Ocean Shores on the Washington Coast is an affordable family vacation destination with plenty of things to do in and around it. It’s a town where you can play with the kids on the beach, go clamming when the time is right, and escape to indoor activities when the rain hits. Located about three hours from Seattle, Ocean Shores is a great spot for a beach getaway and it’s a perfect place to stop if you are making a loop of the Olympic Peninsula. Best of all, it’s affordable!
That being said, Ocean Shores is not a major city by any means and it’s not set up to be a walkable town (though, you can walk if you’re committed, but don’t expect a boardwalk or even sidewalks in all areas). If you only peer at pretty pictures from blue-sky days, you might imagine the sun warming bikini-clad bodies on its long stretches of sand. In fact, a cold Pacific Northwest wind blows through this town most days of the year. However, that doesn’t stop most kids from happily shedding their clothes and splashing through the waves when they are done building sandcastles. This area gets some warm, sunny days, often in late summer or early fall, when it can be warmer here than in Seattle, but beach vacations in the Northwest are hit or miss as you never really know the kind of weather you’ll get. Just accept that fact and you’re all set.
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Our Favorite Things to Do in Ocean Shores
Go to the Beach
The beaches in this area are long, sandy, and absolutely gorgeous. Bring buckets and sand toys for the kids. Bring kites, too, or buy one from a kite shop in town. The wind is perfect for kite flying. Play in the surf, look for sand dollars, search tide pools for creatures. If your kids like crabs, they’ll have a field day at low tide. Take a horseback ride, if that strikes your fancy. Several outfits offer horseback rides, and you can often see teams of horses waiting on the beach at the end of the beach access roads in the hotel zone.
Go Razor Clamming
Clamming — digging through the sand for razor clams — is a popular activity on the Washington Coast, but available only when the state opens specific beaches for it (during the winter) and when the tides are right, often at night. Before you go, read our beginner’s guide to clamming in Washington, and visit the Washington State website for information about the current clam season.
Visit the Jetty
Ocean Shores has beaches all along its stretch of coastline, both in the hotel zone and otherwise. If you go to the beach near the hotels, what you will find are large, flat expanses of sand. Beach visitors are allowed to drive on the sand in Ocean Shores and at many other Washington Coast beaches. Many people park on the sand and stay put, but you’ll sometimes see people driving down the beach too…or one time we saw someone driving a pickup truck right into the surf and that resulted in the driver attracting the local authorities and getting what we assumed was a hefty ticket. If you drive to the far southern end of Ocean Shores, you’ll come to the North Jetty, which also comes complete with a much more interesting (and less driven on as the sand is softer here) beach. The jetty itself is built of gigantic rocks. If you’re brave enough, you can climb up on top of them and watch huge waves rolling in. During low tide, peep into tide pools and look for sea critters. Or just stroll the sand, look for agates and interesting rocks, or build a sandcastle as this is an absolutely lovely place to enjoy the beach.
Check out the Coastal Interpretive Center
Don’t miss visiting the Coastal Interpretive Center if you are in Ocean Shores with your family. Exhibits are both indoors and out and include a bit of everything, from things found on ships that wrecked locally to displays about the Native tribes to animals that make the area home (so much taxidermy!). If you’ve got kids with you, don’t miss the ship’s steering wheel inside that makes a great photo op and ask if there are any crafting activities going on the day you’re there. The gift shop is also a fun stop as there are plenty of toys, books, and even some coastal memorabilia you can adopt like real Japanese fishing floats that made their way across the ocean and onto Washington’s shore.
Enjoy Some Indoor Fun
When the kids are clamoring for less of the natural world and more of the type of excitement that will drain your wallet, you’ll have plenty of options. Playtime Family Fun is hard to miss on the main street in town with its go-kart track. It also has bumper cars and an ice cream parlor inside.
The town also has a bowling alley and the movie theater, of course. Our favorite activity in town, however, is the Pacific Paradise Family Fun Center, with its beautiful locally themed mini-golf course. You do have to get the kids past the indoor arcade games and the outdoor bumper boats before you can get to the mini golf, though. Godspeed.
There are plenty of gift shops to keep anyone who doesn’t care for mini-golf busy for an afternoon. Ocean Shores Kites is a favorite, as is Buddy & Howie’s Old Fashioned Sweet Shoppe, one of the few candy shops left in the world where my children can do pretty well for under five bucks. Most of the stores are clustered on the ocean side of Point Brown Avenue, the main road in town, but don’t miss Ocean Shores Soapworks across the street.
Finally, the Ocean Shores tourism board tries to keep visitors busy with a steady calendar of weekend events, many of which are worth a trip to the beach. One festival worth seeing is the Sand and Sawdust Festival, which features world-class chainsaw carvers and sandcastle builders doing their thing. This is family fun at its best.
Where to Eat
Our favorite restaurant is Bennett’s Fish Shack. It has a little bar inside of it and serves up a varied menu that includes fish and chips as well as salads and other options for picky eaters as well. For fast food, both Moby Dick’s and The Lighthouse are good choices. This is a town where everyone competes for the best fish and chips, so you can rarely go wrong with seafood.
Galway Bay Irish Pub stakes the claim as the largest Irish pub in the Northwest and it’s a popular spot for visitors and locals alike. There’s plenty of seafood on the menu as well as Irish favorites like soda bread, pasties, and stews.
In the morning, don’t miss out on a chance to visit Linda’s Bakery and Cafe. The baked goods are some of the best I’ve ever had, and there’s an adjacent shop that sells locally made crafts, in case you’re still in need of souvenirs or gifts.
The fanciest place in town — for an anniversary, for example — is Emily’s, the restaurant inside the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, and it’s excellent. This is the place to go if you seek fine dining. We did not take the monsters there.
Places to Stay
Ocean Shores has strict limits on nightly rentals from private homes, so the Airbnb options are somewhat limited. If you are looking for a house to stay in, the beach communities of Ocean City, Copalis, Moclips, and the like a few miles up the coast would be reasonable options for an Ocean Shores vacation.
For a fancier hotel option, look at Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, which is just outside Ocean Shores, directly on the beach, and has beautiful guest rooms as well as a spa and casino inside of it.
All the hotels in Ocean Shores tend to be very affordable mid-week and off-season. You will pay higher prices during summer weekends and during clamming weekends in the winter.
Take a Day Trip to the Olympic National Park
If you want to pair your trip to the beach with some of Washington’s (or really the world’s) finest nature, the nearest entrance to the Olympic National Park from Ocean Shores is Quinault, and it’s only about a hour drive away, which makes it a great day trip. Quinault has some easy trails through the rainforest, as well as a pretty lake and a river for fishing, if that’s your jam.
Speaking of rivers…the Humptulips River is one of the best rivers in the state for salmon fishing, and is less than a thirty minute drive from Ocean Shores. If you don’t know anything about fishing but just want an educational experience, take the kids to the Humptulips salmon hatchery for a look-see.