or those who would like to recall the excitement a child feels when visiting the beach, wetting one’s toes in the 20 plus miles of surf and sand on the Long Beach Peninsula might be ever so appealing. Those seeking more than a day of sand play can hike through cool old growth forests, meander through odd and interesting museums and take in old-fashioned beach town attractions. Here is just a sampling of what families might enjoy while visiting Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula:
A day at the beach
Wide-open sandy beach defines the west coast of the 28-mile peninsula. In the summer, the section of beach from the Seaview to Long Beach’s Bolstad beach approach is closed to motorized vehicles making this stretch of sand a good choice for a horseback ride or an all-day picnic with amenities such as a third-mile boardwalk, public restrooms, and picnic shelters. A skeleton of a gray whale is just one of the interpretative displays on an eight-mile coastal trail. If the tides are low, families with four-wheel drive vehicles and a watchful eye can venture south from Seaview to the craggy cliffs and tide pools of the Beard’s Hollow. For something more protected, driftwood-strewn Waikiki Beach and a climb up the North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment State Park are in order. The wind off the ocean makes for ideal kite flying conditions. Local shopkeepers will share tips on which kites are easiest for children to fly.
A walk on the wild side
Families seeking the solace and adventure that nature affords will savor the raw beauty of the Peninsula. Dozens of species of birds find refuge in the abundant dune grasses, stands of old-growth Sitka spruce and Douglas fir, pristine Willapa Bay, lakes and wetland areas. Easy hiking trails can be found at Cape Disappointment State Park and the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge at Leadbetter Point.
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, one of North America’s most pristine estuaries, calls to nature lovers with its wetlands, grasslands and coniferous forest. Refuge highlights include 5,400-acre Long Island, where stands of 900-year-old Western Red Cedar house Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron; and Leadbetter Point, laying claim to some of Washington’s most significant salt-marsh habitats.
Hikers can hoof it along the half-mile Long Beach Boardwalk with its interpretive displays, picnic areas and mesmerizing seascapes. And they can retrace the steps of Lewis and Clark on the Discovery Trail, an eight-mile promenade from Ilwaco to north Long Beach.
Other activities and adventures bring visitors even deeper into the heart of this wondrous setting. Kayaking lets them ply the rivers, streams and bays at their own pace, glimpsing seals, sea lions and birds. Horseback Riding along the edge of the Pacific Ocean is rivaled only by four-legged back country excursions, led by master horsemen. Charter Fishing for salmon, sturgeon and tuna creates splashy memories for a lifetime.
Museums made for kids
Enjoying too much sun or rain? At the one-of-a-kind World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame in Long Beach, which displays kites from around the globe, kids of all ages can make their own small kite. New exhibits at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in the new Lewis and Clark National Historical Park teach about the Corps of Discovery arrival at the Pacific Ocean. Perched high on Cape Disappointment, the Center also offers an awesome view of the Pacific coast.
For those with a taste for kitsch, Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach is more of a souvenir shop loaded with shells, small toys, and collectibles as well as the famous display of Jake the Alligator Man, a two-headed calf and mechanical gypsies.
Dine at the sourceWhen sea air stimulates the appetite, the Long Beach Peninsula satisfies with a mouthwatering mélange of restaurants. Ranging from casual bistros to distinctive dining rooms, they share a devotion to the abundance of fresh local ingredients thriving in this fertile region. From one end of the Peninsula to the other, food-savvy travelers find fascinating opportunities for viewing edibles at their very source – and savoring them on the plate.
Steps from the shore, this is a destination awash in just-caught seafood, like Dungeness crab, tuna, halibut, razor clams, and butter clams. To the north, the pristine estuary of Willapa Bay nourishes succulent oysters prized worldwide. To the south, treasured salmon and sturgeon spawn in the Columbia River, with whitefish and tuna harvested in deeper waters.
Visitors trolling for their own catch-of-the-day can buy in-season specialties at Goose Point Oysters, Oysterville Sea Farms, Jessie’s Seafood Market, OleBob’s Seafood Market, and Jimella and Nanci’s Market Cafe, where culinary standouts Jimella Lucas and Nanci Main have added a cafe and offer the occasional cooking class.
Crimson cranberry bogs brighten the Long Beach Peninsula, whose Cranberry Museum details the growing process of this tart little gem and offers tastes of cranberry specialties. During the October harvest, travelers can pick their own cranberries at Cranguyma Farms, which also features a U-Pick blueberry patch from July through September, and tour bogs during the annual Cranberrian Fair.
Music and beach town fun
On weekends and holidays throughout the summer, street entertainers, free outdoor concerts, craft workshops and more fill the streets of downtown Long Beach augmenting popular events such as the Washington State International Kite Festival. Bumper cars, a mini race track, a Ferris wheel, a hand-painted carousel, sticky cotton candy, double scoop ice cream cones, and the flashing lights and sounds of arcade games in downtown Long Beach provide a perfect excuse to just have fun. (From a toddler’s perspective, the amusements are just about the same as a trip to a big amusement park and, for parents, they are much more manageable and affordable.)
A number of musical events are produced on the Peninsula each year, among them are Blues and Seafood in Ilwaco, Jazz and Oysters in Ocean Park, Waikiki Beach Concert Series at Cape Disappointment State Park, and the Water Music Festival – a Peninsula-wide series of concerts that brings chamber music to the lower Columbia River region. The Peninsula’s watery setting combined with small venues (including the 1892 Oysterville church) makes Water Music one of the most enjoyed events of the year.
Many Peninsula events take place outdoors, most on the beach. These include, among others, the kids-only (ages 1 to 14) Black Lake Fishing Derby, Beach Clean Up Days, Surf Perch Derby, Doggie Olympic Games and Beach to Chowder 5K/10K Run/Walk.
Located on the southwestern-most coast of Washington State, the Long Beach Peninsula is rich in tradition, raw beauty and award-winning lodging and dining establishments. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River and Willapa Bay, this coastal community is a favorite family vacation destination as well as a refuge for migrating birds and people seeking the peacefulness of a seaside retreat. For more destination information, contact the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau at 1-800-451-2542 or access the Peninsula’s web site at www.funbeach.com
Images and information Courtesy the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau
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