Ultimate Coast Guide: Grays Harbor Coast
Return to the Ultimate Coast Guide
Go here if: you’re looking for a quick trip to the beach with plenty of amenities—from quirky restaurants to kitschy B&Bs and entertaining festivals. These are among the most accessible of Washington’s beaches. Go for the day, rent a house for a week or spend a quick weekend. Travel time: Two- to three-hour drive from Seattle
Take your dog to Joey’s Beach House
There’s no reason to leave Fido at home when you know how much he enjoys the beach. Dogs and their owners are welcome at Joey’s Beach House (6 Duke Lane, Pacific Beach; 1.888.259.6292; joeysbeachhouse.com; prices vary depending on season/month, between $245 and $345), a spacious (sleeps as many as nine humans), pet-friendly rental retreat just minutes from the sand. With stylish furnishings, multiple LCD TVs and a fully equipped kitchen, Fido may never want to leave. Pets require prior approval, but are pampered just like you: The pet spa package features Earthbath products, while the almond body lotion from Environmentally Sensitive Amenities (for humans) is truly luxurious. Just remember: no pets in the hot tub.
Splash with Spot at the Iron Springs Resort
Tucked away back in the forest, yet still on the beach, Iron Springs Resorts (3707 Highway 109; Copalis Beach; 360.276.4230; ironspringsresort.com; from $149), 12 miles north of Ocean Shores, is a cozy gem with 28 cottages, each with an ocean view and fireplace or woodstove (and pets are welcome, too, for a small additional charge). In operation for 60 years, amenities include an indoor heated pool, movies to borrow and a shoreline to dig for razor clams or discover tide pools.
Land your plane at Copalis Beach
This stretch of sand, seven miles north of Ocean Shores on Highway 109, isn’t nicknamed “The Home of the Razor Clam” for nothing. During razor clam season on Copalis Beach (usually fall/winter), diggers come out in droves seeking the elusive bivalve. The clam isn’t the only draw though. Hike over sinuous sand dunes and comb the beach for shells, crabs and sea stars. Or, drive on the broad, flat beach hard-packed with sand that stretches for miles on end and the mighty Pacific within spitting distance. Keep your eyes peeled for propeller planes landing at low tide. A 4,500-foot “runway” sits at the mouth of the Copalis River, the only known beach airport in the United States.
Bird-watch at Ocean City State Park
Wildlife enthusiasts flock to Ocean City State Park (parks.wa.gov), located in the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds. Bring some binoculars and scan your surroundings (also look for migratory whales!) or take a leisurely stroll along the sand, where beachcombers find items washed ashore from Russian and Japanese fishing boats. After a morning of cataloging your finds, take a break for a picnic lunch or set up for volleyball or croquet (bring your own equipment) in one of the park’s two designated grassy areas. If you’re really into keeping score, the city of Ocean Shores is less than two miles away and offers an 18-hole golf course where you can exercise that competitive edge. Just watch out for low-flying birds. Fore!
A brand-new beach town celebrates old-fashioned neighborhoods
Less than a three-hour drive from Seattle and nestled on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean, Seabrook (south of the town of Pacific Beach, along State Route 109) may be a new town—incorporated in 2004—but it harks back to days long gone, when neighbors were friends and neighborhoods were friendly. The brainchild of developer Casey Roloff, Seabrook’s layout and design are informed by the concept and home design of New Urbanism (think Florida’s Seaside or even Nantucket Island, off Cape Cod), whereby single-family homes are situated right next door to one another on small lots, with front porches, shops and other amenities just a hop, skip and a jump away. Most homes are privately owned, but available for rental (360.276.0265; seabrookwa.com; from $109/night for two-bed, two-bath cottage; larger houses available as well). Indeed, once at Seabrook, the car can stay parked, with bikes or boots handling all the transportation needs, whether to the cafe/wine bar, Cafe Tashtego, or to the beach.
Most of the time, though, flip-flops work just fine for the shuffle between the hot tub for a soak, the front porch for cocktails, and the town-square-like park with fire pits perfect for sing-alongs and making s’mores. While not every house is the same, many feature similar types of amenities.
Those with cabin fever can hop aboard any two dozen or so of the yellow cruiser bikes stashed at bike racks carved out of logs, available for free use to residents and guests. Cruise along pathways lined with oyster shells that seem to sing underneath your wheels, as you travel the neighborhood.
Or hike a meandering, gently sloping quarter-mile forest primeval trail—complete with mammoth cedar stumps riddled with springboard scars that hint at prior land uses—down to the driftwood-festooned beach, where eagles circle overhead and the sun sets in sometimes riotous colors over crashing waves. The build-out of Seabrook is not complete, but homes have been built and the indoor pool is now open. The future promises to be even sweeter for residents and visitors alike.
“We are just starting the design process for a boutique hotel that will include a first-class spa, roof-top bar viewing the ocean, movie theater, billiards room and indoor pool,” says Roloff, who expects the building to be the anchor of a new, as-yet still imaginary Main Street complete with shops, restaurants and other amenities that current Seabrookers have to drive dozens of miles to find. (Roddy Scheer)
The once-sleepy fishing village is re-inventing itself as one of Washington’s chicest oceanfront resorts
Fresh air, fresh fish and miles of sandy beach have been a constant at Westport (130 miles southwest of Seattle off Highway 101) for more than a century. But its metamorphosis from “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World” to chic oceanfront resort is just now taking shape. After the town lost a huge chunk of its economy due to regulations cutting back salmon fishing in 1980, Westport residents gradually began to recognize their other assets: namely 18 miles of beautiful sandy beach, and the town’s relative proximity to Seattle.
Today, the quaint fishing village atmosphere still lingers in little mom-and-pop restaurants, taffy stores and souvenir shops spread across downtown Westport’s four square miles. However, thanks to the increase in value of waterfront property, the town is reinventing itself with high-end marina-front condos (with moorage), such as those of The Point at Westport Harbor, a development of modern beach homes and an oceanfront championship Scottish links golf course along Halfmoon Bay Drive opening in the fall. While sport fishing is still a popular pursuit—charter boats are widely available during salmon season, usually July and August (tuna and halibut seasons, among others, run from spring through late summer)—Westport now offers a lot more.
Westport is also home to the Washington coast’s tallest lighthouse. The 107-foot-tall Grays Harbor Lighthouse (1200 W Ocean Ave.; 360.268.6214; westportwa.com/museum)Westport Marina (111 South Wooding Street; 360.268.9665; portofgraysharbor.com/Westport). The largest coastal marina in the Pacific Northwest has moorage space for 650 vessels, and the adjacent esplanade is chock-full of retailers where you can shop for artwork and souvenirs as well as slurp salmon chowder and lick giant ice cream cones. At dinner time, head to Halfmoon Bay Bar & Grill at The Islander (421 E Neddie Rose Drive; 360.268.9166; halfmoonbaybarandgirll.com, $12.99-$27.99 for entrees). Ask about the regular winemaker dinners showcasing Washington wines. Planning a weekend getaway? Vacations by the Sea (1600 W Ocean Ave.; 360.268.1119; vacationbythesea.com; from $159) near Westport Light park offers one- and two-bedroom oceanfront and ocean-view condos for short rentals, just steps away from the sandy beach. If you’d rather commune with nature, the 172-acre campground at Twin Harbors Beach State Park (parks.wa.gov) is just three miles south of town. (Pat Tanumihardja) at the southeastern edge of Westport Light State Park (parks.wa.gov) was built in 1898 and is open for tours daily. From the lighthouse you can bike or stroll the 2.2-mile paved Maritime History Trail, which takes you along the boardwalk connected to Westhaven State Park, along Half Moon Bay, and ends at
Just a few minutes northeast of downtown, Westhaven State Park is Washington’s most popular surf spot with three main places to surf: Half Moon Bay (or “The Cove”), the South Jetty and the Groins. Throngs of diehards brave the frigid Pacific to ride the rip curls, stopping by The Surf Shop (207 N Montesano St.; 360.268.0992; westportsurfshop.com), owned by local surfing icon Al Perlee, for rentals or just to hang out. If you’d rather watch, a trail leads from the park’s parking lot to a bluff overlooking the beach where you can enjoy front-row seats.
Seattle magazine food editor Allison Austin Scheff’s Westport pick:
Mermaid Deli & Pub
Dave Harris knows deli. He owned the famed Other Coast Café in Ballard before moving to the coast to feed hungry fishers and surfers in Westport at his Mermaid Deli & Pub (200 E Patterson; 360.612.0435; mermaiddeli.com). Here, an array of hot and cold sandwiches—including the Rajun Cajun and the Reuben that earned Harris his lofty reputation—keep the locals loyal at lunchtime. Later, the pub’s outdoor patio attracts beer lovers with four rotating taps and a classic pub-grub menu (think burgers, barbecue and shepherd’s pie).
Hide away on the Cranberry Coast
Cranberries are picky about climate—but they’ve found a home they like in the region that stretches from Westport south to Tokeland. Known as the Cranberry Coast, this region is the perfect respite from big-city stresses, especially in a well-equipped cabin or condo offered by beachyday.com. One of more than two dozen cabins and condos available through this rental Web site, the rustic Casa de Amor (845 Schmid Road, Grayland; 360.267.3234; beachyday.com; from $165/night or $365 and up for special packages) is a hideaway with log furniture, a wood stove, a secluded outdoor hot tub for six—and a short three-block walk to the ocean. Come for whale watching (through May) or the annual Cranberry Harvest Festival in October (cranberrycoastcoc.com/festival/events.html). Or come just to get away.
Stay in a yurt at Grayland Beach State Park
Escape your inbox with a trip to Grayland Beach State Park, where you can fall asleep to the distant lull of crashing waves from your yurt (888.CAMPOUT [226.7688]; parks.wa.gov; $72/night, May 15–September 15). These beachside lodgings sleep as many as six people, come equipped with an outdoor picnic table, fire grill and electricity, and are just a short walk from bathrooms and showers. While you won’t exactly be roughing it, you'll definitely be unplugged.
See Washaway Beach before it’s gone
Just 12 miles south of Westport, where Willapa Bay meets the Pacific Ocean at the town of North Cove, is a fast-eroding stretch of shoreline that has been tagged Washaway Beach. See it quick, before it’s gone. For at least a century, the shoreline here has been disappearing at a rate of 100 feet per year, taking with it more than 100 homes.
Step back in time at the Tokeland Hotel
Just across the street from the serene shores of Willapa Bay is the circa 1885 Tokeland Hotel (100 Hotel Road, Tokeland; 360.267.7006; tokelandhotel.com; from $55), one of the oldest hotels in Washington state, where upstairs rooms are filled with antique wood furniture, china washbasins, lace curtains and sky-high ceilings. Much of the charm comes from feeling like you stepped back in time, so along with a slower pace, expect a clawfoot tub down the hall, creaky wooden floors and homemade blueberry pancakes in the restaurant downstairs.
This article was orginally published in May 2008
Return to the Ultimate Coast Guide