The Northwest offers scenic coasts for swimming, kite flying, driving, horseback riding, walking, surfing, clam digging and bird watching. There are places to observe the marine life, places to relax and watch the waves, and places to seen the majesty of nature. In Washington state, from Long Beach on the south end to Ruby Beach on the north, there is enough variety to satisfy all needs.
Long Beach is on the little peninsula jutting north in the southwest corner of the state, the Pacific Ocean on one side and Willapa Bay on the other. One of the longest open beaches in the United States, it is the home to the annual Washington International Kite Festival held the third week in August. The long sandy beaches are also attractive to swimmers and surfers.
It was on the Long Beach peninsula that Lewis and Clarke ended their quest for the Pacific Ocean. A Discovery Trail to commemorate that adventure stretches 8 miles from Ilwaco to North Long Beach. Also, for those who enjoy walking, there is the ½ mile Long Beach Boardwalk with interpretive centers, viewpoints, and picnic areas.
Long Beach is a busy place, and going there on a weekend or during one of their many celebrations the traffic will be very congested. There are many celebrations beginning on January 1st with fireworks to celebrate the new year, to the Water Music Festival in December, there is always something going on in Long Beach.
There are five state parks on the peninsula, including the most visited state park, Cape Disappointment; and, Washington is the only state in the west without day-use fees.
Westport and Ocean Shores could reach across Grays Harbor and shake hands, if that were possible. Ocean Shores is on a southern jutting peninsula and Westport in on a northern-jutting peninsula, at the mouth of Grays Harbor. It’s in Aberdeen where you need to make the decision of which beach to go to.
Westport is popular for clam digging and hosts the annual Cranberry Harvest Festival in October. The beaches here aren’t as sandy, but it’s a quieter place and great for whale watching, beach combing, and is home to the tallest light house on the Washington coast, the Grays Harbor Lighthouse.
Ocean Shores is another popular destination for those seeking sandy beaches. In June is the International Kite Challenge competition and July is the month for motorcycle enthusiasts. The Harley Owners Group Sun amp; Surf Run attracts about 2,000 visitors every July. Ocean Shores is very family oriented, with many places to stay close to the beach, good restrooms, a grocery store, and fast food restaurants. Many people enjoy renting the little yellow scooters and mopeds that can be driven on the beach. Horseback riding, picnicking, and swimming are also very popular activities.
If you need someplace a little quieter, head up State Route 109 to Ocean City, Copalis Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips. Along the way you will see many nice places to stay, such as Ocean Crest Resort, The Sandpiper, and Iron Springs Resort. Those places fill up fast, so reservations are a must.
From Moclips you can head back east to Highway 101 to go north to Lake Quinault, where you will find the Quinault Rain Forest. With an average rainfall of 12 feet and moderate temperatures, the trees grow to enormous heights. There are a variety of hikes and walks you can take through the rain forest to experience something you won’t see anywhere else in the United States. It is one of four temperate rain forests located only in Washington State. Be sure to stop at the historic Mercantile on the South Shore Road, right next to the Museum and Lodge. Their ice cream cones and milk shakes are great, plus it’s a great place to pick up your souvenirs.
Heading farther north on 101, you reach Kalaloch, pronounced “claylock”. A great place to camp, it offers many interesting beaches. Some of the beaches are reached by meandering trails, climbing over driftwood, to pebbly beaches. On one of the beaches you will see bulwarks of wrecked ships from the 1800’s, at the mouth of Steamboat Creek. Whale watching, beach combing, and storm watching are some of the activities here. There is also a lodge with a restaurant for those needing a good bowl of chowder.
Ruby Beach, with sea stacks, tidal pools, and driftwood galore, is about 10 miles north of Kalaloch. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The beach gets its name from tiny garnets found in the sand. Another rocky beach, it does have some good waves for surfing. You can sit on a large piece of driftwood to each your lunch, or climb on the stacks jutting out of the ocean to watch the waves crash at your feet.
From Ruby Beach, Highway 101 turns inland to the Hoh Rain Forest and the Olympic National Park. You can completely circumnavigate the Olympic Peninsula on Highway 101, ending up in Olympia, the state capital.