Long Beach, WA

I’ve lived in Western Washington most of my life and I don’t think I’ve ever visited Long Beach. If I did, I must have been too young to remember because the past week was unforgettable.

Long Beach is a peninsula, and a town, on the southwest coast of Washington. It takes effort to get there because it’s not on the way to or from anything. The destination, though, is worth the journey.

Location, Location, Location

We stayed at Andersen’s RV Park which, although a typical gravel parking lot-style park with only a small laundromat and public bathrooms, was wonderful. They’re just north of Long Beach (the town) in the grassy dunes above the beach. The owners bought the place after a year of traveling the coast in their own RV, so they ‘get’ the lifestyle and were very welcoming. The park was completely full at times, but we never felt cramped or encroached upon. Most of the other RV parks in the area are well off the beach, but it was just a short walk for us from our RV site. Our fellow RVers would gather their chairs and drinks and head out each night to watch the sunset. The vibe there was great and Brian and I seriously contemplated extending our stay for another week.

Getting Around

We did drive to town when we visited, but it was only a few minutes away and parking was plentiful. Bicycles would have been a great way to explore. At least one shop rents them in town – including electric bikes – though we never took the opportunity ourselves. The Discovery Trail, an eight-mile path starting near Cape Disappointment and ending in Long Beach, is bike friendly and takes riders through the dunes along the beach for some gorgeous views. If you want a shorter walk, the Boardwalk in Long Beach has the same amazing views and is a nice way to get from one end of Long Beach to the other. There are also horseback tours of the beach and part of the beach is open for driving. In fact, it’s a state highway!

Long Beach

The town itself is small and it’s obvious tourism provides a large portion of the revenues, though I didn’t feel it was very crowded even in mid-July. The main street, Pacific Avenue, has your typical beach town tourist shops – beach clothing stores, candy and ice cream shops, a few local fast food burger/fish and chips places, and a museum of the weird (Marsh’s was definitely the creepiest of the creepy shops I’ve visited).  Of course, you’ll find coffee shops, booksellers, and gift stores galore. Back toward the boardwalk is Adrift Distillers, which we sadly did not have the opportunity to visit. Venture a few more blocks south to the town of Seaview to visit the excellent North Jetty Brewing. Their porter was very good. The Irish Stout was amazing!

Food

We were very pleasantly surprised to find some truly amazing food in Long Beach. The Saltwater Bar and Grill was good enough for us to go back after having dinner earlier in the week. The salmon special with bok choy held a lovely, lightly sweet, and slightly spicy Asian flavor and the berries with french créme was sublime. We went back later in the week convinced we needed to try their steak. I opted instead for their new sablefish special with a fresh blueberry reduction and beurre blanc. The flavor of the fish with the beurre blanc was subtle and smooth with pops of the blueberry. The radish microgreens added that nice bit of spice. Brian thoroughly enjoyed his Bleu Scallop Carbonara and Lump Crab Filet Mignon Medallions. The staff was friendly and the service was great with a little touch of frazzle on Saturday night. It seemed our server was the only one in the small dining room and three tables seem to have arrived all at once, so we’ll give him a break.

We drove by an unassuming Irish Pub as we were exploring the northern Peninsula and decided to head back there for lunch the next day. What an excellent decision! Crown Alley Irish Pub has what Brian and I have decided are the best corned beef and shepherd’s pie we’ve had in any restaurant (my mom still has the number one corned beef in my mind and heart.) What’s more, they have live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. The pub has that casual vibe that makes you want to just hang out and talk with everyone. In fact, we did have a conversation about good corned beef with one of the other tables.

Pickled Fish is another standout for Long Beach. They tout it as the best place to view the sunset because it’s on the fourth floor of the Adrift Hotel just off the beach. The food was really nice: velvety cauliflower soup, char-grilled burger with house-made pickles, and a beautiful cardamom-cranberry panna cotta. The staff was excellent and the sunset was lovely. They also have live music on the weekends. My only complaint was the windows weren’t clean and there was no deck or way to open the windows. I understand not being able to clean the exterior regularly, but the interior could have been much cleaner – especially if you’re selling the view. Smudged sunset aside, it was another lovely and romantic evening in Long Beach.

The Beach

Oh, the beach. I haven’t been that relaxed in a long time. As I said, we were parked just off the dunes and could easily walk to the beach. We also checked out most of the approaches (beach accesses) and beaches from Waikiki (yes, really) at the southern tip in Cape Disappointment State Park to Bolstad (main access in town) and Cranberry (a little-used beach on the north end.)

You can drive, or walk, from the 30th Street or 38th Place accesses south to Beard’s Hollow – so named for the Captain who went down with his ship off the shore there. You can also hike there from the south side. The surf is definitely stronger with a small point and hidden rocks, but it’s a great place to explore along the shore.

In fact, most of Long Beach has warning signs about not swimming due to strong currents; but surfing and paddle-boarding seem to be encouraged. Waikiki Beach has live music on Saturday evenings in the summer and there’s nothing better than walking a quiet, mostly empty beach at sunset or dusk for a little relaxation and romance.

A Little History

Long Beach is Lewis and Clark’s northernmost stop. The local interpretive center in Ilwaco has a great exhibit and short movie about their trek with some details of what life was like once they finally reached the mouth of the Columbia.

The south side of the peninsula has two lighthouses. The first one built, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, is a short and steep hike with an interesting history. The North Head Lighthouse, built because the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse couldn’t be seen coming from the north, is a quarter-mile fairly easy walk from its parking lot. Brian and I visited this one and crossed ‘going to the top of a lighthouse’ off our bucket lists. North Head also offers vacation rentals in the old lighthouse keeper’s quarters.

While most people think of the area’s largest industry as fishing, and it was – especially when the canneries were still going; cranberries are native there and have been purposely farmed for over one hundred years. Check out the history at the Cranberry Museum and visit in early Autumn if you want to see the harvest.

Summary

Some say Long Beach is dying, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. The people were friendly and genuine. The modern bistro-style restaurants and pubs served divine food. The scenery is beyond beautiful and the beaches are an oasis from life in the city. Go. Don’t tell too many others about it, but go and enjoy a little slice of heaven.

 

(Much of the information in this post is from FunBeach.com, which is a terrific guide to the Long Beach Peninsula. Additional information was obtained from roadside markers or the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.)