12 Best Things to Do in Long Beach, Washington
Long Beach is a vacation destination in far southwest Washington state. It's one of several villages on the Long Beach Peninsula, bounded by the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay. Spanning 25 miles along the coast, the beach is perhaps the principal attraction, with plenty of things to do for all ages. The peninsula proudly boasts this sand as the "World's Longest Beach."
Several other tourist attractions stem from the beach along the peninsula, from boardwalk views to the perfect kite-flying weather. Entire weekends are easily spent within eyesight of the ocean and sand. Visitors here also walk in the steps of Lewis and Clark along the 8.5-mile paved Discovery Trail.
After exploring the oceanfront, Long Beach delivers plenty of other things to do for a great beach vacation. Roadside attractions and local eateries line Pacific Avenue, the main drag through town. Pacific Avenue is also where you'll find a welcoming collection of hotels and places to stay in Long Beach.
Enjoy your time on the coast with our list of the best things to do in Long Beach, Washington.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Long Beach
The name Long Beach isn't a mistake. The city borders an extended coastline with 25 miles of sand, offering all sorts of things to do in the sun and surf along the entire peninsula. Everyday endeavors include kite flying, sandcastle building, and long beach walks. The beach is also home to the Discovery Trail and the Long Beach Boardwalk, making for easy navigation.
Seven official beach access points line the immense stretch of sand on the peninsula. These large parking areas are better known as beach approaches. Long Beach has three beach approaches within its city limits: the Sid Snyder Approach, Bolstad Approach, and Cranberry Approach. These three beach parking areas are accessible at the west end of their respective street names.
Long Beach has been home to the Washington State International Kite Festival for nearly 40 years, and its windy reputation precedes it. The beach is the central attraction of most visits, and vacation days often pass near the shoreline.
For extra amusement, stop by the gift shop at the World Kite Museum and pick up a personal flyer.
2. Discovery Trail
The Discovery Trail is a mostly paved pedestrian trail spanning 8.5 miles from Ilwaco to Long Beach. The trail is named after Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. It commemorates the expedition's time on the exact path. Expect to find several Lewis and Clark statues and interpretive information along the way.
The trail begins near and travels through Cape Disappointment State Park, providing a popular pathway for park visitors. Farther north, in Long Beach, the trail is accessible at all beach approaches, and denoted by scenic archways. The half-mile Long Beach Boardwalk parallels the entire path.
The landscapes along the Discovery Trail illustrate the peninsula's varied habitats. Sand dunes, ocean views, and stands of trees line the route, as well as a range of wildlife, including birds, deer, and other wild tourists.
3. Marsh's Free Museum
Marsh's Free Museum is a unique roadside attraction worth pulling over for in Long Beach. This massive gift shop stands out on Pacific Avenue, with bigfoot statues, totem poles, and mannequins on display, offering only a sampling of the collection found inside.
It's a shopping experience walking through the Marsh's jam-packed aisles and hallways. Traditional gift shop items like stickers, personalized name tags, and whale-inspired decor are throughout. But it doesn't take long to spot something more unusual, like a taxidermied lion or the famous Jake the Alligator Man.
The museum and gift shop are open seven days a week, excluding major holidays. It's free to walk in and peruse the collection, and visitors often spend more time exploring the nooks and crannies of the store than initially planned.
Official site: https://www.marshsfreemuseum.com/
4. Cranberry Museum
The Cranberry Museum is on the campus of the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation on the north side of town. Visitors here tour a working cranberry bog, indulge at a cranberry gift shop, and learn the history of these versatile berries.
The cranberry bog is open for a self-guided tour every day. However, the best time to visit might be in September, when the fields are ripest, or during the October harvest. It's a flat, grassy path that visitors follow, with zero elevation gain. Parking is nearby.
The Cranberry Museum itself highlights the long history of cranberries. This narrative spans early indigenous cultures to more-modern day farming practices.
Also on-site is a popular gift shop with all things cranberry and beyond. Cranberry ice cream, candies, and soaps take over many of the shelves, alongside decorative homeware and apparel.
Official site: http://cranberrymuseum.com/
5. World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame
The World Kite Museum shares the long history of kites in Long Beach and beyond. This non-profit facility is split between a museum space and a hall-of-fame exhibit featuring past posters of the Washington State International Kite Festival, held in Long Beach every August.
The museum encompasses the entire second floor. Here, learn about the ancient history of kites and other aeronautic exploits, like aircraft target shooting and weather forecasting. Also displayed are some of the world's smallest kites, dwarfed by the massive kites hanging from the ceiling.
The World Kite Museum also has a modest selection of kites for sale, ranging from easy gliders to dual-line kites. And if inspiration strikes, the museum's location on Sid Snyder Drive is less than two blocks from the beach.
Official Site: https://kitefestival.com/
6. Cape Disappointment State Park
Cape Disappointment sits at the south end of the Long Beach peninsula, where the Columbia River meets the sea. Captain James Meares named this promontory in 1778. He was perhaps a bit downtrodden after failing to find the mouth of the Columbia River. Less than 20 years later, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the cape after their cross-country expedition.
Today, Cape Disappointment is one of Washington's best state parks. The park encompasses over 2,000 acres and the entire cape, including two scenic lighthouses: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and North Head Lighthouse. The second lighthouse was built in 1898 to provide extra aid in this area known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific."
It's not just lighthouse enthusiasts who visit. The park is also home to hiking trails, beach access, and over 200 campsites catering to tents and RVs.
The park is also home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Columbia Interpretive Center, where visitors can experience more of the park's storied past.
Official site: https://www.parks.wa.gov/486/Cape-Disappointment
7. Long Beach Boardwalk
Strolling the Long Beach Boardwalk is a quintessential experience on the peninsula. At less than a half-mile long, this scenic walkway runs alongside the paved Discovery Trail between Bolstad Avenue and Sid Snyder Drive. Incredible panoramas line the entire stretch.
No amusement parks, food stands, or souvenir shops line the boardwalk, just pure nature surrounded by grassy dunes. A few picnic benches and viewing platforms are along the route, offering quiet places to soak in the landscape. These sitting spots become increasingly popular as the sun starts to set on the horizon.
Plenty of short steps lead down from the boardwalk to the beach and the Discovery Trail, making for easy diversions. Wheelchair-accessible ramps are at either end of the boardwalk. And plenty of parking on either Bolstad Avenue or Sid Snyder accommodates the moderate crowds that tend to gather.
8. Stroll around Downtown Long Beach
Long Beach is a very walkable town. Shops, restaurants, and unique roadside tourist attractions line either side of Pacific Avenue, offering a great way to spend a day. A recommended approach to sightseeing is simply putting on some comfortable shoes and seeing where your interests take you.
Some can't-miss downtown attractions include Marsh's Free Museum and Candyman candy shop for travelers with a sweet tooth. Other places to visit include clothing shops, souvenir shops, and plenty of restaurants.
It's hard to miss other novelties of downtown, including things like the world's largest chopsticks outside Marsh's Free Museum, or the world's largest frying pan across the street. Beautiful murals also make an appearance, often catching the eye on the side of a building. And Lewis and Clark statues abound, celebrating their time on the peninsula.
9. Dine Out in Long Beach
Part of a Long Beach vacation experience is dining out at a local restaurant. Several family-friendly places to eat and other attractions line the main drag at the heart of town. Fresh seafood appears on many of these local eateries' menus, and each spot has a generally casual vibe.
Dylan's Cottage Bakery & Delicatessen is one spot not to miss on Pacific Avenue. The aroma of sugary confections fills the air of this long-standing scratch bakery, wafting from the display case filled with donuts, pastries, and more. The bakery is open seven days a week, from 4am to 5pm. Breakfast and lunch items are also available, including made-to-order deli sandwiches.
Other favorite restaurants in Long Beach include the Lost Roo, the DEPOT restaurant, and Castaways Seafood Grille.
Long Beach is also home to more than one place to visit for desserts. Places like Scoopers Market and Sweet Phees are favorites.
10. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 17,000 acres along the eastern edge of the peninsula, covering much of the south end of Willapa Bay. This dynamic landscape comprises several ecosystems, ranging from wetlands to ancient cedar forests. The refuge includes Long Island, only accessible by boat, and the northern tip of Long Beach Peninsula.
Wildlife is visible at the refuge, especially birds. Many thousands of migrating shorebirds make their way throughout these inviting landscapes each year, attracting a good number of bird-watchers and wildlife photographers.
Walking or hiking is the most common way to explore Willapa. Several easy-to-moderate hiking trails tour each unit of the refuge. And like the Willapa Art Trail, some trails feature accessible boardwalks to follow.
Boating is also possible at the park, with boat launches available.
Official site: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/willapa
11. Peninsula Golf Course
For those looking to swing some clubs near the ocean, head to the Peninsula Golf Course. This nine-hole public course has offered affordable green fees since 1947. And it's just as popular today, thanks partly to its laid-back charm, which matches the rest of the Long Beach community.
Other features of this local-favorite course include practice putting and chipping areas and an on-site clubhouse serving light fare. The course also hosts tournaments and league play and has instructors available.
Rates for the 2022 season are as low as $35 for 18 holes (playing the same nine twice). This fee is the walking rate; power cart rentals cost extra.
Official site: https://www.peninsulagolfcourse.com/
12. Watch for Whales along the Coast
Visitors to the Long Beach Peninsula have the chance to see whales migrating across the open ocean. Gray whales are the most typical sightings during two different migrations. Visitors see these massive mammals either heading south in the winter or north during the late spring.
Around early January is the peak season to see whales in Long Beach. Sightings still occur between mid-December and February. The migration back north begins mid-march and typically extends through April.
It helps to get a high vantage point to spot the large fumes from the whale's blowhole. Places like North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment State Park are popular for such a vantage point. Bring along binoculars or a zoom lens to get a closer view.