“We’re back to beach weather,” he said. It was May, 2018, my first month in Long Beach, WA, USA. After a few sunny days, clouds and rain had returned.
I wish “Long Beach, WA” had a more unique name, as this small beach town in Washington State is nothing like the other Long Beaches of the world. It lies on a 28 mile long peninsula, which resides at the bottom of Washington State, about 3 hours south of Seattle.
You can see it labeled in the below picture. In that picture, it looks like a crazy place to live, on the edge of the world, and in a tsunami danger zone.
Did someone say “tsunami”?
There are tsunami evacuation routes, and you can buy t-shirts with tsunami sayings in Long Beach. The town has considered building a raised area of land but abandoned that plan when they learned how high it would have to be. A tsunami could wipe out the area, but it hasn’t happened yet. Just like a 9.0 earthquake could wipe out Seattle…
Long Beach has a tsunami warning system which you should be able to hear while in town. Learn more about how you can become notified of a tsunami here. You can hear the warning on the youtube video below. Note that the firehouse in Long Beach also produces a siren when there is a fire, but it sounds different.
Doomed Area? No, I see it differently.
Long Beach is beautiful. Long Beach is remote. Long Beach is affordable. The people are friendly and it is a nature lover’s paradise. Willamette Week publishing an interesting article about Long Beach with some great photos and reviews, but they said that a “sense of loss hangs in the air.” I couldn’t disagree more. I’d say “a sense of freedom” fills the air. Kite flying, sand castle making, long beach walks, bicycling to town, vintage car touring (there is an annual “Rod run to the end of the world”), spectacular July 4th fireworks, and more! So much fun!
And so many people travel to Long Beach just to take a break from the fast busy world. There’s something about standing in front of a huge ocean while the tides pound, the seagulls soar, and the clouds roll by that’s spiritual and may just create the right environment for you to make the big life changes you may have come to the beach seeking… It is this ocean draw, that makes the town thrive, and the people here seem happy. There’s no rush hour traffic to fight.
This beautiful beach is not just long but also wide. It is sandy. It’s on the Pacific Ocean, so there are real ocean waves. Sometimes the ocean waves break quite far out during the winter storms.
No swimming is allowed on this beach. There are red signs in all of the downtown shops telling about the danger. The water is too rough. The Columbia River opens out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Long Beach, as you can see in the picture of the topographic sculpture above. Over the course of history, there have been a very high number of shipwrecks all along here. The Columbia River is large. Coming from the East, I’m familiar with the Hudson River — I say it’s “Like the Hudson” but actually may even be wider than that. The Astoria-Megler Bridge, which crosses it, is 4 miles long!
It would be too cold to swim most of the year, anyway. The ocean modulates the temperature of the land, so in the winters it’s usually warmer than inland (snow is a rarity), and in the summers it’s usually cooler than Portland or Seattle. Put on a sweatshirt and a hat, and you can enjoy the beach in December.
We get a lot of rain. Lots of clouds and lots of wind. But the wide open sky is fun to watch and even on stormy days there will often be a peak of sun. Rainbows are common. In the Spring, the clouds may just spritz a bit. Sometimes, fog banks roll in from the ocean, similar to what happens in San Francisco. The weather people refer to this as the “marine layer.” It’s amazing to watch.
The Boardwalk in Downtown Long Beach, WA
The town has done a lot of things to attract tourists and it’s working! Tourism is a big deal in this area and I find the people here to be really nice, and I suspect that those two things have a lot to do with each other 🙂 The Long Beach Peninsula economy is made up of tourism, fishing, crabbing, oyster farming, and cranberry farming. I don’t crab or fish, so I’m largely not going to be discussing those options, but there’s plenty of info elsewhere on the internet about Razor Clamming — Long Beach is one of the best places for that!
The town has built a boardwalk along the beach, and they have a huge parking lot. The state also allows driving on the beach and there are several access points in Long Beach for that.
How about Lunch at the Beach?
For a low cost activity, you could put together a picnic lunch (Sid’s IGA grocery store is nearby). If you’re looking for a treat and don’t mind paying beach prices, here are some recommendations:
For sandwiches, I recommend Surfer Sands at 1113 Pacific Ave, Long Beach, WA 98631. Try an authentic philly cheese steak!
The Cottage Bakery and Deli at 118 Pacific Ave, Long Beach, WA 98631 is also a good choice. There’s parking both on street and behind, and there are clothing stores, candy store, ice cream shop, and more, all within a block or two. Have a sandwich or a pastry, and explore town!
For hamburgers, I recommend The Corral Drive In, at 2506 Pacific Ave, Long Beach, WA 98631 It’s an old fashioned drive-in hamburger joint. Their burgers may take 15 minutes to get, but they’re delicious!
Visit the beach for Christmas, and enjoy a sunset at 4:30pm!
Explore the Beach
Every day the beach is different, which is why I say this place is a nature lover’s paradise. The beach changes with the tides and the weather. Large flocks of birds fly through on their annual migrations. I’ve seen flocks of brown pelicans.
Birdwatchers will find something to see any time of the year. The ocean is a good provider of food, and sometimes you’ll find seagulls picking at crab parts. On those days, it feels like there is plenty for all. You may also see humans doing the feeding – feeding seagulls is a popular activity!
While you’re here, make sure to visit Willapa Bay too. It’s close by and Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is a birding hot spot!
The Ever Changing Beach
You may be amazed at what it looks like during different times of the day!! Sometimes when the tide goes our really far, it leaves behind tide pools and ripples in the sand.
What Happened Here?
I have no idea why there was this crater in the sand one day. The shape of the beach continually changes. Sometimes it’s obvious as to the cause, like a really low tide, or like tire tracks on the beach. But other times it may leave you wondering…. Asteroid? Or sand hole dug out by kids?
After a Storm
Grass covered sand dunes stretch alongside the “long” Long Beach. There is a paved walking and biking trail called “The Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail.” It’s 8.2 miles and starts on the north end of Long Beach and ends in Ilwaco. There are opportunities for scenic ocean views. It’s peaceful and popular with vacationers in the summer, but during the quiet season, you may be all by yourself. It is a really great place for jogging and biking, but watch out for black ice on cold winter days!
For more on the trail, see the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail Trip Reports! One person saw a sea lion on the beach! Along the sand dunes, I’ve seen white-tailed deer, hawks, and bald eagles.
Beach Homes overlooking the sand dunes
You can buy a beach home here for less than a regular home in Seattle. Long Beach is an area of low house prices comparatively. Of course an ocean view costs more than living a few blocks away, but still compared to the insane Seattle real estate prices, it’s a bargain here. The catch, though, is that this area is remote and the job opportunities are limited. Seems like there’s plenty of retail openings, but not much else. The majority of people who live here year-round are retired. The others only visit during the summer and holidays like New Year’s.
The ocean is not just about land and sea but also SKY!! I love the views of the sky and sunsets can be quite glorious!
Here are a few sunset photos I took while in Long Beach, WA.
Driving to Starbucks from Long Beach
Just to give you a sense of what Long Beach is like: if you want to go to Walmart or Costco, or get a Starbucks coffee, you will need to drive south about 30 minutes, to Warrenton, Oregon. This 30 minute drive includes going through a short tunnel and across 2 bridges! The larger of these bridges is the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is 4 miles in length! So, it’s quite an adventure!
It’s really a beautiful drive, and there is also farm country to see along the way. Farm country includes cranberry fields, cows, and horses!
That also tells you that Long Beach doesn’t have many large stores or chain stores. There isn’t a big enough year round population. What there is, though, are lots of restaurants! Not all of them stay open year round though, so if it’s not summer time, you may want to call ahead.
Astoria is a fun town to explore too. We were surprised to see a cruise ship there one weekend!
Both Oregon and Washington Have Legal Recreational Marijuana
The billboard signs along the highway in Astoria advertise cannabis. Both states have legal stores where you can buy marijuana. On the Washington side, there’s Ilwaco Freedom Market, which publishes its menu to Leafly. Washington state tourism has published a map showing all of the retail marijuana stores. It’s bringing in lots of revenue from taxes, and helping many enjoy their beach vacations.
While in Astoria, eat at Pig’N’Pancake
I took that photo of the “Sweet Relief” cannabis sign from the parking lot of this fine restaurant. Pig ‘N’ Pancake is my favorite spot for any meal of the day — despite its name, it’s not just a breakfast joint. Their dinners are of fine quality too.
Drive to Cape Disappointment State Park for the Views!
Cape Disappointment State Park has views, lighthouses, hiking trails, and beaches! Really it’s an amazing place to be — be amongst the forest and the sea!
At Cape Disappointment State Park, Waikiki Beach is an easy access beach. There is a nearby parking lot, so its just a short walk, although there is some uneven terrain. You’ll likely find the beach full of driftwood. The place really gets pounded during storms!
North Head Lighthouse is worth checking out. It’s currently under construction, but the views along the path to it are amazing!
You love the outdoors? And scenic ocean views? and walks in the woods? If you want to feel small, explore this park.
Bigfoot for Sale (Maybe he has sold? Visit to find out!)
Bigfoot for sale, at Marsh’s Free Museum, in Long Beach, WA. This touristy museum is a gift shop! A great place for finding gifts to send home. You can probably find about 10 things with your family member’s name on it. However, I found that I can buy seashells at the Bead Store for less. But Marsh’s has some strange and interesting stuff!
More photos and ramblings about this small town and swell beach area coming soon!
Take a Day trip South to Cannon Beach, Oregon — it’s worth it!
While Long Beach is beautiful, it doesn’t have any monoliths. For that, drive south to Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s an easy day trip to make, as it’s only about an hour away by car. If it’s a nice summer day, be prepared for crowds. But it’s got a “take your breadth away” beach. Tourists come from all over the world to see the Oregon beaches.
More Photos… Nature all around!
The Best Camera is the one you have with you
All of the photos on this page were taken with my phone: The Nexus 6P. While I have other cameras, it’s impressive what can be achieved with the cell phone in your pocket. My phone isn’t even new any longer, but it takes pictures good enough to share, so I’m still using it. I am publishing this not because the photos are perfect but because I want to share my experience of this amazing area of the Pacific West. What’s the point of taking photos if no one else sees them?