Drive from Seattle to Vancouver – The Scenic Way!

Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, are two popular metropolitan areas located on the West Coast, separated by an international border. These cities are located just over 3 hours apart, making it a great drive for a weekend getaway.

Although they are close in the distance, they are very different cities to visit as Seattle has a beautiful harbourfront and is surrounded by buildings, while Vancouver is surrounded by the Ocean with mountains in the backdrop but also has a metropolis of buildings in the downtown core. 

Both cities offer a wide range of activities and experiences for all types of travelers, from art lovers and food enthusiasts to history buffs, culture seekers, backpackers, and nature enthusiasts.

Some top cities to visit between Seattle and Vancouver are Bellingham, Port Townsend, Bellevue, Richmond, Delta, North Vancouver, and Burnaby.  If you’re adventuring on a road trip from Seattle to Vancouver, use this guide to make the most of your journey and create unforgettable memories with your family.

Canada Family Road Trip planning tips

Planning A Seattle to Vancouver Road Trip

The route between Seattle and Vancouver is a popular one that is frequented by both locals and road trippers and is in good condition, with multiple gas stations and rest stops along the route. Between Washington State and British Columbia, there are over 13 different border crossings, four of which have a direct route between Seattle and Vancouver and thus are often very busy.

Pro Tip: The return from Vancouver back to Seattle often takes a little bit longer.

What Is The Best Route To Take From Seattle To Vancouver?

The route between Seattle and Vancouver has some of the best forests, parks, and natural environments to check out, so plan for lots of pit stops. The best and most scenic route between Seattle and Vancouver is to drive right along the coastline taking Interstate 5 from Seattle to the Canadian border.

If you are looking for a scenic drive away from the major interstates, then consider the Chuckanut Drive, which will take you through rural farmland along the Puget Sound.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Chuckanut Drive

This scenic drive follows the coastline of Chuckanut Bay and will take you through Bellingham in Washington State, which is a popular destination for tourists along the route. This drive offers breathtaking views of the Salish Sea, the Olympics Mountains, and the San Juan Islands.

Another option for traveling from Seattle to Vancouver is to take the Seattle to Victoria Clipper ferry from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. The ferry runs once daily year-round and takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. From Victoria, you can take a second ferry to Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, which takes approximately 90 minutes.

Finally, you can drive from Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay to downtown Vancouver, which takes about an hour. The total trip will be about 5.5 hours if you rely on the ferry service.

Pro Tip: You can check ahead of time for Canada Border Crossing Delays. Avoid crossing the border during evenings on weekends if you can avoid these, as these are the busiest times for travelers. You also want to avoid being in the downtown Vancouver or Seattle area during rush hour times as it can get very busy and congested with traffic.

How Long Do I Need For Seattle To Vancouver by Car?

Seattle to Vancouver is the perfect distance for a weekend getaway or even a day trip to a sporting event, as the driving distance is only 140 miles (225 kilometers).

The driving time from Seattle to Vancouver is around 2.5 to 3 hours long. However, the time can be highly influenced by traffic, border crossing times, and the route you choose to take between the two cities.

Map image on a cellphone of the driving route from Seattle to Vancouver with a collage of road trip images

Can I Travel From Seattle To Vancouver Without A Car?

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can still enjoy the road trip by taking a BoltBus or Greyhound Bus. However, that will take longer than driving on your own.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - BoltBus

Best Time Of Year To Enjoy The Scenic Drive From Seattle To Vancouver

The busiest months to drive from Seattle to Vancouver are from May until August, as this is peak travel season. The best time to travel is during late Spring or early Fall (April – June or September and October) during the shoulder season as the weather is pleasant and warm, and you can enjoy views of lush greenery along the Pacific Northwest.

If you visit Seattle or Vancouver in June you can catch Pride Festivals, and if you take the drive in April you can plan to check out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival which is a spectacular thing to see!

What Do I Need To Cross The Canadian Border?

To enter Canada at a Canadian land border, you will need the following important documents and information to present to the border official upon request. Please note that Canada has very strict gun laws, so you are best to leave any firearms at home.

  1. A valid passport that provides evidence of your citizenship and identity
  2. Location and dates for your travel plans – including accommodation details
  3. A Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if you require one to enter Canada (This depends on the country of citizenship, so check ahead of time)
  4. Driver’s license and vehicle registration for the vehicle you drive across the border.
  5. Declare any goods you are bringing into Canada, including food, medication, gifts, alcohol, and tobacco.

Best Stops On A Drive From Seattle To Vancouver

When driving between Seattle and Vancouver, there are a variety of family-friendly places you can stop at depending on your children’s ages and interests.

Seattle

Prior to departing Seattle, be sure to visit this popular place for kids to explore and enjoy!

For families with children, the Space Needle is a must-see attraction. Towering 605 feet high, it features an elevator ride to an observation deck with panoramic views of Seattle, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Space Needle

Kids will enjoy exploring and engaging with interactive displays and exhibits to learn more about the history and construction of the Space Needle. Parents may enjoy the Space Needle Restaurant, which rotates every 45 minutes, offers a unique dining experience with constantly changing views, and keeps the kids from getting hangry. 

The Space Needle is part of the Seattle Centre, which includes numerous museums, playgrounds and the popular Discovery Center by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Boeing Factory Tour

Located in Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle, is the Boeing Factory that manufactures commercial airplanes such as Boeing 747, 767, 777, and the 787 Dreamliner.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Boeing Everett Factory

Get an up-close look at how some of the biggest planes are made during the tour. You will see the entire manufacturing process, including how the wings and landing gear are added. The tour also includes a visit to the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center, which features interactive exhibits on the history and future of flight, as well as a gift shop with aviation-themed souvenirs.

Pro Tip: Reservations are recommended, so try to book in advance.

Children’s Museum of Skagit County

The Children’s Museum is designed for children from 1-12 and allows families to play and learn together as they explore interactive exhibits and educational programming, such as story time and art activities. 

Children can also engage in role-play and exploration as the museum has created replica community spaces such as a veterinary clinic, grocery store, construction zone, and water play area to allow children to pretend they are in those environments.

Samish Overlook and Oyster Dome

Oyster Dome and Samish Overlook are two popular yet different hiking spots near Bellingham. For an easy hike with outstanding views of Skagit Valley and the San Juan Valley, you will want to choose the Samish Overlook Trail.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Samish Overlook

Those who choose the more challenging hike that is suitable for intermediate hikers, the Oyster Dome hike, will be rewarded with panoramic views of Puget Sound and surrounding mountains. Samish Overlook is approximately 1.5 miles, while the Oyster Dome trail is 5.5 miles.

Bellingham

Located halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, this charming small town offers historic theater at the Mount Baker Theatre, restaurants, galleries, and shops in downtown Bellingham and much more. Fairhaven is a historic district nearby downtown that has more shops and galleries and is home to Boulevard Park, which is a waterfront park.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Fairhaven

If you need to stretch your legs and have a short amount of time, Boulevard Park is the perfect location, as it has a walking path, beach access, and stunning views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands. 

If you have time for a longer visit to Bellingham and want to enjoy nature, then check out Whatcom Park, which has waterfalls, hiking trails, and great spots to picnic.

Birch Bay Waterslides

If you are traveling the Seattle to Vancouver route during the peak season of Summer, then Birch Bay Waterslides is a great place to stop and enjoy with the kids before heading into Downtown Vancouver.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Birch Bay Waterslides

The park has eight waterslides, a kiddie pool, an activity pool, a hot tub, and concession stands, making it perfect for families of all ages.

Peace Arch Park

Discover the unique history of the relationship between Canada and the United States and the importance of Peace Arch Park. The park is a symbol of the harmonious relationship between these two countries and acts as a place to gather in peace. 

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Peace Arch Park

Peace Arch Park is located at the Douglas Border Crossing between Blaine Washington and Surrey, British Columbia, as this landmark park straddles the border of both countries.

This park is over 60 acres in size and features a range of interesting activities for adults and kids to enjoy during a quick pit stop. While visiting, you can view historical monuments from the War of 1812, visit the Peace Bridge itself, which can be seen from afar as you approach the border, elegant gardens, clean picnic areas, and walking trails with scenic views.

Don’t forget to visit the World Friendship Bell, which symbolizes peace and solidarity between Canada and the United States.

Vancouver

Located between the ocean and mountains, Vancouver is widely regarded as one of the world’s most stunning cities, which is why it was chosen to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver -  Vancouver

For parents traveling with children, it can be challenging to find suitable spots that cater to keeping the kids entertained while exploring a city. However, Vancouver offers a wide range of attractions and spectacular views that make it a paradise for parents and children of all ages. 

Regardless of the season, Vancouver is an excellent destination to visit with kids, allowing you to immerse yourself in the city’s hustle and bustle while also enjoying the many popular tourist spots. You will want to check out the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, Stanley Park, and Granville Island. To learn more, check out Vancouver in 48 hours with kids.

Best Stops On A Drive From Seattle To Vancouver: The Longer Scenic Route

Whilst you can drive directly between the two cities in a little over two and a half hours, the scenic route is incredibly rich in natural beauty and is a drive everyone should experience at least once in their lives!

Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island is quite a bit of a detour but is an excellent place to stop and explore if you have more time than just a weekend for your road trip. Whidbey Island is located in Puget Sound and is known for its amazing outdoor adventures, natural beauty, and small-town charm. 

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Whidbey Island

There are multiple state parks offering hiking and picnic areas if you love exploring the outdoors. For those who enjoy watersports, you will want to check out Penn Cove, as it is the ideal location for boating, paddling, and visiting shellfish farms.

If you enjoy history, then you will want to check out Fort Casey State Park, which has a historic military fort. Food lovers and shoppers will want to check out Coupeville as it has Victoria architecture along the waterfront and is home to many restaurants, boutiques, and even a weekly farmers market in the summer.

Lastly, don’t miss out on tasting award-winning wines at the southern end of the island at the Whidbey Island Winery.

Edison

This is a quick stop as it is a tiny little town. However, it offers great restaurants, an art gallery, and some unique boutiques.

Taylor Shellfish Farm

Taylor Shellfish specializes in catching some of the freshest seafood along the Pacific Northwest as it grows and harvests oysters, clams, and mussels. Visit this local shellfish farm to learn more about the various types of shellfish, how they are farmed, and why they are beneficial to eat.

USA Drive from Seattle to Vancouver - Taylor Shellfish Farm

You will also have an opportunity to taste test this fresh seafood if you stay to enjoy a meal at the restaurant that offers stunning views of Puget Sound.

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