The Best Things to See Along the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway

Elwha River on Strait of Juan de Fuca HighwayThe Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, a scenic byway also known as Highway 112, provides a stunning, meandering drive through the Pacific Northwest. What is now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway began in the 19th century as community trails between logging and fishing camps. The dirt trails allowed for foot traffic between the neighboring communities for events like baseball games, dances, and even missionary activities. Eventually, of course, the trails widened to accommodate the wagons, horses, and then cars and school buses.

Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway Culture

Back in the early 1900s, baseball was gaining popularity all over the nation and the logging and fishing industries drew a population of young men who filled local team rosters. The Highway 112 website explained that “a game between the Pysht Camp and the Twin Camp in 1922 would have meant that one of the teams and its fans had to walk the 9 miles of trail between the logging camps.” Today, the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, though now considered a scenic byway, remains a cultural and physical connective thread.

Places to Visit

The Highway 112 website offers a couple of different itineraries for travelers, and takes a variety of interests into account. If recreation is your favorite outdoor endeavor, there’s an exceptional amount of opportunities for you along the highway. Let’s take a look!

Interpretive Center

The Interpretive Center is a wonderful place to visit if you are interested in learning more about the history and culture of the area. Located near the eastern entrance of Highway 112, the Center highlights the Elwha River Restoration Project. Of course, the Interpretive Center will also focus on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway itself. At the Center, you’ll find a complete listing of cultural opportunities along the route. The Interpretive Center’s grand opening will take place in May 2016.

Museums

The Joyce Depot Museum is a historic log cabin-style train station built in 1915. The Depot is now open to the public as a local history museum featuring artifacts, photos, maps and documents from the region’s rich past. The Depot is open Memorial Day through Labor Day on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The rest of the fall, winter, and spring, it is open Saturdays only from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The Makah Cultural and Research Center is world-famous and world-class. The museum’s Ozette archeological collection is the largest pre-contact Northwest Coast Indian collection in the country with eighteen showcases, three dioramas and full-sized replicas of canoes and a longhouse. The museum and research center are open 7 days a week.

Things to Do

An extensive map of regional attractions is available on the Highway 112 website. Below is an overview of some of the many things to do and see along the scenic byway.

Hiking

There are a great many hiking trails to enjoy on the Olympic Peninsula. Rialto Beach is a very popular place to hike, offering stunning vistas for miles along the coast. There are many famous landmarks to explore along this route, such as Hole-in-the-Wall, a rock arch carved out by the waves of the sea.

Birdwatching

A variety of habitats (along the shoreline as well as in the forests) attract hundreds of bird species. Spring and fall are prime seasons for a parade of thousands of migrating Canadian geese, Trumpeter swans, falcons, hawks and Sandhill cranes. Between January and April, you may be able to spot some of the hundreds of bald eagles wintering from British Columbia on the coastline between Clallam Bay and Neah Bay. On a typical day, 50 or more eagles can be seen perched in the trees, especially at low tide, along Highway 112.

Kayaking and Rafting

The Strait of Juan de Fuca and the area’s freshwater lakes and rivers provide ample training grounds for water sports enthusiasts of all abilities. For kayakers, there are oceans, rivers, and lakes for every ability. The Highway 112 website offers extensive information and links to various water sports clubs in the region.

Whale Watching

Any place you stop with a view of the Strait is a potential whale watching spot! The “Whale Trail” informational signage along the highway will offer the best vantage points for stopping to look for whales as well as harbor seals and sea lions. Site locations include Freshwater Bay, Salt Creek Recreation Area, Sekiu Overlook, and Shipwreck Point.

Tidepools

Salt Creek Recreation Area and the Tongue Point Marine Life Sanctuary are world-famous for tidepool exploration. You can even explore the original bunkers that were once part of Fort Hayden during World War II in the region. Clallam Bay and Slip Point Beach Park is an outdoor aquarium where you can examine tidepool animals and sea life alongside the historic lighthouse residence.

To round out your stay after traveling along the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway, you can return to accommodations fit for a president at George Washington Inn. Our Mount Vernon replica offers spectacular views of the region and is convenient to the best Olympic Peninsula attractions.