Bountiful Byway Offers Best of Thurston County

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Whether you are entertaining visitors from out of town or just looking for something different to do, Thurston County’s Bountiful Byway is chock full of options, entertainment, products and activities.

Getting away from the big city and finding fun things to do can be challenging, but the agritourism district created two years ago offers unique experiences for adventurers of all ages.

Dozens of stops are contained within the district, which “starts in the Nisqually Valley, stretches south to the city of Yelm and west to the Capital Forest before ending at the intersection of Mud Bay Road and Delphi Road Southwest,” according to information provided by the group.

Those looking to explore the stops and activities will find more than “90 suggested agricultural, ecological and cultural stops” to consider when planning a day of it. There are farm stands, farmers markets, wineries, breweries, lodging options, parks, historic sites and many more to be found in the picturesque rural regions of the county. There are no tour buses and visitors are invited to take self-guided tours, selecting their own route and choosing the places that appeal to them most.

Among the stops is Sandstone Distillery, which will soon move its distilling operation from Tenino into the Brewery District near the old Olympia brewery. It will serve as an anchor business to help attract other businesses as Tumwater works to revitalize the retail area.

Sandstone is also expanding its product line to include “shrubs,” a series of vinegars made from fruit and spices which may be used for all types of cooking and also be included in cocktail recipes. Learn more about Sandstone and its future at sandstonedistillery.com.

A prearranged visit to Nelson Ranch can be made for a tour to see the cows, oak groves, Mima Mounds and vineyard. The more than 100-year-old farm is still occupied by the Nelsons who are working with the agritourism agency to introduce people to sustainable land practices and rural life.

Every August the ranch hosts a gourmet dinner featuring locally grown food, paired with local wines, tours, heritage displays and other vendors. This year the open house portion of the day is 2-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. An optional four-course dinner is 5-7 p.m. Dinner tickets are $65 per person and should be purchased early by emailing jill@nelsonranch.com.

Evergreen Lavender Farm is off the beaten path but well worth a visit to sit in a field of lovely flowers that smell delightful, while honey bees collect the makings for lavender-tinged sweetness.

There is a little store with a variety of lavender-laced products where Peggy and Thayne Bryenton get to showcase the many benefits and uses for their favorite flower. The farm is open for browsers, meditation, people who just want to sit, as well as for shoppers. Check online at evergreenvalleylavender.com for hours of operation or to arrange a personal tour.

A number of agencies worked in tandem to create the Bountiful Byway, which spurs economic activity in places that might otherwise go unnoticed, said Sandra Romero, Thurston County Commissioner who was an early supporter of the idea.

“We’ve been working on this since at least 2010,” she said during a recent press junket through the district.

Partners in development include local farmers and business owners, the Olympia-Lacey- Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, Thurston County WSU Extension, the Thurston Regional Planning Council, and other organizations.

A full listing of the featured stops and details about the businesses is online at visitolympia.com/attractions/thurston-bountiful-byway. Some stops require an appointment, but many are open during regular business hours.

In the Yelm, Rainier, and Tenino areas, the farmers markets are listed, as well as Prairie Hotel, Wolf Haven International, Sandstone Distillery, Medicine Creek Winery, and the Nelson Ranch, to name a few.

For businesses looking to register to be part of the Bountiful Byways listing, contact www.visitolympia.com/thurstonbountifulbyway for an application packet.

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