Shell Game

Lilliwaup Offers Getaway Vibes and Oyster Hunting

Yep, oyster tourism is a thing. Book a cabin, RV, or tent and head to the waters for briny bivalves.

By Allecia Vermillion September 11, 2018 Published in the October 2018 issue of Seattle Met

► Destination: Lilliwaup • 2 hours west of Seattle

The sign overhead says “Mike’s Beach Resort,” its rustic lettering more like a welcome to summer camp than the site of a gourmet excursion. Here, two twisty hours from Seattle on Hood Canal’s western flank, there’s no sign for Olympic Oyster Co., the tiny operation that harvests ruffle-shell Pacific oysters and sells to Seattle heavy hitters like Matt’s in the Market and the Walrus and the Carpenter. Just a tidy curve of yellow cabins and the flicker of empty oyster shells in the cold waves that lap directly below the windows. At low tide, however, the water pulls back to reveal answers—and oysters.

Sara Macias’s grandparents founded this no-frills getaway in the 1950s. She and her husband, Matthew, turned the property’s oyster beds into a commercial farm. When resort guests kept peppering them with questions, they partnered the longstanding family business with their new one to create a micro-destination for oyster tourism.

Book a one-room cabin (or a tricked-out RV or glamping-level tent complete with tiny kitchenette and queen-size bed) and hit up one of the gas stations or general stores on Highway 101 for a shellfish license—an $11 single-day license clears 17 oysters and 30 clams per person; kids’ licenses are free. Secure yourself an oyster knife along the way.

Come low tide, the Maciases show the oyster curious how to gather (relatively easy) and shuck (not too difficult, once you get the hang of it). Transfer these spoils to controlled surroundings—platter of crushed ice, chilled mignonette—and they become one kind of luxury. But springing the meat free by your own hand, in a patio chair that faces the water, plastic tumbler of champagne standing by on a rickety table, is a truer form of indulgence.

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