Washington Weekends: The beach and more at Ocean Shores
Where to play, eat and stay at the Washington coast town.
Special to The Seattle Times
What the locals say
— “People feel like we’ve been overlooked as a destination,” says local newspaper editor Angelo Bruscas. “I’ve seen kids catch 21-inch trout off the dock in the annual derby, we have an annual quilt show to die for and a beachcomber fest each summer that draw old farts on their Harleys — from priests to cops. There is something here for everybody.”
—“We think Ocean Shores is a fabulous getaway,“ says Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler. “That’s how we all began coming here. Now we see it as an equally fabulous place to live and work.”
A feel for the place
Geography — The town of Ocean Shores is 135 miles from Seattle. It sits on Point Brown Peninsula, bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by Grays Harbor’s North Bay. The average annual rainfall is about 68 inches.
Ocean Shores is home to 5,622 people, 31 percent of whom are 65 and older. The population includes retirees, vacation-home owners, telecommuters and conventional commuters, some of whom drive more than an hour each way to Olympia for work.
What’s in a name
The area — once a sprawling cattle ranch — was purchased by developers in the 1960s who planned to create a California-style resort- home getaway, Ocean Shores Estates. While that venture never quite materialized, it gave rise to the city’s name.
“Venice of the West” was the marketing tool of those 1960s developers who built — in addition to an airstrip and golf course — 23 miles of freshwater canals — the largest of which is still called “The Grand Canal.”
What’s coming up
The city has given the go-ahead to Oyhut Bay, a seaside vacation-home village being developed near the Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area. Plans are for 235 cottage homes (Northwest beach-style architecture) with some retail.
Northwest travel guides
Editor’s note: If you’ve lived around Seattle awhile, you may be familiar with many weekend getaways around Washington — maybe too familiar. Ready for a fresh look? Monthly through 2014, “Washington Weekends” revisits a classic getaway spot, looking for a new spin on 12 old favorites. Today: Ocean Shores
The often wet, sometimes wild, six-mile stretch of windswept beach at Ocean Shores has drawn visitors for decades to the small Southwest Washington community.
They come to this Pacific Ocean playground to walk, fly kites, ride horses or mopeds, dig for razor clams, watch birds and sometimes to drive on the beach (part of it is a designated state highway, after all). It’s so popular during summers and holidays that the wide beach can get downright crowded at times.
Whether you’re heading to Ocean Shores for a quick summer sand-fest or a dose of winter storms, rethink your trip now and add a day or two to explore all the outdoor activities beyond the beach.
If you like celebrations, this festival-friendly place has 19 events scheduled this year, including the Sand and Sawdust Festival this weekend (June 27-29) that features master sand sculptors and woodcarver competitions.
Any visit should include the Coastal Interpretive Center, a place packed with marine life and mammal displays along with local-history memorabilia. Pick up a map and information on nature trails, and tips for whale- or bird-watching. 1033 Catala Ave. S.E. (360-289-4617, interpretivecenter.org)
Here’s a look at what else to do in Ocean Shores.
Take a hike
Birders flock to Ocean Shores, lured by its approximately 280 bird species. Some favorite bird-watching spots:
Damon Point, near the Interpretive Center, is a mile-long stretch of land (with vehicle-free beaches) that juts into Gray’s Harbor’s North Bay. You’ll see a variety of birds, and on clear days there are stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Olympics. An increasing number of kite surfers are heading to the North Bay’s more protected waters to catch the driving wind that at times pounds this area.
To the west of Damon Point, you’ll need a state parks Discover Pass (for parking) to visit the Oyhut Wildlife Recreation Area, a 683-acre natural salt marsh and habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds (and a waterfowl hunting ground in season). See wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas.Or head to the beach near the North Jetty, where there’s no entry fee and plenty of gulls and shorebirds to be seen.
East of downtown and fronting Duck Lake, the 121-acre Weatherwax is one of the few sand coastal marine forests around. Laced with walker-friendly semi-developed and primitive trails — all open to the public — it’s home to a variety of birds, both local and migratory, as well as deer, otter, eagles and raccoons. Info: weatherwax.info
Cruise the canals
Launch your boat at either the North Bay Park on Duck Lake or the Chinook City Park and spend a few hours cruising the 23 miles of freshwater canals that connect with the lake and loop through residential and wooded areas. (Bring a pole and license; fishing is permitted year-round on the lake.)
No boat? No problem. Rent a 21-foot, all weather Duffy Cruiser from Ocean Shores Electric Boat Co. 52 Point Brown S.E. (360-289-0487, oselectricboat.com)
Hit the greens
Play 18 holes for $40 in summer/$28 in winter at the par-71 Ocean Shores Golf Course. Special rates for seniors, juniors and summer twilight play. (360-289-3357 or oceanshoresgolf.com)
Shops worth a stop
Ocean Shores’ downtown is a sprawled-out affair with shops — selling everything from souvenirs and edible goodies to fine art and clothing — scattered about the long city blocks.
North Coast Surf Shop: Sells surf, skate and outdoor gear and clothing, with day or hourly rentals of boards and related equipment. 773 Point Brown Ave. N.W. (360-289-0651)
Ocean Shore Kites: Kites of every color and shape imaginable fill this shop’s two locations. They also sell kite parts and do repairs. 172 W. Chance A La Mer (Shores Mall), 360-289-4103, or 759 Point Brown Ave. (Boardwalk Shops), 360-289-3229, oceanshoreskites.com.
Sipping Serendipity Wine Bar and Shoppe: Owner Debra Haggard, a certified sommelier, has created a cozy place for sipping and sampling wine (plus crepes, cheese plates and fondues on weekdays; small plates and live music Fri./Sat.) amid her shop’s displays of retail wines. 749 Point Brown Ave. N.W. (360-289-9463, sippingserendipity.com)
Places to eat
Ocean Beach Roasters opened last fall offering breakfast, lunch and wine tastings with tapas. Fresh baked pastries — frosted cinnamon rolls warm from the oven ($3) and bread pudding ($5) — paired with their fresh-roasted coffee can’t be beat. Live music Thurs./ Sat. evenings. 841 Point Brown Ave. N.W. (360-289-3100)
Galway Bay Irish Restaurant, Pub & Gifts: For a wee bit of Ireland and hearty fare (shepherd’s pie, $18.99), stop by this complex of restaurant, pub (outdoor beer and cigar garden), with wine, a whiskey-tasting room and gift shop. 880 Point Brown Ave. N.E. (360-289-2300, galwaybayirishpub.com)
Bennett’s Fish Shack:Try “Bennett’s Best of the Best” — a hearty sampler plate of chicken cashew salad, half a Dungeness crab and cheddar-melt sandwich, and cup of clam chowder ($16.99). 105 W. Chance A L Mer. (360-289-2847, bennettsdining.com)
For places to stay there’s something for everyone, from 1,200 hotel/motel rooms to private rentals and a state park campground.
Polynesian Resort was one of the area’s first hotels and lists actor John Wayne among its famous guests. (And the late musician Kurt Cobain once was an employee.) This pet-friendly place offers free continental breakfast weekdays. Motel rooms, studios, one- and two-bedroom suites. Rates from $99, with seasonal specials. 615 Ocean Shores Blvd. N.W. (800-562-4836, thepolynesian.com)
Quinault Beach Resort and Casino is just outside town and has smoking and nonsmoking rooms, a day spa and a casino. The Olympic Breakfast special — two eggs, potatoes, toast and Canadian bacon is a deal at $2.99. Check for Web specials on rooms. 78 State Route 115. (888-461-2214, quinaultbeachresort.com) Overnight RV parking is free weeknights, $5 per night on weekends, $10 per night on holidays.
Ocean City State Park is a 170-acre year-round camping park that’s 1.5 miles outside Ocean Shores. It has 149 standard campsites and 29 full-utility sites, four restrooms, six showers. A Discovery Pass (for parking on day visits) or overnight fees are required. 148 State Route 115. (360-289-3553, parks.wa.gov/554/Ocean-City)
Contact the Ocean Shores Visitor Information Center, 800-762-3224 or tourismoceanshores.com.
Kirkland-based freelance writer Jackie Smith blogs at www.TravelnWrite.com.