On the far west coast of Washington, on a quiet peninsula sits Westport, Washington. The town is a working fishing village, with plenty of opportunities for visitors to go sport fishing.
I am drawn to the open horizons and wide beaches that stretch from the town southward along the coast.
Driving out to the peninsula, I take Highway 12 west out of Olympia, WA. At Aberdeen I turn south on Highway 105, crossing over the tall bridge and following the two-lane road straight to the first beach access, Twin Harbors State Park.
The drive out from Olympia is a little over an hour. If I turn north when I get to the beach, I can be in Westport proper within an hour and a half.
In the long days of summer, a day trip is well worth the drive. In the winter, when there is much less daylight, I’ll spend a night in one of the small hotels in Westport or along the beach.
There are also lots of private rentals, too. While not as busy as other beach areas, if I am going to stay over, I make sure to have a reservation ahead for lodgings.
Beach Access Points
The first beach access is Two Harbors State Park, tucked in right behind the dunes that run parallel to the beach. Like most state parks, Twin Harbors has parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and trails. Camping spaces are available but they are popular, so I make sure to reserve one online.
At 225 acres, Twin Harbors also has yurts and cabins a little further from the beach that are great for family or friends to use as a base for adventures.
Grayland State Park is just a few miles south for those who want a similar option. At the height of summer, both of these beaches are busy during the day, with quieter times early in the morning and later into the evening.
While driving on the beaches is allowed where posted, vehicles must be registered and insured, and of course traffic laws still apply. Most folks who drive on the beach are bringing chairs, coolers, and various equipment for a day on the beach.
There is some skill involved, so visitors are advised to only drive on hard packed sand, and I would gently remind people that this may not be a good place for a “first time” drive on the sand. Removing stuck vehicles is costly.
From the park, there are several paths that lead over the dunes and out to the beach. The first glimpse of the water sets the mood for the day.
On hot summer days, the beach is much cooler than inland, often with a breeze coming in off the Pacific Ocean.
The dunes, covered in native grasses, help to protect the shoreline. While it is tempting to hurry directly out to the beach, I like to take my time, walking slowly, watching for birds that make use of the cover.
Tucked away in those grasses are shorebird nests, too, so it is important to stay on the established paths.
These are perfect dog days on the beach, and there are always pups running at the waves, catching frisbees, or walking with their people. The sand is fine, and the beach is wide so there is plenty of room for all sorts of adventures.
I also like the stormy days, when the wind is rushing and the waves roil against the beach. Rain gear is must to walk the beach in this weather. When the tide is high, large pieces of driftwood pile up at the base of the dunes.
North, along the Wide Beach
Once on the beach, I head north, keeping the water to my left. There is always something to watch, like a squadron of pelicans.
The local Dungeness crab lives in eel grass along Washington’s west coast. Finding parts of claws and carapaces is common along the wide beaches, as Dungeness crab are delicious not only for people, but for a number of larger predators along the coast.
Occasionally, the waves will wash up a whole crab that has not yet been scavenged.
Their shape is quickly recognizable, and hints at the relatively high yield of 25% crab meat to shell. A two-pound crab provides a half a pound of delicious meat for crab cakes and chowders.
While not as familiar to visitors as the king crab, locals will let you know that it is much richer in taste, and preferred for dinner.
About half way to the next state park, Westport Light, a paved section appears at the top of the dunes. I can either walk the beach, or I can take the paved section all the way up to the harbor in Westport.
This is also a great section for riding a bike into Westport for a morning coffee or a bite of lunch.
The Southern Jetty
Where the harbor meets the open ocean, is Westhaven State Park. It is a day use park, and the paved bike path continues on another mile to the town of Westport.
There are two jetties at the entrance to the harbors at Westport and Aberdeen. The southern jetty was constructed in 1903, and is over 17,000 feet in length.
The second jetty, constructed in 1910, is on the north side of the harbor entrance at Ocean Shores. The jetties help keep the beaches from being scoured away, while protecting the channel.
There is not a path out onto the jetty, but with a bit of care, I can walk all the way out to the end. Good boots or shoes with stable soles are helpful.
While fishing for lingcod is popular at the jetty, it is better known as a favorite surfing spot. Surfers come from all over the western part of the state to ride the rhythmic waves that break against the southern side of the jetty. The water is pretty cold, so wetsuits are a must.
Continuing on past the jetty, the bike path follows along Halfmoon Bay to the harbor and shops of Westport.
The Harbor Observation Tower commands a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. In clear weather, the Olympic Mountains are visible to the north.
A replacement for the previous steel structure, the current tower mimics the shape of a lighthouse while providing three levels, connected by stairs. There is parking immediately adjacent for those who prefer to drive to the site.
Fun, beauty, and the power of the ocean await at Westport beaches.