from nearby farm stands to cook your dinner. And, after dinner, sit on the beautiful veranda that overlooks the farm.
5—Sequim is Close to So Much More
Sequim may have been voted the Best Northwest Small Town this year, but there is much to do all around town. It’s just about an hour from the Victorian Seaport of Port Townsend and an hour from Port Angeles where you can take the MV Coho Ferry to Victoria B.C.
And don’t forget that Sequim is on the Olympic Peninsula so you’ll have a great base for exploring the Olympic National Park, the rain forest, the rugged coast and Native American communities such as at the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s beautiful art gallery and carving shed where you can watch traditional poles being carved.
Some people make the trip just to see the lighthouses of the Olympic Peninsula. Right out on Dungeness Spit is the New Dungeness Light Station where you can even become a lighthouse keeper and stay out on the spit.
When You Go to Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.