Long Beach Peninsula
The Long Beach Peninsula is a 28-mile-long strip of sand and fun off the southwestern corner of Washington. Locals call it the “World’s Longest Beach,” though you’re bound to hear disagreement from folks in Australia and New Zealand. Be that as it may, this is one very long stretch of sand, and a favorite getaway for folks from Seattle and Portland.
Ask most Puget Sounders who frequent the Long Beach Peninsula what they think about it, and you’ll probably get the same protective response Washingtonians have about their state when talking to Californians and North Dakotans: they love it and don’t want it to change. The towns on this peninsula have a lived-in look to them, and many of the houses are so sand-peppered and rain-washed that they look as though a designer talked everyone into the weathered-home look.
The peninsula is the kind of place where you’ll find rubber boots and heavy rain gear on almost every porch—it rains over 70 inches a year here, so be ready to get wet even in the summer—and somewhere in every house is a glass float from a Japanese fishing net and a piece of driftwood.
The central tourist and commercial town on the island, Long Beach has the only walkable downtown area on the coast, with little shops and the typical souvenir joints—like a real beach town. At the north end of the peninsula, things are drastically different, with beautifully restored century-old homes in Oysterville, and an isolated natural area at Leadbetter Point.
Getting to the Long Beach Peninsula
Pacific Transit System (360/642-9418 or 800/642-9418, Mon.–Sat.) has countywide bus service, and dial-a-ride service in certain areas. The system connects with Grays Harbor Transit buses in Aberdeen, and also crosses the bridge to Astoria, Oregon. There is no Greyhound service to the Long Beach Peninsula, and the nearest airport with commercial service is in Astoria. For taxi service, call Limo Cab (360/642-4047).
From Raymond: Highway 101 continues south from Aberdeen to mill-town Raymond past a patchwork of Weyerhaeuser tree farms and clear-cuts. The winding road can be a traffic nightmare of logging trucks, pokey RVs, and too-few passing lanes. The cops are often out in force here, so don’t even think about going over the speed limit.
Continuing south, Washington’s coastline wraps around Willapa Bay, the 25-mile-long inlet protected by the Long Beach Peninsula. Highways 105 and 101 skirt Willapa’s scenic marshy shoreline, and tree farms carpet the surrounding hills. This is timber country. A handful of small settlements—notably Raymond and South Bend—offer accommodations and meals.
From Oregon: Most tourists heading from I-5 in Longview and Kelso choose to rumble along the lower Columbia River from the southern Oregon side in order to reach the Long Beach Peninsula. The route along Highway 30 is faster, and it allows visitors to stop off in the unique outpost of Astoria, Oregon before heading over the 4.4-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge, the longest continuous-truss span bridge on the continent.
For specifics about Astoria, check out Moon Oregon. While in Oregon, historical enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Fort Clatsop, the winter encampment site of the Lewis and Clark expedition, where a reconstructed fort features buckskin-clad park rangers and demonstrations all summer long.
From Ocean Beach Hwy.: On the Washington side of the Columbia River, Highway 4 hugs the riverbank for long stretches. This is the road less traveled. Tall cottonwood trees line the riverbanks; high rocky cliffs and Douglas fir trees line the slopes above the highway. As you drive west, the lower Columbia is marked by a series of islands, many little more than sandbars with a fringe of willows and grass.
The road banks away from the river at Skamokawa, where it heads toward the sinuous Grays River, which cuts a wide swath, with bucolic farms and fields on both sides and timber country climbing the hillsides.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition