The Washington coast may not be as posh as Southern California’s or as accessible as Oregon’s, but it’s every bit as beautiful as the rest of the Pacific Ocean stretch. From north to south, here are just a few of the highlights.
The most northwestern point of the continental United States, Cape Flattery is as rugged and stunning as it gets—out here, you might just feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world. It’s a 1.5-mile round-trip hike to get to Cape Flattery, and you’ll need a $10 Makah Recreation Pass, which can be purchased at various locations around Neah Bay, including the Makah Museum. The hike begins in a dramatic forest of Sitka spruce and ends at a viewing platform overlooking where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean. Among the crashing waters, caves, sea stacks and wind-swept trees, you might spot otters, puffins, oystercatchers or even orca whales passing by.
Surrounded by the Olympic National Park, La Push is home to the Quileute Tribe and a trifecta of amazing beaches—named, appropriately, First, Second and Third Beach. Each has its own personality. Crescent-shaped First Beach can be accessed by car and features great surfing and fishing. To get to Second Beach, you’ll have to first take a short hike through the forest, leading to a sea-stack-strewn landscape. Last but not least, Third Beach is the most secluded (although still popular) and boasts a waterfall. From July 15 to 17, attend Quileute Days, a celebration of tribal heritage and modern lifestyle. The weekend includes everything from a traditional salmon bake and canoe races to a softball tournament and a fireworks display at First Beach.
Established in 2004, Seabrook is one of the newer communities in Washington, and also one of the most idyllic. It was founded on the principles of New Urbanism, which means it’s eco-conscious and pedestrian-friendly. Here, the picturesque houses are close together, the porches ample and the amenities all within a five-minute stroll. Cars get parked and traded in for bicycles with wide handlebars, dogs run around wagging their tails, and a path to the beach through an enchanted forest is flanked with a kitschy gnome village. The vacation cottages work particularly well for multigenerational getaways, although there are houses of all sizes available. Over the past dozen years, the village has added a bakery, a painting studio, a pet shop, a spa, an indoor swimming pool and more.
If you grew up in Washington, you’ve almost certainly been to Ocean Shores, the state’s classic beach destination that’s also a birding hot spot. In contrast to Seabrook, Ocean Shores was developed when Americans were enamored with car culture, so it can be a bit spread out but still has plenty of charms. Enjoy the midcentury, old-fashioned-fun vibe by grabbing a toppings-heavy pie to share at Red Genie Pizza, challenging your kids to a go-kart race at BJ’s Family Fun Center and grabbing handfuls of saltwater taffy at Murphy’s Homemade Ice Cream & Candy. Out on the beach, you can build sand castles, fly kites, ride horses or just sit back with a good book.
Long Beach Peninsula
A mix of quirky attractions, scenic beauty and delectable cuisine, the Long Beach Peninsula is one of the coast’s must-visit spots. The little towns that dot the area feature plenty of things you’ve probably never seen before, like the world’s largest frying pan (or so it claims), the World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame (yes, there’s a kite hall of fame) and Jake the Alligator Man (he has the upper body of a human and the lower body of an alligator) at Marsh’s Free Museum. And while you probably have seen sand and surf before, it doesn’t make the 28 miles of shoreline here any less magical. Spend the night at Shelburne Inn in Seaview, a classic B&B that’s 120 this year, making it the oldest continuously operating hotel in the state, or at Adrift Hotel, a modern spot in Long Beach with an urban-industrial feel. For sustenance, you can always go clamming and cook up your finds. If you’re not so entrepreneurial, eat a salmon scramble or blueberry waffle breakfast at 42nd Street Café & Bistro, a sandwich and cup of clam chowder for lunch at the tiny Great Day Café, and a dinner of pan-fried oysters or the bouillabaisse, served with fresh halibut, scallops, prawns, calamari and little neck clams, at cozy Nanci & Jimella’s Cafe & Cocktails.