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Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

Perth, Australia
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Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

My family (5 of us) are driving from Seattle to Portland (hopefully only for one day) and wondered the following:

- We are from Australia and don’t know: how bad is the roads to drive on?

- What is the best route for stopping and checking things out?

- Are there any must see sights on the drive?

- Any recommendations for rental car companies?

- Any other expert advice is greatly appreciated!

Thanks heaps!

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Washington State
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1. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

www.TravelJigsaw.com.au is a good rental option.

It's a straightforward drive on I-5 (it's a multi-lane interstate.)

Or do you want to make this an all day drive? On a clear day, a detour up to Mt St Helens is good. Maybe you want to shop? To go to the state capital? To check out a car museum or a glass museum? What are your interests? What time of year?

Another option is to take Amtrak (the train.)

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2. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

In December I would most likely expect rain and its not a terribly 'scenic' route. If you took the train its actually almost as fast and more interesting. Fares will be about $25 pp one way. There is an outlet mall halfway in Centralia and Chehalis next door has a bunch of antique shops, however there isn't much there worth a detour.

As mentioned above there is a car musuem in Tacoma and the state capitol bldg in Olympia.

I'm hoping you meant your staying one nite or do you plan to drive there and back on the same day?

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Washington State
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3. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

Missed the part in the title that says "in Dec" Not enough coffee.

Daylight hours will be limited. www.SunriseSunset.com Sunrise around 7:45 am and sunset around 4:15 pm.

Fortaleza, CE
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4. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

Could you confirm how much time you have? By "hopefully for one day" do you mean you hope to go to Portland for just one night, and then return the next day? I gather you have business in Portland and aren't doing this for tourism (otherwise not wishing for just a short stay).

Train takes just under 4 hours each way, if there are no delays. There are several options throughout the day, so you can make sure you go during daylight hours if you like, though I agree you wouldn't see much. Same applies to going by car without side trips. I assume you've looked at a map, though you don't give any indication as to routes you're considering. Interstate 5 would be quick and, unless there's a bad storm, easy. Leave Seattle before 4 p.m. to escape rush hour traffic, though you can still encounter delays at various hours, especially around the joint military base west of Tacoma (you should see signs saying to avoid the right lanes if the lights are flashing; means there's a lot of traffic to or from the base). We recently drove from Lake Quinault, near the coast, to SeaTac, using I-5 from Olympia onward, and traffic was heavy, due to both number of vehicles and construction projects. Not a huge deal, but still a bit tiring.

Edited: 11 April 2014, 18:12
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Poulsbo, Washington
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5. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

The drive between Seattle and Portland is quite easy. Interstate all the way. I really think you are best off just driving straight through. I go for Xmas from Seattle to Portland every other year. It can on occasion get pretty cold around Portland with snow. This is not the norm in December, but it is not rare.it snowed last Xmas in Portland. Is there a reason you picked Seattle and Portland both in December?

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6. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

We make the drive between Seattle and Portland every single week, and have for years. As the others have said, it is an easy, but boring drive. The only place of interest along the way, IMO, is Mt St Helens, but in December the road up to it is not open. I think the first visitors center, right off of I-5 might be though, so that could be a short stop. We take the train a fair amount too, which is very relaxing.

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Seattle, Washington
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7. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

Having visited Australia in December (your summer) remember December is winter, which means rain. Annoying drizzle rain. I5 is a truck route, so the road is not dangerous, but does require attention for the big rigs that will share the road. As others have noted, along this way, the most predominent sights: Mt St. Hellen's (you could spent 2-3 hours seeing the visitors center and a short hike. The visitors center will tell you about the eruption). Just outside Centralia on the west side of the road there is a billboard that often contains funny political statements. Centralia for the outlet/discount stores (its not big, but a good place to take a restroom break). The Nisqually Nature Reserve for a short hike. The State Capital in Olympia. In Tacoma, the Glass Museum, where you can see artisans blow glass. The drive itself without stops takes about 3 hours.

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Port Angeles, WA
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8. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

Mt. St. Helens is not a good choice in December. It may not even be possible. I was snowed upon in June at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, and in December, there will be no visibility up there due to fog, rain, and snow. It is unfortunate that you are visiting the Pacific Northwest in December, as that is the darkest month of the year. Stick to the cities, which will be festive with the approach of Christmas, and bright with much needed lighting.

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9. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

We will be driving from Seattle to Portland on a Tuesday in April. When does rush hour usually end?

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Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: Drive from Seattle to Portland in Dec

I think you will have a limited ability to enjoy Portland with only one night. Taking the train is the easiest thing to do if you want to basically just see the downtown or you are going to try to get around using public transportation (again though you will have limited time with a single night). However Portland is a city of neighborhoods and the quirkiness and lifestyle that has made Portland a talked-about US City is spread around those neighborhoods.

As several people expressed concern about, the Johnson Ridge Observatory (where the main visitor center is overlooking the mountain) typically is only open into October. There is no chance you will be able to visit in December. Even if it is was consider that it is a 3 hour drive to Portland and the visitor center is more than 50 miles (an hour drive) from the Interstate. Just driving up the road and back makes your trip to Portland 5 hours and as noted the days will be short in December.

If you were spending a few days in Portland and maybe seeing the coast or the Willamette Valley wineries (and if you were coming another time of year) Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens would make sense to consider as potential sites of great natural beauty. The Columbia River gorge area would be another option. Again though with the time constraints you are talking about I would pass on trying to take in any major stops to or from Portland.

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