While living in Seattle, I had the chance to explore many of the beautiful communities in Washington. I’ve wandered up the coast near Westport. I took a two-day blitz trip around the Olympic Peninsula in the winter. Basically, I tried to make sure I actually experienced the world around me, instead of holing up in Seattle pounding away on my keyboard.
Despite my extensive adventures, Long Beach, Washington, is easily among my top favorite small towns in the U.S. Two trips – one in the autumn and one in the winter – showed me that no matter the season, no matter how much rain is falling, this community on the World’s Longest Beach has plenty to offer. If you’re planning a trip to Long Beach this summer (or any other time), here’s your guide.
What to Do in Long Beach
Before I get ahead of myself, you may wonder why to visit Long Beach. Despite chilly northern Pacific waters year-round, many people visit Long Beach so they can explore the beach itself. Yep, that featured image is me frolicking on cold wet winter sand. Windblown hair, don’t care.
Throughout the year, you can enjoy events along the beach including the Washington State International Kite Festival. You may remember this was what drew me out to visit Long Beach in the first place!
Long Beach is also home to the World Kite Museum. There you can learn the history of kites, from pleasure to productive use. With a steady wind that whips the sand off the dunes to sting your legs as you stroll in the chilly surf, kite culture is strong. Be sure to fly one in the strong winds coming off the Pacific. If you don’t have one, buy one: Wind World or Above It All Kites Inc are just a few of the many retailers happy to get you set up.
There’s also a beautiful long boardwalk and miles of trails that run through the dunes between the water and the town. You can rent a bike or walk to see such sights as the Grey Whale skeleton preserved along the trail, or a replica of Clark’s Tree – a spot where the expedition of Lewis & Clark once realized their dream of reaching the west.
Off the beach, there are plenty of things to do too. You should be sure to stop by Marsh’s Free Museum. This family-friendly establishment is filled with all kinds of interesting “historical” artifacts and a good bit of potential hoaxes. I was smitten with some of the old games and circus attractions. What can I say; I’m a cheeseball like that.
The main street area of town is only few small blocks. It’s primarily comprised of real estate offices, mini golf, seaside shops with t-shirts in every neon color under the sun, and a few restaurants serving fare food. If you’re also feeling active for something other than sticking terrifying pieces of nylon and wood into the air, go play mini-golf at the little set up near Stormin Norman’s; you can pay for your balls and scorecards in the shop and then have fun with the little 10+ hole setup for cheap.
You can also swing by the Lewis & Clark statue at the corner of Pacific and 4th to learn about many of the other small communities that were impacted by the expedition and their subsequent travels.
Lastly, you can take a horseback ride along the beach. You won’t get to frolic in the waves like down in those envy-inducing Caribbean waters, but the horses are sure-footed on the sand and great guides among the dunes. Two options are Back Country Wilderness Outfitters or Skippers Equestrian Center, and tours start at $25 per hour.
For most people taking a day-trip, that’s probably the full extent of what you can pack into a sunny, sandy, and sea-salty day. There’s much more to explore though, namely in the way of local accommodations and restaurants ‘off the strip’ that have begun to flourish in the small but growing community. If you stay and eat where everyone else does, you’re missing most of what makes Long Beach special.
Where to Stay in Long Beach
Like all good coastal towns, Long Beach has tons of seaside condos and timeshares available for rent, as well as a Best Western. While these may work for family or budget travelers, they’re the more traditional – and less interesting – options available.
The Sou’Wester Lodge
A creative take on the traditional RV park, The Sou’Wester Lodge is a collection of fully restored, permanently installed, and functional trailers that you can rent out for your stay. Located south in Seaview, WA (a short drive from Long Beach proper), you’ll have easy access to the beach, free bike rentals, plus be able to take advantage of the Finnish sauna installed on the property. Trailers start from $105/night.
The Adrift Hotel
The Adrift Hotel is a relatively new development right near the southern tip of the main Long Beach boardwalk. The two-building property has great access to the beach and modern amenities. Rooms start as low as $170/night, and you can pay a little extra for an ocean view (it’s worth it!).
Taking advantage of the fact that not all the condos built for this coastal community have sold, The Breakers is a hybrid property north of downtown Long Beach. The four main buildings host a combination of permanent residents and hotel guests who have a fully-equipped condo with kitchen. The massive Breakers property is awesome for exploring the dunes, and the beach is much less crowded. Units start from $139/night.
The Inn at Discovery Coast
The Inn At Discovery Coast is a bit more rustic on the outside but the interior makes up for it. The rooms look like the kind of apartment I dream of having one day, all neutral colors and natural elements of stone, wood, and metal. Rooms start at $172/night and most offer stunning views of the ocean.
The Shelburne Inn
You can read more about my experience at the Shelburne Hotel in my bed & breakfast post. The Shelburne Inn is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Washington, comprised of winding staircases, dark wood panelling, and a twinkling-lighted pub that makes my heart sing. They offer gourmet food and a stunning wine list at their in-house restaurant too, but more on that later. Rooms start from $149/night.
I fell in love when walking by the Boardwalk Cottages. You’ll have your own private cottage and parking, easy access to the beach, and feel totally immersed in seaside town ambiance. Cottages are priced seasonally; summer prices start at $144/night.
Where to Drink & Dine in Long Beach
Having visited Long beach twice, I can honestly say: if you only have a weekend, you need to be A) ruthless in your desire to eat the best food in Long Beach (which will admittedly be tough since there are so many great choices) or B) willing to stretch out your stomach so you can try it all. Here are my recommendations.
Located down in Seaview, this former railroad depot’s humble appearance belies a massively talented chef making mouthwatering comfort food from around the U.S. From my ‘Southern Comfort Pork’ – roasted to perfect tenderness and piled atop cream corn – to the fresh clams Bucatini Mr. Valise enjoyed (pictured above), plus the two desserts AND port wine we enjoyed… The Depot was spot on. Oh man. So indulgent. How Bourdain can continue to describe food after all these years is beyond me – good meals make me lose my words.
The Pickled Fish
A recommendation made by the Long Beach Peninsula CVB, the Pickled Fish is located inside the Adrift Hotel but open to the public. I opted for the fish and chips because I really believe that you should eat fish and chips when you can see the ocean the fish came from with your own eyes; Mr. Valise had a burger that I will admit I also coveted. We also had brunch there one morning; eggs Benedict and biscuits & gravy are Mr. Valise’s and my favorite breakfast foods, and they offer both.
Other awesome notes about the Pickled Fish: they do live music. Like, a lot! If you dig that kind of thing, be sure to check their schedule. They also do an occasional bonfire on the beach. Given Washington’s intense burn ban over the summer, we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we could actually enjoy an open fire at some point during our adventures.
Scoopers is technically a market, but everyone goes for the ice cream… like, EVERYONE. We waited for at least half an hour for our scoops, and part of the reason for the delay is that they have about 60 different flavors to choose from and not everyone is decisive as I am: mint chip on bottom, peppermint on top. I could also have gone for the mango sorbet on bottom and marionberry on top… I guess that just means I have to go back someday!
The Shelburne Inn
Hindered by a crappy camera I’ve since sold, the above photo of Dungeness crab ravioli was the best I could salvage from a faultless three-course meal Mr. Valise and I enjoyed – with wine. Chef David forages and sources food as locally as possible, and has a covetous wine cellar which he’s happy to provide recommendations on choosing from. The Shelburne Inn often hosts special dinner menus as well as whiskey and wine tastings; if you’re not staying the night with them afterward, you’ll wish you were so all you have to do is roll yourself upstairs and into bed after a stunning meal.
North Jetty Brewing Company
No guide to anywhere is complete without my hunting down any craft beer in town, and Long Beach happily fulfills that requirement. Named after locally significant events, each of the beers at North Jetty Brewing is rooted in the history of Long Beach and tells another piece of the story I became entranced with while visiting. Maybe it was the beer talking, but I was sure by the end of a few tasting flights that I never wanted to leave.
Streetside Tacos 2.0
Okay, I omitted one important fact in my description of North Jetty Brewing – they also have a food truck permanently parked outside, Streetside Tacos 2.0. Yep, you read that right: the perfect marriage of food truck and craft beer happens every day in Long Beach. Between the chicken tinga and carnitas tacos and a few delicious beer samples, are you surprised that I’m still raving about why you should visit Long beach?
42nd Street Cafe & Bistro
Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Valise and I celebrated Valentine’s Day at 42nd Street Cafe & Bistro, so it will always have a soft spot in my heart. Over bratwurst and sauerkraut, skillet-fried chicken, and a splurge on pecan pie, we agreed cozy restaurant draws both locals and visitors for good reasons: comfort food and warm hospitality. The place was absolutely packed when we were there, but given that it was a holiday and the sweet and savory dishes we had the chance to enjoy, I’m sure that’s a common occurrence.
So that’s it! Did you have any idea how much there was to do in this small town of just over 1,300 people? I sure didn’t! But that’s what I’ve been saying, right? Small towns are hugely underrated among “world travelers,” especially when they’re close to the place we call home. If there’s anything I’ve learned — and I’m trying hard to always take a lesson or two away from every trip — it’s that there’s no single place that can’t amaze you if you look with the right eyes.
With that: where will you look today to see something new?
Many thanks again to Long Beach Peninsula CVB and Zahorsky PR for helping set up my trip, including recommendations and accommodation introductions. All of the companies are included at my own discretion and I was not compensated or reimbursed in any way for my opinions. Thank you to all the businesses who extended their hospitality and allowed me to enjoy Long Beach to the fullest.