Marked by such striking features as ancient forests and enormous sea stacks, the beaches of the Pacific North West offer a rugged beauty that is truly awe inspiring when witnessed. From Dungeness Spit and Obstruction Pass State Park in Washington to Cannon Beach and Short Sands in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest has a vast multitude of immaculate beaches that must be actually visited in order to fully comprehend their alluring beauty. While there are many superb beaches to visit, this guide will point out the few that truly stand out.
Beginning with the northwestern most point in the continental U.S., Cape Flattery in Neah Bay is a remarkable headland that has an abundant amount of flora and fauna. Despite the water being absolutely frigid, hundreds of birds including puffins, and other animals such as seals, sea lions, otters, and whales call this region home. However, keep in mind that this is technically an Indian reservation, so you need to acquire a tribal recreational permit to visit. In addition, if whale watching is appealing to you, you can also visit Beach at Forks, which is only a short ferry ride away from Seattle. There is a quaint beach town, but the area is much better known for its whale watching (grey whales, humpback), kayaking, and fishing. Rialto Beach is very popular with hikers, as the 29 mile long stretch of sandy beach is marked by towering sea stacks, such as the famous “Hole in the wall” rock, which is a huge monolith marked by a tunnel that has been created by years of pounding waves and howling wind. However, if you’re looking for a more “civilized” environment, then Alki Beach in West Seattle is the closest thing to a “Southern California” style of beach in the whole state. This sandy beach is popular with in-line skaters, cyclists, and swimmers, and it also a very entertaining boardwalk with dozens of restaurants, shops, and much more.
Cannon Beach is one of the more popular beaches in the entire state of Oregon, and thankfully, it actually has some decent surf. Keep in mind though, that the region is mostly beach break, so it breaks best from about knee high to a little overhead, and will easily blow out with any onshore wind. The water can be pretty chilly, so make sure to either bring your 5/3 or 4/3mm wetsuit. If the waves are blown out, which they generally tend to be, then check out Short Sands Beach, which is only nine miles south. In addition, Cannon Beach is home to the famous Hayward rock (it has been in many movies, including 1941 and The Goonies), and the tide pools there are beloved by both locals and tourists alike. The nearby town has some wonderful eateries, and it actually happens to have a bit of an art scene as well. Another noted beach is Sunset Bay state park, which is almost completely surrounded by sandstone cliffs. Interestingly, the waters here tend to be warmer than most beaches in area, so it is wonderful for swimming and simply lounging about.
Finally, if you’re looking to avoid any other beach tourists, you can head to Upper Lane County, which is 25 miles of sand/pebble beaches separated into distinct coves by sheer sandstone cliffs. It is perfect for picnics and seashell collecting, as well as simply “getting away from it all”. There are many extraordinary beaches to be found in the Pacific Northwest, but these select few are some of the more praised and are a must to visit.