The Long Beach Peninsula is in the very southwest corner of Washington State. If you drive the length of the peninsula, you’ll hit a handful of towns. One is called Long Beach which can make things a bit confusing since it’s on the Long Beach Peninsula. Plus, when people think Long Beach, they think California. They don’t think Long Beach, Washington.
Still, I loved the Long Beach Peninsula and the surrounding area. Even though the six communities on the peninsula are small and it was off-season, there was still plenty to do and see. Especially free stuff. Especially walking adventures. If you’ve been following this journey, you know I love free and I love walking adventures. So, Long Beach was my kind of town.
The peninsula is rich in history with the Pacific Ocean on one side, the Willapa Bay on the other and the Columbia River very nearby. The Chinook people, who were skilled traders and excellent seamen, first occupied the peninsula. After European seafarers discovered the area, a fur trade arose. Later pioneers arrive at the mouth of the Columbia River and by the 1830s an oyster trade began in the Willapa Bay. Settlers soon followed.
The towns up the peninsula (south to north, the same way you’d arrive) are:
- Long Beach
- Ocean Park
In addition to the towns, the south end of the peninsula has two lighthouses: Cape Disappointment and North Head Lighthouses. The peninsula offers 28 miles of continuous sand beach and is the self-proclaimed longest beach in the US. Of course, the beaches make for great walking adventures.
Where I Stayed
You see many 55+ RV parks in Arizona. The place I stayed in Long Beach, Cranberry RV Park, was a 40+ RV park. I’m not quite 55 yet so this was my first chance to stay at an “adults only” RV park. Actually, I didn’t find it that different from other parks since most RVers are older. Generally, you see vacationing kids and parents in the state and national parks more than RV parks.
It’s a small park and, since it was off-season, most of the spots remained empty. However, of the one-fifth of the filled spots, I was the only non-permanent resident. Tourism is a big economy of the area and, as such, I saw many RV parks. In November, I found them either closed or with a similarly low capacity as Cranberry RV Park. But, they fill to capacity during the summer.
Walk one-half mile walk from Cranberry RV Park to find yourself on the beach. We went several times, though it did involve crossing a 55-mph road.
At less than $400 for the month, it was one of the best monthly rates I’ve paid. And, unlike a lot of tourist-heavy places, the price is the same year-round. I would stay there again. I did have to shower in the men’s bathroom as they were doing work on the women’s showers which was kind of a pain. But I survived.
In Seaview I stopped at the visitor’s center which serves the entire peninsula. Seaview was founded in 1881 and is where the growth (also called accretion) of the beach is most noticeable with 2,000 feet or more of dunes separating the village’s original shoreline from the ocean today. This means several shipwrecks lie under what is now dry land.
The mouth of the Columbia River and the surrounding area is difficult to sail. You’ll read more next week in the post about day trips off the peninsula and my visit to a museum all about the Columbia River. One display imprinted in my brain, the one showing all the ship wrecks and sunken ships. There were a lot. A lot.
In Seaview, my sister and I visited a restaurant called The Depot in a former train depot. Thus, the name. Besides tourism, fishing and clamming are big industries in the area. As such, every restaurant serves clam chowder. I mentioned the clam chowder of the area briefly in my New Year’s resolution recap post. My sister said it was the best chowder she’d ever had. Ever. Even off-season, the place was packed with locals who knew to make reservations.
Of the six communities, Long Beach is the only resort town and has been for a long time. This fascinated me considering how close together they all are. You’d think they all would be resort towns to capitalize on their beach and the tourism dollars.
In Long Beach, the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival, held every April, began in the 1940s. Since 1996, the other big draw is the annual Kite Festival in August. More than 100,000 people attend. To give perspective on how massive that is, keep in mind, the permanent residents number less than 1,500. The town has a Kite Museum but I ran out of adventure days so I didn’t visit it.
In downtown Long Beach, you’ll find a giant frying pan that’s also been around since the 1940s. Maybe it was originally part of the Clam Festival. I don’t know. It’s a great place for a silly photo. You’ll find a statue of Lewis and Clark in the small town center. In fact, Captain William Clark and his men made it to Long Beach in 1805.
Go under the “World’s Longest Beach” archway from downtown, you’ll find a half-mile long and well-maintained boardwalk. It was a popular walk and one we did many times. It’s especially great if you hate sand in your shoes. You can be on the beach without being on the beach.
The Discovery Trail runs alongside the boardwalk. It was named for the Corps of Discovery (a unit of the US Army created by President Thomas Jefferson for the Lewis and Clark expedition). It’s a paved interpretive trail that starts in Long Beach, goes by Seaview and ends in Ilwaco. At eight miles long, it’s a popular bike trail.
In addition to tourism, fishing and clamming, cranberries are also a big contributor to the local economy. Driving around, you’ll see cranberry bogs. Cranberries are harvested annually in October so I was disappointed to barely miss the opportunity to witness the harvest as I arrived in early November.
But I was happy to find the informative (and free) Cranberry Museum with its half-mile self-guided walk around their bogs. Though small, you learn about cranberry cultivation from 1880 to the present. Did you know that cranberries used to be harvested dry? In the 1940s wet harvesting led to higher yields and product quality.
Oysterville was first settled in 1841 by John Douglas, who married a local Chinook woman. Believe or not, it was California Gold Rush of 1849 that drew settlers to the area. What’s the connection you might wonder? California miners loved to spend their gold on Willapa Bay oysters. So settlers as well as the Chinook people filled boats with the mollusks to be shipped to San Francisco.
First the settlement was called Oyster Beach. But in 1854, community leaders got together and renamed their town, which had grown to 800 residents, Oysterville.
Today, Oysterville is a populated ghost town. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. I had to look up the definition of ghost town to understand it. Before doing so, I defined a ghost town as one that had been abandoned. Turns out the term also refers to a town that still has residents though the number of residents is significantly smaller than earlier in its history.
The part of Oysterville along the Willapa Bay is included in the 80-acre Oysterville National Historic District. Many of the structures were built in the 19th century. In fact, eight houses, the church and the one-room schoolhouse within the historic district are also on the National Register of Historic Places. The houses in the district are maintained privately by their owners while a nonprofit sees to the upkeep of the church and schoolhouse.
Outside of the historic district, you’ll find Oysterville’s post office which is the oldest continuously operating post office in Washington State.
Self-Guided Walk of Oysterville
My sister visited the first week of November. We made sure to get to Oysterville so she could join in on the historic district walk.
We started at the church because it’s the first stop on the self-guided map. Although I’d picked up map at the Seaview Visitor’s Center, there’s a big stack of maps inside the church. Lots of people do exactly what we did though we didn’t see any other tourists for the two hours we explored. I’m guessing the area is flooded in the summer months.
It was a gorgeous day with a bright blue sky. Maybe a tad chilly, but it was November and it was on the water. The walk reminded me a lot of the historic homes walk in Walla Walla, not only because it was like a treasure hunt finding the houses, but because of the detailed descriptions the map provided. It’s nice when you get to see the historic houses plus learn a little something about them and their former residents.
After our lovely walk, we drove to the cemetery where we found the headstones of many of the early residents. It was neat to connect the houses to the headstones. You could really visualize an entire life spent in the community.
Not only was there tons to see and do on the peninsula, the surrounding area was filled with adventures too. I was only there for four weeks so didn’t come close to seeing everything, either on or off the peninsula. But I managed to make it to three fantastic places off the Long Beach Peninsula. Next week, I’ll tell you all about it.
Links to Referenced SSL Blog Posts Above:
To see products recently purchased by readers or to browse and shop at Amazon, follow either of these links. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Huge thanks for your support.