Relax in Grays Harbor

Spend a long weekend soaking in the summer sun with a visit to Washington’s sandy beaches. Explore the natural resources and working waterfronts that make Grays Harbor exceptionally special. Following this itinerary, you will journey around the edge of Grays Harbor, one of the most unique environments in the state. Grays Harbor County marks the southern boundary of the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area and contains many opportunities to learn about Washington’s water-based history and industry, bask in the coast’s natural beauty, and discover the ecological impacts of the Pacific Ocean.

Before you go, be sure to pick up a Discover Pass to visit one of a dozen Washington State Parks in Grays Harbor County. For a special experience, check Washington State Parks’ website in advance for opportunities to stay overnight in a campsite or cabin.

We also highly recommend bringing a cooler so you can bring home plenty of oysters, clams, fish, and other fresh-out-of-the-water seafood.

Day One: Ocean Shores

Relax on the beach at the Seashore Conservation Area

Make your way to the Washington coast for a morning exploring the wide-open beaches of Ocean Shores, with vibrant wildlife and awe-inspiring waves crashing against the shore. The western edge of Washington State is dotted with State Parks—all part of the Seashore Conservation Area—stretching over 62 miles. Each has unique access to beaches and a variety of coastal scenery, wildlife, and recreational opportunities to explore. Build sandcastles, run through the shallows, hop on a surfboard, or simply lay back and marvel at the expansive horizon.

Before you visit these spectacular natural spaces, take a moment to review the principles of Responsible Recreation, and be a part of the #RecreateResponsibly movement so that these places remain available for others to experience.

Visit the Coastal Interpretive Center

Open every day 10:00 am – 4:00 pm | 1033 Catala Ave SE, Ocean Shores, WA 98569

When you need a break from the sun, head to the Coastal Interpretive Center to explore both the history of Ocean Shores and to learn about the ecology of Washington’s coastline. Be sure to look for the exhibit created by the Quinault Tribe that highlights aspects of life living on the coast for native people. The Coastal Interpretive Center hosts five permanent galleries and many more outdoor exhibits and trails. Both hands-on and readable interpretive displays help the Center share a diverse range of stories about the coast, both today and throughout history.

“Life at the edge of our continent is rich with cultural and natural diversity—whether it’s goats or sailboats, there’s always more to discover in Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula. Since 1977, the Coastal Interpretive Center (CIC) has provided visitors to Ocean Shores with a hands-on museum experience and guided tours through various outdoor ecosystems. Make a trip to the CIC this summer to learn about the biology, geology, ecology, and anthropology of Washington’s Pacific Coast. Allow one to two hours to fully experience all the CIC has to offer as you discover life on the edge of new ideas.”

Dig for Razor Clams on Copalis Beach

Dates vary from October through May | Check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Website for up-to-date information.

After visiting the Coastal Interpretive Center, head up the coast towards Copalis Beach to harvest razor clams for your dinner! Be sure to check the WDFW Regulations ahead of your visit to make sure it’s a safe time for harvest and to ensure that you’re harvesting responsibly. A license is required for all shellfish harvesting, and the daily limit is 15 clams per person.

Razor clams are larger than most other clams, and catching the limit will leave you with more than enough for a meal. You can harvest these geoduck-like bivalves by using a long shovel, or a “clam gun,” which are readily available at many locations in Ocean Shores.

Pro tip: Transport your clams in a dry, cool spot covered with a cloth soaked in seawater. Letting them sit in seawater or freshwater can cause the clams to taste like ammonia or deteriorate faster.

If you’re visiting Grays Harbor on a day when Copalis Beach isn’t open for clam digging (or your accommodations don’t include a kitchen), don’t fear: there are plenty of restaurants in Ocean Shores serving up delicious clams and other seafood.

Day Two: Hoquiam and Aberdeen

Birdwatch at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge

Open from sunrise to sunset. Best viewing times are three hours before or after high tide. | 1000 Airport Way, Hoquiam, WA, 98550

The Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is a narrow spit leading into Grays Harbor that hosts one of the largest concentrations of shorebirds on the west coast. The estuarine refuge boasts large, flat salt marshes where water from the ocean mixes with fresh water flowing from inland streams and rivers. The mixture promotes a huge diversity of wildlife, especially during spring and summer migrations. This is a must-visit location, even for inexperienced birdwatchers.

Pro Tip: Walk the Sandpiper Trail into the salt marsh for exceptional views and opportunities to photograph shorebirds. The trail’s alder and cottonwood trees also provide opportunities to spot songbirds, native plants, migrating wildlife, and more.

Lunch in Downtown Aberdeen

A designated Main Street Community, historic downtown Aberdeen provides plenty of opportunities to grab lunch and do a little shopping. While you explore, don’t miss Aberdeen’s many beautiful public murals. We might be biased, but our favorite is “Grays Harbor Maritime History” located on the side of Billy’s Bar and Grill at 322 E Heron Street.

“We welcome visitors to our community to embrace a rich tapestry of culture. Aberdeen offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in exploring historical sites, indulging in the vibrant art scene, or venturing outdoors for adventures on the coast. To help you get started, please download our DISTRX app and begin your next experience.”

Visit the Polson Museum

Open Wednesday-Saturday 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Sundays 12:00 – 4:00 pm. | 1611 Riverside Avenue, Hoquiam, WA, 98550

Including a carefully restored 1924 mansion, a replica of the Polson Logging Company blacksmith shop, and a reconstructed century-old locomotive shed, the Polson Museum interprets local Grays Harbor history. Many of its exhibits relate to the region’s legacy of logging and its relationship with water-based trade. The locomotive shed offers interesting opportunities to explore how the arrival of railways combined with maritime trade to enable global markets.

Day Three: Westport

Immerse Yourself in the International Mermaid Museum

Open every day 11:00 am – 6:00 pm | 1 South Arbor Road, Aberdeen, WA, 98520

Start your final day in Grays Harbor at one of the most unique museums in the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area. This distinctive museum explores the mysteries of the deep Pacific Ocean, unified across borders by the mythology of the mermaid. With creative perspectives and insights about life “between the seashore and the sea floor,” the mermaid museum is sure to delight and enchant visitors while celebrating the connection between the natural environment and human creativity.

Stop for a slurp at Brady’s Oysters

Open every day 9:00 am – 6:00 pm | 3714 Oyster Place, Aberdeen, WA, 98520

No visit to Washington’s coast would be complete without a healthy serving of shellfish. On your way into Westport, stop for oysters fresh out of the water at this beloved 50-year-old and family-owned small business. If you can’t make it into Brady’s Oysters on this visit, be sure to read all about the business in this photo story from our Working Waterfronts series.

Climb the Grays Harbor Lighthouse and explore Westport Light State Park

Lighthouse: Open Thursday through Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm | 1020 West Ocean Avenue, Westport, WA, 98595

State Park: Open every day 8:00 am – 10:00 pm (Summer), 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Winter) | 1595 Ocean Avenue, Westport, WA 98595

Take 135 steps to the top of Washington State’s tallest lighthouse. The lighthouse still houses the original “clamshell-shaped Fresnel lens,” built in Paris, France, in 1895. After the climb, don’t miss panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean at Westport Light State Park. We particularly recommend the walk along the concrete boardwalk that connects to Westhaven State Park, 1.3 miles away.

Visit the Westport Maritime Museum

Museum currently open by appointment only | 2201 Westhaven Drive, Westport, WA, 98595

The Westport Maritime Museum—originally a U.S. Coast Guard Station—houses an extensive collection of maritime artifacts and exhibits, including marine mammal bones and a room-sized lighthouse lens. The Westport South Beach Historical Society also collects artifacts that wash up on Washington’s beaches, including authentic Japanese glass floats.

“While we are closed at the Museum for some projects and construction, we have been doing private and scheduled tours for folks who reach out and are visiting. We get a lot of people traveling who want to visit the Lens Hall, lighthouse aficionados especially. You might fit in the Furford Cranberry Museum as well to get the full flavor of the South Beach. The local cranberry industry and its connection to our fishing community is a great story.”

Get dinner from the Westport Marina Piers and Markets

Open weekdays, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm | 326 Lamb Street, Westport, WA, 98595

After all your exploring and learning, you deserve a treat. Stop by the Westport Marina to buy some fish fresh off the dock. “(In) the middle of August, there’s 2,000 pounds of tuna order booked to pick up, a full tank of live crab, lots of smoked fish, lots of cooked crab, stock in the display case, prime of the season,” said Mickayla Evans, co-owner of Seafood Connection, in our photo story about the business. You can learn more about the various kinds of seafood available—including tips for purchasing—from Westport’s Fresh Catch blog.

Even if you don’t plan to buy any seafood, the fishermen’s boardwalk and Port Centennial Viewing Tower are still worth the experience. Take some time to wander around the largest marina in Washington State for commercial fishing vessels and absorb the energy of a true working waterfront.

Once you’ve found your perfect catch, pack it into your cooler and head home for a fresher-than-fresh seafood dinner. For tips on how to prepare your bounty, check out these “Keep It Simple Seafood” cooking demos and recipes from our friends at Bellingham SeaFeast.

“First, take any fast food, box-store-like expectations and leave them on the shore – this is an experience that takes time. Buying true local seafood from Westport markets and fishermen is all about relationships. Whether you are looking for a fillet for dinner or enough product to fill your freezer, the markets carry a variety of products and are staffed with people who know local fish. They may not have harvested the product, but they likely unloaded, iced, and filleted it! These folks are knowledgeable in their trade and will point you in the right direction.”

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