Road tripping along the coast: Explore Washington's south beach state parks

Grayland Beach sunset CC FKR martinvirtualtours
  Grayland Beach State Park is a beautiful, even romantic, place for a relaxed outdoor adventure. Photo by Michael D. Martin.

May 4, 2017

​Better call shotgun!

The sun is starting to peek out and is expected to give a warm welcome to the Washington coast this weekend. The time is ripe for a road trip to the beach!

With temperatures finally creeping upward, this is a great time to head to the Pacific Ocean for a low-key spring adventure! The cities of Westport and Grayland are in Washington’s south beach, known for fresh, delicious seafood, kite festivals, gray whale watching, surfing and more.


For this adventure, you’ll be stopping at four different state parks—all with beach access. You might want to bring along some light wind/rain gear, and you will definitely need your Discover Pass. If you start out in Olympia, head west on U.S. 101 and stay on it as it changes from state Route 8 to the US-12/Olympic Highway. Follow it for about 50 minutes west to Aberdeen, where you’ll hop on State Route 105 heading south.

Stop 1: Bottle Beach State Park

Sandpipers CC FKR Nathan Hamm
Sandpipers are just one of the dozens of bird species that frequent Bottle Beach State Park. Photo by Nathan Hamm.

After about 20 minutes on State Route 105, you’ll come to your first stop. Break out the binoculars! Bottle Beach State Park is a birdwatcher’s dream. The open tide flats support a rich supply of invertebrates that attract shorebirds as they migrate from Central and South America to Arctic breeding grounds. In all, more than 130 species of birds have been observed at this park! Plus, you’ll find three wildlife viewing platforms just for watching birds without disrupting them. Note: You will need to leave Fido at home if you stop at Bottle Beach—no dogs are allowed.

Take the interpretive trail for .7 of a mile out to the wildlife blinds. Then get back in the car, warm up and continue on State Route 105 S for 7 minutes to Twin Harbors State Park beach access.

Stop 2: Twin Harbors State Park

Razor Clam Digging Moclips CC FKR Derek
                      Thar she blows! Clam digging is a popular activity at Twin Harbors State Park. Photo by Derek.

Twin Harbors State Park is a little camping park with multiple campsites and two yurts for overnight stays in the middle of a Pacific Coast forest. Yurts make overnight stays in the park much more comfortable in colder seasons. But for day trips, you’ll want to visit the beach, which you can access across the street from the campground on Schafer Road. Here’s where you can dig your toes into the sand.

Explore the beach and the various shells and stones that roll along the shoreline. This time of year, keep your eye out for migrating shore birds, such as snowy owls. Keep an eye out for gray whales cruising north after their winter in warmer, southern latitudes.

Twin Harbors also is a popular spot for razor clam diggingWant to try your hand at digging these Pacific Northwest delicacies? This is a great year for it! Take your fishing license and check the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website to see when the next digs are scheduled. Traditionally, razor clamming is done by this time. However, WDFW may be adding a few dates in May.

Stop 3: Lunch in Westport

    As fresh as it gets! Don't miss the seafood if you stop into Westport!  Photo by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Did you work up an appetite with all that exploring? Grab lunch in Westport! Drive north from Twin Harbors State Park via Montesano Street, and follow it into town. While you’re there, check out the Westport Maritime Museum, and maybe grab a kite. Trust us – you’ll want one later. Then, take your pick of local cuisine at restaurants lining the marina. Eat in – or consider takeout, because our next state park stop has great little picnic tables just down the road from Washington’s tallest lighthouse. Pack a big cooler—depending on the time of year, you can buy fresh fish right off the boats! They’ll filet it for you, too! Wow your friends and family with a salmon or tuna barbecue.

​Stop 4: Westport Light State Park and a stroll up to Grays Harbor Lighthouse

Westport Lighthouse CCFKR Mark Zimmerman
How do you measure up? The Grays Harbor Lighthouse is the tallest of Washington's historic beacons. Photo by Mark Zimmerman. 

Westport Light State Park, as the name suggests, is next door to Washington’s tallest lighthouse. To get here, you’ll take Montesano Street south and turn left on Ocean Avenue West before leaving Westport. On your way to the park, you’ll see the 107-foot tall octagonal structure once known as Westport Lighthouse on your right. It’s better known as the Grays Harbor Lighthouse.

Keep trucking down Ocean Avenue West until you reach the parking area for the park on your right. Park, unpack your picnic and take a well-deserved adventure break. Enjoy your lunch, then make the decision: Head to the water or take the concrete boardwalk along the primary dune?

The boardwalk, great for easy strolls and even a family bike ride, connects Westport Light State Park to the lighthouse (a hotspot for surfing) with a paved, 1-1/2 mile trail. In fact, the trail continues all the way to the marina. For an even longer stroll, ditch the car and hike here with your lunch from downtown.

Along the way, you’ll see Grays Harbor Lighthouse to the east and the swelling waves of the Pacific to the west. If the weather’s right, you might even spot die-hard surfers cresting the waves. The boardwalk is a great place for storm watching, too, with benches scattered along the trail. Note: Westport Light was originally two parks—Westport Light and Westhaven. The two were combined into a single park last fall.

Stop 5: Grayland Beach State Park

Kites CC FKR Gary Cobb
Life at the beach is a breeze! With constant winds it's no wonder why kite flying is a popular activity at Grayland Beach State Park. Photo by Gary Cobb. 

It’s time to hit the road again! Jump in the car to warm up a bit while you follow Montesano

Street out of Westport. You’ll follow it all the way to Grayland Beach State Park. Turn right when you see Cranberry Beach Road.

For a bathroom break, turn left into the main park and make a stop at the restroom. Or just follow Cranberry Beach Road to the beach parking area.

Now make for the ocean! Grayland Beach is another popular area for razor clam digging.  It’s a 412-acre camping park with hookup sites, standard campsites and 16 yurts for overnight stays all year long. (It’s best to plan ahead and reserve online if you want to stay over.)

For an early spring day trip, pull out that kite! The winds off the ocean make for ideal flying conditions. Let your string out and hold on tight—no running required to set your kite soaring! Have buckets packed? With nearly 7,500 feet of oceanfront, you’ll have plenty of space for a sandcastle. Or spend some time wandering the coastline hand-in-hand with your sweetie. This also is a great time to see bald eagles and falcons in the area, so keep your eyes open and your camera ready.

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