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Image: Andrew Waits

You can’t always see the ocean at Kalaloch Campground; sometimes you’re behind the brush that lines the dunes, or sometimes the sun has set. But you can always hear the crash and swish of the Pacific waves and you can always smell the tang of salty sea mud. Oceanfront camping in Washington means long walks on sand, not trails, and nighttime campfires built not just for s’mores but to battle the bracing chill.

At Kalaloch the Olympic National Park follows a thin strip of land where most campsites are tucked under stick-straight Douglas firs. The luckiest campers pitch tents right where the sand begins, under shorter trees tangled and tilted from the wind. The Quinault name (pronounce it “CLAY-lock”) means “a good place to land,” and given the wrenching riptides and floating driftwood in the ocean, the sandy beach is indeed a good place to stay.

34 miles south of Forks on Hwy 101, 360-565-3132; recreation.gov, $14–$18

Where to stay

Hobuck Beach Resort Pitch a tent in an empty field (no fire pits or picnic tables) just west of Neah Bay and south of Cape Flattery. The shared encampment is mere feet from a crescent of sand, some of the most remote car-accessible beach in the state. 2726 Makah Passage, Neah Bay, 360-645-3784; hobuckbeachresort.com, $20

Spencer Spit State Park  There’s limited privacy in the seven walk-in sites on the Lopez Island sand spit, but only because they have uninterrupted views down to the beach. Head slightly inland for brushy drive-in sites and waterward for crabbing. 521A Bakerview Rd, Lopez Island, 888-226-7688; parks.wa.gov/687/spencer-spit, $20–$27

Pacific Beach State Park  This is certainly no wilderness: RVs crowd the small campground north of Ocean Shores. But many sites back up to the sand, and nearby restaurants offer a dinner upgrade. 49 Second St, Pacific Beach, 888-226-7688; parks.wa.gov/557/pacific-beach, $17–$31

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