Washington State not only offers amazing cascade ranges to discover, but it also offers abundant coastal communities to explore and Willapa Bay is one of them. Situated along the Pacific Coast and separated by the Long Beach Peninsula, Willapa Bay provides great access to recreation, sightseeing and amazing seafood.
Where to Stay
If you love the outdoors and harvesting for seafood, the Bay Center/Willapa Bay KOA Journey is the perfect place to stay. You can choose to pitch a tent, stay in a yurt, bring the RV or stay in a comfy little cabin. For the yurts and cabins, no linens are provided. However, there is one, just one, deluxe cabin that offers a partial kitchen, full bath and a patio area with a firepit, table and chairs, a swing and a propane grill. Linens are provided in this deluxe cabin. Pets are allowed in some of the sites, so you do not have to worry about leaving your furry friends at home. Whatever your budget is for lodging, this campground offers it all.
What to Do and Where to Eat
The campground also provides direct beach access and has a private steamer clam bed accessible to registered guests only (a Washington State Shellfish License is required). Rent a bucket and shovel (or bring your own) from the office and rake up some delicious steamer clams for dinner. Besides raking up fresh steamer clams right from the campground, bikes are available to rent at the office. Take a ride into Bay Center town and stop at the Dock of the Bay Restaurant for breakfast or lunch. They have a great selection of menu items, including fresh Willapa Bay oyster shooters.
Love wildlife? Explore Willapa’s National Wildlife Refuge and be amazed by all of the different types of plants and animals that call this place their home. The best part? It’s free! Willapa National Wildlife Refuge has no entrance fees; however, a Washington State Discover Pass is required for parking at the Leadbetter Unit Parking Area. The diverse habitats and locations of the refuge provide visitors with a wide-range of activities including boating, hunting, fishing, shellfish harvesting, hiking, camping, wildlife observation and photography.
Long Beach Peninsula
The Long Beach Peninsula is about an hour from Willapa Bay and offers that small town charm experience. Check out Marsh’s Free Museum, a treasure trove of antiques and curios, and learn about Jake the Alligator Man. Take a stroll through little unique local shops, grab a delicious and freshly made pastry from Cottage Bakery & Delicatessen, enjoy the different flavors of some decadent fudge and taffy from The Candy Man and indulge in homemade ice cream from Scoopers. Hungry for a real meal? Captain Bob’s Chowder is amazing, as well as Long Beach Tavern for some burgers, pizza and fish and chips.
Razor Clam Season
The Long Beach Peninsula is also known for razor clamming. Razor clam season typically lasts from fall to spring. The annual Razor Clam Festival is held in April when the community comes together to celebrate the historic tradition of clam digging.
During clamming season you can find diggers along the beach for miles. It’s really quite a sight. You can watch the action from afar or gear up and take part in this really fun recreational sport fit for all ages. Clam guns and shovels are available for rent or purchase in town. With miles of sand and beach, it is no wonder why the Long Beach Peninsula is also the home of Washington State International Kite Festival held annually in August. Stop in at the World Kite Museum and learn about the art, science, sport, and history of kites.
Cape Disappointment State Park is also nearby and worth a stop to visit the historic lighthouses. The lighthouses of the Peninsula are favorite visitor stops any time of the year. These historic lighthouses are two of 750 guarding the shores of the United States. At the mouth of the Columbia River sits the particularly dangerous Columbia Bar. This sandbar is about 3 miles wide and reaches about six miles into the ocean. This navigational nightmare has claimed over 2,000 vessels and 700 lives since 1792 and has since been known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. As a result, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was built to guide sailors safely into the mouth of the Columbia River.
If you plan on taking a trip to Willapa Bay, take in the panoramic beach views from your car, on foot on the boardwalk or by bike on the Discovery Trail. Whatever mode you choose, there’s something about the ocean that relaxes and calms you. A perfect way to unwind and spend the weekend before returning back to the daily grind.