Birders will have a ball at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (360/753-9467, www.fws.gov/nisqually , dusk–dawn daily, $3), a massive nature preserve that protects one of the largest surviving estuaries in the state. Over 300 species of wildlife find sanctuary here, but the real stars of the show are the birds.
Bring binoculars and a field guide and set up in one of the hidden photo blinds scattered on the trails here to spot some blue herons, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and more. Aim for a spring or fall visit to observe more than 20,000 geese and ducks as they fly their migratory pattern.
The visitors center here is an excellent place for estuarine information, but if you find yourself looking for more, then travel 10 minutes over to the Nisqually Reach Nature Center (4949 D'Milluhr Rd. NE at Luhr Beach, 360/459-0387, noon–4 p.m. Wed., Sat., Sun., free), a nature center that lies adjacent to the refuge but is sometimes overlooked because of its out-of-the-way location off the northwest corner of the estuary.