Post Summary: The Best Washington Beaches at Exactly What To Do At Each
Huge boulders, foggy shores, and a high chance of rain. Not quite what you were expecting when we said “beach” now, were you?
While the Washington coast doesn’t have the sunbathers, surfer dudes (unless you’re in Westport), or a whole lot of sunshine, it makes up for it with drop-dead gorgeous scenery.
On any of our Washington beaches, you are likely to encounter iconic sea stacks, incredible hikes, and some of the moodiest scenery in the Pacific Northwest.
The great thing about Washington beaches is that any and all of them are the perfect quick getaways from Seattle! In this post, we’re sharing 10 of our favorite Washington beaches and how you can experience this amazing part of the state for yourself.
10 Stunning Washington Beaches To Make You Drive To The Coast Right Now
Best for: Forested hikes, lighthouses, secret beaches.
Cape Disappointment State Park is the southernmost area of Washington State. This is a unique area in Washington where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
But why is it called Cape Disappointment? This area got its curious name from English explorer John Meares who failed to locate the Columbia river’s entrance. We don’t know why someone would forever name a place in memory of a failed attempt, but the name has continued to stick around to this day.
With rich diversity in landscape, you can explore tide pools, go whale watching, hike old-growth rainforests, and even camp in this amazing Washington state park. Just make sure to purchase a Washington State Park Pass (also called the Discover Pass) before your trip. Current day costs (as of January 2019) are $10 per day and $30 for an annual pass.
The best Washington beaches to visit here would be Deadman’s Cove and Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki Beach is a beautiful beach accessible via car. It features a jetty on one side and secret cave cliffs on the other (though you can’t reach them, unfortunately!). Deadman’s Cove requires a short hike, and you can park your car in the Fort Canby parking lot near the trailhead.
Other Things To Do In Cape Disappointment:
- Explore The North Head Lighthouse
- Walk To The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
- Hike Down To Deadman’s Cove
Read More: What To Do And See At Cape Disappointment
Best for: long walks on the beach, surfing, camping.
Westport got its name by literally being the westernmost port in the United States. It is located in Grays Harbor County on the tip of a peninsula – with one side exposed to the Pacific Ocean and the other next to Grays Harbor. The public marina in Westport is actually the largest one in the entire Pacific Northwest!
Some of the best beaches in Westport are located in the northernmost part of the Peninsula. This coastal area of Washington was originally used by Native Americans in the summertime, and was given the name “ts-a-lis” meaning “place of sand”.
Here are some beautiful Washington beaches to check out while in Westport:
Westhaven State Park: If you’re looking for cold-water surfing, look no further than this Washington beach! Half Moon Bay has 1,215 feet of shoreline and sizable waves perfect for west coast surfers. Westport is even home to the surf competition, Clean Water Classic, held annually.
Twin Harbors State Park: Explore the tall dune grass, walk along the driftwood-covered shoreline or even storm-watch in the winter season. Twin Harbors also has a great selection of cabins, yurts, and camping spots for rent at any time of year.
Best for: family vacations, crabbing, bodyboarding.
Just across the Grays Harbor Bay to the north sits the sister city of Westport – Ocean Shores, Washington.
Ocean Shores is a little vacation town, perfect for slow family getaways. With delicious restaurants, a golf course, and beautiful accommodations, there’s something here for everyone.
If you’re craving some ocean time, this town has plenty of sand real estate to go around. Explore the 7-mile stretch of beachfront that spans the town from north to south. Here, you can rent mopeds and drive them across the sand, fly kites, search for seashells, and even dig for clams!
For the more active beach lovers, we recommend exploring the North Jetty, or braving the cold Washington coast waters and going bodyboarding.
Read More: 7 Fun Activities To Do In Ocean Shores
KALALOCH TREE ROOT CAVE
Best for: photography, Olympic NP education, beach exploring.
North of the Kalaloch Lodge, you’ll find the most spectacular example of life on all the Washington beaches. A tree hangs on for dear life, with erosion taking away all the soil out from underneath it.
What’s left is the tree, stretching its branches to hang on to both sides of the bluff, suspending its roots in the open air.
Want to get the full experience? Spend a night at the Kalaloch Lodge and soak in all the activities this Washington state beach has to offer.
The Kalaloch Lodge has bluff cabins, each with a full view of the Pacific Ocean right from the west side windows! You’ll never want to leave the kitchen table with views like that!
Best for: huge driftwood, wildlife viewing.
Ruby Beach is yet another gorgeous beach that is part of the Olympic National Park. This place is named Ruby Beach for the red ruby-like speckles you can find throughout the sand here.
Like many other beautiful beaches in Washington state, Ruby Beach has an abundance of giant driftwood, tide pools, and off-shore sea stacks. This is an excellent place for easy winter hikes in Washington too. The temperatures are mild, which means that these trails/seashores are easily accessible year-round.
SECOND BEACH (LA PUSH BEACHES)
Best for: sunsets, beach camping, iconic sea stacks.
When we say La Push Beaches, we’re actually referring to an area that covers not one but THREE beaches! You will most commonly see pictures of Second Beach, the most popular of the three. On all three beaches, you can discover sea stacks, driftwood, and miles of open shore.
Here are some notable facts about each La Push Beach:
First Beach: Here, you can drive all the way up to the shore. You can easily access tide pools, and explore near a prominent sea stack close to shore.
Third Beach: Requires a 3.6-mile round trip hike. Generally, this beach is covered in fog and a brings an eerie atmosphere.
Best for: beach hiking, backpacking, landscape photography.
Rialto Beach is for adventure lovers. There are endless opportunities to photograph wildlife, take a hike, and discover stunning rock formations.
One of the major draws to Rialto Beach is the Hole-In-The-Wall hike. Tracking in at 4-miles round trip, this is an easy day hike for nearly all skill levels. Just make sure to check the tide charts before your trip.
Come during low tide for the most access, especially if you want to explore its namesake – Hole In The Wall cave.
Read More: Hiking Rialto Beach’s Hole-In-The-Wall Trail
Best For: Wilderness hiking, old-growth forests, less crowded hiking areas.
The Ozette area of the Washington Coast is part of the Olympic National Park. Here, you can explore Lake Ozette, hike to the coast, camp in one of their 15 secluded sites, and enjoy the pristine Washington scenery.
Spend a weekend backpacking through the old-growth forest and emerge onto one of Washington coast’s most untouched beaches! Click here to discover the many wilderness hikes you can take in the area.
Some notable places to explore on the Ozette Coast:
- Flattery Rock
- Point of Arches
- Yellow Bank
Note: Overnight backpacking here requires an Olympic National Park Wilderness Permit. They are $8 per person per night and you can visit the Port Angeles or Lake Quinault Ranger Stations to obtain one.
Read More: 101 Things To Do In The Pacific Northwest
SHI SHI BEACH
Best for: camping on the beach, quiet campsites, untouched sea stacks and Washington shore.
Shi Shi Beach is actually included in the Wilderness Coast section of the Olympic National Park, but owned by the Makah Tribe. This beach has no road that leads to it and requires a hike to reach the shores.
To stay overnight at Shi Shi beach, you must obtain a permit here. Alternatively, you can visit the Port Angeles Wilderness Information Center for more details.
If you plan to obtain a permit, come prepared to pay on the spot, and make a copy of your itinerary for the rangers.
One of the highlights of staying at Shi Shi Beach is the short hike to the Point of Arches Beach. This 2.3-mile hike from Shi Shi will bring you to beautiful sea stacks, tide pools teeming with life, and some of the best scenery of all the ocean beaches in Washington state.
We will have more information about exploring Shi Shi Beach soon! We are planning a summer backpacking trip, and will report back with more information.
Coming Soon: A Weekend Backpacking Trip To Shi Shi Beach (Coming July 2019!)
Best for: stunning vistas, being in the most ‘northwestern’ point of the US, landscape photography.
Cape Flattery is one of the most beautiful destinations on the Washington Coast. Its isolation from the rest of the Olympic Peninsula doesn’t deter crowds, in fact, it’s one of the most popular trails in the area!
While there is technically no beach access, there are several viewing platforms that provide stunning vistas of off-shore sea stacks, islands, and the Pacific Ocean. The 1.5-mile out and back trail mainly consists of boardwalks and dirt trails, with an elevation gain of only 200 feet. At the very end of the trail, make sure to look out to Tatoosh Island and spot the offshore lighthouse!
Wildlife is often seen here, so keep your eye out for otters, shorebirds, eagles, and maybe even whales if you’re lucky! This is an area of the coast that opens the Puget Sound to the rest of the Pacific Ocean.
Important: A Makah Reservation Pass ($10 per day) is needed to visit Cape Flattery.
Read More: A Stunning Trip To Cape Flattery, Washington
Washington Beaches Map
Below we’ve included a Google map of the best ocean beaches in Washington state to help you in your planning. If you want more resources, consider checking out our guides to the Olympic Peninsula and beyond below:
More Washington Coast Guides:
- Beach Camping Tips For The Washington Coast
- Olympic National Park 10-Day Itinerary
- 15+ Amazing Stops On An Olympic Peninsula Road Trip
- 11 Gorgeous Places To See On The Olympic Peninsula
- Tips For Exploring On The Washington Coast
- A Guide To Hiking In The Pacific Northwest
Tips For Exploring Washington State Beaches
Prepare For Rain. Even if you don’t see any showers in the forecast, the Washington coast is a tricky little bugger. Throw a rain jacket in the back of your car just in case the coast decides to change its mind.
Pack Enough Water. Some hikes on the Washington state coast can be long. Make sure to bring enough water supply (or a water filter) for your entire trip needs!
Wear Waterproof Shoes or Rainboots. It shouldn’t surprise you that the coast will be wet, but even more so here in Washington. Many hiking trails along the shore will be muddy, so come prepared to get your feet wet!
Pack A Pair of Clean/Dry Clothes In The Car. Leaving a fresh change of clothes in the car will allow you to not hold back on any adventures you may come across! Read our complete PNW Packing List here.
Places To Stay Near Washington Beaches
There are plenty of accommodations along the Washington state coast that can fit anyone’s budget and comfort level. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. Washington Coast Campgrounds
If you want the full-immersion experience, try camping on the Washington coast. This way you can spend every waking minute of your vacation right next to the Pacific Ocean!
- Kalaloch Campground (Near Lake Quinault)
- South Beach Campground (Near Lake Quinault)
- Pacific Beach State Park (Near Ocean Shores)
- Twin Harbors State Park (Near Westport)
- Cape Disappointment State Park (Near Ilwaco/Long Beach)
- Beach Camping: Read Our Guide To Reserving Beach Camping Permits.
2. Washington State Airbnbs
There are many amazing places to stay on the Washington Coast on a budget! In places like Ocean Shores and Long Beach, there are many Washington beach rentals to choose from. If it’s your first time booking with Airbnb, we’ve got a discount for you…
3. Washington Coast Resorts and Lodges
Want the draw of the coast with all the comforts and amenities of home? Lucky you, there are tons of beautiful places to stay on the Washington Coast. Here are some of our favorite places to check out:
Want to Make This A Washington Coast Road Trip Route?
We’ve specifically arranged these Washington beaches starting from the most southern Washington beach to the most northern point of the Washington Coast. This way, if you want to see them all in one trip, you can follow these in order!
This drive can easily be driven northbound or southbound. Here are some pointers we recommend for each Washington beach road trip:
*Northbound Washington Beach Trip: Begin in Portland and work your way up the coast, with optional stops in places like Ocean Shores, Forks, and Port Angeles. End by taking the ferry from Bremerton back to Seattle.
*Southbound Washington Beach Trip: Begin in Seattle and take the ferry from downtown to Bremerton. (Alternatively, take the Edmonds ferry to Kingston if you’re starting north of Seattle).
Options stops include Port Angeles, Forks, Lake Quinault, and Aberdeen. Finally, end your trip in Portland, Oregon, or continue your trip on the Oregon Coast. (We’ve got more stops for you in our Pacific Coast Road Trip post!)
More Washington Coast Road Trip Itinerary Ideas:
- 15 Stops On The Olympic Peninsula
- The Ultimate Pacific Coast Road Trip
- 11 Places To See On The Olympic Peninsula
- The Guide To Beach Camping On The Washington Coast
Frequently Asked Questions About Washington Beaches
Are Washington Beaches Public?
Short Answer: Yes and no. Towns located on the Washington Coast (Ocean Shores, Westport, Long Beach) generally have public beach access. Most other locations outside of town sites require specific passes and permission.
Long Answer: Most beaches in Washington are open to the public.
However, many areas of the Washington coast are part of the Olympic National Park. These national park locations (Point of Arches, Shi Shi Beach, Ozette Triangle, Rialto Beach, and Kalaloch to name major areas) all require a National Park Pass for a day visit. Other beaches are on State Park land (Cape Disappointment, Westhaven State Park, etc) require a Washington Discover Pass for a day visit. Passes are $10 per day or $30 annually.
Other locations are on Native American land, and you may visit according to the laws in those certain areas. For example, Cape Flattery is located on the Makah Tribe land, and they require a $10 day fee. The area of the Washington Coast on the Quinault Reservation also has very specific access instructions – click here to find out more.
Are Fires Allowed On Washington Beaches?
Generally yes, but ask locally about any burn bans or rules that may be in effect during the time of your visit. Here are some guidelines you should follow when making a fire on Washington beaches:
- Follow basic fire safety rules. Keep your fire 100 feet from any structure.
- Scavenge for dry wood (that is “dead and down”) or buy wood as locally as you can. Don’t burn anything larger than your forearm.
- Set up a fire below the high tide line. That way, the ocean can sweep away the ashes when you’re finished.
- Burn a fire all the way down to ashes.
- Don’t ever burn trash.
- Read more on the LNT blog about responsible beach fires.
Can You Drive On Washington Beaches?
In most parts of the Washington coast, no.
However, the city of Long Beach is an exception to that rule. Long Beach is actually considered an official highway, with 28-miles of shore that stretch from Gray’s Harbor to the entrance of the Columbia River.
You must have a 4-wheel drive car. Try and avoid dry sand, but instead drive on damp sand, but not too close to shore. It’s also important to note that beach towing is very expensive, so be cautious.
Can You Swim In Washington Beaches?
Yes! While colder than most beaches, Washington has a lot of friendly shores for a dip in the ocean. There are also places to try out some surfing (hello Westport!) if interested. Click here to learn more about swimming in Washington beaches and read about ocean safety tips here.
What are some of your favorite Washington coast beaches? Let us know in the comments below so we can all explore together!
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