Welcome back! It’s been far too long… I know we’re not running at full-capacity yet, in so many ways, but it feels like things are starting to look up again. Similar to spring flowers seeking the sun, I feel us starting to stretch our limbs, looking hopefully to the parting clouds. And to perhaps begin thinking about adventuring beyond our neighborhoods again…
It’s been an incredibly challenging time for the world – and it’s not over. There has been much loss, heartbreak and discord, but there has also been hope – and it’s growing. Neighbors have reached out to each other. Local businesses have done their best, against great hardship, to continue to serve their communities. The medical community, scientists, teachers, grocery store workers, restaurant staff, postal workers… SO many heroes have worked tirelessly to keep us safe, nourished and healthy.
I actually visited Pacific County and started writing this article a little over a year ago, just before we all went into hibernation. I have very recently returned to Pacific County and have to say it was amazing. Yes, masks, outdoor dining and social distancing were definitely in rightful play, but to be able to walk along the beach and gaze out at the ocean was so very welcome and rejuvenating.
Aside from masked visits to local shops and take-away from local restaurants, I’ve been pretty sequestered within my two-bedroom apartment for the past year. Granted, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work from home, but I’m looking forward to a time when a trip to the grocery store isn’t my big social outing. I’m excited to hang out with my friends and family somewhere other than on a Zoom call. I’m dreaming of seeing someone smile at me and being able to smile back, unmasked. I’m looking forward to hugs…
I know many of these cherished activities will be making a comeback, but in the meantime, I plan to continue to mask up, frequently wash my hands and do my best to be respectful and thankful to everyone who is working so hard to bring us back to some point of normalcy. We are all in this together and will persevere only by working together, respecting one another and honoring all of the hard work of our heroes.
COVID-19 Travel Advisory: Please review COVID-19 alerts and regulations ahead of your travels. Refer to CDC guidelines along with local and state guidelines and wear a mask whenever suggested or required.
And now, without further ado, onward to beautiful Pacific County!
There are very few beaches on the planet long enough and wide enough to easily accommodate beach-combing, horseback riding and an actual state (sand) highway, but Pacific County in southwestern Washington covers the bill. Add in shorelines brimming with some of the country’s most delicious seafood, lovely coastal wetlands and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and you won’t want to leave. Pacific County is a veritable treasure trove of delicious fare and unique adventure opportunities.
Established as one of the state’s oldest counties in 1851 and integral to Native American life for millennia prior, Pacific County holds a key place in the development of the United States. It was at Cape Disappointment, where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, the Lewis and Clark Expedition finally completed its mission in the fall of 1805. Originally part of the Oregon Territory, Pacific County found itself carved out of nearby Lewis County to officially become part of the Washington Territory. Even though it maintains a relatively small population in present day, the impact and continuing contributions of this tiny county cannot be underestimated in the grand scheme of the present-day United States.
While Pacific County is somewhat tucked away along the southwestern coast of the state, it is still fairly accessible. The route I typically favor takes me south on I-5 to US-101 (Exit 104, in Olympia) and on towards Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County via SR-8 and US-12. Once in Aberdeen, I head further southwest on SR-105 towards Grayland and North Cove. (With stops at Westport Winery and Cranberry Road Winery on the way out of Grays Harbor County. I mean, they’re right there, conveniently along the way…)
In general, I-5 accommodates the main arterials into Pacific County. It’s possible to hook up with US-101 further north near Olympic National Park and enjoy a beautiful drive down the coast. (All the way into the Los Angeles area, in fact!) Additional routes off of I-5 include US-12 (Exit 88 near Tenino), SR-6 (Exit 77 in Chehalis) and SR-4 (Exit 40 in Kelso). Any route you choose will inevitably feature mile after mile of beautiful scenery as you make your way to the coast. You can’t go wrong!
Driving south along SR-105 is an excellent example of the extensive, beautiful scenery, but as every rose has its thorn, the Pacific County coast has its battle with erosion. Portions of SR-105 have had to be relocated further inland over the years, along with many residences, buildings and a lighthouse being lost to the encroaching waters. It is quite appropriate the area has earned the nickname of Washaway Beach. The erosion is particularly visible driving through the North Cove area where the tiny North Cove Pioneer Cemetery had to be moved across the highway in 1977 due to erosion.
Not too far past North Cove on SR-105 is the exit to Tokeland Road and its namesake, the coastal community of Tokeland. Named for Chief Toke, the area maintains its strong connection to the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. A few miles down Tokeland Road, the Shoalwater Bay Casino (Daily, 10am – 12am; 2am Friday/Saturday) greets visitors with food and gaming as well as lodging at the adjacent Tradewinds on the Bay. Directly across the street lie more food options at the North Cove Bar & Grill (Currently Friday – Sunday, noon – 8pm; 7pm on Sunday) along with gas, food and conveniences at Georgetown Gas Station.
One place not to miss in the Tokeland area is the historic Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant. (On the National Register of Historic Places) Built in 1885 and the oldest hotel in the state, they regularly feature events such as Clam Jam, Oysterfest, Tokefest and more. In early May, along with local galleries and businesses, they host the popular Tokeland North Cove Art Studio Tour. Many of the local events were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, but will hopefully return in 2021. (Note: The Tokeland Hotel is reopening 6/1/21. Restaurant currently open for take-out, Friday – Sunday, 4-6pm.)
Situated on Willapa Bay, Tokeland is well-known for its contribution to the country’s seafood supply. Nearby Nelson Crab Inc. was in fact the first cannery on the west coast to can crab beginning in 1934 and continues the practice today. Operating out of a new building at the Port of Willapa Harbor and Tokeland Marina, they also feature a seafood counter, coffee service, ample seating and a fun gift shop featuring local artists and goods. (Daily, 9am – 5pm) If you happen to arrive via boat, public moorage is available as well as a RV park and boat ramp – and you can throw your own crab pots off of the public fishing pier!
Back on SR-105, my next destination was Raymond, the largest town in Pacific County. Along the way, I was drawn in by the beautiful scenery of the Smith Creek State Wildlife Recreation Area. Located across the bay from Tokeland, the area sports beautiful views and sweeping wetlands with great fishing and bird-watching opportunities. I was truly mesmerized by the views looking out over Willapa Bay and very glad I made time to take in the scene.
While Raymond holds court as Pacific County’s largest town, it maintains a very homey, small-town vibe. Nestled just inland of Willapa Bay on the Willapa River, it enjoys rolling foothills as well as the coastal flavor of nearby waterways. When driving around the Raymond area, keep an eye out for the many steel statues along US-101, SR-6 and strategically placed throughout town. Made to depict local wildlife and Raymond residents, some of them are strikingly life-like; especially as seen around dusk. (I could’ve sworn those deer were real!)
Historically known for its lumber industry, Raymond also has an interesting artistic past. Northwest grunge gods, Nirvana, played their first gig at a Raymond house party in 1987. Additionally, my very favorite holiday tune, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on An Open Fire) was co-written by Raymond-born, award-winning composer, writer and producer, Robert Wells along with prolific musician, Mel Tormé. That’s a pretty eclectic and cool mash-up of musical history!
On your next visit to Raymond, take a little time to explore the continuing artistic legacy of the area as well as the beauty of its surroundings:
- Learn more about Raymond’s history and the popular mode of transportation of days gone by at the well-curated Northwest Carriage Museum. (Open daily, 10am – 4pm) Don’t miss experiencing Raymond’s history of seafaring transportation at the Willapa Seaport Museum located directly next door. (Closed Sunday/Monday) And top it off with a stop at the Willapa Bay Public Market for unique finds from local artisans. (Friday/Saturday, 10am – 4pm)
- Included on the National Register of Historic Places, the lovely Raymond Theater (c. 1928) is still entertaining Raymond residents and features local theater as well as live music and movies. Just down the street and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Tudor-style Raymond Timberland Library (c. 1929) is a charming part of the downtown core and a great place to relax with good book.
- The Raymond area is filled with beautiful river viewing opportunities and the Willapa Hills Trail is an excellent way to enjoy the scene. (Hook up with the 56-mile trail at Riverfront Park near the Northwest Carriage Museum) If you’re up for a bit of kayaking or paddle-boarding action, hit up local Willapa Paddle Adventures for Willapa River escapades. Or shenanigans. Your call.
After your Raymond adventuring, check out the local foodie scene and refuel for continuing exploration. A few ideas to get you started:
- Not only can you grab a tasty burger and brew – or an insane bloody Mary – at Pitchwood Inn & Alehouse, they also have cozy rooms should you like to extend your Raymond exploits. (Alehouse open from noon to 9pm, 11pm on Friday/Saturday, 8pm on Sunday. Closed Mondays)
- Featuring classic diner fare along with specialties like their stuffed sandwiches and fresh Willapa Bay oysters, Slater’s Diner is a great local mainstay. (Monday – Thursday, 11am – 7pm, 8pm Friday/Saturday. Noon to 7pm on Sunday)
- Poutine, tots, brats, hand-dipped corndogs, beer and mead? What?? I’m in! I didn’t get a chance to stop at Wildman Brewing Company, but I’m making a point to visit on my next trip. (Family friendly. Open Tuesday – Thursday, 4pm – 8pm, 9pm on Friday. 11am – 9pm on Saturday, 7pm on Sunday. Closed Mondays.)
- Drinking delicious wine often makes me say “WooHoo!” so it only seems appropriate a winery should make it their namesake. Check out WooHoo Winery for delicious wine and be sure to try their seasonal Glühwein. (Open Saturdays Noon – 6pm. They also have a tasting room in Leavenworth open Friday – Sunday)
- If you’re visiting during a summer weekend, head to Smith Creek Blueberry Farm and stock up on u-pick blueberries. (Mmmm… Now I want blueberry pie…) Another great summer event in late August can be found just east on SR-6 in Menlo. Head to the Pacific County Fairgrounds and enjoy all manner of crazy fair food, goods and specialties from all around Pacific County and more. (Hopefully returning in August 2021)
From Raymond, it’s easy to travel southeast on SR-6 to meet back up with I-5 in the Chehalis area in Lewis County. There are a few tiny towns to drive through along the way, but it won’t take long before you meet up with Western Washington’s main arterial. On this journey, however, I chose to hook up with US-101 to head south towards the nearby town of South Bend.
Billed as the Oyster Capital of the World and now serving as the county seat, South Bend provides 25% of the nation’s oyster harvest out of adjacent Willapa Bay. Oysterville originally served as the county seat until 1893 when disgruntled South Bend residents navigated steam boats up Willapa Bay and absconded with the county records. The pirated records were then relocated to South Bend where they have remained ever since. The scandal!
For the scoop on Pacific County’s interesting past, stop in at the Pacific County Heritage Museum, located directly off of US-101 in downtown South Bend. (11am – 4pm, March through September and 12pm to 3pm during the winter months.) For more Pacific County information, pay a visit to the historic Pacific County Courthouse and take in the beautiful art glass dome. (c. 1910 and on the National Register of Historic Places)
Even if you are not a lover of oysters, there are many fine meals to be found in South Bend. The scene is a little quieter during the winter months, but there are always great dining options to explore.
- Head to the casual River View Dining for a nice view of the Willapa River and great food. They do feature the local hero, the Goose Point oyster, but don’t miss their fish-n-chips and burgers. (11am – 8pm daily, 11:30 on Sunday. Closed Mondays.)
- Oysters are in the name at the Chester Club & Oyster Bar and they represent them well, but they also have several other great dishes on the menu and regularly feature live music. (Daily, 10am – 2am)
- Take your German specialties to go or grab a spot in the cozy seating area, but do make a stop at Jayden’s German Store & Deli. Featuring a great selection of European sweets, meats and more, they most importantly carry an impressive selection of goods from Germany. Mmmm… (Open daily, 11am – 5pm, 6pm on Friday/Saturday)
- Newer to the South Bend foodie scene and offering great brew along with hand-tossed pizza and fresh oysters, the Willapa Brewing Company is an excellent addition to the South Bend scene. Check out the Bone River Oyster Stout – made with fresh oysters! (Open daily, noon – 7pm, 8pm on Friday/Saturday. Closed Tuesdays.)
- I don’t think they have any drinks made with oysters, but you never know. For great, non-oysterfied coffee and beverages, stop in at Elixir Coffee and enjoy a drink, a great river view and something from their tasty menu. (The turmeric latte was particularly lovely! (Daily, 7am – 6pm) In addition to coffee, they also feature event catering and a nice array of handcrafted goods. After enjoying your coffee, stop in at Riverside Gallery next door and enjoy a bit of local artistry and design. (10:30am – 4:30pm, Thursday – Sunday. Closed Monday – Wednesday.)
While it’s possible to get to South Bend via the Willapa Hills Trail from Raymond, I chose to go with four wheels for this adventure. Granted, one might miss a bit in passing, but when there are delicious oyster spots to try and beautiful coastlines to explore, it seems a fair trade-off. Continuing past South Bend on US-101 will definitely lead you to great bounty on both counts. It is a stunning drive filled with twists, turns and gorgeous sloughs and not to be missed. (It also would be pretty amazing on a motorcycle!)
As you get closer towards the coast, you’ll pass through the Bone River Natural Area Preserve and Niawiakum River Natural Area Preserve. Both are protected for their coastal salt marshes, various species of birds and mammals as well as freshwater streams, wetlands and forested areas. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, consider a kayak trip up the Bone River. The Bone River Launch in the nearby Bay Center peninsula area is a popular place to put in. Definitely a bucket list item for a future adventure…
Also located in the Bay Center area and an excellent place to stop for an oyster pilgrimage is the iconic Goose Point Shellfish Farm & Oystery. (Open Friday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm; 5pm during winter) They offer fresh oysters and shellfish to go as well as oysters to enjoy in their picnic area. Grab a round of oysters and a Bone River Oyster Stout and enjoy the Willapa River scene. (They partnered with Willapa Brewing Company in nearby South Bend on the stout.) If you can’t get enough of the oysters – or that very unique stout – consider pitching a tent at nearby Bush Pioneer County Park and making a weekend of it. (Located on the very tip of the Bay Center peninsula and part of the Chinook Nation, where even more oysters can be found close by at the Ekone Oyster Company. Check out their online shop.)
The next stops on my itinerary were two of my very favorite spots in the state, Long Beach and Cape Disappointment. Along the way, however, were some excellent distractions and beautiful areas to explore. Not only is the drive spectacular all on its own, there are many breathtaking spots along the way to stop and commune with nature. If camping, hiking, fishing or just standing still and taking in the scene are your jam, this is the place to be. Just a few of the wonderful options to enjoy on your next Pacific County outing:
- Out of the Bay Center area, head south on US-101 through the Nemah and Middle Nemah areas towards the gorgeous Willapa National Wildlife Refuge and Long Island coastal areas. The only way to visit Long Island is via private boat, but the bounty is worth it. Shellfish harvesting, hiking, camping and more await you on the island. Long Island has long been a home and point of resource for native tribes and is still used for cultural and spiritual occasions. Be sure to check out the Cedar Grove Trail which features trees over 900 years old. For hiking off-island, check out the Willapa Art Trail and Cutthroat Climb for relatively easy family hikes on a lovely boardwalk through the refuge. (Located at Milepost 24 on US-101. There is also a boat launch for Long Island in this area, across US-101 from the Milepost 24 refuge entrance.)
- A great way to immerse oneself in the area is with a visit to the Wings Over Willapa festival in the fall. (September 23-26, 2021) It features tours, workshops and classes covering birding, art and a lecture series about the ecology, management and history of Willapa Bay.
Continuing southwest on US-101 will eventually bring you to a junction with SR-103 in the Seaview area. Congratulations – You’ve made it to the Pacific Ocean! And you didn’t have to travel for thousands of miles via horse, wagon or canoe to do it. Thank you, Lewis and Clark!
At this fork in the road, you can opt to go right and head into the bustling town of Long Beach or take a left and head towards Ilwaco and the epic Cape Disappointment. They’re both must-sea destinations and in easy reach of one another. However, since I was in need of some beach action and maybe a tasty treat, I took a right and headed into Seaview and Long Beach, located along the Long Beach Peninsula. We’ll head back towards Cape Disappointment shortly. No need for disappointment…
Before arriving in Long Beach proper, the lovely Seaview area offers several lodging and dining options for the peninsula visitor. Long Beach can get fairly crowded during the summer months and historic Seaview is nice if you’re looking for a little respite. A few spots to explore on your next adventure:
- If you’re in need of a tasty, local brew, check out North Jetty Brewing for beer, light snacks and maybe even a bit of Bingo. I’m not a huge sour beer fan, but I truly loved their Yara Peach-Passion-fruit Sour as well as their super-drinkable Beach Beer Blonde Ale. They will even fill to-go cans! (Kid friendly (to 6pm), open daily at noon – Closed Tuesdays)
- Visit local favorite, The Depot Restaurant for delicious farm and ocean-to-table fare served out of the historic Seaview train depot building. (c. 1900) (Open daily, 4:30 – 8:30pm)
- A stop at the quaint 42nd Street Café & Bistro will yield a hearty breakfast or lunch and tasty bistro fare during the dinner hour. (8am – 12:30pm, 4:30 – 8pm for dinner. Closed Monday/Tuesday.)
- For the ultimate in hip getaways, check out the historic Sou’Wester Lodge. Stay in the original lodge (c. 1892) or kick back in the adjacent vintage travel trailer resort, cabins or campsite. In addition to cool lodging, they also host various classes, wellness events, live music and artist residencies. Relax further in their Garden Spa and Finnish sauna and check out the goods in at the store in the vintage trailer.
- The historic Shelburne Hotel (c. 1896), along with its onsite restaurant and pub, offer trendy lodging, menus and cocktails in a vintage locale. The best of both worlds. (Pub open daily, Noon – 1pm, Monday – Thursday, 11pm on Friday; 8am – 10pm Saturday, 11pm on Sunday.)
- For an up close and personal look at the history of Seaview, check out the Seaview Walking Tour and enjoy strolling by charming Seaview homes, lodging and more.
Is it maybe a little scary? Yes. Perhaps a little dangerous? Yes. Is it spectacularly beautiful, absolutely unique and full of cool travel cred? Yes, yes and YES! Welcome to Long Beach and the “World’s Longest Beach.” (Drivable. On a peninsula.) The world’s longest beach is actually Praia do Cassino in Brazil with a few beaches in other countries also being longer. But they’re not taking down the sign, so let’s just all be cool…
The scary and potentially dangerous parts come in the form of driving on the 28-mile beach, which is technically considered a state highway. (25 mph. Keep to the right and don’t drive on the dry sand! Seriously.) Of the 28-miles, there are sections closed to vehicles year-round as well areas closed seasonally to vehicles during razor clam season. Follow the general rules-of-the-road in addition to not driving on sand dunes and paying attention to the tides. Check out the Beach Safety and Rules for more information and tips.
If four-wheels on the beach aren’t for you, there are countless other ways to enjoy the day and Long Beach has quite a bit of beach to enjoy. Just a few of the excellent activities to explore during your next beach getaway:
- Razor clam digging is very popular on Long Beach. Visit the WDFW site for dates, beaches, regulations and more – And don’t forget to procure a Shellfish & Seaweed License before you start digging. They can be purchased online or at one of many local area stores.
- Horseback riding on the beach is a top item on my Washington State bucket list and my dream shall be realized soon – I know it! Riders can bring their own horses or hit up the outfits offering beach rides. Check out West Coast Horse Rides and The Long Beach Horse Rides for both guided and unguided rides (for the experienced riders) on the beach and the Red Barn Arena and Peninsula Saddle Club for options when bringing your own horses.
- For an excellent day at the beach and a good bit of exercise, hit up the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail. The trail goes all the way to Ilwaco and Cape Disappointment State Park (8.5 miles one-way) and offers amazing views along the way. Be sure to visit the Long Beach Boardwalk and don’t miss the wooden whale sculptures near the Sid Snyder beach entrance.
- It might not be Oahu’s North Shore, but you can still get your surf on in the Long Beach area. Head to Skookum Surf Company for gear, instruction and information on the local hot spots.
- Long Beach takes kite flying to the next level. Bust out your old school diamond kite or grab the newest in kite technology from one of the many local kite shops. Be sure to visit the World Kite Museum near the beach to take in the majesty of riding the breeze and head to the Washington State International Kite Festival for even more majesty.(August 16-22, 2021)
Important note for any beach outing: Never turn your back on the wily ocean. Sneaker waves are REAL.
There are many great places to eat and stay while visiting the Long Beach area. Whether it’s a beach snack, casual meal or fine dining, Long Beach has you covered. There really is nothing finer than picnicking at the beach on a warm, sunny day. Or grabbing an ice cream cone and walking along the boardwalk. (But don’t count out those stormy beach days!)
The next time you’re in Long Beach, keep these excellent establishments in mind:
- The Adrift Distillers (daily, 11am – 5pm) feature delicious spirits and tastings and the adjacent Adrift Hotel features onsite dining at the very hip Pickled Fish restaurant. (Daily, 8am – 10pm; 11pm, Friday/Saturday) Excellent food, cocktails and beach-side lodging in a trendy locale – Score! Reservations recommended for the Pickled Fish. I highly recommend the burrata salad, Dungeness crab cakes and vanilla Pavlova – as well as their Triticale Whiskey. (The Shelburne Hotel in Seaview, the Boardwalk Cottages and the Inn at Discovery Coast are sister establishments and equally cool.)
- Located in the heart of downtown Long Beach, the Boreas Bed & Breakfast features a lovely handful of suites and a separate beach house. Each stay comes with a tasty breakfast and access to onsite features like their private hot tub and gardens.
- For a quiet beach cottage setting, check out the Anchorage Cottages and Klipsan Beach Cottages, both located just north of Long Beach. Who doesn’t love waking up to a cup of coffee in a cozy beach cottage?
- If you’re looking for great fish-n-chips and chowder in the heart of downtown Long Beach, stop by Castaways Seafood Grille. (Daily, 11:30am – 8pm) It’s also across the street from the amusement park and games – something for the whole family! But maybe hit the rides first… (Note: The Rides are currently closed for the season, but will hopefully return for the summer.)
- Located directly next door to the crazy and amazing Marsh’s Museum on Pacific Ave South, Captain Bob’s Chowder serves delicious chowders, lobster rolls and more. (Daily, 11am – 5pm, closed Monday/Tuesday. Wow. I could really use some of their chowder right now…)
- I love donuts. True story. And if I’m looking for a delicious donut fix while in Long Beach, I head directly to the Dylan’s Cottage Bakery & Delicatessen. (Try the cream cheese-stuffed croissants!) They also have a great deli with excellent sandwiches, soups, biscuits & gravy and more. Oh, and did I mention their delicious selection of PIES?? (Open daily, 4am – 5pm, 6pm Friday/Saturday)
- Serving delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cozy, old-school setting, the Drop Anchor Seafood & Grill is a great place to enjoy a meal after a day at the beach. Grab one of their chowder kits to take home and recreate the magic! (Daily, 11am – 7pm, with breakfast at 8am, Saturday/Sunday)
- While also featuring great local seafood, the Australian-themed Lost Roo also serves up great burgers, sandwiches and drinks. (Fill up your growlers!) Adding to their festive atmosphere, it’s a great place to visit whenever a game is on. (Daily, 11:30am – 9pm, 10pm Friday/Saturday)
- Feel like channeling your inner pirate? The family-friendly Hungry Harbor Grille features old-fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs, fish-n-chips, chowder and handmade milkshakes. Check out their Sunday Breakfast Buffet from 9-11am. Pet-friendly seating outside! (Daily, 11am – 7pm, 8pm Friday/Saturday)
It’s no secret that 2020 was a dark year. The Arts, festivals, concerts and many of our treasured activities were all put on hold. As things hopefully start to open up in the coming year, we can begin to enjoy artistic gatherings and celebration again. If you happen to be in the Long Beach area, here are a few options to consider:
- If you are looking for quirky, crazy history and a treasure trove of wacky souvenirs and antiques, Marsh’s Free Museum is hands-down the place to be. Established in 1921, Marsh’s – and Jake the Alligator Man – have been greeting visitors for generations. I always come out of this place with things I never knew I needed. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm, 6pm Friday/Saturday)
- Operating June through September, the Columbia-Pacific Farmers Market showcases local produce, seafood, flowers, crafts and much more. (Fridays, 12-5pm)
- Established in 1945, Cranguyma Farms is an important part of the Long Beach agricultural heritage. They specialize in delicious cranberries, blueberries and holly and feature a u-pick blueberry season from late July to September. They also feature beautiful, custom holly wreaths during the holiday season.
- If you’re a fun-guy, or just really love mushrooms like I do, the Wild Mushroom Celebration is well worth checking out. Many restaurants in the area feature special menus and several local hotels offer lodging specials. (Usually October thru mid-November – Stay tuned for 2021 dates)
- Should you be wishing for a live soundtrack for your beach adventure, the Water Music Festival features ongoing musical events. Upcoming is the Music in the Gardens (7/1/21) and the Jazz & Oysters event. (8/15/21) Presented by the Water Music Society, these shows are a lovely way to enjoy the beach life.
- Keep an eye on the Events page for the Peninsula Arts Association. Much hope they will again be featuring gallery tours and events in 2021.
- Hopefully returning in 2021, the long-running Long Beach Razor Clam Festival is a great way to celebrate the bounty of the area and enjoy A LOT of clams. YUM!
- Regardless of your age, The Rides (seasonal) and the Funland Family Fun Center are excellent additions to a night on the town. Souvenirs, ice cream, candy and all manner of treats (taffy, fudge, cotton candy, etc.) can be found in abundance. Who doesn’t love saltwater taffy at the beach?? (Located on Pacific Ave S and open daily, 10am – 10pm) And don’t forget to check out the WORLD’S LARGEST FRYING PAN, located next to The Rides! (Come on. There are certain things one just needs to experience in life. The WORLD’S LARGEST FRYING PAN clearly falls into that category.)
Heading north out of Long Beach on SR 103/Pacific Way will take you towards the lovely, coastal hamlets of Ocean Park, Nahcotta and Oysterville. (Note: The entire town of Oysterville is on the National Register of Historic Places!) These communities were important parts of the Clamshell Railroad which ran for decades through the area in the early 1900s. (While the railroad no longer runs, the Nahcotta train car is open twice a year for visitors in nearby Ilwaco.) These communities remain integral parts of the peninsula and have much to offer.
Just shy of the very tip of the peninsula, you’ll find beautiful Leadbetter Point State Park with its coastal trails, seaside forest, fishing and great clamming and crabbing opportunities. (Discover Pass required. Pro tip: The last part of the road to the main parking area for Leadbetter Point trail and beach access is single-lane and not the greatest for larger vehicles such as RVs.)
While making your way to this gorgeous, peaceful park, there are many excellent places to visit and things to do along the way:
- Do not miss a visit to Jack’s County Store, located on the corner of SR-103 and Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. Established in 1885 when Washington was still a territory, it’s thought to be the oldest, continuously operating retail business in the state. It is full of great deals, an amazing array of goods and quirky awesomeness. (Not to mention, fresh grocery items and take-away!) Open daily, 7am – 8pm.
- Located just off of SR-103, in the Ocean Park area, the Long Beach Peninsula Trading Post features a great variety of antiques and collectibles. This place is huge and could easily fill an afternoon. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm, closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
- Check out Pacific Pines State Park day-park for great clamming, crabbing and picnicking opportunities along the coast. (Discover Pass required)
- If you’re hoping to catch some Dungeness crab, head to the Port of Peninsula marina in Nahcotta. (Check the WDFW site before going for regulations, dates, etc. – And you’ll need a Shellfish & Seaweed License.) They also have an interpretive center and public boat launch. (Interpretive center open Memorial Day – Labor Day, Friday-Sunday and holidays, 11am – 4pm)
- There is some amazing history to explore in the area and a walking tour of historic Oysterville is an excellent option. The Oysterville one-room school house and church are still in use and the Oysterville post office is the oldest continually operating post office in the state. It is said that Chief Klickeas of the Chinook Tribe originally introduced early settlers in the 1850s to its future namesake and main export, the oyster. For additional information, check out Sydney of Oysterville to learn more of the deep history of this area. Oysterville is a tiny hamlet indeed, but absolutely worth a look. Charming doesn’t begin to cover it!
If you weren’t able to catch your fill of shellfish or other seafood delicacies, there are several dining options in the area to help you on your way. Consider some delicious take-away to go with your relaxing hang on the beach!
- Located just past downtown Long Beach, heading north on Pacific Avenue, the old-school burger joint, The Corral Drive-In is a great place to stop for a burger, fish sandwich, crinkle-fries, TOTS and more. Open daily, 11am – 8pm.
- Grab a tasty sandwich at the Great Day Café (11:30am – 4pm, Tuesday – Saturday) and then head out for a round of golf on the adjoining Surfside Golf Course.
- Check out Ocean Park’s MyCovio’s for Italian-inspired fare featuring local ingredients in a cozy setting. (Thursday through Sunday, 4-7pm) It’s recommended to call ahead for reservations, but take-out is also available.
- For a great burger and local seafood specialties, stop in at Sara’s Rusty Spur Bar & Grill for a relaxing meal and frosty pint. (11am – 8pm, daily – 9pm Fri/Sat. Bar open to 11pm – Cash only, ATM inside.) Located on Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. They also have a dog-friendly deck area.
- For a spot of tasty, Irish comfort food, head to the Crown Alley Irish Pub along Pacific Way in Ocean Park. (Open 4-10pm, Sunday-Thursday, Noon-11pm, Friday/Saturday, closed Tuesday/Wednesday) Hopefully they’ll again be able to host the awesome Coastal Celtic Music Festival in the coming year.
- Speaking of festivals, the very fragrant and tasty Northwest Garlic Festival is set to tentatively return in September. I have a deep fondness for garlicky goodness and my fingers are crossed – and my garlic bulbs, braided. (September 18-19, 2021 at the Nahcotta Boat Basin)
- Anita’s Coastal Café in Ocean Park is a cozy spot to stop for breakfast or lunch. Open daily, 8am to 1:45pm. Great local seafood features!
- Also located in Ocean Park, The Berry Patch features hearty breakfasts and comfort-filled lunch and dinner plates, along with local seafood specialties. Open daily, 7am to 7pm.
- Stop in at Willapa Oysters / Willapa Artisan Kitchen for fresh oysters, clams and take-away dishes to heat up at home. (Dungeness Crab Mac & Cheese, anyone??) They will also ship around the country. (Open daily, 11am – 6pm, located off SR-103 in the Oysterville area.)
- If you’re roaming around the peninsula on the weekend, stop in at legendary Oysterville Sea Farms for fresh clam chowder, oysters and clams, wine and beer. There is also public access to Willapa Bay. (Friday – Sunday, 9:30am to 5pm) I’m still dreaming of the oysters and crab I enjoyed on my recent trip. The freshest, most delicious oysters I’ve ever had! WOW!
After taking in all of the sights and making your way to the tip of the peninsula, unless you have an awesome boat, it’s time to head back south. Not to worry, the drive is beautiful and there’s still a great bit of Pacific County to see south of Long Beach. We’re not done yet!
Head back down SR-103 towards Long Beach and continue forward onto US-101, just past Seaview. This will take directly into the little town of Ilwaco, tucked snugly into scenic Baker Bay. Looking out towards Oregon and enjoying the last waters of the Columbia River as they head out to sea, Ilwaco is a great place to spend a relaxing weekend as well as a jumping-off point for river and ocean adventures.
The general vibe in Ilwaco has always been relaxed and fairly chill when I’ve visited, but they do have their days of festivity and celebration. Whether it’s reveling in local waters, bounty or industry, Ilwaco has much to celebrate. Typically occurring during the second weekend of October and sponsored by the Columbia-Pacific Heritage Museum (Temporarily closed – Reopens June 1st), the Cranberrian Fair is a great way to pay homage to one of the area’s most important exports, the cranberry. Also sponsored by the museum is the Clamshell Railroad Days event during the third weekend of July. Hopefully both of these much-loved festivals will return in 2021.
Situated in the center of town, directly on Baker Bay, the Port of Ilwaco is a hub of activity and commerce. Home to local businesses, including great dining and hotel options, it’s a fine place to spend an afternoon or longer. Grab a bite to eat, a tasty beverage and gaze out onto the waterways – or take a strong along the Waterfront Walkway. (Part of the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail) Not a bad way way to spend a day…
Just a few of the excellent options to check out on your next visit to the Port of Ilwaco:
- Considering Ilwaco’s beautiful location, history and environment, it is no wonder it’s a great spot for artists. The waterfront area features several galleries and it’s easy to spend an afternoon taking it all in. On my most recent visit, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting one of the artists and connecting the dots to a piece of art I’d picked up on my last visit to the area. I stopped in at the Don Nisbett Art Gallery and very quickly realized he was the artist responsible for the awesome 12th Salmon magnet I’d picked up at the Nelson Crab shop in Tokeland. I was so excited to meet the maker, but equally happy to enjoy a much broader view of his work. (And pick up a few more fun pieces, which he kindly autographed!) Dan is also a great resource for local information and stories – be sure to hit him up on your next visit! Should you be in town on the first Friday of the month in June through September, be sure to check out the First Friday art walk from 4-7pm along the waterfront.
- If you happen to be visiting during late spring or the summer, check out the vibrant Saturday Market at the Port and enjoy local artisan goods, produce and more. (Opening Day, May 1st, 10am. Open May-Sept.)
- In need of a caffeine boost? Stop by Roots Juice, Java & Salad Bar for a great cup of coffee or fresh juice – and a nice salad. (Open daily, 7am to 1:30pm, 6:30am to 10:30 on Saturdays, closed Sundays.)
- Located just up from the port, the seasonal Serious Pizza serves up delicious pizza, sandwiches and more. Open during the spring months on Friday – Sunday from 11am – 7pm. During the summer months, they’re open Wednesday – Sunday from 11am – 7pm. (Closed November – February)
- For a comfortable, but very hip stay in the area, head to the Salt Hotel & Pub, located by the marina and overlooking the port. The newly restored hotel is also host to the Salt Pub with its hearty pub fare and dog-friendly patio. I wanted at least a couple more orders of their clams. Delicious! (Thursday – Monday, 11:30am – 7pm, 8pm on Friday/Saturday. Pub closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
- Bringing a little swank to the port area, the At the Helm Hotel & Pub is both comfortable and upscale. Located by the marina, this boutique hotel also features excellent dining at the Waterline Pub. (Open Thursday – Sunday.) In addition to great lodging and delicious local fare, they also host onsite yoga classes (Friday-Sunday), in-house massage and offer cruiser bike rentals. Enjoy a complimentary glass of beer/wine on check-in!
- I was very excited to pick up some Sturgeon and freshly caught sole on my recent visit to Fish People seafood, located on the Ilwaco waterfront. Great prices, friendly staff and an excellent spot near the water – you can’t go wrong! (Open Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm)
- For more great lodging in the Ilwaco area, check out the Inn at Harbour Village (c. 1926) in downtown Ilwaco or the relaxing China Beach Retreat, just up the road towards Cape Disappointment State Park. (Currently under renovation and temporarily closed)
Due to its strategic location near both fresh and salt waters, Ilwaco boasts several fishing charters and opportunities to catch that big one. Let the area experts show you around the area and help you in your quest.
- Seabreeze Charters offers great fishing tours of area waters. Hit them up during sturgeon season (May 10 – June 5th) and try your hand at reeling in one of the prehistoric-looking monsters. Sturgeon can live for years and easily grow 6 feet and more. Growing up, I often swam in the Columbia and was sincerely hoping to never bump into one. That said, they prefer the deeper water, so that’s good… Seabreeze also features salmon, albacore and halibut fishing when in season.
- Featuring fishing tours and lodging, the family-run Coho Charters & Motel offers sturgeon and salmon fishing trips on the Columbia River as well as crabbing tours out at sea.
- Maybe fishing isn’t your bag. Maybe you want to enter your awesome yacht in a marathon race from Ilwaco all the way to Victoria B.C. (Also, can I come along?) Throw your life preserver into the ring and sign up for the yearly Pacific NW Yacht Race and give those sea legs a good stretch. (First week of May) The race didn’t happen in 2020, but hopefully you can bring me along in 2021. I’d even be amenable to 2022… 2023?
One of my very favorite parts of the entire state can be found just up the road from Ilwaco. Set upon windy bluffs, overlooking the merging waters of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, Cape Disappointment State Park and its stunning lighthouses are a must-visit in Pacific County. (Discover Pass recommended, but you can purchase day passes on site.) The beauty, historical significance and adventure potential of this area are incomparable. In fact, the entire area is on the National Register of Historic Places.
As the area is apparently one of the foggiest places in the US with over 2500 hours a year of fog, the North Head Lighthouse (c. 1898) and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (c. 1856 – Oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific NW) are much needed and appreciated beacons of safety. That said, it’s always been sunny when I’ve visited. (Guess I don’t always bring the grey skies of Seattle with me…) Be sure to bring varied outerwear, plenty of water and a good flashlight or headlamp. (We’ll get to the flashlight part in a bit…)
Stop in at the excellent Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and learn all about the history and beauty of the area. Perched atop a 200-foot high cliff, it offers an amazing view of the North Jetty as it aids passage over the Columbia River Bar and into the Pacific Ocean. (The South Jetty aids passage from the Oregon side of the river) This convergence, also known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific,” hosts the very waters viewed by the Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery as their 18-month, 3,700-mile journey from Missouri came to its fruition on November 7th, 1805.
Along with serving as the epic entrance to the Pacific Ocean, the area has been home to the local Chinook Tribe for millennia. Skilled stewards of the land and water, they were instrumental in helping Lewis & Clark and their Corp of Discovery survive the harsh winter in the area and meet their expedition goals. Unfortunately, this friendship was tested when the expedition stole one of the Chinook Tribe’s canoes. It wasn’t until long after the fact that descendants of the Clark family “returned” the canoe to its rightful owners. (The Clark family presented a replica, 36’ seaworthy canoe to the Chinook Tribe in 2011.)
During your visit to the cape, don’t miss out on the many areas to explore. Grab your flashlight and snake in and out of the coastal defense batteries placed strategically throughout the grounds. As early as 1862, the cape has been providing defense for the nation and these batteries were in service throughout WW II. It’s both fascinating and sobering to wander through these narrow passageways and ponder the degree of force Washington State was prepared to release from its shores. (Don’t forget your flashlight!)
If you forgot your flashlight, rest assured there are many other activities to enjoy in the park. Put on your hiking boots and enjoy one of the many trails throughout the park. The Beards Hollow and Bell’s View trails leading up to the North Head Lighthouse are spectacular and the Coastal Forest and Benson Beach trails are also not to be missed. Actually walking to the end of the North Jetty which is just next to Benson Beach was truly awe-inspiring.
Consider extending your stay in the area by taking advantage of the ample camping spots, not to mention the 14 yurts, 3 Cabins and 3 lighthouse keeper’s residences/ vacation homes. This would certainly make hitting up the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail between Cape Disappointment State and Long Beach much more doable. (8.5 miles one-way. Only trail in park that allows bikes. Rent one in Ilwaco!) Or you can always throw in at the boat launch from Baker Bay on the Columbia River for some crabbing action near the North Jetty or hit up Benson Beach for a bit of clamming. (Shellfish and boat launch permits required.) And hopefully you’ll be able to end your night by taking in a show as part of the Waikiki Beach Concert Series. (June – August, every other Saturday. Cancelled for 2020.)
We’re nearing the end of our Pacific County adventure, but there are still a few great stops to enjoy on your way home. As I’m always up for a bit of meandering, I like to drive towards Chinook on US-101 and then SR-401 up to SR-4 out of the tiny community of Naselle. Heading towards Chinook is also advised if you plan on heading over the Columbia River towards lovely Astoria, Oregon or Wahkiakum County and on to I-5. (Important note: Goonies never say die!)
Traveler Advisory: SR-401 is presently closed one mile east of US 101 due to roadway settlement. Keep an eye on the WSDOT website for updates on reopening. Use alternate routes.
Following this route will bring you by these great spots:
- For a great cup of coffee and delicious cookies and pastries, stop in at Chinook Coffee Co. and fuel up for your coastal drive. (Daily, 7am – 3pm. Sometimes 4pm.)
- For tasty pub fare and a good drink, check out the Columbia River Roadhouse in Chinook. They also feature live music and a casual, sports bar ambiance. (12-7pm, Tuesday – Thursday, 12-9pm Friday/Saturday. Closed Sunday/Monday.)
- If you’re a history buff, plan a stop at the Fort Columbia Historical State Park just past Chinook and shortly before the bridge to Astoria, along the Columbia River. The area is small as compared to nearby coastal defense sites, but Fort Columbia is considered one of the United States’ most intact coastal defense sites and the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center is filled will artifacts and stories of the area’s history. (Temporarily closed due to Covid-19) In addition to a self-guided interpretive historic walk around the fort, there are a couple miles of hiking trails as well as two, charming vacation houses should you be interested in staying longer in the area.
- Just before arriving at the bridge to Astoria sits the lovely St. Mary’s Station parish in tiny McGowan. There are nice trails to check out beginning from the parish parking lot and an absolutely beautiful view of the Columbia River. This is also the home of the Chinook Tribe’s Middle Village – Station Camp, an important part of Chinook life and trade and integral to their trade with the Lewis & Clark expedition.
- Just past the bridge exit, along SR-401 sits the interestingly named spot, Dismal Nitch. It’s now a small rest area along the banks of the Columbia, but bears the historical distinction of hosting the Lewis & Clark expedition while they were riding out a severe winter storm before finally reaching the coast. So close, yet so far… (Travel Advisory: The rest area is presently closed for septic repairs. Keep an eye on the WSDOT website for updates on reopening.)
- From Dismal Nitch, continue north on SR-401 up to the tiny Finnish community of Naselle. A portion of my family hails from Finland and I was very interested to learn how Finns found their way to this remote part of Washington. I didn’t need to look far as Naselle’s Appelo Archives Center answered many of my questions as I learned about the logging and fishing industries which drew Finnish and Scandinavian immigrants to the area. The museum and bookstore feature interesting exhibits and resources and the onsite café features delicious Finnish pastries and more. They also host the bi-annual Finnish-American Folk Festival which occurs in July. The 2020 event was cancelled due to Covid-19, so they are now set to return in 2022.
- For other sightseeing and cultural opportunities in the area, check out the lovely Deep River Pioneer Lutheran Church (National Register of Historic Places, c. 1902) and the Knappton Cove Heritage Center (temporarily closed due to Covid-19), formerly known as the historic Columbia River Quarantine Station. (National Register of Historic Places, c. 1899)
- There aren’t many dining options in the Naselle area, but the low-key Hunters Inn is known for its heart country-cooking and casual atmosphere. (Current hours, daily from 3-9pm)
And with that, it’s time to bring these Pacific County adventures to an end. For now… From Naselle, simply take SR-401 back up to SR-4 and head out to I-5 through Wahkiakum County. As there are so many areas to explore and enjoy in Pacific County, I find myself returning time and again. The beauty of the ocean, the Columbia River, coastal forests and delicious foodie opportunities will never get old. I can’t wait for my next visit – perhaps I’ll see you there. Say, would you happen to have a boat? Asking for a friend…
Until next time, please stay safe, get that vaccine and get ready to eat the state!
Enjoy the ride with my Pacific County SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!
- Ventura Highway – America (from Homecoming)
- Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan (from Can’t Buy A Thrill)
- Lovely Day – Bill Withers (from Menagerie)
- I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash (from I Can See Clearly Now)
- Cool Change – Little River Band (from First Under the Wire)
- Feels So Good – Single Version – Chuck Mangione (from Chuck Mangione: A&M Gold Series)
- Happier than the Morning Sun – Stevie Wonder (from Music of My Mind)
- You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor (from Mud Slide Slim & the Blue Horizon)
- Angel from Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt (from Streetlights)
- Light Enough to Travel – The Be Good Tanyas (from Blue Horse)
- It’s Too Late – Carole King (from Tapestry)
- Let ‘Em In – Wings (from Wings at the Speed of Sound)
- Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne (from Jackson Browne – Saturate Before Using)
- Isis – Live at Montreal Forum, Montreal, Quebec – December 1975 – Bob Dylan (from The Rolling Thunder Review – The 1975 Live Recordings)
- Find Yourself – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (from Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real)
- Old Friend – Shooter Jennings (from The Wolf)
- Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson (from Metamodern Sounds in Country Music)
- The Life You Choose – Jason Isbell (from Something More than Free)
- Something to Love – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (from The Nashville Sound)
- You’ve Got A Friend in Me – From Toy Story – Randy Newman & Lyle Lovett (from Toy Story)
- A Long Way to Get – Bob Schneider (from I’m Good Now)
- The Boys of Summer – Don Henley (from Building the Perfect Beast)
- Clean Getaway – Maria Taylor (from Lynn Teeter Flower)
- Can’t Find My Way Home – Ellen McIlwaine (from Up From the Skies: The Polydor Years)
- Life Is Beautiful – Keb’ Mo’ (from Just Like You/Suitcase)
- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – Paolo Nutini & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (from An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program)
- Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Muppet Barbershop Quartet (from The Muppets – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire) – Mel Tormé (from That’s All)
Check out more I Ate the State adventures:
- Special Edition – Summertime in Italy (featuring guest writer Erica Kees)
- Special Edition – I Ate the Neighborhood
- Special Edition – Strength, Resilience & Happy Memories
- Island County
- Wahkiakum County
- Whatcom County
- Special Edition – Victoria B.C.
- Thurston County
- Special Edition – Puerto Vallarta: THE RETURN
- Skagit County
- Snohomish County – Part I (The Mountain Side)
- Snohomish County – Part II (The Sea Side)
- Grays Harbor County
- Special Edition – Scotland – Part I (w/special guests – London & Reykjavik!)
- Special Edition – Scotland – Part II (w/special guests – London & Reykjavik!)
- Clallam County
- Kitsap County
- Jefferson County
- Mason County
- Kittitas County
- Yakima County
- Chelan County
- Special Edition – Puerto Vallarta
- Special Edition – Ode to A Bygone Seattle