I’ve had to make the Seattle to Portland trek many times. Living in Seattle and with family and friends in Portland, I’m always looking for an excuse to do a Seattle to Portland road trip and head down south for a few days. When traveling from Seattle to Portland you have a few options for how to get there: driving, train, bus, and air.
Tips for Driving on a Seattle to Portland Road Trip
Driving from Seattle to Portland is the most common way to make the journey. The two iconic Pacific Northwest cities are only 175 miles apart, and takes about three hours to three and a half hours to drive. BUT and this is a big but, the traffic of the PNW is starting to rival California for its surprise traffic jams at seemingly random times of the day and during normal rush hour times, expect gridlock along I-5.
If you do get stuck in rush hour or a surprise traffic jam when leaving Seattle, it should usually ease up after Tacoma.
A great stopping point is Olympia in Washington, where you can find a cute café for a longer break or a little coffee shop for a quick stop. You can also take a quick walk to stretch your legs around Capitol Lake, which has views of the Washington State Capitol.
The tiny town of Castle Rock is another good stopping point for a Seattle to Portland road trip since it is a little over half-way between the two, making it convenient if you need a bathroom break since it has gas stations and fast food restaurants right off the freeway. There’s a gas station connected to a McDonald’s that has a multi-stall bathroom and lots of snacks.
The stretch between Castle Rock and Portland is nice since I-5 is a three-lane highway for a lot of the way and goes along the Columbia River for part of it, too.
Depending where you’re staying in Portland you’ll take either I-5 or I-205 down, the latter of which is split into from I-5 about 25 miles from Portland. Take I-5 for downtown and I-205 for east Portland neighborhoods.
Taking the train from Seattle to Portland
The train that runs between Seattle and Portland is the Amtrak and it runs daily with multiple service times. The Amtrak station in Seattle is King Street Station, located in Pioneer Square just south of downtown. To park by King Street Station, look for one of the many paid parking garages in Pioneer Square, though it’s probably easier just to take an Uber or cab there. You’ll end your journey at the Amtrak station in Portland, which is called Union Station and is located in Portland’s old town neighborhood.
Along the way between the two stations you’ll enjoy the luxuries of train travel, which give you time to catch up on work or that must-read novel instead of keeping an eye on the speedometer or cursing traffic.
Seattle to Portland Road Trip via Bus
The bus between Seattle and Portland may not be as comfortable as the train, but it will be cheaper and it will also be easier to get exactly where you’ll want to get to once you arrive in Portland, helping you to save additional dollars by not having to worry about cab fares to and from the train station.
Flying From Seattle to Portland
Another way to get between Portland and Seattle is to fly. With security lines being the way they are nowadays and the potential for flight delays, my vote for getting to Seattle is driving or taking the train or bus since it probably won’t be much faster to fly if you include time in the airport, though I suppose if you have status and can fly first class and enjoy shorter security lines and free Champagne along the way, then why not!
The flight time is roughly an hour. To fly out of Seattle to Portland, you’ll need to get to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is located 15 miles south of downtown Seattle. SEA-TAC can get very busy during peak travel times so be sure to give yourself extra time for security lines – if you don’t have TSA Precheck or Clear plan on getting there at least two hours before your flight departure time to be on the safe side. Portland’s airport is located 12 miles from downtown Portland.
Experience the Culture of the PNW when Traveling from Seattle to Portland
When it comes to traveling between Seattle and Portland, you have many options for how to get there. Whether you decide to turn it into a Seattle to Portland road trip or do one of the other transportation methods to get there, you’ll find that best of all is the fact that you’ll get to experience the sights and tastes that make these two cities such iconic strongholds of the Pacific Northwest culture.