Undiscovered Coast: North Pacific County

Chances are you’ve buzzed right past Raymond and South Bend on your way to the coast. You may have noticed the rusted, flat sculptures of wildlife and people—they now number more than 200 in what is known as the Raymond Wildlife-Heritage Sculpture Corridor—but you didn’t take the time to stop. Well, you should. The charming towns of Raymond, South Bend and Tokeland in North Pacific County are undergoing a revitalization with many new businesses opening up in what was once sleepy downtown areas.

Begin your day in Raymond by taking a kayak tour with Willapa Paddle Adventures (willapapaddleadventures.com). Baylee Countryman is a young entrepreneur (she started her company at age 17), who is benefiting from the increase of visitors. If you have been reluctant to try kayaking, this is a great introductory tour. The pier in Raymond has a kayak launch spot with a bar that allows you to easily lower yourself into the vessel. Soon you’ll be on your way to discover the beauty of the Willapa River.

The most extensive collection of 19th century horse drawn vehicles in the country resides in Raymond at the Northwest Carriage Museum (nwcarriagemuseum.org). Carriages, wagons, buggies and coaches usually don’t elicit much excitement, but this collection is truly amazing. Conveyances of both the wealthy and working class are on display as well as many used in Hollywood movies such as a coach seen in Gone with the Wind. Kids will love the back room of the museum with period clothes they can dress up in.

When passing through South Bend, you’ll spot a brightly painted building. Owner Joelle Springer is originally from East Germany, where she cut hair for U.S. servicemen in Berlin. She started out in South Bend running a one-chair barber shop and selling German food items on the side. Noticing all the traffic headed to the coast, she soon added brightly colored paint and signs to encourage people to stop at Jayden’s German Store, named after her son. The barber chair has been replaced by a deli and small dining room, where she dishes up authentic German food and sells German food products. If the weather is nice, take your lunch to go and head to South Bend’s waterfront park, overlooking the Willapa River, a little farther down the road.

Double back through Raymond and head toward Tokeland on Highway 105. The drive around Willapa Bay is lovely with pristine water views and miles of untouched wetlands. Your destination is the oldest hotel in Washington, the historic Tokeland Hotel (tokelandhotel.com). Period music plays throughout the public rooms and parakeets chirp in Victorian cages. The lobby and adjoining parlors look like something you would see on a historic house tour, but you can actually sit on the furniture and enjoy the wood fire crackling in the fireplace. Owners Heather Earnhardt and Zac Young relocated from Seattle with their five children to breathe new life into this establishment. Staying here is a step back in time with boarding house-style accommodations and bathrooms down the hall. New mattresses on the vintage beds and luxury linens make for a comfy stay.

People come from all over just to eat Earnhardt’s food: Southern-style cooking jazzed up with Pacific Northwest produce, seafood and meats. Her shrimp and grits elevate this humble dish, and you can’t leave without trying her Hummingbird cake, a concoction of pineapple, bananas, pecans and cream cheese frosting. In the morning before heading home, have a hearty Southern breakfast—her biscuits are some of the best in Washington.

On your way out of town, make a detour to the Tokeland Marina and visit Nelson Crab, Inc. The upscale space is a combination of a coffee bar, seafood market and an art gallery filled with artwork and jewelry from local artisans. You can purchase single Willapa Bay oyster shooters, a variety of fresh seafood or specialties from the local cannery. Don’t forget coffee for your drive home.

For more information about Washington’s North Pacific County, visit willapaharbor.org and tokelandnorthcove.com.