If you’re an adventurer and want to explore the Pacific Northwest, a road trip from Seattle to Portland is just what you need. Beautiful little trip through an amazing nature with many possibilities to stop and interrupt the trip.

The car trip from Seattle to Portland is about 180 miles and takes about 3 hours. These cities are an ideal holiday couple with Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helena, Cannon Beach and many other sights worth seeing.

Read on to find out everything you need to know.

What is the distance between Portland and Seattle and how long does it take to get there?

There are several route options, the fastest and most direct is the I-5 route through Tacoma and Olympia. With only 180 miles between Seattle and Portland, you can cover the entire distance in 3 hours if you’re just interested in a quick trip.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-5)
180 miles Three hours.
Coastal road (via Westport and Cannon Beach) 336 miles 6 hours 34 minutes

The direct route also goes through Castle Rock and Vancouver (no, not Canadian) and offers excellent wildlife views just minutes from the highway.

Although this is the fastest route, it’s not the only one. Alternatives are following the coast via Westport and Cannon Beach or approaching Portland from the east on the Columbia River Highway.

A spectacular ride on the Old Columbia River Highway in autumn with golden leaves falling on the road in the National Stage District of the River Columbia, Orego
On the Old Columbia River Highway you can relax and unwind on your way from Seattle to Portland.

Bob Pool/Shutterstock.com

Keep in mind that in places like Mount Rainier, Cannon Beach and Westport your trip can and should take much more than a few hours – ideally a few days. When you return to Seattle, you can choose one way down and come back the other.

Best drive from Seattle to Portland

Direct route through I-5

The state of Washington does not have many major highways or interstate highways, but the I-5, which runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, is the fastest route to Portland.

The first big city on your trip from Seattle to Portland where it’s worth having lunch is Tacoma.

This city is just a 40 minute drive away and although there are not many lists of the best guides, there is plenty to see on the way from the Tacoma Museum of Art and Glass to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

If you see us on the way, you should probably visit the LeMay America Car Museum to get your classic force correction.

The capital of the state of Washington, Olympia, is further away and is another candidate worthy of a quick stop. Look at the metal statues of Jesus and Mother Teresa on your trip to Portland.

The coastline through Westport and Cannon Beach

If time is not limited and you plan to return to Seattle from Portland via Mount St. Louis, you may want to take a trip to Seattle. From St. Helens and Mount Rainier National Park you might want to relax and drive along the coast to Portland.

Follow the I-5 to Olympia as the quickest route above or take the ferry over Puget Sound and continue west to Westport.

This quiet coastal town is full of character and charm, and for seafood lovers the local crab poo is worth a visit.

From Westport you drive along the coast to the south via Raymond and Astoria and eventually reach Cannon Beach. From the Ekola National Park, this beautiful windswept coastal beach is lined with rocks, overlooking the dominant rock of Haystack.

Beware of the little plush cakes that call the stone home!

Follow the US-101 to Nehalem, then follow the northern branch of the Nehalem River to US-26, which will take you directly to Portland.

Beautiful views of Cannon Beach from the Oregon Coast Highway in bright sunshine.
One of the attractions not to be missed is Cannon Beach on the coast of Oregon.

Gordon Montgomery/Shutterstock.com

Best ports of call between Seattle and Portland

Travelling means you’re a freak who wants to discover new things. This road trip is ideal for your next holiday.

Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park

Approximately 40 minutes south of Seattle you approach the city of Tacoma and can’t miss the impressive Mount Rainier in the distance.

The highest peak of Washington State is surrounded by a national park that bears its name and offers some of the most amazing hiking trails.

You can climb Mount Rainier, but the 14,410-foot route is as high as the climb to Everest from basecamp, and you can easily cross the snowstorms if you pass the ice cap on the summit in mid-August.

For more relaxed walkers, the Surdo Ridge Trail is the best choice. This path climbs from the Sunrise Visitor Center area to the top of Sourdough Ridge and continues eastwards to Antler Peak. If you feel a little tired, you can enjoy a delicious meal in the Paradise Hut.

It is essential to ride on the picturesque Mont Rainier railway. This beautiful journey takes you on an 18 mile long ride in an old wood locomotive through the foothills of the countryside. With its friendly and cheerful staff, this train is an ideal way to see a beautiful landscape.

With so much to see and do, you may want to spend the night making the most of your stopover on your way to Portland.

The Silver Cloud Inn Tacoma Waterfront is a great place to relax, especially as it is close to the Point Defiance Zoo and the Aquarium. Add to that the great local trails and you’ll be happy to find the time instead of spending an hour or two in the park.

Fantastic sunset in the mountains of Sourdough Ridge Trail Mount Rainier National Park.
Explore the Surdo Ridge Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.

Roman Khomlyak/Shutterstock.com

Cannon Beach and Rock Sena

If you want to follow a coastal road or just detour to one of the Pacific Northwest’s most famous attractions, head to Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Cannon Beach is home to the beautiful and iconic Heistek Rock. This huge stone protrudes above the beach and is of the utmost importance to most beach lovers. It offers great photo opportunities that no one can resist.

Strororots is also protected as part of the Oregon Island National Wildlife Area and provides habitat and viewing opportunities for a variety of seabirds and many tidal animals, including stars, anemones and crabs.

Just a 7 minute drive south of Cannon Beach you can take a walk along the coast and explore the waterfalls and caves of Hug Point Square. Hug Point also offers easy access to the beach, with interesting local landscapes not to be missed.

If you want to spend more than a few minutes in Cannon Beach, there are many accommodation options nearby.

Webb’s Scenic Surf is probably the best view from the bedroom, right on Cannon Beach and literally a stone’s throw from the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

During your stay you can also visit the Haystack Gallery, Coaster Theatre and Les Shirley Park, all within walking distance.

What to see on a trip from Seattle to Portland

During the trip you will see many fascinating sights that will take your breath away. Nobody can resist it and not stop to enjoy it for a while. We also offer some of the most interesting and unique accommodations for travel from Seattle to Portland. It would be pointless to miss it.

  1. Point Defiance Park, Tacoma – This park is located on more than 700 hectares. With its large choice of flowers, gardens, beaches and a zoo with an aquarium, it is a city park that is visited by three million people every year. It’s one of the most visited places in Washington.
  2. Lewis & Clark State Park, Toledo – If you like walking, this is the place for you. In the park you can get a guided tour through the old tree population. It is also possible to ride a horse.
  3. Mount Rainier National Park – Although it will take you 2 days to climb Mount Rainier yourself, there is so much more to do in the park that you can hike there, which is a little friendlier for leisure hikers.
  4. Mount St. Helena Visitor Centre, Castle Rock – The eruption in 1980 was of great significance. It’s an active stratovolcano. The curiosities you’ll see there will leave a beautiful scar on our memory.
  5. Silver Lake, Silver Lake – You will find this location on Mont Sainte Hélène Road. Visitors can fish, take a boat trip and enjoy many interesting activities. If you don’t want to camp, you have the possibility to stay in a nearby holiday centre with a view of the lake.
  6. Bachelor’s Island, Columbia River – This location was named Green Brior Esd in 1805 and is an important location for history buffs and sightseeing. This island is part of the Ridgefield National Reserve.
  7. Westport Marine Museum – Built in France in 1888, this museum houses the amazing lens of the island’s lighthouse of destruction. The museum presents exhibitions on the maritime history of the region.
  8. Cannon Beach Heistack Rock – Heistack Rock is one of the landmarks of the Pacific Northwest. It is a spectacular place, and many wild animals live on the rocks and in the tidal pools under the shallow water.

Best time to travel from Seattle to Portland

Summer, somewhere between June and August, is the best time for this trip. The reason you have to tour in summer is that you have more time because the days are longer, which makes all the difference because you are relatively far in the north of the United States.

In summer Portland has heat and low humidity, which is a bonus. Rain is rare and the evenings are long, the sun doesn’t set until around 9pm.

 Group of women dancing in colourful dresses at the Pride Parade
in Portland, Oregon

Png Studio Photography/Shutterstock.com

With many outdoor festivals such as the Portland Pride Parade, the epic Oregon Brewers Festival and the Pickathon Music Festival, Portland is a great city to visit in summer, and some national parks limit walking in winter.

But beware, because summer is also the busiest season in Washington and Oregon, and with so much to discover, you’d expect tourists to come here and locals to take the day off, which means there will be many more people everywhere you go.

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