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Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula is one of the most popular Pacific Northwest vacation destinations, renowned for its beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, local seafood and abundant recreational opportunities.
Twenty-eight miles long and never more than 1.5 miles wide, the Long Beach Peninsula is in southwestern Washington state, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Willapa Bay and the Columbia River. The southern end of the peninsula is directly across the Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon, and the 4.1.-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge makes it easily reachable – less than a half-hour drive – from Oregon’s Northern Coast. Cities and towns on the Peninsula include Ilwaco, a fishing village on the banks of the Columbia River, the festive beach town of Long Beach, the fishing port of Nahcotta on Willapa Bay, the seaside town of Ocean Park, historic Oysterville and the well-named Seaview.
While fishing, crabbing, oystering and cranberry farming are viable industries on the Long Beach Peninsula, it’s tourism that drives the economy. Visitors come in droves to experience nature, solitude, history, local food and distinct coastal culture away from the bustle of the mainland. A variety of restaurants, accommodations, shops, attractions and recreation are available on the Peninsula, and you can find them all on this site.
The main attraction here is the beach, a pristine, 28-mile-long stretch of sand interspersed with rocks, dunes and cliffs. All of the beach is open to the public, and beach driving and horseback riding are allowed in many areas. Other natural areas include Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the 8.5-mile Discovery Trail, Leadbetter Point State Park on the northern end of the peninsula and Cape Disappointment State Park on the southern end, which includes two lighthouses and is a historic landmark as the westernmost terminus for the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Activities on the Long Beach Peninsula tend toward the simple pleasures: hiking, beachcombing, surfing, kayaking, kite flying, wildlife watching, fishing, digging for razor clams, berry picking, exploring museums and historic towns, playing arcade games and go-carting on the Long Beach Boardwalk and poking in and out of small shops. Explore this site for all the ways to have fun on the Long Beach Peninsula, including the many annual festivals.
Many people come specifically for the Long Beach Peninsula seafood. Locally harvested seafood includes Dungeness crab, tuna, sturgeon, halibut, salmon and steamer and razor clams, but it’s the famous Willapa Bay oysters that draw foodies from around the world. Our Restaurants listings tell you exactly where you need to go to taste these regional delicacies, along with the locally harvested mushrooms, cranberries and produce.
What is the best time of year to visit the Long Beach Peninsula?
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What’s special about the Willapa Bay oysters?
Willapa Bay is considered the cleanest estuary in the United States as it’s untouched by big-industry runoff and is flushed daily by the Pacific tides. The oysters naturally growing or farmed here are salty, sweet and delicate. The saline bay is the largest source of farmed oysters in the United States. Because of this, you can enjoy oysters here year round, though many people still say that the oysters are best during the cold “r” months.
Can you climb the lighthouses on the Long Beach Peninsula?
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, the oldest on the West Coast, is closed to climbing. But you can visit the lighthouse grounds by parking at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and making a steep, 1.5 mile hike. The North Head Lighthouse, also in Cape Disappointment State Park, is open for climbing.
Why is the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula called Cape Disappointment?
British fur trader John Meares is said to have named it in 1788 because he was unable to locate his destination: the mouth of the Columbia River. Apparently, he was quite close because the cape is actually at the confluence of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. The area is part of what is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to more than 2,000 shipwrecks and 700 lives lost along the Columbia Bar at the river’s mouth. This is why there are two lighthouses on the cape.
How do I travel to the Long Beach Peninsula?
The closest major airports are in Seattle (165 miles away) and Portland (155 miles away). Smaller airports are in Astoria, Oregon, as well as Ilwaco, Washington. Drive to the Peninsula via U.S. Highway 101 from Oregon. From Seattle, take Interstate 5 South then head west on U.S. Highway 101 to the coast.
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Driving is allowed on the beach, but not all of the beach is open at all times. Be sure to check signage before you drive onto the beach. Enter the beach only at designated accesses, never over the dunes. Be sure to check the tide charts and brush up on beach-driving tips and the local laws before you go.
Are there lifeguards at the Long Beach Peninsula?
No, and swimming is not recommended, even on calm days, due to cold temperatures and dangerous currents. Surfers enter the water at their own risk.