Beaches, Tidepools and Whales—The Olympic Peninsula’s Coastal Treasures

Photo Courtesy of Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau

Now is the perfect time to take a road trip and discover Northwest Washington’s stunning coastal beaches and fascinating marine life. From large humpback whales to small delicate sea anemones, see many awe-inspiring creatures on the Olympic Peninsula. If you’re a beach enthusiast, you’ll love the endless opportunities to explore the shore, from wide sandy beaches on the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Dungeness Spit—the longest sand spit in the US—and the Pacific Ocean’s rugged, wild beaches with their memorable sea stacks.

The Olympic Coast is part of the Whale Trail and offers many places along the shoreline to observe whales during their seasonal migration (April-May and October-November). Additionally, daily whale watching tours leave from both Port Angeles and Port Townsend, plying the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Depending on the time of year, you may see orcas, humpback, minke or gray whales, as well as magnificent wildlife like Stellar sea lions, Dall’s porpoises, seals, bald eagles and sea birds.

To learn more about the Salish Sea, its marine animals and their habitats, check out the Port Townsend Marine Science Center at Fort Worden State Park or the Feiro Marine Life Center at the Port Angeles City Pier. Each provides exhibits, programs, touch tanks and knowledgeable docents ready to share their love of our local marine life.

Armed with your new knowledge, do some tidepooling “in the wild.” Though accessible all year long, the best time of year for tidepools is March through September. Tidepools are a microcosm of the ocean, and you can find sea stars, rock crabs, sea anemones, barnacles, clams and more. Popular tidepool spots on the Olympic Peninsula include Salt Creek Recreation Area on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rialto Beach near La Push, and Ruby and Kalaloch Beaches south of Forks. Always check the tide tables before you set out, and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the lowest tide.

For many, a leisurely day of beachcombing is just the prescription for recharging after a hectic week. What could be better than a long stretch of sandy beach, the sound of waves lapping the shore, and deep breaths of salty coastal air? You never know what secrets of the sea you may encounter. Discover what decades of beachcombing can reveal by exploring John’s Beachcombing Museum in Forks, a one-of-kind museum full of endless maritime treasures. Sea glass aficionados will want to visit Glass Beach near Port Townsend at North Beach, where you may find an array of sea glass, porcelain and pottery shards, and sometimes even agates.

If you have an appetite for fresh shellfish, center your beach experiences along the Hood Canal. There, you’ll discover opportunities for clam digging and oyster picking. Many of the public beaches along the Hood Canal are open for sport harvesting of clams and oysters. The Washington State Department of Fish and Game website is an excellent resource to determine seasons, open beaches, bag limits and other important details.

Order or download a free Travel Planner at olympicpeninsula.org and come discover Washington’s marine bounty along the shores of the Olympic Peninsula.