I’d only wanted to be alone. Alone had always felt like an actual place to me as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. – Cherly Strayed, Wild
Growing up as a child in the Pacific Northwest Region of the United States meant that nature was part of our living space. We didn’t have an outdoor dining area or gazebo. We had raw, unspoiled nature and all of its bounties at our doorstep. Every day my siblings and I would burst in every direction rain or shine. The beaches in the Pacific Northwest, dotted with crusty barnacles, mussels, oysters, and miles of tide pools, were always my respite.
After spending a great deal of the past two years exploring the coastlines of the European continent, from the deep southern beaches of Italy’s Calabria Region to Sweden’s pristine island chains, we have a few hometown favorites.
Water is a popular place to spend time during record-breaking warm summers in the Pacific Northwest. Many of us don’t have the time to go too far off the beaten path given our busy lives. The tranquility, however, is an important part of the connection. Community is fun, but crowds often leave us feeling like our restful day at the beach was more work than it was worth. This summer we enjoyed deliberately wandering just slightly off the beaten path, to some of our favorite local places to cool off.
This summer was our first trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon during peak season. After circling the town for 45 minutes looking for parking, we knew we had to re-think our destination. With a little exploring, we fell in love with the beach at the end of the Cape Falcon Trail, about 10 minutes south of Cannon Beach. Our kids loved the coastal rainforest trail thick with salmonberries, thimbleberries, and huckleberries for snacks along the way. The hike was enough to keep the crowds to a minimum and the scenery was enough to captivate all ages for hours.
Our search for a farmer’s market took us even further south of Cannon Beach to Manzanita, where we ended up spending most of our days. The beach has a wild, inviting quality that somehow felt more protected than its expansive Cannon Beach neighbor. The library was a great place to have some quiet time, before feasting at the farmer’s market. We felt like we were a part of something in Manzanita because tourists were only one part of the equation.
On a recent trip to Whidbey Island, Washington we spent the day at one of our old favorites, Double Bluff Beach. It is a huge expanse of sand and tidelands on the Southwest shore of Whidbey Island. What we love about it is that even if the parking lot is full, there is enough beach for everyone.
When the crowded banks of Lake Washington in downtown Kirkland proved too chaotic for us last month, my parents led us to Waverly Park. It is just far enough off of the main street to maintain a tranquil atmosphere. Our kids spent many evenings swimming and fishing until dark in this quintessential neighborhood park.
Orcas Island will always be one of our favorite Northwest summer adventures. We are not alone in our love for the San Juan Islands which means it is important to get off the beaten path a bit. One of my favorite things to do as a kid, that my children and their cousin’s now love, is cliff jumping at Moran State Park. The park has an amazing swimming beach, play structure, and fishing dock, but it is crowded in the peak summer months. Just a short walk around this incredible lake means solitude and adventure! The cliffs are rugged, pristine, and vary in height so there is something for everyone. It feels like good old fashioned fun in every way
In Kitsap County, our favorite spots are Fay Bainbridge Park and Point No Point. The driftwood at both beaches means hours of fort building where imaginations run wild. The views constantly change due to the shipping lanes and the salmon jumping in the shade of the eagle nests. In the summertime, however, both places can get a bit overrun. During those times, we head to Foulweather Bluff. It is a nature conservancy haven just two miles northwest of Hansville. The parking lot is a bit hard to spot but once found the rewards are infinite. The gentle walk through an impressive stand of red alders and western red cedars gives only brief glimpses of the pristine beach that awaits. The conservancy volunteers have always welcomed our children and answered many of their questions about different birds and marine species. I have never experienced a crowd at Foulweather Bluff and it wins our favorite spot for a day at the beach in Washington.
What are your favorite “not too far off the beaten path” places to cool down?