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13 Best Beaches in Washington State

Written by Brad Lane
Dec 11, 2020

Washington’s best beaches stretch up and down the coast. These aquatic destinations range from the extended shorelines of the Long Beach Peninsula to the rocky seashores in Olympic National Park.

Some beaches cater to classic sandy activities, like castle building and kite flying. Wilder beaches in Washington offer different adventures, like tide pool exploring and sea stack admiring. And due to a general western facing orientation, nearly all beaches in Washington offer stunning sunsets at the end of the day.

Other beach activities in Washington include swimming, fishing, and exploring retired military barracks. While summer is the most popular time to enjoy a beachscape, the winter offers a valuable time to unplug next to the water. Winter storms often bring a mesmerizing roll to the tides, and the “off-season” is prime time to spot migrating whales along the coast.

Plan your next beach vacation with our list of the best beaches in Washington state.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Alki Beach, Seattle

Alki Beach
Alki Beach

Alki Beach is one of Seattle’s best beaches, and for good reason. This West Seattle beach park defines summer fun in the city. And Alki Beach hosts thousands of swimsuit-clad families and visitors throughout the extended summer season.

Everyday activities include sand volleyball, laying out a blanket, and having a bonfire on the beach. The Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound back the beachscape, as does a regular fleet of ferries and boats on the water. A paved pedestrian path navigates the park and provides a popular route for joggers, bicyclists, and strollers.

Southwest of Alki Beach Park, the Alki Point Lighthouse provides a great photo opportunity and potential guided tour.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Seattle: Best Areas & Hotels

2. Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach
Ruby Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The feral coastline of Olympic National Park is on full display at Ruby Beach. Under eight miles north of the Kalaloch Lodge, dramatic sea stacks and abundant driftwood define this postcard landscape. The picturesque sea setting makes Ruby one of the most popular beaches in the park.

A steep, paved path leads down to the beach from a parking area, slowly revealing the breathtaking ocean scene with each turn. Ruby Beach has a rocky shoreline more conducive to hiking around than sun tanning on a towel. With ample space to explore both north and south, Ruby Beach also offers one of Olympic National Park’s best hiking trails.

Changing tides reveal a rich world of aquatic creatures to observe at Ruby Beach. Alongside abundant tide pools, the area is popular with other types of wildlife like colonies of nesting birds.

The Kalaloch area of Olympic has several rugged beaches. Other breathtaking beaches to explore in the region include South Beach and Kalaloch Beach. And other nearby sandy spots known as Beaches 1 through 5 also offer quiet coastal appeal.

3. Long Beach Peninsula, Long Beach

Long Beach Peninsula
Long Beach Peninsula

In far southwest Washington, the city of Long Beach offers easy access to the expansive Long Beach Peninsula. The 28-mile stretch of sand on the peninsula provides a quiet and uncrowded beach experience.

Alongside ample opportunity to enjoy the saltwater air alone, the peninsula is home to six state park units. The crown jewel of these state park units, Cape Disappointment, is on the southern end of the peninsula and fails to live up to its name.

The Long Beach Boardwalk extends for a half-mile from the city, offering an excellent ocean view. The boardwalk also provides a perfect vantage point during the Washington State International Kite Festival every August. For further exploration, a paved Discovery Trail also departs from Long Beach and meanders along the coast.

4. Pacific Beach State Park, Pacific Beach

Sunset at Pacific Beach State Park
Sunset at Pacific Beach State Park

Part of Grays Harbor County on the central Washington coast, Pacific Beach is a gateway community to the state’s shoreline. This vibrant ocean town is less than a 90-mile drive from Olympia and lends access to several beaches in the area. The closest ocean attraction is at Pacific Beach State Park.

Pacific Beach State Park features 17 acres and over 2,300 feet of shoreline. Visitors pitch tents and park RVs at the state park’s campground to spend the night, and day visitors spend most of their time exploring the beach. Every visitor has the option in the evening to have a small bonfire near the surf.

Pacific Beach State Park is also one of the most popular places in the region to spot whales migrating along the coast. The best time of year to spot whales is January, as well as between March and May. Bring some binoculars to get the best views of the majestic mammals.

The state park is one of many beaches worth visiting on this part of the coast. The community of Moclips to the north has abundant sand to explore. To the south, places like Copalis Beach and Griffiths-Priday State Park also attract beachgoers.

5. Fort Worden Beach, Fort Worden Historical State Park

Fort Worden Beach
Fort Worden Beach

A century ago, Fort Worden was a strategic military base and home to thousands of soldiers trained to protect Puget Sound. Today, this former military installation is now a popular historical park near Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. Included in its 432 acres are two miles of inviting saltwater shoreline.

The beach at Fort Worden encourages time spent at leisure. It’s easy to kick back to the sound of lapping waves and get lost in the distant view of the North Cascades on the horizon.

Fishing endeavors are also encouraged with a 120-foot dock. Plenty of mooring at the park accommodates all types of water vessels, and kayak rentals are also available.

After some beach time, the rest of the park features abandoned barricades and other tourable remnants of its military past. The Point Wilson Lighthouse, on the northern end of the beach, is one such remnant that offers an excellent postcard image of the ocean.

6. Rosario Beach, Deception Pass State Park

Rosario Beach
Rosario Beach

Over two million visitors a year agree that Deception Pass is one of Washington’s best state parks. This seaworthy state park spans Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands in Puget Sound, connected by the iconic Deception Pass Bridge. On the northern and less crowded Fidalgo Island, Rosario Beach offers great tide pools and a headland hiking trail.

Rosario Beach is actually two beaches on either side of Rosario Head. Both the north and south sections of this curved coastline feature rocky shores bounded by drift logs.

Both beaches also provide excellent tide pooling next to Rosario Head. A looped hiking trail navigates Rosario Head for a great vantage point of Puget Sound and the Deception Pass Bridge.

7. Seabrook Beach

Seabrook Beach
Seabrook Beach

On the central Washington coast, Seabrook is an ideal small coastal town for a weekend trip. The community of Seabrook comprises several colonial-style homes perched atop a sea cliff above the Pacific Ocean. Many of the houses are available as vacation rentals.

Several of the vacation rentals in Seabrook are surprisingly affordable. These charming places to stay, and a 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, make Seabrook popular for those looking to escape the city.

The beach itself offers the true getaway. Steep steps are the only way to access the beach below the community of Seabrook. Upon making it down to the shore, a wide-open beach and forested headlands invite leisurely days exploring the surf.

For family travel, the Gnome Trail in Seabrook is always a big hit with kids.

8. Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A rocky shoreline adds to the rugged landscape of this famous beach in Olympic National Park. As do the dramatic sea stacks rising from the surf. Humongous drift logs also define the space, and all these aesthetics add up to an otherworldly experience when visiting.

It’s a short walk from the parking area down to Rialto Beach. From here, hikers can head north on the rocky shoreline as far as their energy levels take them. Backpacking is also popular in this edge-of-the-continent environment, with hikers needing a permit to spend the night.

Inland from Rialto, one of Olympic’s best campgrounds, Mora Campground, features first-come, first-served sites surrounded by coastal rain forest. For a more in-depth look into Olympic's lush surroundings, the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is an hour’s drive inland.

9. Ocean Shores

Ocean Shores beach
Ocean Shores beach

Ocean Shores is a quaint coastal community 2.5 hours from Seattle. It’s the vast stretch of Pacific Ocean that draws all types of visitors to Ocean Shores, making it a fun place for family vacations or romantic outings.

Everyday activities on the beach include kite flying, sand-dollar searching, and generally relaxing as the waves pound the shore. The community provides other ways to enjoy the surf, including guided horseback rides, boat rentals, and chartered fishing adventures. The streets of Ocean Shores also entertain in the form of cute shops and local eateries.

The North Jetty is a fun place in Ocean Shores to watch big waves at work. This human-made rock wall also features a big sandy beach to explore.

Ocean Shores makes for an excellent basecamp for the many other sandy locales in the area. To the north, Ocean City and Ocean City State Park also provide a family-friendly beach experience.

10. Cama Beach Historical State Park, Camano Island

Cabins at Cama Beach Historical State Park
Cabins at Cama Beach Historical State Park

Overlooking Saratoga Passage on Camano Island, this historical park was once a stylish 1930s fishing resort. Today, the state park retains much of this untouched charm with dozens of seaside cabins available. On the edge of Puget Sound and steps away from the water, these cabins provide a memorable family beach experience.

Beach activities at Cama include swimming, fishing, and exploring the mile-long shoreline. Outside of the cabin accommodations, the state park also operates the Cama Center, including an elegant Great Hall and the Cama Beach Café.

The Center for Wooden Boats also operates within the state park. This non-profit museum and education space features free admission and regularly scheduled workshops.

11. Golden Gardens Park, Seattle

Golden Gardens Park, Seattle
Golden Gardens Park, Seattle | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On Puget Sound in Ballard, Golden Gardens is one of the most popular beaches in the Seattle area. Many things entice locals and visitors to this sprawling ocean space, including a large sandy beach. Alongside general beach lounging, other sandy activities include volleyball and bonfires.

The views of Puget Sound and the distant Olympic Mountains are a reminder of why Seattle is such a wild place to live. Visitors take in all that grandeur with a cement promenade that parallels the shore. The park also consists of wetland forest areas with several trails to explore the lush surroundings.

Expect to share the beach with significant crowds on summer weekends.

12. Owen Beach, Point Defiance Park

Mt. Rainier looming over Owen Beach
Mt. Rainier looming over Owen Beach | Phil Vendetti / photo modified

On the northwest tip of Tacoma in Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach provides a sprawling sandy shore. This beach is popular for activities like swimming, kayaking, and picnicking. A paved promenade also spans much of the shoreline, inviting leisurely strolls alongside the crashing waves.

Point Defiance is a popular park on the weekends, and many visitors flock to Owen Beach. Other amenities at this city-owned space include picnic tables and restrooms.

As of fall 2020, the city park added new facilities to Owen Beach, including increased parking and concessions. Kayak rentals are also available.

Owen Beach is just the tip of the attractions in Point Defiance Park. After enjoying the view of Puget Sound, other popular things to do include cruising on the Five Mile Drive and meeting some of the residents at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

13. Seahurst Park, Burien

Shoreline at Seahurst Park
Shoreline at Seahurst Park

In a southern Seattle suburb, Seahurst is a quiet beach park with fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound. The park is also known as Ed Munro Park. The pebbled shoreline of Seahurst extends for approximately 2,000 feet. This abundant space attracts moderate crowds on summer weekends.

Early mornings are the best bet for experiencing the beach with fewer people around. Beachgoers tend to gather throughout the day and remain until the spectacular sunset in the evening. The park is open throughout the year, and winter also provides a much less busy time to visit.

Facilities at the park include restrooms, reservable picnic areas, and a playground. The park also maintains a healthy collection of trails that explore the forested inland acres, and regularly scheduled naturalist walks occur throughout the summer.

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