By Don Guy
Grays Harbor Ocean Beaches
The county boasts over 50 miles of sandy beaches. Some activities are permitted on these beaches that are not allowed further north in the national park: you may bring your dog on the beach, evening bonfires are allowed (150 feet away from any dune grass), and you may drive on the hard sand at the top of the beach in designated areas. Razor clam digging is allowed on limited dates designated by the Department of Ecology. From south to north, here are the highlights of Grays Harbor beaches:
Grays Harbor Lighthouse
Completed in 1898, this lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Washington State.
Westhaven State Park
The broad sandy beach, crumbling sand cliffs, and huge rocks of the South Jetty gives lots of possibilities for play. This park is the center of ocean surfing in the county.
Town of Westport in Grays Harbor
At the large marina, ocean fishing, whale watching, and seabird viewing charters may be hired. A three storey viewing tower at the north end of town gives views of the marina, harbor, the South Jetty, and across to Ocean Shores.
Town of Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor
This is the largest resort town along the coast, filling up an 8 mile long peninsula. The highlights of the peninsula are Damon Point State Park for the harbor view and wildlife, the North Jetty where the big ocean waves roll in, the canals and Duck Lake where you can rent an electric party boat, horse rentals on the beach, and the Indian casino at the Quinault Beach Resort.
If you want an ocean beach all to yourself, try Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park off the town of Copalis Beach. You have cross a stream on foot, which keeps the cars and crowds away. To the north down the Roosevelt Beach Road, you can drive onto the beach and reach two sights: 1.) Copalis Rock, an isolated seastack rock with a flock of seagulls nesting on top and 2.) Copalis State Airport, where planes land right on the sand – the only airport like it in the lower 48 states.
From Copalis Beach north the highway climbs up a bluff and winds through a beautiful, windswept forest with occasional peaks of the ocean. Along this route lie the towns of Seabrook, Pacific Beach, and Moclips. Seabrook is a brand-new, purpose-built vacation resort town with beautiful architecture. The town puts on community events open to visitors. Pacific Beach has kept a small retail core (groceries, gas, kites, coffee shop, restaurant, boutiques, and novelty antique store) and features Pacific Beach State Park with its campground, grassy dunes, and large creek disecting the beach. Moclips has the Museum of the North Beach, documenting the area’s history as a beach resort back to the early 1900’s.
Quinault Indian Nation
Highway 109 ends at Taholah, the main town of the Quinault. A seafood processing plant is found here, where you can buy the unique blueback salmon of the Quinault River. At the administrative building you can buy a day pass to enjoy the tribal beaches. These include the rocky beach off of Taholah, where you can see the mouth of the Quinault River, the seastack rocks of Cape Elizabeth, and gigantic driftwood logs along the beach from fallen 200+ foot high spruce trees. At the south end of the reservation is the undiscovered gem of the coast, Point Grenville, with its collection of seastack rocks, hidden volcanic beach over a six foot rock wall, and offshore reef of volcanic rocks. These are the only volcanic rocks for hundreds of miles around.
Grays Harbor Wildlife
A lot of wildlife can be found along this coast, including: a flock of pelicans flying about the Westport South Jetty, deer all around Ocean Shores, blue heron on Duck Lake, the cutest white mottled baby seal at Damon Point State Park, eagles along the cliffs between Copalis and Pacific Beach, and flocks of seagulls and sandpipers up and down the coast.
Grays Harbor Lake Quinault
Lake Quinault lies within the southwest boundary of the Olympic National Park. Spend your first full day here by driving the loop around the lake and up into the upper Quinault River Valley that is formed by the North Shore Road, South Shore Road, and Highway 101. Along this route you will find many attractions.
Lake Quinault History
The historic Lake Quinault Lodge was built in 1926 in an astonishing 53 days. It replaced the 1880’s Log Hotel that had burned down two years before. The lodge features an excellent restaurant, the Roosevelt Room – named for President Theodore Roosevelt, who visited in 1937. From the wide grassy lawn, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the lake. A lake trail, fire pit, and boat rentals are found at the lakeside.Along the North Shore Road, the park service is restoring the early 1900’s Kestner Homestead. A 3/4 mile loop trail takes you through a beautiful forest and opens out into the fields of the former farm. A dilapidated delivery truck rusting in a field and filled with vines is one of the more charming sights.
Grays Harbor Rainforests
Near the Lake Quinault Lodge is the 1/2 mile Lake Forest Loop trail, which winds through a mossy forest of spruce, douglas fir, and cedar trees. An entirely different rainforest is found on the Kestner Homestead or “Maple Glade” trail mentioned above. This forest is also heavily moss laden, but the trees are primarily tall, big-leaf maples.
Ancient Trees in Grays Harbor
The Quinault area features six record-breaking trees of separate species. Two of the most accessible are the Quinault Big Cedar – a half mile hike from the North Shore Road and the Big Spruce just off the South Shore Road near Highway 101. The Big Cedar looks more like a ruin than a tree. It is scarcely alive – with just a few green branches high overhead. At ground level the tree is all rotted out and hollow. You can stand inside it, look up, and see daylight hundreds of feet overhead.
Mountain Views in Grays Harbor
Much of your view of the Olympics in this area is blocked by the tall trees and nearby hills, but the higher peaks can be viewed in a few places: 1.) from Highway 101 at the west end of the lake where there is currently a clear-cut opening in the trees where a fine view of the lake and the mountains beyond can be had; 2.) you can drive 10 miles on well-maintained dirt roads up to Higley Peak – many views of the snowy peaks can be seen along this road; and 3.) from the South Shore Road up in the river valley you can see some higher mountains.
By Don Guy, added February 2009, updated October 2019.
About the Author: Don Guy is an avid traveler, vacation homeowner, vacation destination author, and co-founder of MrVacation.com, a vacation rental directory offering vacation rental homes and vacation homes for sale. When planning your next Grays Harbor vacation, consider searching MrVacation.com for the perfect vacation rental home, condo, or villa your entire family will enjoy. Source: Ezine Articles