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DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO PACIFIC NORTHWEST COASTAL BEACHES – Washington

Pacific Northwest Beaches are not known for their hot sunny days and bronzed beach bodies. These are NOT the sand volleyball, bikini-clad beaches of Southern California. Most of the time, on PNW beaches, you’re lucky to have nice enough weather to even take off your hoodie. 

Our beaches are loved for their natural beauty, tide pools, driftwood, sea caves, and the occasional boardwalk. Picture a nice stroll down an uninhabited beach on a cloudy, or, better yet, a misty day.  So grab a coffee, throw on a pair of shorts and a hoodie, and pack a cooler of IPAs, because we’re heading out to explore Washington beaches. 

Alki Beach

I don’t know about you, but it makes me giggle knowing that Alki beach was made famous for that old Tom Hanks movie Sleepless in Seattle. It’s the scene where he flies a kite on the beach with his son. Awww! How sweet. But really, it’s a beautiful beach. 

This beach is a fan favorite because there’s so much to do. Everything from sunbathing to the amusement park (which houses a 2.5-ton anchor) to the Alki point lighthouse gives out tours in the summer months. It has something for everyone.

Alki Beach offers 2.5 miles of sandy beach great for people watching, volleyball tournaments, and skateboarding. It’s not for swimming though, thanks to the Puget Sound waters; however, it makes up for it with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle.

Alki Avenue SW

You’re probably getting a bit hungry after all that fun in the sun, if there’s sun, well at least there’s going to be fun on the sand. Take a nice stroll down Alki Avenue SW and pop into one of the many amazing restaurants there. 

Cactus Restaurant is well-loved for its outstanding mexican food, especially if you’re craving some fajitas and house-made guacamole. Dive into the chile relleno and a nice margarita (on the rocks, never frozen!) and you’ll not be disappointed. 

Alki Point Lighthouse

This is a cute little active lighthouse used to navigate boats around the Puget Sound. It’s not very big, compared to other lighthouses, but they offer summertime tours and you might learn a thing or two. 

It’s located in West Seattle and is really easy to get to right from downtown.  

  • Can I bring my dog to Alki Beach? Yes
  • Can I camp at Alki Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 175.1miles 
  • Distance from Seattle -11.1 miles 

Second Beach Trail

The tide pools, sea stacks, and Quillayute Needles of La Push Second Beach are out of a twilight movie scene. Second Beach is located in the Olympic National Park and is known for its tide pools, crazy-looking trees, and ample parking. 

This is one of the 3 beaches in the La Push area and is a vast expanse of fine sand, towering sea stacks, mesmerizing tide pools, and impressive sea caves. Low tide allows access across a long sandpit, connecting the mainland to the archipelagos.

The hike down Second Beach Trail is a little steep and there’s some stairs at the end, so don’t wear flip flops. It is covered in a dense forest with crazy-looking twisted trees that make it a little spooky and super fun for kids.

If you can’t make it all the way to either La Push or Kalaloch’s Ruby Beach, then Second Beach Trail is where you want to go. You’ll still get that iconic Washington Coastline view and get to see the tide pools. 

It’s located in Northwest Washington, just south of Rialto Beach and Forks, WA.  

  • Can I bring my dog to Second Beach? No
  • Can I camp at Second Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 260.3 miles
  • Distance from Seattle -149.9 miles 

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach gives you an ethereal feeling. Maybe it is because of the fog or the forest behind this beach, but it is one of the coolest beaches in Olympic National Park. If you’re a Twilight fan, there were a bunch of scenes shot here because of this unique semi-creepy landscape. 

There is nothing more beautiful than miles and miles of long sandy shores and a ton of driftwood, which you might have to climb, if you’re feeling spry. It has ruby stones on the beach (hence the name) making it great for beachcombers, but not great for bare feet, so be sure to wear shoes. You’ll find tide pools, loads of sea anemones, and loads of other little sea creatures.  

Ruby Beach offers a good sized parking lot, but fills up on the weekends. There’s a few bathrooms in the parking lot, but they’re just portables and don’t have running water.It’s close to the Quinault and Hoh rainforest areas of Olympic National Park and makes for a nice stop along the 101. 

One of the things that I love about Ruby Beach is the sandbar, which divides the shore from the ocean water and can get a bit warmer for kids to enjoy and frolic. Plus, driftwood always makes fun time writing messages pretending to be from the past and messing with people.

It’s located in Northwest Washington, south of La Push Second Beach and just north of the Quinault Reservation. 

  • Can I bring my dog to the beach? Yes
  • Can I camp at Ruby Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 219.1 miles
  • Distance from Seattle – 184.6 miles 

Rialto Beach

This public beach is nothing short of magnificence. Adjacent to Mora campground and on the mouth of the Quillayute River, some would argue it’s the perfect backdrop for a proposal. 

Rialto Beach is unique for its moody nature, misty blackrock beaches, substantial driftwood, and one-of-a-kind scenery. This allows for stunning photos, and during low tide, you can walk out and see sea stacks, wildlife and driftwood. You’ll see Cake Rock (basically a square-shaped sea stack) and Dahdayla Island off shore. 

If you go at high tide (in the morning), you’ll see roaring ocean waves and tons of pebbles and driftwood. If you go at low tide the kids (or you!) can climb the driftwood and peek into the many tide pools looking for starfish, sea anemones, and other little sea creatures. 

It’s wheelchair accessible close enough to get a really nice scenic view. There are no restrooms onsite but it’s close to the Mora campground which does have them. 

Hole-In-The-Wall

The hole-in-the-wall is a locally famous hiking trail about 3 miles north of Rialto Beach. It’s open year-round and loved for walking and nature-watching. The geography of this trail tends to change with the weather and storm surges. It could either be a nice smooth walk all the way down to the beach or you’ll have to find your way through 40 feet of driftwood. So, if you have mobility issues, maybe stick with Ruby Beach or La Push Second Beach. 

It’s part of the Olympic National Park, so you have to pay admission, $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, on foot or bike is $15 per person, and an annual pass for $55.

It’s located in Northwest Washington, just north of La Push Second Beach, right at the mouth of the Quillayute River.

  • Can I bring my dog to the beach? Yes
  • Can I camp at Rialto Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 260.1 miles
  • Distance from Seattle – 149.7 miles 

Shi Shi Beach

Shi Shi (pronounced Shy Shy) Beach is a rewarding, but muddy, 2-mile hike through an old-growth forest. It’s one of those beaches the locals love and the tourists aren’t so sure about. But once you do it once, you’ll want to do it again and again. 

Off the beaten path in Olympic National Park, you’ll hike 4.5 miles total. It’s 2 miles there and 2.5 miles back. The first 2 miles are on a dirt path, which can get a little muddy, mixed in with some wooden planks. Wear leather hiking boots or even your Wellies! But once you get down to the beach you can rinse your dirty hooves in that gorgeous (slightly chilly) ocean as you’re met with a cluster of sea stacks, large tide pools, and whales, yes whales, at the right time of year. Whale watching is best in April, May, October, and November. Bald eagles are known to be cruising around, too.  

The last 2.5 miles are a lovely walk down a nice sandy beach. At the end, you’ll see the Point of Arches, which is exactly what it sounds like, a sea stack with a bunch of arches, yes, it’s cooler than it sounds. This is a place where you can disconnect from the outside world while getting some good cardio. 

It’s located in Northwest Washington in Clallam Bay, just south of Victoria, Canada.

  • Can I bring my dog to the beach? No
  • Can I camp at Shi Shi Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 299.6 miles
  • Distance from Seattle -157.5 miles

Long Beach  

Long Beach is known for being the longest drivable beach in the US, and second longest in the whole world. And by “driveable” I literally mean you can drive a car on the beach. Yes. Your car, on the beach. OK, so there are parts of the beach where you can’t drive, but on the 28 miles of golden sand, you have lots of room to do it. 

This is definitely not a swimming beach, but if you’re a surfer, the Long Beach Peninsula Beaches might give you a run for your money. Look out for jellyfish on the sand and in the water, they tend to love Long Beach! If you find you can’t live without a nice swim through freezing cold Washington waters, then head over to Cape Disappointment State Park’s Waikiki Beach, near the North Jetty, on Long Beach. You’ll love your 3 minutes of cold, salty fun. 

Aside from driving, you can horseback ride, walk, run, bike on the bike path, fly a kite, or head to the Boardwalk to play miniature golf, go to the arcade, or to the iconic Marsh’s Free Museum. 

Marsh’s Free Museum

This isn’t your typical stuffy old museum full of useful history and stuff for smart people. Marsh’s Free Museum is like a beachy thrift store mixed with a splash of history. It’s more of a unique gift shop than a museum, but it’s still a fun little jaunt. They have a half-man half-mermaid mummy on display, old coin-op machines, and all the usual touristy crap you can find in other places. But, the best thing to see is, of course, the world-renowned, Jake the Alligator Man. 

Jake the Alligator Man

In the Marsh’s Free Museum, you’ll find this kitschy alligator man, aptly named Jake the Alligator Man. Is it a real live man walking around in an alligator suit? No. Is it a half-man, half-alligator? Getting warmer. Give up? It’s a mummified half-man, half-alligator. Yes. An alligator/man mummy. Believe it or not, it’s worth a look. 

If you are up for some actual history, you can walk the Discovery Trail where Lewis and Clark made their expedition of exploring lands, 

Discovery Trail

The discovery trail is a 8.5 mile trail that starts at Port of Ilwaco. You can hike, bike, or walk down this beautiful stretch of beachy trail where Louis and Clark started their journey. You’ll see interpretive art and commemorative sculptures explaining their journey down the trail. As you walk, you’ll see Baker’s Bay and can head up to Cape Disappointment State Park which has the North Head Lighthouse and Beard’s Hollow. Do some whale watching at Sid Snyder Beach Approach and take a short walk down the Long Beach Boardwalk. You’ll finish at Breakers on the north side of Long Beach. If you’re not up for this super long hike, check out all the other access points you can jump in at. This is a great hike for the not-so-fit and mobile!

It’s located in Southwest Washington, just north of the Oregon border. 

  • Can I bring my dog to the beach? Yes
  • Can I camp at Long Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 111.5 miles
  • Distance from Seattle – 171.0 miles 

Cape Disappointment State Park

Holy moly, storm watching on this beach is freaking crazy. I don’t use the word lightly. With the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and sea coves as a backdrop, it will take your breath away. 

A trip here will not be disappointing, even though this State Park has the worst possible name. Located where the Pacific Ocean meets the Columbia River, it’s a storm watchers dream. Cape Disappointment has 8 miles of hiking trails, so whip out those boots and let’s have some fun.

Although this area is known as the foggiest area in the USA, if you time it right, you can see a lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean below.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is a little black and white one perched on top of a high rock just south of Waikiki Beach. You can actually stay inside the lighthouse and be pampered with all the comforts of home. It’s a short hike, like 0.25 miles, from the Lighthouse parking lot. If you like lighthouses, then this one might knock your socks off. 

Waikiki Beach

Yes, it’s the same name as the one in Hawaii, no it isn’t confusing…again, this isn’t the type of beach where you can lay out and get a lovely tan. If you’ve ever wanted to experience those  wild untamable Pacific Northwest winters where the sea becomes a roaring white-capped monster, then this is the place to be. 

Waikiki Beach is a tiny cove inside Cape Disappointment State Park and it’s where Lewis and Clark camped on their journey discovering the PNW. This is something you can learn all about when you visit Cape Disappointment’s Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and to let the kids climb and explore the massive amounts of driftwood lying around. When the ocean is calm, you can surf and swim inside this enclosed cove.  You’ll be able to see the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse on a clear day.  

Located in Southwestern Washington just north of the Oregon border.  

  • Can I bring my dog? Yes 
  • Can I camp? Yes
  • Distance from Portland -111.8miles
  • Distance from Seattle-172.5 miles

DAMON POINT

Okay, maybe I got to this beach through Instagram, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I found the most extensive sea agates collection on this beach. From beachcombing to spotting whales in the distance to numerous hikes and driftwood collections, no wonder it’s a hippie encampment.

As part of the Washington department of natural resources, you will find the streaked horned lark, snow owls, and numerous shorebirds. Don’t forget to keep a respectable distance or you might get in trouble!

It’s super easy to find parking and just walk on down to the sand at Damon Point. It’s a tranquil, calm spot well-loved by locals for its massive amounts of wildlife. At low tide you’ll find sea agates, sea anemones, gooseneck barnacles, and even walk onto a tiny island that is covered up during high tide. 

When you’re done basking in the glorious natural beauty Damon Point, you can fish, kitesurf, check out the tide pools, let your dog and the kids run wild (no cars allowed), or just take the 5 mile hike around the entire beach. 

It is located in southwest Washington in Ocean Shores, north of Westport. 

  • Can I bring my dog to Damon point? Yes
  • Can I camp at Damon point? Yes
  • Distance from Portland -170.9miles
  • Distance from Seattle-136.4miles

Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass State Park is a hiking destination for people all over the world. It has over 30 miles of hiking trails all with amazing scenery. Hike the very do-able 40 minutes round trip from Bowman’s Bay to Rosario Beach and take in the spectacular views of Whidbey Island, Fidalgo Island, and Puget Sound. You’ll see the impressive Deception Pass Bridge, ocean, sand, and curious wildlife. 

You can find ample parking inside the State Park and start with an easy walk down to one of the trails. There’s tons of campgrounds, swimming at Cranberry Lake, kayaking, SUPing, and hiking, did we mention hiking?!?

Rosario Beach 

Rosario Beach is on the north side of Deception State Park on the Fidalgo Islands. Most of the shoreline is small pebbly rocks that rattle when the waves come in. Here you will find tide pools, sea agate, an expansive beach with loads of driftwood, a picnic area, wildflower meadows, and it’s perfect for rock hunting. There are rocks painted by Whidbey Island Rock Painters, and, if you’re lucky, you might find one. 

West Beach 

Found in Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island, this little sandy beach is more accessible than its counterparts. If the cold water scares you, then having a picnic at one of the many picnic tables will soothe your soul. When the weather is right, this beach is great for tide pooling. The only drawback is that the naval air base is close by, and you will get acquainted with an R6 engine by the time you leave the West Beach. You can see the Olympic Mountains on one side, and the deception pass bridge on the other makes it a must-see.

Seabolts Smokehouse

Once you have worked up an appetite, head the 13 miles into Oak Harbor to Seabolts Smokehouse. They are known for clam chowder, Penn Cove Mussels, halibut, fried oysters, and of course, locally caught salmon.  

Located in Northwest Washington, north of Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island. 

  • Can I bring my dog to Deception State Park? Yes
  • Can I camp at Deception State Park? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 257 miles
  • Distance from Seattle – 83.4 miles

Marina Beach Park 

This beach is a bit rockier but way more family-friendly than a lot of Washington beaches. Marina Beach Park has a playground with off-leash dog park next to it, picnic tables, BBQ’s, plenty of driftwood, sea lions, river otters, harbor seals, and the occasional orca in the winter.

If you don’t want to pack a picnic, or, more likely, the weather isn’t picnic-friendly, then walk over to one of the many super yummy restaurants Edmonds has to offer. 

Anthony’s HomePort Edmonds

Anthony’s is well-loved by locals and visitors who want a fantastic seafood meal with a great view. Try the clam chowder in a bread bowl, crab fettuccine, fish and chips, and garlic prawns. It’s right on the harbor so you can watch the sailboats coming in and out. It’s beautiful views mixed with delicious dishes make this a great place to eat a meal. 

It’s located in Northwest Washington in Edmonds. 

  • Can I bring my dog to the beach? Yes
  • Can I camp at Marina Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland – 191.7 miles
  • Distance from Seattle -17.9 miles

Point Defiance Park

Point Defiance Park is a 700+ acres of sprawling forest, wildflowers, woodland trails, gardens, and a giant duck pond. You can literally spend the entire day walking on the path, or just plop on a blanket and do some people-watching. You’ll see gorgeous flowers and buzzing bees. When you do get bored of just sitting there though, take a stroll down to Owen Beach. 

Owen Beach

Located in Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach has gorgeous views of Mt Rainier and Vashon Islands’ stunning views. You can rent a kayak, have lunch on one of the many picnic tables, use the BBQ, or hike out to the Point. The beach is not sand, it’s tiny pebbles, so wear shoes.  There’s a nice concrete ocean walking path where you’ll stroll through lush forests and get to see all the shades of green Washington is famous for. If you want to get a little closer to the sealife, walk over to the Aquarium. 

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

This is a 29-acre zoo with a Kids Zone, camel rides, and a tons of super cool animals. It’s only about 90 minutes around the zoo and you’ll love the walruses! Parking is free and easy. 

It’s located in Northwest Washington, north of Lakewood.

  • Can I bring my dog to Owen Beach? Yes 
  • Can I camp at Owen Beach? Yes
  • Distance from Portland -148.9 miles
  • Distance from Seattle – 39.9 miles

Final Thoughts

While Washington beaches will leave you looking pale and pasty, the scenery more than makes up for its lack of hot beach weather. The roaring waves and expansive hiking trails bring you to tide pools, sea anemones, wildlife, and picnic spots. You can’t get much better than spending the day taking in lighthouses, sea caves, and getting sea mist in your eyes. So, pack a cooler backpack with IPA’s, grab your hoodie, and don’t forget your camera, because we’re heading out to explore Washington beaches!

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