Experience the power of the ocean and the magic of a rainforest in one day
Nestled in the southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula on the Pacific Coast, Grays Harbor County is a year-round destination for family fun and outdoor recreation. In the same day, you can experience both the power of the ocean and the magic of a rainforest. Whether you have your sights set on a deep-sea fishing trip, building sandcastles on a sunny beach or sampling fresh-caught seafood, Grays Harbor County will thrill you with its opportunity for adventure.
With inspiring scenery all around, the only challenge is choosing what to do first. Why not start with one of these fun things to do in Grays Harbor County?
1. Be as happy as a clam at high tide: Go clamming
Grays Harbor County coastal beaches are renowned for majestic scenery and epic storms. But that’s just scratching the surface — of the beach. Buried in the sand are some of the best razor clams in the world. Plus, it’s one of the few places you’ll find razor clams on the Pacific Coast because they need a “high wave energy sandy beach” to survive. Digging for clams—or clamming—at low tide is a tradition for locals and visitors alike. It’s a fun day out for all ages.
Don’t forget your license: Every angler and digger age 15 and up needs a Washington State fishing/shellfish license. If you only plan to dig for razor clams, consider the 3-day razor clam license. Kids ages 14 and under don’t need a license.
Before you go: Check the tides and local weather, plus the latest reports from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
2. Go birding at Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival
Love birdwatching but don’t call yourself a birder? You will after just one day at the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival in Hoquiam. It’s a chance to see thousands of migratory shorebirds who are making the long trek from South America to the Arctic as they pause for a short time at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of the top destinations for birders in the world. You can even see some “seasoned travelers” who have flown more than 15,000 miles to reach the Port of Grays Harbor.
Grays Harbor estuary is one of only four major “pit stops” for close to a million shorebirds on the migratory route, which is dubbed the Pacific Flyway. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, you can look forward to seeing mostly Western Sandpiper and Dunlin, as well as Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot and Least Sandpiper.
3. Explore state parks from Pacific Beach to Ocean City
Get ready for inspiring scenery at one of the many Washington state parks in Grays Harbor County. Here’s a sampling of parks to explore:
- For beach combing, head to Pacific Beach State Park. Its flat, sandy beach is perfect for building sandcastles, exploring and flying kites.
- Can’t choose between river and ocean, freshwater and saltwater? Experience them all at Griffiths-Priday State Park. It’s on the Pacific coast at the mouths of Connor Creek and the Copalis River. Griffiths-Priday State Park also borders the Copalis National Wildlife Refuge, which is a major birdwatching destination.
- Located near the town of Ocean Shores, Ocean City State Park is ideal for long beach walks. Depending on the season, you can also drive on the beach. The speed limit is 25 mph.
- Lake Sylvia State Park’s claim to fame is its namesake lake. With 15,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, Lake Sylvia is ideal for swimming in summer. Plus, the 5-mile loop trail is great for exploring.
Travel Tip: An annual Discover Pass motor vehicle permit pass includes parking at all of Washington’s 124 state parks.
4. Get your sea legs: Go deep sea fishing in Westport
Deep-see fishing is one of the most popular sporting activities for visitors to Westport. From late March to mid-October, a range of private charters and guides can take you on an adventure at sea. Whether you’re fishing for rockfish and lingcod or halibut and chinook salmon, it’s an unforgettable experience. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture amazing images of Westport and the commercial fleet. Click here for photography tips from a local photographer.
Note: Conditions at sea can be choppy. If you’re not certain that the Pacific Ocean is the best place for you, ask about lake fishing and fly fishing. With hundreds of lakes and rivers to choose from, there are lots of options.
5. Experience Olympic National Park
No visit to the region is complete without a visit to Olympic National Park. Covering nearly a million acres, the park is so large that it has coastal, rainforest and mountain ecosystems. It’s a destination that merits advance planning because there’s so much to see.
Depending on where you enter the park — and how much time you have — consider exploring the Quinault Rain Forest (below the Hoh Rain Forest and along the shores of Lake Quinault). Or, hike the Sol Duc Valley to experience rivers and waterfalls. If you’re a Twilight fan, visit Rialto Beach or Second Beach to experience the setting of several scenes from the novels. (Note: Scenes from the Twilight movies weren’t filmed here.)
Travel Tip: Avoid lines at park gates by paying the entrance fee in advance. Click here to learn more about fees, including reduced fees for seniors and free passes for veterans.
6. Explore Ocean Shores
The beachfront town of Ocean Shores offers fun for all ages. Try your luck at an arcade, go kite flying, rent a bicycle for the day, enjoy horseback riding on the beach or spend the day relaxing and watching the surf. The town hosts a range of special events throughout the summer, including an annual sand sculpture contest. Click here for the calendar of events.
AAA Travel Tip: Unlock savings on hotels with AAA membership during your stay at local hotels including the AAA-approved Polynesian Cultural Resort.
7. Take a dip in Lake Aberdeen
A popular local picnicking spot, Lake Aberdeen (or Aberdeen Lake as the locals say) is a great destination for families. The recreation area has walking trails, a playground and boat launch. Swimming in this beautiful freshwater lake during the summer months is a must. Plus, parking is free.
8. Rev your engines at Grays Harbor Raceway
Between April and September, motorsport fans can get their fix at Grays Harbor Raceway. On Saturday evenings, the 3/8-mile dirt track is host to a variety of races and events. Grandstands open at 4:30 p.m. and racing begins at 6 p.m.
9. Come As You Are to Kurt Cobain Memorial Park
Nirvana fans the world over continue to make the journey to Aberdeen to pay homage to Kurt Cobain, who grew up in this corner of Grays Harbor County. Located on the Wishkah River, Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (aka Kurt Cobain Landing) is a place to reflect on Cobain’s legacy. It was the first memorial to Cobain in his hometown.
Travel Tip: As you enter town, look for the Aberdeen sign: “Welcome to Aberdeen, Come As You Are.”
10. Sample coastal cuisine and local foods
Think tempura cod, baked salmon, steamed razor clams, seafood fettuccini, Westport Dungeness crab grilled cheese, fish ‘n chips, fresh oysters or an albacore tuna melt. You’ll find each of these dishes at local restaurants. Bring your appetite and make sure you have room for dessert because you won’t want to miss freshly-baked pies featuring local Pacific Northwest berries.
These 10 fun things to do are just the beginning when it comes to planning a road trip. And while many people enjoy visiting in summer, there’s no shortage of activities and adventures during the spring, fall and winter.
—Written by Suzanne Lee
Top Photo: Lost River Photography
Road Trip Tips
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