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Ultimate Road Trip With Kids – Olympic National Park

    Olympic National Park Big Family Road Trip

    We headed to Olympic National Park and a stay in a beach house that we rented through VRBO We had not used this site before but had several recommendations from family and friends who had brilliant results. There are many options available for a bigger family at very reasonable rates.

    Our only drawback for this particular trip was the rapid turnovers we were going to have as many of the homes required a minimum night stay. And the fact that many charged a cleaning fee which for a week would have averaged out well under a hotel’s fees but for a night or two added too much to the cost. Each of the properties is rented individually through the property owner and with individual rates, contracts, and fees.

    Our itinerary allowed us 2 nights in the Olympic Northwest and we splurged on the beach house. Of course, this meant we had to counter the splurge and thus the tent camping but I think it all worked out rather perfectly (allowing me a few nights with an amazing ocean view and then allowing the kids nights in tents with their mother who might not have been so excited for that fact otherwise).

    With a late check-in for the beach house, we had a leisurely morning at the hotel with breakfast and pool time (hot tub time for Scott and me). After packing us up (we were getting to be champs at that), we drove to the ferry port to ferry across the sound. The kids thought it was pretty cool that we drove a CAR onto a BOAT. The kids thought they saw a jellyfish in the waters and Dax asked me what a jellyfish does besides give us jelly (LOVE it)!!!

    As we were going across the sound, the littles asked if they could swim in it. I proceeded to tell them it was probably too cold but Grace was adamant that if she put on snow pants the swim would be fine (LOVE that too).

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    Olympic National Park

    We had about an hour drive to the house and about 3 hours until we could check in so we decided to drive into Olympic Park to get our Junior Rangers books and see a part of the park. (On a side note, when this mother of 5 children decided that it would be a good idea to buy all of said kids quackers for the duck ride tour and then allow the children to keep them for a 10,000-mile car trip allowing all the children to quack in the car – she should remember that it was her stupid idea in the first place when she thinks about complaining about the noise-lol).

    Olympic Park is divided into a bunch of different geologic regions: alpine mountains, glacial lakes, a rain forest, and an ocean seashore. There is no drive through the park so each has its own ranger station and its own entrance. We stayed near the mountains and decided to venture up for a view.

    It was COLD (of course), but the view was amazing. And the kicker is that we got up to the top and were talking to the ranger and guess what? In OLYMPIC park, from Hurricane Ridge, a person can see SEVENTY-ONE glaciers! And OLYMPIC park has somewhere around 250 glaciers in it. Next time we may just cut the 10 hours extra drive to Glacier Park (although by the next time there will probably not be Glaciers in Glacier Park as they are predicted to be all the way melted by 2030. See more learning!!)

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    Beach House Rental

    We arrived at the house and aside from the big smell of beachiness (it was low tide when we got there and we are right on the Dungeness Spit), the home was beautiful. We had the most amazing views, the Dungeness Lighthouse to our left, the San Juan Islands and Canada across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca out our back window and deck, and the Olympic Mountain range out the front window. Totally worth camping for a few nights!!

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    We all had our own beds and we all enjoyed that very much so we slept in quite nicely. It was a huge oceanfront property with 3 bedrooms equipped to sleep 10 in beds and more with sofas. (Master slept 2, BR1 had 2 bunk beds, and BR2 had 2 queens.) It also had 3 baths (master with a Jacuzzi), laundry facilities, a sitting room, breakfast nook, huge well-equipped kitchen and a large rec room lined with windows overlooking the water. The kids LOVED all the space! After some debate on whether we should go visit more of the park (more driving), we decided against it and spent some nice downtime enjoying the property.

    There was a sand spit about a mile from where we were located, so we decided to walk that. The Dungeness Lighthouse is at the end of a 5-mile walk along the beach. It was pretty incredible and we didn’t even make it halfway! LOL.

    The beach is a national wildlife sanctuary for marine animals and birds and is a completely natural beachfront. No hotels, homes, nothing commercial, AND they leave all the beachfront natural.  Meaning there are huge pieces of driftwood and beautiful rocks along the shore that you just don’t see often as they are prime pieces of ocean pickings for memorabilia at other beaches.

    The lighthouse is manned by volunteers weekly, a family can go out to man it as it is a working lighthouse. My kids think it would be a pretty cool vacation. Although I looked into it and it costs to volunteer. My family would be about $1700 for a week (about 350 per adult and 200 per kid- which in all actuality might be a very cool vacation for some – quiet, beautiful location, and you get to be a lighthouse keeper!!)

    Scott and the kids enjoyed the walk, skipping rocks, and the overall relaxed feel of the day. I enjoyed the picture taking and we all enjoyed the view! It was crazy how we essentially had the beach to ourselves – so amazing.

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    We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the house. Scott and I enjoyed happy hour, the big kids played some games. Scott and the littles built a fort in the bunk beds and the littles while Lily and I had a tea party in the fort. We had too short of a time here but this vacation was set up that way, a little bit of time everywhere so we could see a little bit of everything. I think that this spot in NW Washington could easily demand a week or two of vacation time.

    On our last morning at the beach house, our plan was to get up early and leave to explore the rest of Olympic Park. The reality was that we slept in and then enjoyed some company (a bald eagle right on the beach in front of our house) and the last bit of the house.

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    Crescent Lake

    We set off around the coast to see the different parts of the park. We didn’t plan on exploring Crescent Lake but we did stop and enjoy the view for a short time as the water was the most beautiful blue that we have ever seen, the pics do not do it justice.

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    Our next plan was to get to the PACIFIC! This was the first time the kids had seen the Pacific Ocean. They’ve been to the Atlantic quite a bit and mostly in Florida so their beach experiences are generally warm and calm neither of which I would use to describe the Pacific in NW Washington. Rugged, natural, beautiful, and ICY cold would be better descriptors.

    Rialto Beach

    We walked Rialto Beach up to a formation called Hole in the Wall (as there was a natural hole in it from the water). We timed it exactly perfectly as we were there (after a mile and a half walk) at low tide in time to explore all the tide pools! There were all kinds of creatures for us to enjoy and they were so colorful! Bright orange and purple sea stars that were bigger than my hand, lime green anemones, crabs, and mussels. The kids loved finding them all.

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    Then we climbed around some more and found a blowhole kind of feature, the tide started rolling back in and as the water came up it splashed out the crevice! The kids thought it was pretty funny.

    On our way out, we drove through the areas mentioned in the Twilight books. Sadly, we did not see any sparkly vampires or muscular werewolves although we WERE looking, don’t judge.

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    We spent so much time at the beach that we were very behind schedule for the rest of the day. We needed to find dinner and then drive to our campsite (another night of camping already to make up for the price of the beach house). So we did not get to stop at the HOH rain forest which was a bummer but maybe that will be on the list of reasons to come back to the Washington Coast.

    We got to the campsite right AFTER sunset but I have to hand it to the crew. We had the tent set up and the fire started within 20 minutes in the DARK! We roasted s’mores and then headed to bed.

    Ultimate Road Trip 2014

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    Terri L

    Terri has been married to her best friend, Scott, for 20 years and together they have 5 children. She has been blessed to be able to be a SAHM since her first was born over 14 years ago. In addition to finding new and creative ways to entertain 5 children, she enjoys date nights with her husband, photography, reading, and traveling with her crew.