If Hawaii and Mexico are not on your program this summer, but you’d still like to get out of town, consider the Long Beach Peninsula. This long finger of land that runs parallel to the Washington coast is located where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean with Willapa Bay on its eastern side. Approximately 25 miles long (21 of which can be walked) and about 3 miles across at its widest point, the Long Beach Peninsula has a rich history as a haven from city life in Portland and Seattle and the home of a once thriving fishing and oyster industry. Even Lewis and Clark slept here.
The Victorian and Cape Cod architecture of many of the old homes in the little towns that make up the Peninsula make it more picturesque than Ocean Shores. It takes a little longer to get here, but it’s worth the drive so if you can afford a tank of gas this summer and the sea calls to you, consider a trip to the edge of the world, or as a friend of mine likes to say, “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.”
From the fishing town of Ilwaco at the Southern end of the Peninsula to historic Oysterville at the Northern tip, there are plenty of activities on the Long Beach Peninsula from sandcastle building to kite flying. There are museums and interpretive centers, two lighthouses (although I believe Cape Disappointment is now closed to the public), historic Ft. Columbia where there is a hostel and museums and old gun emplacements to enchant history buffs and children and a terrific view. There’s charter boat fishing and horseback riding and, of course, miles and miles of beach to play on.
A visitor’s accommodations will be effected by who all will be in the party, what activities are of interest, and how luxurious the accommodations need to be. Are you coming to be part of the throng or do you seek an escape that includes solitude? A check of the Long Beach Peninsula website will give you some ideas of whether a hotel, motel, or cottage will best suit you. Do you want to be in the thick of things in Long Beach, the Peninsula’s largest town, or do you seek some peace and quiet away from the crowd? Ocean Park or Kilpsan might better suit you. There are also a few privately own vacation cottages which are rented out by the night and week.
Our family has been associated with the Long Beach Peninsula part and fulltime since the 1800s. Here are some of my tips:
If you’re traveling with children that will want to swim pick a place with a pool. Please don’t let them swim in the ocean. If they want to wade in the ocean take them to Ft. Canby State Park. There is a cove there that offers some protection from the serious undertow, but even at that I have seen the Coast Guard come into shore with a bullhorn telling people to not swim past the breakers. If the tide is going out you’ll be on your way to Japan.
If you want to save some money find a place with some sort of cooking facilities. Eating three meals in a restaurant will quickly make a dent in your pocket book. If you want to eat breakfast out I have two recommendations: the Castaways in Long Beach and Laurie’s Homestead in Seaview. Both have excellent service. Laurie’s has the most extensive menu imaginable for breakfast, but sometimes the lines are long and they don’t take reservations. Castaways is relatively new and my own little secret when it comes to getting seated for breakfast. If you like a little more upscale breakfast try the 42nd Street Café in Seaview. It’s across the street from Laurie’s, has excellent food (more pricey than Laurie’s) and somewhere inside to wait which is a decided advantage if it’s raining.
If you want the best view while dining eat at the Light Ship on top of the Edgewater in Long Beach. It is on the beach and the food is good, especially the chowder. Best gourmet dining, is the 42nd Street Café in Seaview. The best deal is Chen’s Chinese in Long Beach. The Cottage Bakery in Long Beach makes killer sandwiches, pastries and clam chowder.
Things you need to see: North Head Lighthouse (my personal favorite spot in my limited exposure to the universe), Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Ft. Columbia, Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum, and all the houses in Seaview.
Word of caution: if you have a heavy left foot (which is hard on the pocketbook these days) when you get near to Raymond, ease up on the accelerator. “Give the tourist a ticket” is a favorite sport of not only the WA State Patrol, but the Pacific County Sheriff. The South Bend Police Department has made it an art form and while the Pacific County Courthouse has a really cool dome, you may not want to have to appear to fight a ticket. Don’t even try. The new variation on the game is “pay us now, don’t get any more tickets in Pacific County for 6 months and the ticket drops off your record; fight the ticket and all bets are off.” Play it safe by driving safe. Don’t speed.