When it comes to exploring the scenic beauty of Washington’s coastlines, the Long Beach Boardwalk stands apart. This rustic enchanting boardwalk sums up the Pacific Northwest beach experience.
For those visiting Long Beach, WA, for the very first time, the best place to start getting to know the small town is, without a doubt, the well-traveled boardwalk walking trail. A serene scenic footpath that traverses windswept dunes, passes by the famous Gray Whale Sculpture, and intersects with the stunning Discovery Trail.
About the Long Beach Boardwalk
The 1970s brought new regulations in fishing, and a declining population of clams and salmon led to a reduction in tourism. As a result, the residents decided to take matters into their own hands and developed new attractions to lure in travelers.
In 1981, the community held the first kite festival (which would later become the Washington State International Kite Festival) as a unique and enjoyable way to attract visitors. Later Long Beach added the Sandsations sandcastle competition and the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival to its repertoire, and the people followed. Following the renewed boom in tourism, the city built the Long Beach Boardwalk, the now infamous wooden walkway lines with kiosks and sculptures as well as local habitat and history which commemorates Captain William Clark’s first visit to the beach in 1805.
Today the Boardwalk comes to a head with the Discovery Trail, an eight-mile walking trail that connects Long Beach with Ilwaco. The Boardwalk runs the length of charming Downtown Long Beach between Syd Snyder Drive and Bolstad Avenue.
What to Know About the Long Beach Boardwalk
- Whale Bones: Alongside the boardwalk, you’ll find a gray whale skeleton in the tall grass. But it’s not the real bones you’re seeing. This lifelike wooden sculpture was made by local artist Joshua Blewett after the real preserved gray whale bones from the whale that washed ashore in 2000 were stolen by vandals.
- A Romantic Backdrop: You can get married or elope at the long beach boardwalk! The rolling dunes, tall grass, and Pacific surf make for an ideal (and iconic) PNW backdrop.
- Lighthouse Views: Enjoy panoramic views of the North Head Lighthouse from the southern portion of the boardwalk.
- Accessibility: The Boardwalk is wheelchair accessible off Bolstad Avenue.
- Biking and Rollerblade Friendly: The boardwalk was built to be accessible. Biking and rollerblading are welcome. Rentals are available near the boardwalk at Beachin’ Bike Rentals.
- Pet Friendly: Pets are allowed but must be leashed at all times.
- Parking: Free parking and restrooms can be found at either end of the boardwalk.
What to do Along the Long Beach Boardwalk
Hit the Beach
The Boardwalk allows each access (and sometimes more comfortable walking) to different parts of the beach. This makes for a convenient way to walk your beach gear and picnic along the walkway until you’ve found your perfect spot. Play beach games, build a sand castle, or light a bonfire – your perfect coastal day awaits!
Admire a Sunset or Sunrise
The Boardwalk is the perfect place to watch the sunrise over the Willapa Hills, and sunsets bring spectacular changes in color as the sky turns cotton candy hues over the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean. Early morning walkers are also able to catch the local clammers digging up the day’s lunch or dinner.
Have a Picnic
Grab some lunch from one of Downtown Long Beaches’ charming delis and utilize one of the boardwalks’ numerous picnic bench setups to enjoy your meal with a sea view.
Fly a Kite
On a windy West Coast afternoon, it’s not uncommon to see dozens of rainbow-colored kites tugging on their strings. The Boardwalk is a great place to fly a kite or watch the pros that flock here for the ideal wind conditions. Come August each year; this is the ideal place to take in the Washington State International Kite Festival when the boardwalk is a frenzy of colorful streamers and competitive kite-flying.
Take an Ice Cream Stroll
One of the most popular Boardwalk activities is grabbing an ice cream cone or other sweet treat from Scooper’s Market and walking the wooden pathway, savoring the creamy goodness and the scenery.
Bad weather doesn’t mean you should avoid the boardwalk. Not in Long Beach, anyways, A favorite pastime of the locals is watching the storms roll in over the ocean from the safety of the boardwalk. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella.
Hit the Pickled Fish for a Cocktail
At the termination of the boardwalk itself, you’ll find the super swanky Pickled Fish, a local restaurant renowned for its delicious cocktails and seafood. You’ll be treated to views of the ocean from just behind the boardwalk through the panoramic windows as the restaurant is located on the top floor of the Adrift Hotel.
Continue Your Stroll onto the Discovery Trail Loop
Combined with the Boardwalk, the Discovery Loop is perfect for a morning or mid-afternoon stroll. This flat easy trek is about one mile long. The full Discovery Trail is a leisurely 8.5 miles through dunes and seagrass and makes for a great day out for naturalists. Also, be on the lookout for the carved whale bones strewn in the sand to commemorate the whale who washed ashore in 2000.
Grab Your Binoculars and Birdwatch
This elevated Boardwalk allows for a panoramic view of the dunes, rolling grassy knolls, and the seashore. Birdwatching is at its best during low tide when birds of prey can be seen scavenging the seashore for carrion.
Common bird sightings from the boardwalk besides the common seagull include Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red-Tailed Hawks, and the Great Blue Heron. If you’re lucky, you could spot rarer raptors like the Peregrine Falcon.
Visit Marsh’s Free Museum
This quirky “museum” of sorts is a smorgasbord of history, taxidermy, beach finds, and all other eclectic goods, including the local Long Beach Washington mascot, Jake the Alligator Man. Marsh’s Free Museum is fun for the whole family and is located right off the Boardwalk in Downtown Long Beach.
Embark on a Day Hike
There are several trails in the general vicinity of the boardwalk for those who want to stretch their legs a little longer than the half-mile Pacific coast stroll.
The Discovery Trail
The Discovery Trail is an 8.5-mile-long historical path that connects the port of Ilwaco with the Long Beach boardwalk and shows off numerous important monuments relating to the epic journey made by Lewis and Clark centuries ago.
This paved path is fit for hiking or biking and is a great way to spend the day soaking in the unrivaled views and the trail’s history. You’ll see fishing boats, pass through Cape Disappointment State Park and the nearby Beard’s Hollow, and walk through some of Long Beach peninsula’s most famed scenery- coastal forests and ancient Sitka Spruce groves.
Pro Tip: Take a detour to visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which is located along the trail.
Hike the Willapa Wildlife Refuge
There are numerous hiking trails within the Willipa Wildlife Refuge, a marshy bird watcher’s paradise which is just a short drive (or a 4-mile walk through town) from the Long Beach Boardwalk! The most popular trails include:
- South Bay Trail (Easy, 1 mile)
- Parker Slough Trail (Easy, 3 miles)
- Porter Point Loop (Easy, 2.6 miles)
Spend the Day at the Long Beach Boardwalk
The Boardwalk is the center of life in Long Beach. It’s the place to go to get your nature fix, socialize with the people who call Long Beach home, enjoy the best scenic vistas, or learn more about the town through the interpretive signage along the path. Best of all, it’s just a short trip from our boutique Long Beach cabin rentals. Perfect for your family’s next getaway!