Long Beach, Washington, is one of the best towns on the Washington Coast for finding lots of things to do, places to stay, and sheer beachy appeal to go with it. This town is a bit of a mix of many Washington and Oregon beach towns. It has a boardwalk like Seaside, Oregon…and yet the boardwalk is much quieter and more serene. It has shops and sidewalks like most beach towns, but still retains that slightly wilder feel that Washington beaches have and Oregon beaches don’t. And it has literally miles of sandy beach to explore, fly a kite on, relax on, or stroll. There’s a reason they call this Long Beach. It’s really friggen long.
Read on for all the many things you can do in this cute coastal town in southern Washington.
I’d seen pictures of the Long Beach Boardwalk before – a long wooden pathway through the grassy dunes. Honestly, I was never sure what to think of it. Where’s the salt water taffy? Where’s the shops that all sell the same stuff that I have to go look in anyway? But let me tell you, I loved this boardwalk. With easily accessed starting points on the Bolstad Approach and on Syd Snider Drive (both of which have plenty of parking if you aren’t staying nearby), this walking path is about a half mile long and winds through the sandy dunes with straight-up stellar views of the ocean and kites flying high above. We were there on a weekend in July and it wasn’t crowded at all, which added to the serenity. The boardwalk also has several jumping off points where you can hop down to the beach if you prefer. Note that the Boardwalk is not for bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, or anything else. It’s just for your feet. If you’ve got wheels, look to the next item on this list.
If a half mile is not enough for you or if you’ve rented bikes from one of the outfits in town, then look to the 8.5-mile Discovery Trail. The trail starts at the Port of Ilwaco in the nearby town of Ilwaco and continues straight into Cape Disappointment State Park. Along the way, it passes through Long Beach where it parallels the Boardwalk and there are multiple jump-on or jump-off points. The Discovery Trail is paved most of the way. The trail is named in honor of Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery as their cross-country trek ended on the Long Beach peninsula.
Just off the Syd Snyder Approach, look for the partial gray whale skeleton and sculptures. The plaque at the site led me to think the skeleton had been there since the 1800s, which is not true. And things online led me to believe there was a full gray whale skeleton here, which is also not true anymore. There are remains of a whale skeleton that had been on display since 2004 next to two carved gray whales. The whale skeleton has an interesting story, though, which is worth a read.
Marsh’s Free Museum
If you’ve been to Seattle, then when I say Marsh’s Free Museum reminds me a bit of Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, then envision a bit of history, a bit of kitsch, with a splash of fun, and a dash of weird. Out in front of Marsh’s are some old machines that are interesting to check out. Inside, expect everything from shells and some small toys, to fortune telling machines (think “Big”…I think I even saw an actual Zoltar machine in there), to Jake the Alligator Man. If you haven’t heard of Jake the Alligator Man, then prepare to be dazzled by what I think is a monkey upper body attached to an alligator lower body in a feat of disgusting taxidermy. He’s very popular and several local events celebrate him. We took a picture next to him, but I’ll be honest…it gives me the heebie geebies.
Explore the Shops
Something Long Beach offers that other Washington Coast towns don’t is a strip of shops complete with sidewalks so you can stroll your way along, look for fun beach souvenirs, eat some ice cream, and ride some carnival rides. Pacific Avenue is where you’ll find all of this to explore and it’s just behind most of the oceanfront hotels. Stops of note include Scoopers, which is a market that sells a bit of all things grocery as well as fudge, truffles, salt water taffy, and ice cream. The ice cream is made by Cascade Glacier Ice Cream and it is so good! A single scoop weighs about a pound! Expect lines at peak times, but know they’re worth it. You’ll also find plenty of souvenir stores loaded with shells and toys and kites, as well as a full kite store, and the obligatory candy stores.
Games and Rides
FUNLAND is a stop along Pacific Avenue that is a surefire hit with kids of all ages (except for toddlers like mine who don’t like loud places). Play some arcade games or a round of laser tag. Once the kids have had their fill of games, keep the party going by heading down the street a few blocks to The Rides at Long Beach, which is home to a few carnival rides – a merry-go-round, a Tilt-A-Whirl, bumper cars, and a few other rides that are currently undergoing a renovation, but will soon return to service. Farther down Pacific Avenue is Funbeach Fun Center, where you can race go-karts, play a round of mini golf, or snack on some ice cream.
It’s not tough at all to find a place to eat in Long Beach. You’ll find sit down places like Dooger’s (a coastal favorite in the Northwest with locations in Washington and Oregon), The Cove, Lost Roo, as well as Pickled Fish at the top of the Adrift Hotel where you can dine with a view of the ocean. There are casual spots galore all along Pacific Avenue, from taco stands to Thai food. You can also enjoy something sweet with a stop by Scoopers (mmm) or Cottage Bakery.
World Kite Museum
You can’t go to Long Beach (or any town on the Northwest coast) without spotting some kites. You’ll see everything from families flying average sized kites to gigantic ones set sail high in the ocean breeze. When we arrived, someone had set up five extremely large octopus kites anchored to the sand that looked like something out of an alien movie. If you really want to delve into everything there is to know about kites (there’s even a WWII kite exhibit!), the World Kite Museum is the place for you. The museum also hosts a few events throughout the year, and its Washington State International Kite Festival in August fills the entire local sky with kites of all sorts.
Rent a Bike
Long Beach is an easy place to get around on a bike, especially if you hop straight onto the Discovery Trail. You’ll find a few different types of bikes for rent, from four-wheeled surreys where the whole family can ride to two-wheeled bikes to fat-tire bikes that can go both on the streets and trails as well as on the sand. Look to Beachin’ Bike Rentals that’s right on Pacific Avenue for a selection of bikes.
Cape Disappointment State Park
Cape Disappointment State Park is near Long Beach and is worth visiting. Hands down, I’d say it’s the coolest Washington state park I’ve been to yet. You will need a Discover Pass, but if you don’t already have one, find a pay station at the park and you can either buy a one-day pass for $10 or a year-long pass for $30. The park offers wooded trails galore, but what really makes it a standout is the lighthouse perched on a cliff, the military ruins being reclaimed by the forest, and the absolutely stunning views of Long Beach far, far below. There are several other state parks in the area (Fort Columbia Historical State Park, Leadbetter Point State Park, Pacific Pines State Park, Loomis State Park, Willie Keils Grave State Park), but Cape Disappointment was pretty amazing.
As with most beach towns, you can take a horseback ride on the beach. Long Beach Horse Rides and West Coast Horse Rides both take riders out and both are located on the Syd Snyder approach. Book a one- or two-hour ride along the beach. Especially on clear days, this experience is pretty awesome as the 20+ miles of open sandy beach at Long Beach stretch on for what looks like forever. For younger riders who aren’t ready to hop atop a trusty steed, West Coast Horse Rides offers pony rides in their arena.
Fishing, Crabbing and Clamming
For some (not me!), a trip to the coast isn’t complete without setting out to enjoy the fruits of the sea. And this is a great spot to do just that. A bit to the north is Wilapa Bay, renowned for its oysters. You can go clamming for razor clams on Long Beach during specified tides and times. Go crabbing for Dungeness crab, or go fishing for any number of fish from any number of locations – the Pacific, nearby Columbia River, and Wilapa Bay all offer options. Nearby Black Lake and Loomish Lake are also stocked with trout, perch, and bass too.
Drive to Astoria
Just a half hour drive from Long Beach is Astoria, Oregon. The drive is unique as you get to pass over the Astoria Megler Bridge, which is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America (for the bridge nerds out there). The bridge is more than four miles long so it’s a whole lotta bridge! Astoria is an adorable little town filled with Victorian architecture, water views, and a really cool tower you can climb for a sweet view of the area (and a sweet workout for your gluts). Astoria is also known for being used in a few movies, Goonies most famous among them.