Daytripping to Olympia

West Budd Bay

I had two reasons for visiting Olympia.  First and foremost, it is home to my very favorite farmers market ever.  Those not familiar with farmers markets may be wondering just how much lettuce a person can want to buy.  Let me tell you that farmers markets are far more than that.  Perhaps the only Washington farmers market that is open year-round, it has over 400,000 visitors in the 135 days it is open for business.  And they are not just buying lettuce.  In addition to world-class produce, one can find nursery stock, applewood smoked bacon, hand-crafted sausages, soaps, herbs, artwork, jams and jellies, baked goods, and fresh meat and seafood.  The Olympia Farmers Market also has a stage and offers free, live music during lunchtime.  Did I mention there is terrific food and locally roasted coffee available, too?

Olympia Farmers Market

The second reason I had for visiting Olympia was to shoot some photos.  Since taking up photography a few years ago, I discovered that I go more places and see more things with a camera in hand than I ever did before.  Not only that, but I really LOOK at my surroundings.  While looking for a photo op, I see beautiful landscapes, lovely wildflowers, and interesting birds.  Before I took up photography, I would take a quick look, not really seeing half of what was there, and think “Okay, where to now?”.  With photography, as with much else in life, one thing leads to another.

Heron on a Seafood Diet

I started posting photos on Flickr.  I found and joined a Flickr Group called Birds of Washington.  I posted a photo of a little brown bird I had been unable to identify and a helpful member, Jon D. Anderson, identified it.  I then discovered that he takes some good photos, is an avid and knowledgeable birder, and includes in his captions information about where the bird was seen.  Now, armed with information about where to see some birds in the Olympia area, I grabbed a canvas shopping bag and my camera and headed out to enjoy a fun day trip.

Olympia Wall Art

As of the 2010 census, Olympia had a population of 46,478, so it has a small-town feel despite being the state capital.  However, it is on the southern edge of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area, with an estimated population of 3,500,000 (more than half of the state’s total population).  The Greater Seattle Metro area ranks as the 13th largest in the country and Olympia is right on the southern edge of that.  It’s proximity to a large population center also lends Olympia a bit of a cosmopolitan atmosphere.  The area near the farmers market is eclectic and trendy, with shops and eateries and a lot of building art, such as that pictured above.

While wandering around the area, I saw some huge cattle in a field near where Mud Bay Rd NW intersects with US-101.  Parked momentarily on the shoulder of a busy highway, I only managed to capture the bull.  To give you an idea of the size, I estimate this fellow to be at least as big as a large SUV.

Rusty Bull

Tumwater is just south of Olympia and lies near where the Deschutes River enters Budd Inlet, the southernmost point of Puget Sound.  It was home to the first community to settle on Puget Sound, in 1845.

 4864-Tumwater plaque

At the point where the Deschutes River empties into Budd Inlet lies a manmade lake, Capitol Lake, which is part of the Washington State Capitol Campus.

Capitol Lake

Tumwater Falls Park is the most-visited privately-held park in the state, with an estimated 250,000 visitors each year.  Admission and parking is free.  The park is maintained by a non-profit organization on land that was donated by the Olympia Brewery.  In fact, a portion of the falls appeared on the label of Olympia Beer bottles and cans until the brewery closed in 1983.


Here is one segment of the falls now, clogged with fallen trees and storm debris.

Tumwater Falls

This colorful totem pole is located above the falls at Tumwater Falls Park.

Tumwater Totem Pole


In terms of birding, I saw just enough along with Olympia waterfront, Tumwater Falls, and Capitol Lake that I want to learn more and explore more.  Since Olympia is only 55 miles from home, it won’t take much to induce me to go there again for a day trip of visiting the farmers market and wandering around on another photo shoot.

Bathing Beauty

Thanks for coming along with me on this little day trip.  Next time, I’ll do my best to “shoot” more birds.


More info:
Olympia Farmers Market:
great bird photos in the Olympia and South Sound area:
Birds of Washington photo group:
Seattle Metro area:,
Tumwater Falls Park (including a YouTube video):
South Sound birding info:


4 thoughts on “Daytripping to Olympia

  1. I used to fly up from California to visit my parents in Olympia, as early as 1965 or 1966. They were involved with the Nisqually Delta Association, a group of people organized to save the Nisqually Delta from being dug up and re-purposed as a deep-water timber port. That piece of property at the mouth of the Nisqually River is now the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. In subsequent visits over the years, I have grown to love Olympia, and it is one of my favorite destinations. If you have not been to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge yet to photograph birds, you need to go. Trust me.


    1. I have been to Nisqually NWR. All the elevated boardwalks over the swampy areas make for great viewing of amphibians as well as birds. It has been awhile since I was there and it’s not far from Olympia — thanks for the reminder!


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