If you’re like us, you love a good excuse to travel, and what better way to explore than running a road race. You read that right. But this is not just any road race. This is Ragnar Road Northwest Passage. Explore one of our favorite courses, where the forest meets the sea.
The race starts near the Canadian border in the city of Blaine, WA. From there you and your team of runners will pass sights like the Glacial Cascade, Olympic Mountain Ranges, Deception Pass and the Puget Sound. This course is sprinkled with iconic landmarks, friendly locals (show them your love!) and of course, breathtaking coastal views. It’s hard to believe this place is even real, but trust us, it is!
From start to finish, sunrise to sunset, and throughout the night, we’re here to help you plan the best road trip ever. Discover where to eat, grab a cup of joe, cool off with some ice cream, and what scenic spots you need to check out all along the Ragnar race course. And trust us, there’s a LOT to see in this beautiful corner of the world.
So, buckle up (it’s the law) and get ready to road trip with us, Ragnar style!
For everyone flying in, you have two options: staying in the states and flying into Seattle, WA or breaking out that passport and flying into Vancouver, Canada (which is actually closer).
We’re not going to get into what to do in Seattle (Pike’s Place anyone?) or Vancouver (eh?) so let’s fast forward to the day before the race.
BEFORE THE RACE | WELCOME TO BLAINE, WA
If you’re planning on arriving early this is the perfect place to kick off your weekend adventure. Take some time to experience downtown Blaine, it’s filled with fun bars and delicious pizza places. HEADS UP: you’ll want to explore Blaine before the race starts. During the race, vans do not drive the legs that go through Blaine – only active runners make their way through the streets. Okay, back to Pizza.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants in downtown Blaine. From pizza, to oysters, there’s a wide range of options for you and your team to grub on before the race starts.
MUST SIP CAFÉ’S: ROAD NORTHWEST PASSAGE
Next, let’s talk about caffeine and the Must Sip Café’s along the course. From charming to industrial, here are our top coffee shops you’ll want to stop at:
- Sunshine Drip Café: Coupeville, WA — Sunshine is a destination that has a deep love for the outdoors and camping. Their coffee is sourced from two local roasters. Moka Joe Organic Coffee & Mukilteo Coffee Roasters (drip coffee only). They choose to support local small businesses, the community and the love for outdoors. Let’s show them our support too!
Moka Joe Coffeehouse: Anacortes, WA — If you’re going to sip on something, sip on this. Moka Joe is a Certified 100% Organic Coffee Roastery. The company stands behind Fair Trade practices and promotes sustainability. The café offers small batch coffee along with your classic espressos and other caffeinated loves. Bonus: if you’re feeling hungry they also have a food menu.
Honeymoon Bay Coffee Roasters: Oakview, WA — This place is old school and educated on the ins and outs of coffee and that’s why we love it. At Honeymoon Bay Coffee Roasters, they still roast their coffee in a vintage Probat coffee roaster.
Flower House Café: Langley, WA | Exchange 35 — This makes our list a few times (also an excellent choice for food). The Flower House Café is a charming and relaxed garden center with an onsite café. Stop by here for a latte (or a mimosa, the race is over) and pair it with one of their fresh breakfast or lunch plates. This place is a must.
FOR THE RAGNAR FOODIES: WHERE TO EAT
There are so many great places to eat along this course that we had to narrow this list down to some of our (and your) favorites. These shouldn’t be hard to find as you can usually spot bustling crowds at most of these:
The Sandwhich Odyssey: Bellingham, WA | Leg 7 Take advantage of it being Friday! This deli is closed on the weekends. This is a woman owned sandwich shop that prepares food from scratch with fresh produce and meats, sliced by hand and prepared on bread that is baked every morning. They have soups and salads made in house too.
3 Sisters Market: Coupeville, WA | Leg 30
Little Red Hen Bakery: Coupeville, WA | Leg 30
Sunshine Drip Café: Coupeville, WA — This makes our list again (also an amazing coffee shop) for their delicious food. Ranging from bagel sandwiches, to salads and wraps, they also have baked goods you don’t want to miss.
Little Red Hen Bakery: Coupeville, WA — Breads, pastries and English Muffin Sandos. That’s right. Sandos. Also known as sandwiches for those of you who don’t know. You’re going to want to stop in here and grab yourself a nice hot sando baked on a homemade English muffin.
Mussels “Penn Cove Shellfish”: Penn Cove, WA — If you’re into seafood, you’ve heard of Penn Cove mussels. There are several places to get your fix – and you should since you’re right at the source! The Oystercatcher (sister restaurant with Little Red Hen Bakery) is fancy but a great option. According to Penn Cove Shellfish, HERE you can find where to get them on a night out (maybe after the race!).
3 Sisters Market: Coupeville, WA — Run by, you guessed it, 3 sisters, this market is a local produce and grocery that is a must to stop by in. They are known for their cured meats and what goes better with road tripping than some jerky and pepperoni
Whidbey Island Bagel Factory: Oak Harbor + Clinton, WA — The Whidbey Island Bagel Factory serves authentic New York style bagels, boiled and baked. There is a variety of bagel sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. The restaurant is casual and friendly and the service is fast.
Flower House Café: 2780 Marshview Avenue, Langley, WA 98260 | Exchange 35 — This place is elegant and has a wide range of healthy and fresh breakfast or lunch options. Think everything from that classic 2 eggs and a meat breakfast plate to avocado toast and cheeseburgers. It’s located within Bayview Gardens and also has The Laburnum Arbor Tunnel.
THE SCOOP ON RAGNAR ROAD NORTHWEST PASSAGE
Someone once told me after a large meal that “there’s always room for ice cream: it just fills in the cracks!” If you don’t get ice cream along the way, you’ll probably regret it, forever. If you’re lactose intolerant (we feel really bad for you) but there are some non-dairy options for you as well.
Snowgoose Produce: 15170 Fir Island Rd, Mount Vernon, WA 98273 | Exchange 16 — This list is in no particular order aside from this ice cream shop being our top #1 favorite spot along Ragnar Road Northwest Passage. Not only do they stay open late on Friday night – just for us – they have the best ice cream (locally sourced from none other than #6 on our list) and are more than just a dairy store. What was once a roadside barn, this place is a must to stop by and say hello.
Edaleen Dairy: Blaine + Ferndale | Leg 3 — In 1975, Ed and Aileen Bransma combined their names to create Edaleen Dairy. This place is reasonably priced and the you can tell the staff enjoy working here. Most people rave about the soft-serve and milkshakes!
POPSHOP (popsicles): Bellingham | Leg 7 — West Coast Pops has more than 20 flavors varying from creamsicles to fruit pops. We couldn’t leave this one off the list for it’s charm, sweetness and of course, alternative frozen treat.
Mallard Ice Cream: Bellingham | Leg 7 — This place is a walk-up shop that offers a wide range of unique flavors and even flavor combo recommendations. It’s a Belingham classic.
La Conner Ice Cream Tower: La Conner | Exchange 18 — Let us warn you, they offer VERY generous portions. Be sure to get the waffle cone and save room because there is clearly more scoops on our list.
Lopez Island Creamery Factory: Anacortes | Leg 19 — Coined as one of Anacortes’s best kept secrets, welcome to where passion and quality collide. Unlike the other shops on this list, this is actually where they make their ice cream. You can see how it’s made in the brand new tasting room. If you have time, you can also take a tour.
Popsies (candy and ice cream): Oak Harbor | Exchange 26 — Welcome to the north pole. Or at least it feels like it. This is your all-american CLASSIC candy, popcorn and YES hand dipped ice cream bars.
Whidbey Island Ice Cream: Freeland + Langley, WA (Whidbey island) | Exchange 34 — Whidbey Island Ice Cream is made with fresh milk and cream sourced from family-owned sustainable farms. This place is the place to go post-race in Langley, but if you want to sneak a scoop in before, stop by in their Freeland location.
BEST PIT STOPS FOR THE SNACK ATTACKS
Did someone say SNACKS? Snacks are a big part of Ragnar van life culture. It’s classic road trip food. There are a few places (although spread out) where you’ll want to stop and snag that big container of water, something salty and something sweet. From grocery stores to farmers market, here’s where to get your fix.
Ferndale: Leg 3 & 4 —There are some options here to stop and grab some snacks
Leg 12: this is the last major town with places to pick up goodies until you get to Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor: Exchange 26- 27
THINGS TO DO
We’ve talked a lot about what to eat and drink along the way, but there’s way more to see and do than that!
Suquamish Clearwater Casino: Exchange 19 — This place will welcome you with open arms. They have games, food and the establishment is extremely clean.
Tulip Festival “Land”: Leg 15 -17 — This is more of a “just so you know” moment. When you drive or run through this part of the course, take a look at the fields around you. These are the iconic fields of tulips that people travel all around the world to get to.
Snowgoose Produce — This is mentioned on our ice cream list as they serve the famous Lopez Island Ice Cream, but the story of this place and the charm is worth visiting. Mike and Mary-Louise Rust started Snow Goose Produce in the spring of 1984. Foodies in their own right with a history in the organic sustainable movement dating to the 1970’s Mike and Mary-Louise wanted to share with the community their passion for delicious ingredients and local fare. What once was a barn became a fully operating produce stand on Fir Island road. Over the last 35 years Snow Goose has grown to be a beloved destination for many locals and visitors from far and wide.
Deception Pass — This is…self-explanatory. This is bucket list material. All we’re going to say about this one, is take it all in.
TOP 4 SIGHTS TO SEE ON RAGNAR ROAD NORTHWEST PASSAGE
We’ve saved the best for last! Our courses are hand-selected by our elite team of Race Directors, and they consistently design race courses with jaw-dropping landscapes. It’s a huge part of why we love what we do. Get ready to open your eyes to the majestic beauty of the Northwest Passage – you’re not going to want to blink.
1. Exchange 26 — This one is going to feel a bit silly, but there’s something ever so calming about water. If you have the chance, stare at the water. If the lighting is right and the wind is calm, it will look just like glass.
2. Leg 29 — about 2.5 miles into this leg, be sure to pull over and look at the snowcapped mountains on the right. Better yet, if you’re running, remember to look around you and take in all the sights and sounds.
3. Leg 31: Ebey’s Landing —You run down towards this iconic and historic spot with views of the entire pungent sound and Olympic mountains. There will be surround sound of birds singing and the views are breathtakingly panoramic. Runners run by a parking level – if you and the rest of the team/van have time, take advantage and go for a little hike.
4. The Laburnum Arbor Tunnel | 2780 Marshview Avenue, Langley, WA 98260 | Exchange 35 — This screams, and we mean SCREAMS, “picturesque”. This is located at the same place as the Flower Café/Bayview Garden and Farms, on our Must Sip Café’s list, and is a vibrant tunnel of yellow Laburnum trees. It quite literally, is all yellow.
At this point in the race, you should have all the feels. And again, if you’re lactose intolerant you’ll definitely be feeling some sort of way after all those scoops of ice cream. The finish line is located in Langley, WA on Whidbey Island. There are plenty of things to see and do in Langley, VA. The front street is worth exploring and of course, you should stop by Bayview Garden and Farms, from breweries and cideries, to even MORE ice cream, here’s how you should celebrate.
Post- Race Libations (aside from the finish line)
Whidbey Island Distillery — Get in the spirit of celebrations! This distillery proudly uses northwest ingredients and has been run by the same family for 3 generations!
Spoiled Dog Winery — You can now officially wine about your Ragnar race.
Double Bluff Brewing — Did someone say hops? Double Bluff Brewing was founded in 2015 and was named after one of the most beautiful spots on Whidbey Island, Double Bluff Beach, with views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle, Mt. Rainier and the Cascades.
The Machine shop (classic pinball downtown place) — This is a classic arcade with old school pinball machines located in downtown. While it doesn’t serve alchohol, it serves all sorts of fun and is great for any age.