You may not be tempted to jump into the water at a Washington beach (even in the summer, ocean temperatures off the coast are in the low 50s), but our state’s saltwater beaches along the Pacific Ocean and around Puget Sound have a lot to offer.
Pacific Ocean Beaches
A number of beaches on the Olympic Peninsula are rich with tide pools and rocks, such as agate and jasper, which make for fun beachcombing, but Rialto is a favorite. To make the most of your visit, plan it on a minus-tide day (check tide schedule here).
GETTING THERE: Rialto Beach is approximately a 20-minute drive west of Forks.
The wind tends to blow steady on Long Beach—all 28 miles of it. Don’t miss the annual summer kite-flying festival, August 20–26.
GETTING THERE: Long Beach is just under a four-hour drive southwest of Seattle.
Half Moon Bay
Powerful waves at Half Moon Bay beach make Westhaven State Park a popular site for experienced surfers.
GETTING THERE: Westhaven State Park is in Westport, about an hour-and-a-half drive west of Olympia.
From the North Jetty to the mouth of Grays Harbor, hundreds of razor-clamming fans gather at Copalis Beach during winter and spring to dig for the treasured bivalves. The smooth sand makes for an easy clamming expedition.
GETTING THERE: Copalis Beach is an hour-and-a-half drive west of Olympia.
Shi Shi Beach
You’ll need to hike to get to Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula (and you’ll need a Makah Recreation Pass; $10), but the payoff is stunning views of sea stacks and headlands.
GETTING THERE: From Forks, Shi Shi Beach is about an hour-and-a-half drive northwest.
A walkable town on the Olympic Peninsula, Seabrook is a planned community with easy beach access, many homes available for vacation rental, and amenities that include bike paths, a pool and fitness center, a playground, shops and restaurants.
GETTING THERE: Seabrook is just over a three-hour drive southwest of Seattle.
Puget Sound Beaches
More than a century ago, Fort Worden, with 2 miles of Puget Sound shoreline, was the home to nearly 1,000 soldiers training to defend Puget Sound. Still standing and awaiting exploration are some of the fort’s bunkers; stand on top for great views or walk through the spooky tunnels.
GETTING THERE: Fort Worden is located in Port Townsend, which is just over a two-hour drive from Seattle via the Bainbridge Island ferry.
Lime Kiln Point State Park
Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island is nicknamed “Whale Watch Park” for good reason. Admittedly, the shoreline is more rock than beach, but you’ve got a good chance of spotting a minke whale or orca if you visit between May and September.
GETTING THERE: From San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor, Lime Kiln Park is about a 20-minute drive west.
In the heart of Burien, the three-quarter-mile-long beach at Seahurst Park attracts crowds—especially when the sun comes out and the tide is low—that enjoy shoreline trails, picnic areas, playgrounds and impressive views of the Olympics.
GETTING THERE: Heading south on Ambaum Boulevard, follow the signs for Seahurst Park.
Cama Beach State Park
The rustic waterfront cabins at Camano Island’s Cama Beach State Park offer the best of both worlds: a beach just steps away for daytime exploration, and later, a bed plus electric lights to read by when night falls, with nearby waves offering a soundtrack to sleep by.
GETTING THERE: Cama Beach State Park is approximately a 20-minute drive southwest of Stanwood.
Double Bluff Beach
The 4-mile off-leash area at South Whidbey Island’s Double Bluff Beach make this a perfect spot to take your four-footed friend. For dog owners, the beach offers stunning views of the Cascades and the Olympics.
GETTING THERE: Double Bluff Beach is approximately a 20-minute drive south of Langley.
Low Tide Exploration
At beaches throughout Seattle, including at Carkeek, Golden Gardens, Lincoln, Richmond Beach, Saltwater, Seahurst and south Alki parks, low tides reveal sea life and also bring out volunteer Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists. The volunteers help locals learn about what they see on the beach—from moon snails to sea stars—without causing harm. Low tides in June are June 2, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 29 and 30. For details, visit seattleaquarium.org.
“I encourage seasoned hikers in Seattle to challenge themselves to take to the water, especially around the San Juans. Some landscapes demand to be seen on their own terms, and small crafts like sea kayaks offer a unique intimacy with the environment.” Ruby McConnell, author of A Woman’s Guide to the Wild
Photo by Tracy Sydor