1. Sequim is pronounced “SK-WIM.” 2. It’s located on the north end of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. 3. Thanks to the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, it receives an average of only 16 inches per year (compared with nearby Hoh Rainforest’s 140 inches and Seattle’s 38.) Only two hours from Seattle, Sequim is the best of what the coastal Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Downtown Sequim Has It
Arriving in Sequim after my drive from Portland, I’m ready for a strong cup of coffee and a good, quick meal. I satisfy both needs; first at cozy Hurricane Coffee and then at Jose’s Famous Salsa. A local favorite, this taqueria serves tacos, burritos, tostadas, and tamales, ceviche, and more. Jose and Angee Garcia started their business when friends enjoyed their homemade salsas so much they wanted to buy them. Today, they make 50-60 gallons of the spicy stuff a week. I help myself to the salsa bar, trying a little of everything, including traditional marinated carrots, jicama and radish garnish—all fresh ingredients, delicious flavors.
My first day in Sequim I wander shops, galleries, coffee houses, and wine bars and eat well. Hart’s Fine Books is the perfect place to find a cool vintage or antique book. They’ve also got a great collection of film memorabilia. At Sequim Spice & Tea, I sample a variety of salts and sugars, and pick up some cedar smoked sea salt and some herbal tea. They’ve got an extensive selection of spices, herbs, teas, salts and sugars.
Over the Fence offers original and well-priced home and garden décor, and I pick up a couple of birthday gifts. Another great gift and home items shop, HeatherCreek specializes in French Country décor. For art, step into Blue Whole Gallery, an artist’s co-op. Mad Maggi Boutique sells great clothing. Pondicherri designs and creates textile fashions and home items. This a family run business and their goods are made at their textile factory in New Delhi. They’re committed to strong social and environmental policies and their designs and quality are lovely.
What’s in the pastry case at That Takes the Cake is only a fraction of their repertoire. By varying the cake flavors, icing and fillings, they offer a staggering 350 (and counting) flavors of cupcakes, wedding and specialty cakes. Proprietors Sue and Paul Boucher cut no corners when it comes to quality. From start to finish, they invest 18 hours creating large wedding cakes and make 145 wedding cakes a year (eight to12 in a single weekend at high season). My “triple threat” chocolate cupcake is heavenly.
It’s time to refuel with an afternoon java. Rainshadow Coffee is Sequim’s local roasting company and the scent of roasting beans guides me there. I can stand by their “Life is Short, Drink Good Coffee” sign and enjoy an espresso from their Firehouse Blend beans, and get some ground for morning coffee in my room.
Before dinner, I taste wine at Wind Rose Cellars. Angie, originally from Germany, is pouring and she expertly leads me through husband-and-wife team David Volmut and Jennifer States’ wines. Wind Rose focuses on Italian varietals, with emphasis on food-driven wines. Grapes are sourced from some of my favorite Washington wine regions and these winemakers know what they are doing. Their Dolcetto has great color and mild, easy-to-drink flavors. Their Primitivo is excellent; as is the Barbera and the king of big Italian reds, their Nebbiolo. The bistro offers delicious small bites and the live music most nights, making Wind Rose Cellars a great hangout.
The John Wayne Marina
Movie star legend John Wayne often sailed his Wild Goose sailboat in Sequim Bay and surrounding waters, and, in 1975, donated land for a marina. Today, the marina includes moorage, a community area, a great promenade, boat and kayak rentals, the Dockside Grill restaurant and John Wayne’s Waterfront Resort, with cabins and RV space.
I spend two nights at the Resort. My cabin, along with seven others, features a wall of picture windows and an open view of the water. There’s a big flat screen TV, but nothing beats the water view. There’s a full kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms. Everything is comfy, clean and woodsy. The countertops aren’t granite and the shower isn’t tiled, but the paint colors are warm and saturated; the furnishings new; and then again, there’s that water view.
At the marina, rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) at the dock from GoXpeditions. The waters of Sequim Bay are calm and perfect for an easy paddle; or venture a bit further into Dungeness Bay.
The Dockside Grill offers waterside dining at the Marina; just about every table offers great marina and water views The Dockside is owned by Steve Little and he shares Chef duties with Josh Souza. The two have worked together and been best friends since 1995 and have won several awards together. Josh’s wife, Melody, who also works at the restaurant, enjoys the family-friendly atmosphere they’ve created.
The seafood is fresh, the steaks well prepared, the pasta homemade, and the dessert tray is decadent. I start my meal with seven-grain, seedy, fresh warm bread and olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce. The seafood bisque has all the goodies: salmon, prawns, scallops and plenty of crab. It’s creamy, but not too thick, not too rich.
The signature dish is cedar plank salmon (or the cedar plank halibut in season). It’s dry-rubbed and topped with plenty of Dungeness crab and citrus butter. My shellfish and sausage is a treat: local mussels and manila clams, Andouille sausage, slices of red potato, thinly sliced celery that remains crunchy, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs, fresh chopped tomatoes and just a bit of heavy cream. It’s served with parmesan toast points for sopping up the last of that delicious broth.
In the morning, the tide is way out, and low fog creates a blanket over the water and islands beyond. I linger over coffee on my little deck, watching fishing herons and boats in the Bay. It’s a beautiful spot.
The Oak Table is “the” place for breakfast in Sequim. Each morning, they prepare seven different pancake batters. The buttermilk pancakes have added sourdough yeasts and enzymes, which make them especially light and fine-textured (and easy to digest). Potato pancakes are the real deal. I watch The Apple Pancake arrive at the next table to exclaims by all. A house specialty, it’s baked like a soufflé until it’s three inches tall, then fresh cooked, peeled apples and cinnamon glaze are added. There are also buckwheat pancakes and the blintzes are filled with a mix of cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and almond extract topped with fresh berries. The Swedish pancakes are thin, moist, lacy and sweet—delicious.
The Crab Benedict special does not disappoint: the hollandaise is fresh, lemony and indulgent, the crab is plentiful and fresh. Thick-sliced bacon and thick sliced ham; check. Fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice; check. French-style baked omelettes. Scrambles. Waffles. Yogurt parfait. Quiche. Espresso drinks. Check, check, on all.
The Oak Table is a family affair. Mary and Billy Nagler opened the doors in 1981. Billy Zuzich, Mary’s brother, moved west in 1982 and is the General Manager. The Nagler’s daughter, Nikki,and husband Ross run their own location in Kingston, and Billy’s sister runs her own restaurants in nearby Port Angeles. Family portraits and memorabilia hang on the wall and pay homage to their Chicago Croatian-Italian-German roots.
I’m ready for a full day of hiking, eager to be part this beautiful landscape. It’s a glorious day, and there are hikes for every level of hiking.
Heading west on Hwy. 101, I stop at Sequim’s Sunny Farms Nursery. There’s a full nursery, and the grocery store sells natural, high quality meat, fresh veggies, fruits and grocery items. I pull together a wonderful picnic lunch.
Forty-five minutes from Sequim, I reach Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The 17-mile drive up to the 5,200 foot level is gorgeous. I choose a moderate hike that offers great views of both the mountains and the waters of the Strait. This is the Northwest at its best.
At Lake Crescent, it’s a short 1.8 mile hike out to Marymere Falls. This is low elevation forest; weak light shines through dense forest, outstanding year-round green colors, fir trees and yews, cedars and spruce, and lots of ferns. Visitors can also walk over to Lake Crescent Lodge, rent a kayak, and walk the beach. The beautiful Pacific Northwest is truly is a place everyone should experience.
Lavender and Country Roads
I spend my final day in Sequim exploring back roads and local parks. You can let yourself wander–the roads all lead back to town, and, along the way you’ll pass farms, both private and those open for business, the Olympic Game Farm, parks, and more.
Quietness settles over me as I drive the long, windy path to Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge; and I haven’t even begun my hike. It’s early morning and there’s still a chill in the air and cloud cover.
I hike along, but turn back before reaching the six miles out to Dungeness Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is located at the very end of spit; the longest natural sand spit in the U.S. The width of the spit varies considerably with the tides; but this day, it’s not more than 50 to 70 feet wide. The waves lap the beach and I examine the seaweed, shell remnants, rocks and driftwood along the way, and watch heron fish and seabirds scavenge. The sun has burned off the morning fog and the trail above the Spit offers another great view.
On Sequim-Dungeness Way, I stop at Nash’s Organic Produce. Nash’s has been integral to providing organic fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and pork for restaurants, local markets, and residents throughout the North Olympic Peninsula as well as Seattle and beyond. Restaurants often tout that they source from Nash’s and share how important the farm has been to efforts to provide local, sustainable, organic eating in the area.
I move on to the salty waters of Marilyn Nelson Park. It’s rocky with just a strip of beach (tide dependent, of course), and a lovely place take in the glorious view.
Lavender grows extremely well in this clime, and indeed, one of Sequim’s largest annual fests is July’s Lavender Festival. There are quite a few lavender farms to choose from on these roads. Purple Haze Lavender Farm is on Bellbottom Road, just off West Sequim Bay Road. Earlier, I had visited their downtown shop, but visiting the 12-acre farm offers the full experience; a view of the lavender fields and the quaint country shop (where I pick up a bottle of essential oil).
Depending on the time of year, you can pick a lavender bouquet, buy plants, or catch a wedding. In August or September, you may be lucky to see lavender oil extraction. The distillation equipment can hold 700 pounds of flowers and yield between 8 to 24 pints of essential lavender oil. From a porch swing, I watch kids pet the rabbits and enjoy a serving of buttery rich lavender ice cream.
A visit to Sequim can be a jumping point for all that is the Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands, and Canada’s Vancouver Island in Canada. But, for me, Sequim is also a perfect destination all by itself. — Story and photos by Nancy Zaffaro, Wine, Brews, & Spirits Editor Northwest
If You Go:
Where to Eat in Sequim
Hurricane Coffee Company, www.facebook.com/hurricanecoffee
Jose’s Famous Salsa, josesfamoussalsa.com
Dockside Grill, , www.docksidegrill-sequim.com
Alder Wood Bistro, www.alderwoodbistro.com
Blondie’s Plate, www.blondiesplate.com
That Takes the Cake, www.thattakesthecakes.com
Wind Rose Cellars, www.windrosecellars.com
Where to Shop in Sequim:
Blue Whole Gallery, www.bluewholegallery.com
Hart’s Fine Books, www.hartsfinebooks.com
Heather Creek, www.heathercreek.com
Mad Maggi Boutique, Sequim
Over The Fence, www.overthefencesequim.com
Rainshadow Coffee Roasting Company, www.rainshadowcoffee.com
Sequim Spice & Tea, www.sequimspiceandtea.com
Nash’s Organic Produce, www.nashsorganicproduce.com
Purple Haze Lavender Farm, www.purplehazelavender.com
Sunny Farms, www.sunnyfarms.com
Where to Stay:
There are lodging options to suit all budgets in and near Sequim.
John Wayne Waterfront Resort: www.johnwaynewaterfrontresort.com