Long Beach makes up the commercial core of the peninsula, with all the typical beachfront services, including kitschy gift shops, fish-and-chips takeouts, real estate offices, kite stores, saltwater taffy shops, strip malls, RV parks, motels, and bumper boat, go-kart, and miniature golf amusement parks. Not everything is tacky, but don’t come here expecting a classy, romantic experience; this is a family fun-for-all place.
In the summer Long Beach hums with traffic and the ringing of cash registers; in winter it slows to a quieter pace but is still popular as a weekend getaway.
Several fine murals grace the sides of buildings in Long Beach. One of the peninsula’s most photographed local spots is the “World’s Longest Beach” arch that rises over Bolsted Street as you head toward the ocean. An elevated and wheelchair-accessible boardwalk takes off from here and continues a half mile south to 10th Street; it’s a great place for romantic sunset strolls.
The gravel Dune Trail extends for two miles across the dunes, from 17th Street S to 16th Street N, and is popular with cyclists and hikers.
Long Beach is best known for its delightful beach, a favorite of kite enthusiasts. If you don’t own a kite, several local shops sell them for all levels of flying ability.
Contrary to expectations, the 28 miles of sandy beach on Long Beach Peninsula are not safe for swimming. Not only are there dangerous undertows and riptides, but rogue waves can occur, and there are no lifeguards. Every year waders or swimmers get trapped in these bitterly cold waters; sometimes the accidents end in tragedy.
Locals and visitors looking for a chance to swim generally head to Waikiki Beach in Cape Disappointment State Park, or to local motel swimming pools. Dunes Bible Camp in Ocean Park (360/665-5542, $3) has a large indoor pool open to the public for.
Approximately 15 miles of Long Beach are open to driving during the summer, but stay on the hard-packed sand, away from the car-eating soft sand and rich clam beds along the water’s edge. The sand dunes are off-limits to all vehicles. The maximum speed is 25 mph, and it is enforced. If you decide to drive the beach, be sure to wash the salt spray off your car immediately to prevent later rust problems. Check at the visitors center for a current description of areas open to beach driving.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition