Thirty miles southwest of Port Townsend via WA-20 and US-101 along Washington State’s coast (or 17 miles east via US-101 from Port Angeles), the Sequim-Dungeness Valley (pop. 6,624; pronounced “skwim”) is a pleasantly dry patch on a peninsula famous for its rain. A typical year has 299 days of sunshine and just 17 inches of rain (comparable to rainfall in sunny Los Angeles). The agreeable climate has made this little town a popular retirement destination.
One block north of US-101 in Sequim, the Museum and Arts Center (175 W. Cedar St., 360/683-8110, 11am-3pm Wed.-Sat., donation) was built to store the 12,000-year-old tusks, bones, and artifacts unearthed at Sequim’s famous Manis Mastodon Site, discovered in 1977 by Emanuel Manis, a retired farmer. Archaeologists discovered a prehistoric spear point in the rib cage of one of the mastodons, some of the earliest evidence that humans hunted these elephantine beasts. Other displays include several fine old cedar bark baskets, pioneer farming displays, and timber exhibits.
The aptly named Dungeness Spit (the word “Dungeness” means sandy cape, closed to horses on weekends and holidays Apr. 15-Oct. 15) is a 5.5-mile-long stretch of sand that creates Dungeness Bay. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge (554 Voice of America Rd., 360/457-8451, $3 per family or group of up to four adults) provides habitat for 250 species of birds on the nation’s longest natural sand spit. As many as 30,000 birds rest at this saltwater lagoon during their migratory journeys.
Built in 1857, the New Dungeness Lighthouse (at the tip of the spit, 360/683-6638) is managed by volunteers and offers tours, but you’ll have to hike a total of 11 miles out and back to see it. It’s a good idea to check the tide charts before starting out. For an overview of the area, hike the 0.5-mile trail from the parking lot to a bluff overlooking Dungeness Bay. Clamming, fishing, and canoeing are permitted in this protected wildlife refuge, but no camping, dogs, firearms, or fires.
The Olympic Game Farm (1423 Ward Rd., 360/683-4295 or 800/778-4295, , $12 adults, $11 seniors and children 6-14, free children 5 and under), a vacation and retirement home for Hollywood stars, is a 90-acre preserve where over 200 animals, some of TV and movie fame, can be visited. Many of the Walt Disney nature specials were filmed here, along with parts of many feature movies. Follow the signs from Sequim five miles northwest to Ward Road.
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Community
Less than five minutes outside Sequim via US-101, the Jamestown S’Klallam “Strong People” Tribal Community looks out over Sequim Bay. Towering totem poles welcome visitors at the information kiosk pullout west of the highway. These carved masterpieces reflect the Coastal Salish Indian traditions and legacies. Listen to timeless legends as you journey along numerous totem poles to the House of Myths (set behind a native art gallery), where each totem is carefully carved. It’s a fascinating, tribally guided tour known as Tour of the Totems.
For scenic views or a leisurely stroll, follow the stairway at the west end of the pullout down to the Olympic Discovery Trail, a path that traces the former railroad corridors that were constructed between Port Angeles and Discovery Bay in the early 1900s. Two short bridges cross the Jimmycomelately Creek and Estuary, a stream that flows from the Olympic Mountains and into Sequim Bay. The logging and farming of the late 1800s nearly decimated the stream and salmon beds; the S’Klallam Tribe has led restoration efforts to revive salmon runs and protect the stream. In the summer, you can watch as chum salmon fight their way to spawning grounds, and observe a variety of birds and wildlife.
There are no overnight accommodations, but a mile farther on US-101 in Blyn you’ll find a restaurant inside the Seven Cedars Casino (270756 US-101, 360/683-7777) with a weekend buffet. The casino’s Longhouse Market & Deli (360/681-7777) provides the perfect opportunity to fuel up on gasoline and snacks.
Where to Eat
For the best French toast or Swedish pancakes, The Oak Table Café (3rd and Bell Sts., 360/683-2179, 7am-3pm daily, $5-20) is where the locals go. The service is friendly, the cappuccinos perfect, and the prices will barely make a dent in your wallet.
For fast and well-prepared lunches, Hi-Way 101 Diner (392 W. Washington, 360/683-3388, $12) is a “fabulous fifties” family diner with the biggest local burgers. It’s also a popular spot for breakfast.
Where to Stay
Enjoy a room with a hot tub at Sequim Bay Lodge (268522 US-101, 800/622-0691, $120-200) conveniently located off US-101. It’s not a glitzy hotel, but it’s clean, comfortable, and surrounded by beautiful greenery.
For an intimate experience, Groveland Cottage (4861 Sequim-Dungeness Way, 360/683-3565, $100 and up) is a century-old house with a large lawn and pond. Inside are five guest rooms with private or shared baths.
Juan de Fuca Cottages (182 Marine Dr., 360/683-4433, $120 and up) offers suites and fully equipped housekeeping cottages overlooking Dungeness Spit.