Get Your Grub OnLong Beach Peninsula
WHERE IT IS: Southwest Washington coast
DRIVE TIME FROM DOWNTOWN: 3½ hours
WHAT TO BRING: The maxi dress, fashion’s current favorite fancy, is made for summer nights. This one, in silk by Diane Samandi, channels the Italian fashion house Missoni at a fraction of the price. $195 at Mercer, 2670 NE University Village St, University District, 206-388-0329. 118A Bellevue Square, Bellevue, 425-283-1896; mercerstore.com
If locals prize the Long Beach Peninsula for the raw splendor of its Willapa Bay and rednecks dig it because they can cruise their cars along portions of its 28-mile Pacific coastline, then urbanites come for the food. Because for whatever reason—maybe that its bogs are loaded with cranberries and its beaches with shellfish and its forests with wild mushrooms—this sandy finger of southwest Washington has for years sustained an astounding restaurant scene.
At the moment the big players are Pelicano, which lights up the Ilwaco docks with creative cosmopolitan platings and views of bobbing masts from nearly every table; and about halfway up the peninsula Jimella’s Seafood Market and Café—yeah, that Jimella Lucas, she of the late, great Ark Restaurant—with its delicate pan-fried Willapa Bay oysters and upmarket picnic fare like clam chowder, which you can schlep off to enjoy at one of the beach access roads just across the street.
These are restaurants of real gustatory pretension, but blissfully unconstrained by anything so citified as a dress code. (Unless you count the must-have-sand-between-your-toes requirement.) That means you can spend the day walking the endless expanse of beach at Leadbetter State Park—which, being car-free, feels like the numinous, windswept edge of forever—then motor back down the peninsula to cap the day with a Northwest meal truly worthy of the experience.
Pelicano, 177 Howerton Way SE, Ilwaco, 360-642-4034; pelicanorestaurant.com. Jimella’s Seafood Market and Café, 21712 Pacific Way, Klipsan Beach, 360-665-4847
WHERE IT IS: West Seattle
DRIVE TIME FROM DOWNTOWN: 15 minutes
WHAT TO BRING: Nothing but a healthy curiosity.
It’s shocking really. Everyone goes to Alki. The minute the mercury climbs north of 60 degrees, West Seattle’s all-purpose sun-swept strip becomes a sandy carnival midway, full of the city’s beautiful freaks: bird-watchers, shell hunters, dog walkers, roller skaters, jocks, and water lovers. But that’s not the shocking part; two and a half miles of public beachfront minutes from a city center is prime property for summer fun. No, the shocking part is that less than two miles south of Alki on Beach Drive sits the no-less-impressive yet completely ignored beach at Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.
Its markedly smaller size and complete lack of commercial diversions are no doubt to blame for the lack of traffic, but they’re also what make it a convenient escape for those who want to venture away from the masses. Leave your beach towel at home, though, because Me-Kwa-Mooks isn’t for your average sun seeker. Instead it’s for those in search of a surprisingly diverse range of sea creatures in a comparatively tiny package. Tide pools hide all sorts of sea stars and sea slugs in plain sight, hermit crabs patrol the beach, and it’s not uncommon to see an osprey diving for fish just off the shoreline. What is uncommon? A full house on a sunny day.
Take a HikeLake Ozette Loop Trail
WHERE IT IS: Western shore of the Olympic Peninsula, 25 miles west of Clallam Bay on Hoko Ozette Road
DRIVE TIME FROM DOWNTOWN: 5 hours, including ferry from Edmonds to Kingston
WHAT TO BRING: REI’s new weatherproof “Taku” shell blocks winds up to 60 miles per hour. $130 at REI, visit rei.com for locations
Let’s pour a splash of Gatorade on the boardwalk between Lake Ozette and Cape Alava in memory of Lars Ahlstrom. By pounding together three miles of cedar planks to connect the lake to the Pacific, the Swedish-born homesteader who settled near Ozette made possible one of the most striking trails in Olympic National Park.
That wooden walkway—the first leg of the nine-mile Lake Ozette loop trail—curls through Sitka spruce and sword fern and out to a bluff above the ocean. And though technically a walk on the beach, the second leg is no barefoot stroll. (More like a booted scramble over slippery cobble.) It does offer postcard wilderness views, though. Islands crop up out of the water just off the coast, tide pools pockmark the walk, and Native American petroglyphs dot the rocks along the beach. The final three-mile leg, along another boardwalk—from Sand Point back to Lake Ozette—is almost unremarkable by comparison, but after the sensory overload of that beach hike, anything short of seeing a Technicolor Disney character bounding through the tall grass would fail to impress.
Make a reservation for beach camping before you leave (360-565-3100; visit nps.gov/olym).