Washington has many very different types of ocean experiences yet we are only connected to one ocean. Our glacial history has shaped quite a landscape to explore. We have seaside cliffs, the country's longest sandy beach, wildlife in every direction, and almost every type of beach you can imagine (except those hot tropical ones, sorry). So keep reading as we share some of our favorite coastal spots. The spots that you can drive on the beaches, where you can get your dose of Pacific salty breeze, that place where whales roam, and the sandy beaches can stretch for miles... we're talking about Washington's Pacific Coast, and it's pretty amazing. (In each section below is a series of links to provide current conditions, permit info, camping restrictions, trail details, and a link to a map for easy Google directions for you to start planning your own adventure.)
Please follow along and feel free to ask questions or make suggestions that might help others Explore WA.
1. Cape Flattery
Witness the raw battle between the Pacific Ocean and the Washington mainland's towering cliffs. Not only will you find dramatic views of the rocky outcroppings and raw ocean you'll be able to claim that you made it to the northwest corner of continental USA. There is a couple mild hiking trails that are very kid and dog friendly... sort of. This is not a National Park so the trail is a little raw and does not have all the guard rails, staircases, and bathrooms that you may be used to. Use your common sense on the cliffs and you'll have a great time.
2. Shi Shi Beach
This beach is a popular destination for people all over the world! And for good reason. The hike down to the beach isn't the easiest and can get quite muddy and wet in our rainy months but most agree that it's worth the effort. Once down to the beach you'll find a long stretch of sandy beach with easy access to tide pools and amazing views of off shore rocky towers and cliffs and the occasional whale carcass. This is a popular beach to camp on and you can expect crowds if you wait till summer to go but since you can sleep on the sand and throw up a driftwood campfire it's sure to be a new favorite spot if you've never been before. (For camping regulations, permit info, and directions use the links below.)
3. Rialto Beach
This beach is a must see and a favorite beach for thousands as you'll notice it get's a lot of visitors when the weather is perfect. If you get lucky or wake up early enough there is a small parking lot only feet from the beach and more parking just a short walk from there. Camping is not allowed on the beach but just up the road is Mora Park where most set up base camp if you're looking for an overnighter. If you're down for a hike then head north from the parking lot and you'll find miles of beach and trails with plenty of surprises along the way and more Bald Eagles than you can count. We never mean to spoil all the fun in these articles but one of the things you'll be sure not to miss is a spot called Hole-in-the-Wall. A mound of ancient volcanic activity that has left cliff faces laced with holes.
4. Second Beach
Here's another gem that has been recognized as one of the world's prettiest beaches! With short hikes, sandy beaches, available camping (permit required), and low tides that open up miles of walkable ground you'll have to come see for yourself why this one's so special. What makes it super cool is that there isn't just one beach! If you caught onto the name, you might have realized there is also a First Beach, but wait there's more... a Third Beach too! The 3 beaches are connected to La Push, a small little Quileute Tribe town with camping, a marina, and even small beachside cabins for rent. So a night or two in La Push can be a little more comfortable than sleeping on the ground and still give you access to these 3 amazing beaches. Expect to walk a bit as the there are short trails connecting the roads and beaches but trust us it will be worth it.
5. Ruby Beach
Photographer hot spot! Ruby beach has plenty of easy parking and as long as you can navigate the driftwood field to get to the beach you're in for a treat. With parking so close it's easy to get epic sunsets of the haystack rocks along the otherwise flat beach. Low tide gets you right out to the rocks and all the wildlife that goes with it. Kalaloch is the closest camping and is open year round with over 170 sites. You'll also find a small creek that feeds into the ocean that's perfect for kids to splash around in and throw rocks into.
6. Ocean Shores
This little seaside town has a bit more than just hiking and camping. You'll find countless options to rent, or buy, little ocean view properties making this a great trip to bring kids and splash around in the water all summer. Don't feel like walking? Don't, most of the Ocean Shores beaches have vehicle access straight onto the sandy beaches. Given that your car can handle a little sand it's a very cool experience to cruise up the beach. In town you'll find a surf shop! You know what that means... if you know what you're doing and when to go you might even find some of Washington's hidden waves that the locals don't really want people talking about. If you're interested in learning more about surfing Washington then check this out.
7. Long Beach
Any guesses how this beach got its name? You got it... it's a beach that is very very very long. In fact at 28 miles long it is the longest sandy beach in the country! To top that it's the 2nd longest drivable beach in the WORLD! So while it's a popular place to be in the summer months there's plenty of room for everyone to spread out and enjoy the beach. With multiple beach access points it's a very fun little detour for any coastal road trip. The sandy dunes next to the shores make for a perfect place to get lost in all of the little trails that wander the coastline.