12 Top-Rated Beaches in the Seattle Area

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Oct 21, 2021

Seattle is a city surrounded by water. The saltwater of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound borders the city to the west, while the massive Lake Washington offers freshwater to the east. These city-defining water bodies provide a limited amount of beaches to enjoy, varying from rocky shorelines to sandy expanses. And to the untrained visitor, they can be a bit hard to find.

Nevertheless, beaches dot all sides of the Seattle shoreline, ensuring everyone is close enough to visit with relative ease. Some beaches are more popular than others, and some attract more locals than tourists. A common denominator for all beaches in Seattle, though, is a beautiful view and an excellent place to enjoy sunny weather.

Fun things to do on Seattle's beaches range from volleyball tournaments to hiking nearby forested trails. Other eye-catching attractions include historic lighthouses, public art, and stunning sunsets in the evening. Always expect to encounter other beachgoers enjoying the waterfront access, especially on summer weekends.

Find the city's best stretches of shoreline with our list of the top beaches near Seattle.

1. Discovery Park

Discovery Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Discovery Park encompasses over 500 acres on a bluff stretching out from the Magnolia neighborhood, northwest of downtown. And this popular natural space offers the epitome of great Seattle beaches.

The wide variety of landscapes found within Discovery Park include grasslands, sea cliffs, forest groves, and lighthouse points. And skyline views of Cascade and the Olympic Mountains are available throughout. The park was once home to Fort Lawton, and evidence of this once-military status can still be found at the heart of the park. And the Daybreak Star Cultural Center provides historical information about the native population of the area.

West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park
West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park

Two beach areas to the north and south within Discovery Park are great for laying a towel down and beachcombing during low tide. And the picturesque West Point Lighthouse can be found on the shoreline at the center of the park. The trail to reach the lighthouse ranks high as one of the best hikes near Seattle.

Wildlife is abundant in this still-natural place, and on less popular days, seals can be seen on the beach. It's worth bringing a map to Discovery Point, and one great route for exploring is the three-mile Loop Trail. Another recommended way to experience Discovery Park is simply showing up and exploring whatever catches your interest first.

2. Alki Beach

Seattle skyline from Alki Beach
Seattle skyline from Alki Beach

Alki Beach extends for two and a half miles from Alki Point to Duwamish Head in West Seattle and has been a popular sandy attraction for over 100 years. It was once the home to an early 20th-century amusement park and is also where the first modern pioneers landed in Seattle in 1851.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy this rugged northwest shoreline is to walk, run, rollerblade, or push a stroller down the 2.5-mile paved path that parallels the beach. Other activities often include sand volleyball, beachcombing during the generous low tides, and watching the scores of boats pass by on the water backdropped by the Olympic Mountains.

Along with Golden Gardens Park, Alki Beach is one of two areas in the city that allow campfires on the beach, offering a perfect way to catch the colorful sunsets. Campfires are required to be within the designated fire pits spread throughout the park.

3. Golden Gardens Park

Golden Gardens Park Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Golden Gardens Park comprises the northwest edge of the Ballard neighborhood in North Seattle. It's one of the most popular beaches in the city, and one of the biggest. The park is spread over approximately 80 acres and has over 300 feet of sandy shoreline.

The beach overlooks Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, and easily accommodates the crowds that gather on the weekends. Swimmers and boaters have instant access to the water, and the beach caters to volleyball games, kite flyers, and those who simply want to lay a towel down and enjoy the view.

Golden Gardens also features forested hiking trails and an off-leash dog area. And like Alki Beach, campfires are allowed and encouraged within designated fire pits.

4. Green Lake Park

Lifeguard on duty at Green Lake
Lifeguard on duty at Green Lake | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Green Lake Park, approximately five miles north of downtown, has attracted tourists to its shoreline since 1907. It's an iconic outdoor destination that features great running paths, a historic bathhouse, and two designated swimming areas with lifeguards on duty during the summer season. These two swimming spots are East Green Lake Beach and West Green Lake Beach.

Green Lake also has multiple access points for non-motorized boats to get on the water. Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards can be rented through a concessionaire at the park. Green Lake Beach also has abundant sand to lay down a towel. A sprawling green grass park area surrounds both beaches, offering excellent places for a picnic.

Green Lake Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A 2.4-mile pedestrian path circles the entire body of water, which connects the east and west swimming areas. On the south side of Green Lake, the sprawling Woodland Park can also be easily reached, including the popular Woodland Park Zoo.

5. Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is 15 miles from downtown Seattle in the city of Renton. It encompasses nearly 60 acres on Lake Washington's southeast shore.

This popular warm-weather spot was once known as Lake Washington Beach Park and features a swimming beach, multiple boat launches, and a 1.5-mile trail that parallels the water. Gene Coulon also features playground equipment, two tennis courts, a fishing pier, and four reservable picnic shelters.

The beach is very family friendly and caters to many interests. Community events occur throughout the year, including festive fourth of July celebrations and a Summer Concert Series.

6. Madison Park Beach

Madison Park Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This beach and public area on the Lake Washington shoreline could be considered a "secret beach" of Seattle. It's on the far east side of the Madison Park neighborhood, northeast of downtown, off a relatively quiet street in this affluent district.

The beach is only 400 feet in length, but this city park provides everything and more to enjoy the day. Alongside a gorgeous place to set a towel down and gaze across Lake Washington, the beach also has a designated swimming area with a lifeguard on duty.

The adjacent Madison Park has well-manicured walking paths, a sprawling lawn with tennis courts, and nearby caf├ęs and restaurants. For even more seclusion on your city beach getaway, the Madison Park North Beach is one block away and features a great Lake Washington overlook above a rocky seawall.

7. Carkeek Park

Pipers Creek Trail at Carkeek Park
Pipers Creek Trail at Carkeek Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Carkeek Park encompasses over 200 acres in Seattle's northwest neighborhoods. The park features a variety of landscapes, including forests, wetlands, creeks, and Puget Sound shorelines, providing a natural appeal that attracts thousands of visitors each year. A variety of hiking trails link together all the ecosystems of the park.

The 3.5-mile Pipers Creek Trail within Carkeek has an easy ability to transport users far away from the city. Continued conservation and interest in the park have made Carkeek one of the most pristine in the city, and one of the few homes to a salmon run in Seattle. The waterfront area at Carkeek presents great views across Puget Sound, and low tide adds even more acreage to explore on the wide and welcoming beach.

8. Richmond Beach Saltwater Park

Richmond Beach Saltwater Park

In the city of Shoreline, 15 miles north of downtown, Richmond Beach Saltwater Park provides a secluded place to enjoy Puget Sound. It's a moderate descent to the mile-long beach from the parking area, but sprawling views of the water and the Olympic Mountains appear on the horizon upon hitting the sand.

The beach is a popular place for picnics or quick getaways from the city. The park leading to the beach also provides outlets for canine companions with a designated off-leash dog area. And a playground area nearby is a popular place for families to unwind.

9. Myrtle Edwards Park

Rocky shoreline at Myrtle Edwards Park Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Myrtle Edwards Park is on the Elliot Bay waterfront. It's a near five-acre park with a 1.25-mile pedestrian path that connects to Centennial Park to the north and the inland Olympic Sculpture Garden to the east.

The park is popular for running, walking, and all forms of muscle-powered transportation. It's also punctuated by small, rocky beach areas perfect for overlooking the Puget Sound shoreline.

Centennial Park to the north provides even more pathways to follow, and throughout Myrtle Edwards and within the sculpture Park to the south, public art provides other fascinating attractions to catch the eye. Sunsets are a great time to tour through this tucked-away park and beach area.

10. Madrona Park

Madrona Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Madrona Park is a tucked-away gem of the city on the Lake Washington shoreline. It's located on the east side of Seattle's Central District, approximately a three-mile commute from downtown. This distance and proximity offer the perfect step back from the city.

It's a small sandy beach at Madrona Park, which loosely marks the boundaries for the designated swimming with a lifeguard on duty. A large grassy expanse extends from the beach, with equally scenic views of Bellevue across the water.

Reservable picnic areas at the park are often well utilized on the weekends, and the trail following the shoreline of Lake Washington is well-trodden throughout the year. The park is also ideal for fishing, picnicking, and freshwater lake swimming.

11. Matthews Beach Park

Matthews Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Matthews Beach Park is the city's largest freshwater beach. It's in northeast Seattle, north on the shoreline from the expansive Warren G. Magnuson Park. Like all of Seattle's best beaches, expect crowds here on summer weekends.

The beach at Matthews Beach Park is a thin slice of sand that circles the cove for approximately 100-feet. A lifeguard is on duty during the summer season, and a floating platform entices swimmers to leave the shoreline. A green lawn bordered by big trees surrounds the swimming area, offering plenty of places to dry off.

12. Denny Blaine/Howell Park

Denny Blaine and Howell Parks are two small pocket parks on the Lake Washington shoreline in Central Seattle. The parks are less than a half mile north of Madrona Park, and both are known within the nude sunbathing communities. Don't be surprised to see unclothed individuals when visiting.

Other than the occasional nudity, these two smaller parks are much like any other public space in the city. No lifeguards are on duty, but swimmers can wade into the water. At Denny Blaine, an old stone wall separates the water and sunbathing area, which once marked the waterline before the lake was lowered in 1917.

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