The Washington coast is often overshadowed by the mighty, mountainous peaks that sit inland, but it more than deserves a little recognition. It is wild and rugged, but it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the US.
Although only a few small towns are scattered along the Washington coast, this almost adds to its appeal, leaving just you and wonderful nature. You could spend weeks along this stretch of shoreline and still not see it all, so here are a few highlights to get you started.
Hole in the Wall Trail
The Washington Coast is littered with hiking trails, all of which give you some incredible views of the raging ocean and unique rock formations. However, one of the best has to be the astonishing Hole in the Wall Trail. For the most part, you’ll be hiking along the beach itself, so you can see the Olympic coast in all its glory as you walk.
Although the grand finale is the Hole in the wall itself, you will be admiring the natural attractions scattered along the trail the whole way. Sea stacks tower just off of the shore, and you should also be able to make out a few islands and even some marine life.
You have a good chance of spotting sea lions and sea birds, but otters and whales may even show their faces if you are lucky. Next, paddle your way across Ellen Creek and spy the rocky arch that is the Hole in the wall.
Do note this hike is best completed at low tide. It would be best if you planned to arrive within an hour or two on either side of low tide. Should you come during a higher tide, you won’t be able to reach the Hole in the wall or go tide pooling. Also, you’ll need to be extra careful of the powerful waves rolling onto the beach.
Visit Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach sits right in Olympic National Park, so you know you are in for a real treat. Sure, it might be in a remote location, but we think that this adds to its appeal. There may not be any cocktails or coconuts here, but this doesn’t stop it from being a beautiful destination, just in a different way.
Ruby Beach is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to the towering sea stacks that jut from the water, creating a dramatic and exciting landscape packed with wildlife. You are sure to spot something from the birds that circle above to the mysterious creatures that reside in the tide pools at their base.
The vast amount of driftwood logs on the beach (how is there so much?) forms an adult obstacle course as you make your way down to the sea. There is also a sandbar exposed at low tide, which is excellent for paddling and exploration.
Surf the Washington Coast
When you think of Washington state, the first thing that comes to mind is not usually surfing. But think about it, Washington has a lot of stunning coastlines, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the surfing spots are pretty epic.
The most well-known surf spot is Westport, and although it is not the most scenic area, the man-made long rock jetties make for some consistent surf. In fact, on average, it provides over 300 days of surfable waves, so you’ll find this area packed with surfers all year round.
Another great area is Ocean Park, on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. The city itself is pretty cool, so the incredible surfing could be considered a bonus. There are seven access points, with Ocean Park being one of the most popular.
Still, want more surf spots? Check out La Push, Whidbey Island, and Neah Bay.
One bit of advice, make sure your wetsuits are a little on the thicker side as the water can be freezing! And, of course, always check the tides before heading out.
Cape Disappointment State Park
*Go ahead and insert a joke about Cape Disappointment State Park not being disappointing at all!*
On a serious note, Cape Disappointment State Park is one of Washington’s most popular state parks. There are views for days, superb beaches, two lighthouses, the remains of a fort, forests to hike, and a campsite!
There are 8 miles of hiking trails to explore, and although all are great, one of the best is the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse trail. Everyone loves a hike that ends in a view, and this one will take you to a lookout over the ocean, offering a vista of the epic lighthouse.
Alternatively, head to the North Head Lighthouses and learn a little more about the area’s history or up to McKenzie Head. Talking about history, there is a lot of it in the park. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Centre is an excellent place to start, and you can also reach the remains of an old fort and a gun battery.
While you’re here, you’re also super close to another epic and historically significant area, Fort Stevens State Park. Just hop over the bridge into Oregon to explore it, and be sure to check out the things to do in Astoria as well, all within 30 minutes from Cape Disappointment.
Cape Disappointment is also the perfect location to go storm watching along the Washington coast. You can rent a yurt or cabin within walking distance to where the waves pound the beach and steep cliffs below the lighthouse.
The Washington coast offers some of the best whale watching opportunities in the US. We would say it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but with so many different areas to spot these incredible creatures, why limit it to one time?
Damon Point is a great spot to see whales, and you don’t even have to leave the safety of dry land. Just a walk around the split gives you a pretty high-sighting chance, especially if you are there during migration season. In addition, you can sometimes see from the shores of Olympic National Park itself, such as at Ruby Beach or Kalalock.
If you would prefer to get out and about in the water, then the tiny Washington Coast town of Westport offers some great little excursions around the shores.
Island Adventures offers tours from March to November, and on those tours, you also have a good chance of spotting some other wildlife such as harbor seals, California Sea Lions, and Dall’s porpoise, to name a few. San Juan Safaris is another option and offers small whale watching tours.
Town of Westport
Westport is a little gem of a coastal town in Washington. It is a delightful mixture of all things country and coast, with a marina, lighthouses, and a brewery to relax with a beer at the end of the day. It tends to be a quiet, relaxing place, with just the right amount of things going on, but not too much that it feels busy and crowded.
Westport Light State Park is a must-visit on any day trip to the town. The 1.3-mile paved trail will take you straight there from Westport, and from here, you’ll be able to spot Gray Harbor Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the state at 107 feet.
If you fancy it, you can even climb to the top and take in the views. Twin Harbors State Park beach is another lovely park with plenty of sandy beaches to enjoy.
In the town itself, you could climb to the top of Westport Viewing Tower near the marina and see if you can spot the Olympic Mountains in the distance. With so much water around, it is not surprising that seafood is in abundance, so whether you buy some fresh from the fishing boats at the marina, or try out one of the restaurants, make sure you sample some.
After you’ve adventured enough, grab a beer at Blackbeard Brewing and tuck into your bed or your camping spot at The Loge. It’s an excellent place to base in the area and your headquarters for bike, kayak, and surfboard rentals.
Make your way to the most Northwesterly corner of the contiguous US and be prepared for one of the most naturally beautiful spots on the Washington coast. With a handy parking lot, the area is accessible via a trail of under 2 miles out and back, and with little elevation gain, it is pretty straightforward. To get there, you will head through thick coastal forests, some of which are made up of elevated boardwalks, although you should still be prepared for some mud!
Washington is for Adventure is an amazing resource for those visiting Washington wanting real and valuable advice from REAL people. We are adventurers and creators, so what better way to mix our two favorite things than to create a blog about adventures!? More at washingtonisforadventure.com