The Long Beach Peninsula of Washington, a popular vacation spot for people from Seattle and Portland, is known for its continuous sand beaches, lighthouses, seafood and Lewis and Clark history. Whether you want to walk the “Longest Beach in the US,” relax in an ocean-front B&B with a glass of wine, or watch cranberries being harvested, there will be an activity that will draw you to this wildly natural spit of land.
You may have just a day to explore the Long Beach Peninsula or are planning a coastal vacation. Either way, you’ll find the area small enough for a relaxing driving tour or get involved in so many activities that you’ll be busy for a week or two each year.
Since the Long Beach Peninsula is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the south by the Columbia River and on the east by Willapa Bay, there are opportunities to kayak, hike, fish, bird watch, dig razor clams, and harvest oysters. The Willapa National Refuge includes scenic nature trails and offers prime spots for birding.
The town of Long Beach is a traditional beach town ideal for family vacations. Want a little old-fashioned fun? Long Beach, with it’s brightly painted shop fronts, features carnival rides, ice cream shops, video arcades, the World Kite Museum, bumper cars, and many more family-oriented activities. In summer, you can take a horseback ride on the beach, bike the Discovery Trail or challenge your kids to a go-cart race. Long Beach is famous for kites and every August hosts the colorful International Kite Festival.
The quietest time for a getaway is in winter when most indoor activities are open but the draw is storm watching and relaxing in front of a fireplace. Yet even during the busy summer season, there are places where you can get away from it all. Places like Boreas Inn, a luxurious B&B with gourmet breakfast, are located on back streets in communities away from the main beach area. The paved beach-side Discovery Trail has segments that afford you the opportunity to be away from the center of town to enjoy the dunes, the water and the sea air. And, you can drive for miles right on the beach.
Lighthouse aficionados will find two fully operational lighthouses on the Long Beach Peninsula. Both are favorite visitor stops year round. Completed in 1856, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse guides mariners into the dangerous mouth of the Columbia River. The century-old North Head Lighthouse, completed in 1898, guides ships approaching from the north. Lighthouse keepers residences, just inland from the North Head Lighthouse, are available as vacation rentals.
Perched on a cliff 200 feet above the mouth of the Columbia River, the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of the Corps of Discovery’s journey.
A must-do is to drive up to Oysterville, on the northernmost tip. The entire community is on the National Historic Register.
The quality of dining and nightlife opportunities may surprise you. The Pickled Fish restaurant with a killer view of the ocean, offers live music nightly and excellent seafood. The Depot Restaurant, located in nearby Seaview, was a Clamshell Railroad depot in the early 1900’s. The Depot is now an award-winning restaurant and takes pride in their locavore cuisine and wine list. You can taste locally brewed beer at North Jetty Brewing and, just across the Astoria-Megler Bridge, at the Fort George Brewery and Pub. Seasonal food and wine festivals dot the calendar. In season, Ilwaco, the little fishing village, has a marvelous farmers and crafters market right along the marina.
There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodations. Families can find a condo or townhouse with full kitchen, you can re-live history at the 120 year old Shelburne Inn or luxuriate at the Boreas B&B. There are motels, rental homes and even a vintage trailer court at the Sou’wester. And, on such a narrow peninsula, you’re never far from the ocean.
The Long Beach Peninsula has an ocean side and a bay side. The ocean side can get very windy, especially in the winter during storms. But that’s what makes it interesting and allows for the Long Beach Peninsula to be an International Kite destination!
I recommend going in all seasons. There is something interesting going on no matter if it is storming. In fact storm watching and warming up in front of a fireplace is a very romantic thing to do!
The main thing to consider during stormy weather is that the roads may be damaged from flood or landslide. It is wise to follow the news or check with the Visitors Center.
While you can zip out to the Long Beach Peninsula from Portland in less than 3 hours most will want to go to “the beach” for at least a weekend getaway. Families love spending their entire vacation enjoying the natural beauty, history and fun activities.
Adults without young ones in tow will head to a quiet B&B, seek out the farm to table cuisine and bike the Discovery Trail. It is easy to fill up a vacation with activities and relaxation.
Of course summer is the high season but during certain festivals the Long Beach Peninsula can get crowded as well. Winter is a bargain and, if you like storms, and the occasional warm winter day, Long Beach can be a great place for a getaway.
Coastal weather can be milder than you might expect. Temperatures will vary throughout the month with sun one day and fog and wind another. This beach can be windy even in the summer. It’s a place to play and walk, not a place for sunbathing and leisurely swimming.
The Visitors Center maintains a full calendar of events for the Long Beach Peninsula. The International Kite Festival is a big draw as is Razor Clam Season.
Pacific (Daylight Savings Time is observed).
The Long Beach Peninsula is very casual. Outdoorsy clothing is a must. Because it can be cold in the morning and then warm up throughout the day, layering is essential. Make sure your top layer is a waterproof one. Shops do a brisk business selling hoodies to tourists who arrive thinking a bathing suit and cover-up will suffice.
Bring gear and clothing related to what activities you plan to do. There is hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, walking, biking and so much more to keep you busy during your stay.
Beach access and parking is free as is the historic town of Oysterville. You can walk, bike or run the Discovery Trail and go to Marsh’s Free Museum which is great fun. There is much to do that won’t cost you a cent.
However, there are activities like go carts, horseback riding and clamming that will cost you. There are beachy shops and galleries to explore and a charge to enter federal or state parks. Accommodations can be pricey during the summer but great for bargain hunters in the winter.
Most people drive a car to and around the Long Beach Peninsula. Of interest is that you can actually drive on the beach itself. You can rent bikes and mopeds at Long Beach. Otherwise, you’ll need to drive or check out the Pacific Transit System local bus.
Just a short distance from the Portland and Seattle metropolitan areas, as well as the I-5 Corridor and 20 miles north of historic Astoria, Oregon, the drive to the Long Beach Peninsula is beautiful. Amtrak and commercial airlines go to cities within driving distance of the Long Beach Peninsula.
There’s always something going on at the beach. Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, in the southwest portion of the state, was named one of ‘America’s Favorite Beach Towns’ by ForbesTraveler.com and voted ‘Best Beach’ by the viewers of Seattle’s KING-5 TV. The Long Beach Peninsula offers visitors colorful shops, great locally sourced seafood, unusual museums, horseback riding, and miles of oceanfront dunes and beaches.
Long Beach is known for kites and the sea breezes that hold them aloft. Each August kites from all over the world are found at the annual Washington State International Kite Festival. You’ll see colorful mass ascensions, sport kite events and trick flying. For one glorious week, kites are king in this beach town.
In fall, thoughts turn to the bright red cranberry. Early August is harvest time. You can see the bogs being flooded and the cranberries, that will float to the top of the water, being scooped up. The annual Cranberrian Fair, held in October is a good time to sample cranberry cuisine, tour bogs and travel by Cranberry Trolley.
There is Lewis & Clark history to explore. Visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and walk the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail to see the markers and sculptures featuring the visit of the Corps of Discovery..
The beach is always great for walking. And once you enjoy all the salt air and exercise you’ll be pleased to know that the Long Beach Peninsula chefs do wonders with the locally sourced cuisine.
Chinook Indians lived along the lower Columbia River and around Willapa Bay. William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery explored the peninsula in 1805, and spent time on the beach, now called Long Beach. You’ll find many references to Lewis & Clark on the Long Beach Peninsula. You can walk the Discovery Trail and see interpretive signs telling the stories of William Clark’s finds and visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center.
Long Beach, in Pacific County, Washington is one of the oldest seaside resorts. Visitors came by boat and stagecoach before the railroad was built. Roads were built out to Long Beach in the 1920’s. There are still vestiges of the “Clamshell Railroad” that once took visitors back and forth on the peninsula, tides permitting.
You can visit the historic town of Oysterville on the northern tip of the Peninsula.