Don’t be fooled into thinking that California has all the west’s best beach towns, as Washington State has its fair share of coastal gems. Whether you’re looking for a rural seaside community or a bustling developed city to live or visit, the Evergreen State has it all.
The climate in the Pacific Northwest is colder than many seasides in the southwest part of the country. However, these salty waters are beautiful and often backed with lush woods, both of which are home to so much incredible wildlife. The beaches in Washington make lovely summer destinations or off-season retreats.
Spend some time boating or fishing on the Pacific Ocean, and then take a day or two to explore the Olympic National Park and inland hiking trails. Discover quaint, cozy neighborhoods in towns with endless fresh seafood options and crisp air.
Washington’s top coastal towns are spread throughout the state. Arrange a getaway to one of these places for some new experiences, or consider making one of them you’re new home.
Long Beach, WA
Located on the state’s southwest Long Beach Peninsula, the town of Long Beach features stunning forests, incredible seafood, and a laid-back community that welcomes everyone. The town’s nickname is “World’s Longest Beach,” and about the peninsula, which has 28 miles of endless sandy shores.
On January 18, 1922, the village of Long Beach was incorporated and saw many travelers who stayed in local hotels and enjoyed time by the sea. From the late 1800s to 1930, the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company operated up the peninsula coast, and the main stop was Long Beach, a then-popular tourist destination.
These days, the town’s population of 1,576 (2020 census) still welcomes many sightseers but is also a comfortable beach community for living in. The boardwalk is a highlight of the area and stretches for 1.5 miles; perfect for enjoying a stroll with ice cream.
It would be difficult to come to Long Beach and not go to the beach, and with its 28 miles of coastline, there are numerous access points. Locals call the entries “beach approaches,” and there are seven official ones. The water this far north is pretty frigid, so the most popular activities on the beach are building sandcastles, beachcombing, whale watching, eagle spotting, surf fishing, and even horseback riding.
Also known as “Little Norway”, the charming city of Poulsbo is a popular tourist stop thanks to having lots of waterfront establishments and pedestrian-friendly streets. As the smallest town in Kitsap County, this cozy community has enough amenities to make living there comfortable but leaves the troubles of big city life behind.
Poulsbo was established on the Hood Canal in the 19th century by Jrgen Eliason, an immigrant from Norway that saw many similarities between the region and his homeland. Many other Scandinavians followed suit and came to Washington State, further developing the Norwegian culture throughout the town.
Over the years, many connections between Poulsbo and Norway were officially established, and the Viking theme is evident throughout the city’s shops, restaurants, and public buildings. Until World War II, Norwegian was the town residents’ primary language.
As of the 2020 census, the official population of Poulsbo is 11,180, but many sightseers stop by annually. While the nearest beaches are at Kitsap Memorial State Park and Elgon Beach, the city has a downtown marina and a great coastal vibe.
The town is an excellent base for visitors that want to explore the Kitsap National Water Trails System. Activities here include kayaking, SUP boarding, scuba diving, fishing, and walking the beaches to explore the shore.
Port Townsend, WA
Located on the top of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is a coastal town of 10,148 people (2020 census) and known for its Victorian architecture and maritime legacy. With convenient access to beaches, historic districts, and Olympic National Park, this coastal town offers tremendous benefits to living and visiting it.
Port Townsend, also called “Key City”, is considered an entry point to Puget Sound and was discovered in the late 18th century by Captain George Vancouver. In 1851 it became an established town and quickly developed homes, a busy seaport, and even a police station.
These days, the city is known for its abundance of cultural arts, quaint downtown area, and is a hub for independent boatbuilders. The community is good at staying active and offers a monthly art walk and plenty of annual events, in addition to the plethora of outdoor activities possible in the area.
One of the most popular beaches in town is Fort Worden State Park, where tent and RV camping are commonly done. North Beach County Park and Chetzemoka Park also get a lot of visitors and are great spots for picnicking, finding sea glass, viewing wildlife, and taking beach walks.
Bellingham is a larger beach town with a population of 91,482 residents (2020 census) and is located between Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle. The city was once recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the “coolest towns for a summer vacation” and by Sunset Magazine for being one of the best places to live in the west.
Founded in 1903, Bellingham was named after the bay it rests on, which was named for British politician William Bellingham by George Vancouver. The region has continuously been a home for the Lummi Native American tribe, who have been there for a long time and have a cultural presence in the area.
The city of Bellingham is beautiful, thanks to Mount Baker in the background and roughly 70 miles of walking trails within the city limits. The downtown district has plenty of shops and restaurants, along with Western Washington University, making it a vibrant college town.
Whether it’s the mountains or the shores you’re after, Bellingham has it. The top beaches in the area include locust beach, Waypoint Park, and Little Squalicum Beach, ideal for collecting seashells, kiteboarding, skimboarding, and sunset walks.
Set on scenic Whidbey Island, Coupeville is one of The Evergreen State’s oldest towns and will take you back to the olden days before heavy technology existed. Browse the town shops and recall why in-person shopping is fun, dine on fresh seafood, or kitesurf off a beach.
Captain Thomas Coupe assisted in setting up the town in the 1850s, but it didn’t become incorporated until the spring of 1920. According to the 2020 census, it was home to about 1,964 permanent residents one hundred years after its foundation.
Coupeville’s Schooner Suva is an excellent choice for a day’s activity if a boat tour has always been on your bucket list. Adventure seekers can camp at Camano Island State Park, hike in Camano Ridge, or visit the historic 1903 Admiralty Head Lighthouse.
Beach-goers in Coupeville will love strolling along the pristine shore near Camano Island’s Barnum Point County Park or fishing at Cama Beach State Park. Whidbey Island’s popular camping spot, Fort Ebey State Park, also provides many opportunities for hiking and biking. Coupeville wharf visitors can rent a single or double kayak from Penn Cove Outfitters to explore the region by the waterside.
Oak Harbor, WA
Oak Harbor is the largest city on Whidbey Island and a coastal town with lots to offer, family-friendly neighborhoods, modern amenities, and plenty to see and do for all. The municipality is ideally located for day trips from other parts of the state, but also a charming place to live with fewer crowds.
During the mid-19th century, Europeans started to settle the area around what is now Oak Harbor. The town was incorporated in 1915, but nowadays, it is a permanent residence for around 24,622 people (2020 census).
Several historic downtown features include many restaurants and shops, along with lodging options to fit every budget. Spend a few days enjoying the sights in Oak Harbor, or use the town as a base for exploring the Puget Sound Skagit Bay area.
The top beach areas near town are Windjammer Park, Sunset, Beach, Flintstone Park, and West Beach County Park. Beachcombing, picnicking, and walking along the shore are some of the most popular activities and ways to enjoy the coastline.
Westport is a delightful little coastal town on Washington’s edge that offers guests great surfing, wildlife tours, miles of beaches to explore, and much more! This charming beach village has plenty to entice anyone for a relaxing weekend or day trip.
Since being incorporated in 1914, Westport has always been a bustling fishing town with lots of seafood sales and developing tourism. Among the earliest buildings, the Westport Lighthouse, dedicated on April 14, 1898, is still a prominent feature of the town and one of the most photographed in the country.
The city of about 2,200 (2020 census) is also home to some of the most excellent surfing on the West Coast, and there are several surf shops where you may rent gear. Strolling down Westport’s quaint main street is a shopper’s treat and an excellent place to pick up a unique souvenir.
There are plenty of great beaches around Westport, including Twin Harbors State Park, Grayland Beach State Park, Seashore Conservation Area State Park, and Westport Light State Park. Some of the most popular activities on these shores are kite flying, beachcombing, surfing, walking, and even whale watching.
Anacortes is a popular location for boating and outdoor activities in the Pacific Northwest, and it is home to several of the San Juan Islands’ major ferry companies. The village is a 1.5-hour drive north of Seattle and offers impressive views of the Cascade Mountains and the San Juan Islands.
Incorporated in the late 19th century, The name “Anacortes” is derived from Anne Curtis Bowman, the wife of early Fidalgo Island pioneer Amos Bowman. The area is also the home of the tribal Samish people, who have their headquarters in the city and own certain establishments in town.
Anacortes’ historic center, which includes restaurants, boutiques, galleries, museums, a harbor, and adjacent outdoor activities, makes this coastal hamlet an excellent choice for a quiet and pleasant Washington weekend vacation. As of the 2020 census, the beach town had about 17,637 residents, which is the perfect size for a seaside retirement home or growing families.
Anacortes makes for an excellent gateway to the sea and the San Juan Islands, and whale watching is easily done from these shores. There are also a few beaches on the edge of town, such as Sunset Beach, Green Point, Rosario Beach, and Washington State Park. Stay for a while to have a picnic and watch wildlife.
The state’s famous Deception Pass is only 10 miles away from the area and is another great attraction to see.
Ocean Shores, WA
Set in Gray’s Harbor County, Ocean Shores is a small, lovely seaside town ideal for enjoying life’s simpler things. It’s renowned for its long beautiful stretch of beach, bordered by low sands and a complex of lakes and streams.
Ocean Shores was first settled in the 1860s, but long before that, the region was home to the Quinault, Chinook, and Chehalis tribes who used the land. These days, the village is a permanent residence for about 6,715 people (2020 census) and a perfect small community for a quieter life by the ocean.
Low-key vacations with some light shopping or mini golf at the Pacific Paradise Family Fun Center are easily possible in town. As an alternative, visitors looking for a bit of luxury can book a stay at the Quinault Beach Resort Spa which features a casino.
There are numerous beach access points to the sand in Ocean Shores, and they are much less crowded than you might find elsewhere. The water in this part of the Pacific rarely gets warmer than 55℉, but some outdoor enthusiasts still swim and boogie board. Another popular activity is renting an electric bike and exploring the 10 miles of shore on a thrilling two-wheel ride.
La Push, WA
La Push is a seaside settlement in the Evergreen State’s isolated northern Olympic Peninsula that is favored by visitors visiting the adjacent Olympic National Park. It’s located near Forks and serves as one of the critical settings for New Moon, the second novel in the Twilight franchise, and is home to the largest community of the Quileute tribe.
The unincorporated town of about 520 people has deep tribal roots, as the Quileute people spend decades in the area making canoes and breeding wooly-hair dogs. Today, the village is a popular spot for tourists in the Forks area, which is a lovely town for living in.
The Quileute Oceanside Resort features both campsites and 32 waterfront cabins along First Beach. Sightseers can take advantage of the proximity to the Olympic National Park for some hiking, but there are also several trails in La Push.
Grab a bite at the River’s Edge Restaurant before visiting the town’s best beaches. The most popular shores in La Push include First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach, and Rialto Beach, where surfing and whale watching are everyday activities.
Vashon Island, WA
Not many visitors from outside Washington know of Vashon Island, yet it is only a short boat journey away from Seattle and Tacoma. You’ll have a great time exploring this Puget Sound beauty whether you come for an extended stay or just a day trip.
Also called Vashon-Maury Island was inhabited by just Native Americans until the late 18th century, although there is documentation of human presence on Vashon Island going back as far as 12,000 years ago. While exploring the Puget Sound region with the British Royal Navy, Captain George Vancouver was the first non-Native American to document this island.
The island has been home to several explorer and settlement groups since 1824, and it now has around 10,624 (2020 census) permanent people. Seattlites and visitors love escaping to the island for its scenic trails, delicious restaurants, golf, and an array of water sports options.
Lisabuela Beach and KVI Beach are great spots to build a sandcastle or watch a sunset on the water. The shoreline provides great grassy spaces to enjoy a picnic outdoors and observe wild birds. Regarding lodging, stay at one of the hotels or Airbnb properties for a true island getaway.
Hansville is located on the Kitsap Peninsula’s northern point and has some of the lowest rainfall totals, making outdoor recreation more enjoyable there than in other areas in Washington. Its position on the coast offers panoramic views of the water in Puget Sound and nearby Whidbey Island.
The Point No Point lighthouse is the oldest on the Sound and was constructed in the spring of 1879. In the late 19th century, the first lighthouse keeper was also a dentist by the name of J.S. Maggs.
Visitors can stay the night in the historic building and sleep in the original keeper’s quarters for a truly unique coastal experience. Nowadays, there are roughly 3,858 residents (2020 census), along with a grocery store, casino, small restaurant, and a few parks.
Hansville’s Point No Point Beach is pristine and expansive, great for finding seashells, beachcombing, birdwatching, and sea kayaking. Hansville Beach and Foulweather Reserve are two more great beaches for spending time on the shore and soaking in the salty air.
Even though the Emerald City is a large metropolis, it would be hard to exclude Seattle from Washington’s top beach destinations. This Pacific Northwest along the Puget Sound has a deep mariner history, attractions, and plenty of beaches to claim for itself.
With a population of 741,251 (2020 census), there are endless things to see, do, taste, and explore. The world-famous Space Needle is an icon for the city, and Mount Rainier is a forested and snowy escape from the downtown area. Pike’s Place is known for the abundance of fresh seafood vendors, flower markets, fresh fruit, and oddity shops along the waterfront.
In the heart of the city are two sports complexes, home of the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners, that see lots of tourists, football fans, and baseball fans throughout the year.
Even in such a large city, there are beaches tucked away for sightseers and residents to enjoy. Alki Beach to the west of the town gets a lot of crowds for its gorgeous sunsets, restaurants, and walking areas.
West Point Light House Beach, North Beach, and Pocket Beach are just a few of the beaches that face Elliot Bay, while many others are on the east side of town alongside Lake Washington. Activities on the shore include boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and marine life viewing.
When you decide it’s time to pick up and move to the western coast, these favorite Washington beach towns will give you all the dreamy waterfront views you can handle. With cities and villages of all sizes, there’s undoubtedly something for everyone.