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GOING COASTAL by Allyson Marrs

There may not be a better place to live. In every direction, there's some opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of. Just north, there's a completely different country (well, maybe it's not that different). And to the south, there's no sales tax! Washington is sandwiched between bounties of beauty, offering up its own as well.

But to the west of all this is a coastline that boasts a sinful amount of activities and adventures. From the coast of British Columbia, Canada down to Oregon, a jaunt along I-5 connects romantic retreats and family vacations.

Follow directions and travel across the map to find which coastline you should cozy up to.

From Bellevue: 3 hours to Vancouver + short ferry

Water Activity
Named for its average of four to six hours of sunshine a day, this coastline stretches 110 miles, and scuba diving is one of the hottest attractions. Because of the diversity of marine life and geological finds, it's ranked as one of the greatest areas to go under. It features clear visibility, abundant marine life and sites for all skill levels—like Skookumchuck Rapids for the experienced and Tzoonie Narrows for the less-experienced.

Land Activity
A good place to start and see everything in this vast area is by taking to the sky for an air tour. From there, choose from biking and hiking trails, or even improve your stroke on the golf course. Really, the only land activity this area seems to be lacking is an amusement park.

Coastal City Charm
There are more than a dozen neighboring communities to explore on this stretch of Sunshine Coast, making the destination perfect for a longer vacation. Each is a self-proclaimed charmer and proud of its offerings. With fine dining, spa excursions, art galleries and so much more, you'll want to explore them all. Plus, there's always the nearly constant sunshine as a decisive argument.

From Bellevue: 2 hours

Water Activity
White Rock's beach spans five miles, divided into East and West beaches. With beautiful, light-blue water, it's a great place to swim—just be mindful of the crabs on the ocean floor, seen when the water is at its clearest. On East Beach, lush greenery offers up picnic spots for families. But when the time comes, the beach transforms into an arena set for kite flying and sandcastle construction.

Land Activity
In hot summer months, waterfront concerts become tradition. Every weekend in July and August, the boardwalk hosts live music from jazz to Celtic folk. The music is free and the view unbeatable.

Coastal City Charm
The bordering town of Surrey is as adorable as it sounds. To take in its full charisma, stop by the Historic Stewart Farm. This farm was built in 1894, since restored, and is picturesque, built in a Victorian style with a verandah and even a refined parlor inside. The costumed tour guides take visitors inside the home to enjoy crafts, baking and period activities.
With lush flower gardens and an orchard with 27 varieties of apple, plum and pear trees, the farm is a wholesome retreat from city life.

From Bellevue: 2.5 hours

Water Activity
Grab a kayak to explore the 23 miles of interconnecting freshwater lakes. Perfect for the summer weather, the scenery cascades until it almost appears to be floating on the water. You can launch at North Bay or Chinook Park.

Land Activity
With beautiful coastline and nature trails, horseback riding is a favorite here. Throughout the year, visitors can rent the horses on the beach and enjoy a romantic jaunt right along the water.

Coastal City Charm
The Ocean Shores Interpretive Center is a huge hit for all-ages fun—with some education mixed in. The Children's Room has jaws from a Great White shark and pelts from various mammals. There's a Geology room, Mammal room, Indian room, Shellfish room and even a Seafaring area. Here, check out historical shipwreck displays!

From Bellevue: 2.5 hours

Water Activity
May is the last month to watch the beautiful, the enormous, the majestic gray whale migrate toward Alaska. There are about 23,000 of these whales who make the trek from Baja, Calif., to the cooler waters of Alaska. It's not unusual for them to get close to tour boats in curiosity, or even jump straight out of the water. At 70,000 pounds and 47 feet in length, it may be frightening if they get too close.

Land Activity
A short drive (about 15 minutes) will take you to Garyland—home of the cranberry bogs! Nearly 150 years ago, Finnish farmers created most of the bogs in this area. Cranberries are king in this scenic expanse of land. There are more than 230 bogs from British Columbia to Oregon, but 30 percent are found on this coastline. Head to Highway 105 at the intersection of Cranberry Road and start the self-guided tour.

Coastal City Charm
The Westport Maritime Museum looks like a country home from a Nicholas Sparks' novel. It's actually a former Coast Guard Station, but since 1985, it's been the home of the Destruction Island Lens, which was built by France in 1888. It's an 18-room, three-story building with six gables and a watchtower.

From Bellevue: 3 hours

Water Activity
The Columbia River is one of the deadliest, and most exciting bodies of waters this side of the Mississippi. With strong currents and cold water, it's best advised to take in the water by gliding on top of it rather than swimming in it. Take the opportunity to rent a boat, or bring your own, to fish in freshwater. Motor out farther and switch to salt water. It's the best of both water worlds! For easily accessible ramps, check out Cape Disappointment State Park.

Land Activity
The lighthouses are the stars at this stop. Both North Head and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse—the former signals the entrance to the Columbia River—are nestled in a scene begging for photos. Near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, which explains the history behind the relic, among other historic items of the peninsula. It's rare that two lighthouses are found so close together, but shipwrecks caused by those approaching from the north convinced officials to install another.

Coastal City Charm
The city of Long Beach has just about everything a beach city should. From a World Kite Museum to a boardwalk with carnival rides in the summer, it's a little slice of Cali in Washington. The annual Summerfest kicks off in July with live entertainment, a dunk tank, Art in the Park and Saturday markets. This area is also part of the Graveyard of the Pacific—so named because of the mass of shipwrecks caused by the treacherous Columbia River. You can take in the rare site of some of the skeletons—if you dare.

From Bellevue: About 4 hours

Water Activity
If you have protective gear, like a wetsuit, try surfing! The water is cool, the tides are sneaky, but the waves are ready to be ridden.

Land Activity
The beach here is all you need—just enjoy it! It was ranked No. 7 on the Travel Channel's World's Best Beaches. With a 5 out of 5 rating for its sand and atmosphere, Travel Channel related it to a spot like Nantucket—known for its artsy, quaint solitude.

Coastal City Charm
One of the few coastal towns that's known for fine dining, Cannon Beach is the perfect stop for an anniversary. From elegant cuisine with Italian and French inspiration, among others, eating is a favorite hobby. And because it's a small city, there are no chains here—just cozy, romantic eateries.

From Bellevue: About 6 hours

Land Activity
A sand dune adventure is one of the best ways to spend time on the beach. Some of the largest are located in Oregon. Buggies will take you up and over these monsters, or, if you prefer, you can rent an ATV and make the drive yourself.

Bonus Land Activity
Florence is known for its Sea Lion Cave, which is also the world's largest sea cave. The roar of the mammals can be heard over the crush of the waves against the rocks and the incessant birds above. If you go to Florence, it's a must stop.

Coastal City Charm
Recently restored Old Town has charismatic boutiques, shops and coffeehouses. Its quaint characteristics makes it easy for you to relax and stroll through the town, with faint seagull cries being sung overhead.


Historic Stewart Farm
13723 Crescent Road
Surrey, BC V3S 5H8, Canada

Cape Disappointment State Park
Take Interstate 5 South to Olympia, State Route 8 West to Montesano. From there, take U.S. Highway 101 South to Long Beach Peninsula.

Whale Watching in Westport
Visit the Charter Offices to find a tour
2411 Westhaven Drive

Wesport Maritime Museum
2201 Westhaven Drive  

Ocean Shores Interpretive Center
1013 Catala Avenue SE

Florence Sand Dune Tours
83960 Highway 101 South

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