Wind-swept grassy knolls bordering a quaint seaside town and 28 miles of yellow sand beach. Slow strolls on breezy boardwalks with kaleidoscope-colored kites fluttering above your head. The briny smell of buttery mollusks freshly plucked from icy waters. You can only be in Long Beach, Washington.
Tucked into the furthest southwest corner of the state bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, and against the mouth of the Columbia River, this small town is enthusiastic about welcoming visitors and boasts a rich Native American history.
There are lots of reasons you might find yourself in this remote corner of the Pacific Northwest. You can begin your journey down the iconic highway 101 here, stop over on a weekend trip from Seattle or Portland, or simply visit the cozy town as a destination in itself. Maybe it was a chance to stay in our one-of-a-kind, custom-built vacation rental homes.
While Washington is mostly known for its craggy mountain peaks in Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, the state has far more to offer visitors in terms of natural landscapes. Beaches being a prime example.
Long Beach is a unique year-round tourist destination for beach go-ers and seafood enthusiasts in the Evergreen State. While the summers are the most popular season to visit, the seafood is better in the mild west coast winters. A popular weekend getaway enjoyed by the residents of Seattle, Long Beach, WA should top your cozy quiet getaway bucketlist.
Here are my favorite things to do on a visit to Long Beach, Washington.
1. Fly a kite on the world’s longest peninsular beach
Despite the somewhat misleading white angular wooden banner boasting the “World’s Longest Beach,” Long Beach is actually only the longest beach on a peninsula. But step out onto the pale grassy dunes and the sand seems to go on endlessly for miles.
The oft blustery winds make this long flat beach perfect for kite flying. Even if you don’t want to fly one yourself, you’ll often see a few massive colorful kites getting battered around in the sky and plenty at the local World Kite Museum and hall of fame.
2. Take a sunset horseback ride
It’s as incredibly romantic as it sounds. This is one of the most highly-rated tourist attractions in town and for good reason. Whether you want to ride into the sunset with a loved one or organize a group for a unique activity, this is something you won’t want to miss in Long Beach.
3. Visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park
Yes, THE Lewis and Clark. This was the famous outdoorsmen’s first look at the grand expanse of the Pacific Ocean. In November of 1805, they first looked out from Leadbetter Point (which they called Lewis Point), at the white crests of waves crashing against the 28 miles of beachy coastline. At the center today you can learn more about their journey and retrace their pioneering footsteps.
In Cape Disappointment State Park at the mouth of the Columbia River, you can also enjoy quite a few different viewpoints overlooking the long stretches of beach and Pacific Northwest scenery below.
4. Dig for Razor Clams
A favorite pastime for locals on a fall or winter weekend getaway, you dig up your own dinner, too, if you’re up for it. Long Beach, WA is known for its exceptional seafood, specifically, its clams. From October-April scour the shores for the thin chocolate-colored mollusks.
5. See a real-life gray whale skeleton (kind of)
In 2000, a massive gray whale washed up in Long Beach. Deciding what to do with an 18-ton decomposing whale carcass is no simple task. Local officials landed on the decision to bury the whale along the beachside Discovery Trail so that visitors would eventually be able to marvel at the gargantuan skeletal remains of this marvelous creature. This was meant to be an exhibit fit for the Museum of Natural History.
Unfortunately, vandals slowly stole most of the most impressive whale bones. But Long Beach wasn’t prepared to accept defeat. Instead, they hired the impressive Joshua Blewett to recreate the carcass with an intricate wood sculpture. This is actually the same person who carved the wooden animal sculptures at our vacation rental homes! If you look closely among the tall grass, you’ll still find a handful of those whale bones hanging about.
6. Savor the local seafood in Oysterville
Washington State is the king of cold-water seafood in the United States. We may not have the lobsters of Maine, but we have Dungeness Crab, salmon, clams, and world-class oysters.
As expected, Oysterville, the small incorporated community on the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula is where you’ll find the juiciest freshest oysters plucked fresh from Willapa Bay. Wandering around the quaint town you’ll see many placards educating visitors on the local Native American history and how the Chinook people taught the first settlers how to forage oysters.
7. Enjoy some of the other stellar restaurants in town while you’re at it
Sadly, good food is often not synonymous with small-town America. And Long Beach is indeed a small town. But perhaps because it is such a popular tourist destination some exceptional restaurants have stood the test of time.
Some of my personal favorites on this stretch of Washington Coast are:
- The Depot for a tasty, locally sourced meal
- 42nd Street Cafe for breakfast
- Cottage Bakery for a quick pick-me-up
- Mycovios for surprisingly tasty Italian
- Pickled Fish Restaurant for gorgeous sea views
8. Sip a Locally Brewed Cold One at North Jetty Brewery
Set in Seaview, this brewery is a favorite with Washingtonians. The brewery itself is simple and has a small-town feel to it, but the beer it produces is some of the best in the region. Considering the competition in the Pacific Northwest, that’s saying something.
9. Check the Discovery Trail off your bucket list
This paved seaside trail explores 8 miles of coastal beauty. Not only will you see the whale bones I mentioned earlier but also the small town of Ilwaco, Cape Disappointment State Park, and the Long Beach Boardwalk through the grassy dunes. This trail includes many of the activities on this list and offers you the opportunity to fully explore the Long Beach area. The next two hikes listed below are slight detours off the Discovery Trail and can all be completed together if you’re up for a long leisurely walk.
10. Hike the North Head Lighthouse Trail
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the North Head Lighthouse is a stunning white with blue trim picturesque post that for most, is considered a Long Beach must-see. The short trail gives you access to the green yard surrounding the lighthouse and usually takes no more than 15-20 minutes.
11. Walk the Path to Beards Hollow
Here you’ll find the tide pools of Washington’s coast brimming with life. Just follow the boardwalk to the beach area.
12. Snap a Photo of the World’s Largest Frying Pan
A stereotypical 1950’s America kitschy attraction but honestly, it’s still interesting enough to warrant a visit. If this kind of thing interests you, you might also enjoy the garish gift shops and mini golf spots in Long Beach as well. The pan sits in downtown Long Beach— you can’t miss it.
13. Experience an older era and explore the handful of sights seemingly frozen in time
From the historic train station to the old school “Funland” arcade packed with peely carnival rides to the faded colorful facades of the town shops— Long Beach gives the impression it hasn’t changed much since the mid-20th century. For the same reason road trippers idealize journeys along Route 66, travelers will find quaint comforting simplicity in the general vibe of Long Beach. It’s small-town America in all the best ways.
14. Enjoy a true beach day at Waikiki Beach
Long Beach isn’t the only beach in the vicinity. Waikiki Beach is a small sandy cove sheltered by the surrounding cliffs of Cape Disappointment. While Long Beach is great for kites and general lounging, those who want to take a quick dip in the icy waters of the Pacific might find the calmer seas of the cove more appealing. You could even plop a paddleboard into the water for a little float if you don’t mind a few waves. The driftwood-strewn shores are stunning and a classic Washington landscape.
15. Go beachcombing, storm-watching, or surfing…depending on the weather
One of the very first things you’ll notice when you approach the shores of Long Beach is the white crest of waves breaking before the sand. This slightly rougher water isn’t the best for swimming but great for those learning to surf.
If the weather doesn’t exactly entice you into the waters, you can always comb the beach for shells and the husks of discarded mollusks. In times of really poor weather…storm-watching from the safety of the boardwalk is loads of fun. The lightning can be quite impressive as it cuts across the sky.
16. Check out North Beach Tavern for local live music
Another great place to grab a local brew and enjoy some music in the early evening hours.
17. Shop the Friday and Saturday Farmers Markets
On Saturdays in Ilwaco and on Fridays in downtown Long Beach, you’ll find two seasonal local farmer’s markets with a wide array of offerings. You’ll often find live music, locally crafted and artisanal goods, and tasty snacks for a picnic at one of the state parks and preserves in the area.
18. Participate in a local festival
Cranberry Festival, Jazz + Oyster Festival, Washington State International Kite Festival, Sand Castle Festival, Garlic Festival, even a Razor Clam Festival! Long Beach loves an opportunity to celebrate the things it does best. Peppered all throughout the year, it’s very likely your visit might coincide with one of their diverse festivals. Be sure to check their city event calendar before you visit!
19. Watch a movie at Neptune’s Drive-in Moviehouse
I love a drive-in movie theater. What was once a staple of the US has slowly faded out of fashion. But with the resurgence of RVs and vanlifers, I think that drive-in movie theaters are once again having a moment in the limelight. With both indoor and outdoor screens this relic of the past is a wonderful evening pass time if you’re interested in one of the two titles they happen to be showing on a given evening.
20. Birdwatch at Leadbetter Point State Park
Long Beach is, above all, a town for relaxation. The pace of life moves slowly here. This is why birdwatching appears on this list. Leadbetter Point is a nature preserve north of Long Beach where you can spot local wildlife such as Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons (the world’s fastest bird), Brown Pelicans, and lots more. The beach in this preserve, accessed by a boardwalk through thick lush green forest filled with tanagers and warblers, is quite nice too.
21. Check Out Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
Temperate rainforests, tide pools, beachy shores, and a bit of extraordinarily rare old-growth coastal cedar forest. The landscapes of Washington State are extraordinarily varied and Long Beach is no different. This is another great slice or preserved land that makes for great exploring. Walk the boardwalks and watch the waters for spawning wild salmon and the skies for the endangered western snowy plover.
Because there is no international airport in Long Beach it’s likely you’ll be visiting this idyllic destination by car. This mode of transport also gives you access to some more spectacular sights in the surrounding Washington and Oregon coastal areas.
Although Long Beach, Washington is an idyllic destination in itself there’s also lots to explore in the surrounding region.
22. Get Weird at Marsh’s Free Museum
In typical Pacific Northwest weirdness, Marsh’s Free Museum is famous for its mythical mascot— Jake the Alligator Man. Set among an array of oddities from dainty seashells scavenged on the local sea shore to taxidermied two-headed cows, Jake is a local celebrity.
Half-man and half-alligator, he was purchased in the 1960s and although his “life story” is filled with fables of mythic proportions, in all likelihood he was created as a sideshow attraction in the 40s or 50s for the circus circuit. Surrounded by soviet medals, real-life shrunken heads, and other curiosities this shop is a great way to spend a morning with kids (or without). Be sure to pick up one of his infamous postcards or bumper stickers as a souvenir.
23. Grab a Bite at the Cranberry Museum
The Cranberry Museum is free to visit and worth a quick stopover. Tucked into the rural outskirts of Long Beach this museum is both informative and delicious. I recommend sampling the fresh cranberry ice cream. Visit the blooming cranberry bogs if you’re visiting during harvest in mid-October.
24. Take a Quick Day Trip from Long Beach, WA
While Long Beach itself has plenty to offer its visitors, a lot of people actually come here on vacation to be able to easily reach these day trip destinations, without actually having to stay there. Here are a few quick day trips you can take in the Long Beach, WA area to add to your list.
Drive to Astoria, Oregon
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Long Beach is Astoria, Oregon. Renowned as one of the most scenic small towns on Oregon’s coastline. You can’t come this close and miss it.
While you may not have time to drive the entire length of Highway 101 on this trip you can get a taste of the Washington and Oregon coastal highway. Specifically, to see the sea lions. While Comber’s Beach in the area is the most renowned for spotting sea lions with binoculars, you can also see them in clusters sporadically along the scenic coastal byway.
Take a day trip to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park
A must-do for outdoorsy nature lovers. You probably won’t have the time in your busy schedule for any of the arduous undulating mountain hikes the park has to offer but catching a glimpse of the thick moist rainforest is a must.
Just over a two-hour drive away this national park sits on the Washington Peninsula and boasts miles of thick green rainforest trails worthy of exploration year-round. Driving through the other small towns scattered throughout the peninsula is fun too.
Enjoy the Best Things to Do in Long Beach, WA
Less than 2,000 people call Long Beach, Washington home. But brimming with vacation rentals you can’t find elsewhere, fun festivals, and tons of unique attractions, this small town packs quite a punch in the eyes of tourists and Washingtonians.