From the stunning vistas of the Olympic Peninsula to the sandy beaches near the Oregon border, the Washington Coast is rich with incredible natural beauty—and plenty of quirky sights to see along the way.
The towns lining the coastline aren’t just bases for trips to the beach. They’re a chance to participate in a festival, jam out to some local music, or even snap some photos for a movie-inspired album. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in one of these towns on the Washington Coast.
Best for Beachgoers
Just a short distance from the Oregon border, this Washington coastal town is easily accessible from cities like Portland, making it a nice vacation option for Oregonians. Of course, Long Beach has more going for it than a convenient location. The stunning beach alone makes it one of the best places to visit on the Washington Coast.
Mile after mile of sandy shoreline awaits, with fishing available in the surrounding ocean waters. If you’d prefer to catch your dinner on land, time your vacation with the annual Razor Clam Festival—you can bring a bucket of delicious mollusks back to your vacation rental for an authentic West Coast clam bake! Those more interested in other types of sightseeing won’t be disappointed—miles of hiking trails and stunning lighthouses and vistas at Cape Disappointment are all great ways to wile the hours away.
Best for Families
If you’re looking to thrill the kids on your next vacation to the Pacific Northwest, make sure to stop by Ocean Shores. The town sits between the famous Olympic Peninsula and beaches of the southern half of the state, and boasts its own stretch of shoreline very similar to that of Long Beach. On top of swimming and sunbathing, the beach is amazing for kite-flying, thanks to the stable winds.
Those looking to stretch their legs can head further inland for some hiking, or zip through the fresh ocean air on a bicycle. Time your visit right and you can enjoy one of the city’s frequent music festivals, featuring styles as far-flung as Celtic flutes to country licks. Fortunately for kids, the arcades and go-kart tracks are open all year round!
Just south of the Olympic Peninsula, the small town of Westport is one of the loveliest places to visit along the Washington Coast. With the Pacific Ocean to the west and the waters of North Bay to, well, the north, the town has a startling variety of waterfront scenery to explore. On top of taking in the beaches, you can visit sites adjacent to the water, like Grays Harbor Lighthouse surrounded by towering pines. Of course, what really sets Westport apart are the waves: the Pacific currents play host to the Clean Water Classic surf contest every year, so make sure to bring a surfboard with you when you come to visit!
Located on the northeastern reaches of the Olympic Peninsula, there’s a reason Port Angeles is nationally regarded as one of America’s best small towns: it’s got a little bit of everything. The rural location near the woods and ocean provides you with a nice peaceful atmosphere during your visit, but venues like Wine on the Waterfront and First Street Haven add some civilized refinement in town. Olympic National Forest is just to the south, with hours of hiking beneath the shade of the pines.
To the north is the vast expanse of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which you can experience by the bay or on the beach at the Ediz Hook Reservation. Sunbathing, kayaking, and boating await, and Victoria, BC is only an hour and a half away by ferry.
Most Beautiful Views
Port Angeles’ smaller neighbor to the east, Sequim is only a short distance away from the strait. Take in the natural beauty at one of the pebbly beaches running between the John Wayne Marina and Washington Harbor! Just south of town, Sequim Bay State Park features breathtaking waterfront views, as well as docks for boating, trails for hiking, and space for baseball and basketball games in the fresh ocean air. Between that and all the hiking you could ever want in nearby Olympic National Forest, it’s hard to think of a better town for jaw-dropping sights than Sequim.
Best for Photographers
La Push has always been one of the best places to visit on the Washington Coast, but its star has risen in recent years thanks to the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Since most of the books were set in the area, there’s a fun extra element to all the sightseeing in town.
But don’t check La Push off your list just because you’re not into Twilight. Its beaches, surrounded by dense northwestern forests, make for incredible places for natural photography. Even on cloudy days, the contrast between the dark waves and light-gray skies provide a stunning backdrop for a shoot.
The San Juan Islands
Okay, fine. While the towns of the San Juan Islands are coastal towns in Washington, they’re not technically towns on the Washington Coast. But if you let the letter of the law overrule the spirit, you’ll miss the chance to see some of the best small communities in the region!
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is easily the largest. It offers busy streets lined with shops and restaurants, all leading to the forest of masts that is the bustling port. There’s even a whale museum for the kids. Afterwards, it’s all too easy to complement your museum visit with a bona fide whale watching excursion out on the sound.
Lopez Island, on the other hand, is cozy and cute. The tiny town’s main attraction is the weekly Lopez Island Farmers Market, featuring local produce, handmade arts and crafts, and treats like fresh-made fudge. Small business like Holly B’s Bakery and Isabel’s Espresso round out the town’s offerings.
Eastsound on Orcas Island is a nice mix of the two. It’s larger than Lopez Village, but less overwhelming than Friday Harbor. Lovely waterfront sights, plenty of shops and restaurants, and the exhibits of the Orcas Island Historical Museum await.
Skip more tropical destinations for your next vacation and visit one of these Washington coastal towns instead!
Featured photo courtesy of Andrew Reding
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