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Spokane, Washington
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Port Angeles, Washington
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Elma, Washington
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Poulsbo, Washington
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Pasco, Washington

Gateway to Washington

Get acquainted with Washington wonders

Explore Washington’s gateway communities to get an introduction to all that the Evergreen State has to offer. A leisurely drive north along Interstate 5 from Washington’s southern border reveals a treasure trove of quaint towns, stunning rivers and beautiful wilderness.

A Familiar Name

When people hear “Vancouver,” most immediately think of the Canadian city of the same name. However, Vancouver, USA, has a rich history of its own. Before American settlement, the region was frequented by Native American tribes who fished the waters of the Columbia River centuries ago for the salmon and steelhead that today lure thousands of sports anglers every year. Fur traders discovered the region’s abundant natural resources and set up a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, now the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. This gateway city into Washington state is perhaps the ideal start to your travel along Interstate 5.

The scenery begins along the banks of the Columbia River, which can best be seen from the city’s Waterfront Renaissance Trail. Stop along the viewpoints, which overlook shipyards and other iconic sites. The Vancouver Land Bridge connects the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to the river. You may hear cannon and musket firings as part of the living-history re-enactments at the fort. Take a tour to see demonstrations of blacksmithing and carpentry shops. Downtown is Esther Short Park, where outdoor concerts play a role in Vancouver’s arts scene. At the center of the city are microbreweries serving up distinctive combinations of hops.

Island Time

Don’t miss nearby Sauvie Island, among the largest river islands in the U.S and home to a 12,000-acre protected habitat for wildlife in the region. Across from Vancouver in the middle of the Columbia River, the island attracts visitors every year to enjoy beaches, inland waterways, bird-watching and views of Mount Hood (in Oregon), Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.

The lower Columbia River is home to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, roughly 5,300 acres of protected habitat, part of which is open to the public through trails and tour routes. The refuge is also home to a well-preserved archaeological site. It contains evidence of at least 2,300 years of its original human inhabitants, whose history and culture are interpreted at Cathlapotle Plankhouse.


Walter Siegmund

In the heart of Washington’s timberland and next to the Cowlitz River is Castle Rock, a gateway to Mount St. Helens. Castle Rock takes its name from a 190-foot-high rock that served as a landmark for fur traders and Cowlitz Indian tribes. Today, it is home to Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake, where a step-in model of the volcano that erupted in 1980 gives visitors a perspective like no other. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is in nearby Gifford Pinchot National Forest, encompassing more than 1.3 million acres of greenery, mountains, waterfalls and river valleys.

Moving up the interstate, where routes 505 and 603 intersect, visitor’s will discover Winlock, home to the World’s Largest Egg. Measuring 12-feet long and weighing in at 1,200 pounds, the whimsical landmark pays homage to the town’s history as a major egg producer.

Wheeling Through Centralia

In its frontier days, Centralia was a stopover for stagecoaches. Today, it is the midway point for thousands of cyclists spinning through every July during the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, the largest multiday event of its kind in the Northwest. Other notable summer events include the Hub City Car Show and Antique Fest. Centralia has managed to preserve a lot of its historic charm while infusing some modern-day amenities, including a sports complex, a downtown winery and a vibrant arts community showcasing theater, music and dance.


Joe Mabel

All of this works in concert with Centralia’s outdoor recreation options, many of which are enjoyed at either Fort Borst Park or Seminary Hill Natural Area. Another outdoor choice is Rotary Riverside Park, a waterfront park along the banks of the Skookumchuck River that includes 44,000 square feet of fun on wheels at Fuller’s Twin City Skate Park. Round out the day with some shopping at Centralia Factory Outlets, where discounts are offered on name-brand items.

At the end of your journey on this trek of Interstate 5 is the capital city of Olympia, marked by its massive Capitol Building, the fifth-tallest masonry dome on the planet. Architecture notwithstanding, there is plenty to see and do. Among its signature events is the Olympia Brew Fest, held every August.

Aviation buffs will enjoy the Olympic Flight Museum, which houses restored vintage planes and helicopters and hosts an annual flight show. Olympia is also near the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, annually drawing hikers, bird-watchers and wildlife-seekers. Look to spot everything from owls to harbor seals along the miles of hiking trails intertwining themselves along impressive tide flats. If you are short on time, you can still see quite a bit of the best of the refuge in a single-day trek.

For More Information

Washington Tourism Alliance