Saturday, March 31, 2012

An (Ex) Locals Guide to Ocean Shores

Don't go the the crowded beaches in Ocean Shores
Having lived in Ocean Shores during my formative years, I feel like I am pretty much an expert on where to go, what to do and best of all, how to avoid tourists in the North Beach area. Don’t get me wrong, tourism is great and is basically the only thing keeping anyone living in the Harbor. However, a day at the beach to me doesn’t consist of renting bikes, large kites and looking at sad faced horses cringing from the hours of inactivity and sand blowing in their faces. The throngs of visitors circling the main downtown strip is enough to raise the stress level and cause a bout of road rage to the Dalai Lama himself. On a typical 4th of July weekend in Ocean Shores an estimated 400,000 people enter the gates of the town, all converging on the same beach areas. If you are like me, you want to find somewhere away from this.  Luckily, my guide, you will be able to still get you your saltwater taffy fix, let you see some kites and have hours of beachcombing. While there are numerous amenities around the area, most are overpriced, overcrowded and generally below expectations. That is why, with my years of experience in the area, I put together this guide. Enjoy!

About the Area
For simplicity sake, we will be focusing on the area from Ocean Shores to Moclips. This area, with a population of approximately 4,000, seems like it should be much more prosperous. With 5 small towns littering the 21 mile stretch of pristine coast, one can explore and avoid the crowds that always linger at the 3 main beaches in Ocean Shores. The local economy tends to be tourism, logging, and fishing, but aside from tourism, not many jobs are available. Like many cities away from solid infrastructure, drug use and alcoholism run rampant, but the locals are mostly friendly, helpful.

Sand Piper on the Beach
Interestingly enough, despite being isolated from the rest of what seems like the world, the communities have quite separate personalities, and tend to hold long standing grudges against each other. For instance, I lived in Shores (Ocean Shores) and was viewed as an elitist by those who live in Copalis, Pacific Beach or some other outlying small town. However, despite these petty differences, locals all tend to have one common enemy, the tourist. While tourism is the main catalyst for financial gain in the area, many locals find them to be along the same line as how Australia views invasive species. Some locals may not be friendly and/or give you improper directions, but for the most part they will reluctantly be kind and help you out. On a side note, if you are travelling to the area with teenaged children, be aware that a very small group of locals will try to intimidate, fight, drink with or sell drugs to them if they are left alone. This happens in every city, but please be aware of the behavior.

Brief City History of Ocean Shores and Pacific Beach
Ocean Shores: “Discovered” by Captain Robert Gray in 1792, Ocean Shores really had a long, boring first 150 years. It started out as a trappers land, until the trapper sold the south end of the peninsula to a man named Damon (hence Damon Point) who used the south end as a dock for supplies. Eventually he bought the whole peninsula until he gave the land to his grandson, who used it for a cattle ranch. In 1960, the land was bought for “one million dollars,” in hopes that the area could become the Las Vegas of the northwest, since the state government was apparently leaning to legalize gambling. Celebrities flocked to the city, even having Pat Boone become a resident. In the late 1960’s the city earned the moniker of being the “Richest Little City”, as they claimed having a total net worth of nearly $35,000,000 for the 900 residents. However, gambling was deemed illegal and soon the area struggled to generate any growth. 27 miles of canals and lakes were built to help the area become more tourist friendly, which are still accessible today. The area has slowly grown, now with a steady population of around 3000 people.

Old Pacific Beach Hotel, thanks to UW
Pacific Beach: Known to the locals as PB (it is, and never will be Peanut Butter Jelly time in PB) was founded in 1902 after the railroad from Aberdeen was expanded to the coast. It soon became a huge tourist destination for weekenders. Huge storms soon washed away hotels and many of the fancy aspects that made this a tourist destination, but the military used this area as a base in the 1950’s, giving the local economy another boost. Soon the military left, leaving the shell of city to recover slowly. 
Now, Pacific Beach is growing again thanks to quality places to stay, the proximity to the amenities in Ocean Shores and the remoteness that it offers from the throngs of tourists. Visit the shops here for your tourist goods, as they get less visitors and are more thankful for your business.

                                                Best Places to Fly a Kite- in no real order
1)      Damon Point in Ocean Shores
2)      Copalis Beach
3)      Ocean City
4)      Pacific Beach

Beachcombing Hot Spots:
1)      Damon Point in Ocean Shores
Snowy Owl at Damon Point
a.       Located on the southernmost point of Ocean Shores, the collection of sand forms a spit that not only faces the Ocean, but also the interior of Grays Harbor. On a sunny day from Damon Point, one can see the Olympic Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, and Mt. Rainier. After a storm, the beach is prime for collecting shells, agates, floats and the occasional glass ball. In the winter, this area is a hotbed for Snowy Owls and other migratory birds, making it a birders heaven.

2)      Ocean City and Pacific Beach
a.       For some reason, every year I lived in the area, the beach between Ocean City and Pacific Beach was notorious for having things wash up on shore. From boats and planes to whales, seals and jellyfish, these beaches are great to walk, drive or run. Also, in season clamming is occasionally available on these beaches. I also recommend these beaches to fly kites and spend a nice quiet day on the beach away from the masses in Ocean Shores

Places to Stay
1)      Pacific Beach
a.       For your money, there is no better place to experience the North Beach region than at Seabrook beach houses. These places are swanky, and allow you to be removed from the tourists and the depression of the local economy equally. Seabrook is where people who moved away from the harbor go to stay, because they don’t want to experience the negatives of the area.
                                                                          i.      Website:

2)      Copalis Crossing
a.        If forced to stay in Copalis, the best place to go is a camping site called Griffiths-Priday State Park. According to Wikipedia, it “It consists of 364 acres of beach, low dunes, and river mouth with 8316 ft of saltwater shoreline on the Pacific Ocean and 9950 ft. of freshwater shoreline on the Copalis River. Available activities include fishing, clamming, beachcombing, bird watching, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing.” This summary sounds correct to me and honestly, if you want to be in a remote area right on the beach, you can’t beat this place!

3)      Moclips
a.       When Frommers says “You simply won’t find a more setting anywhere on the Washington Coast” you know you have found somewhere amazing. The Ocean Crest Resort is the most impressive place to stay year round. From catching a summer sunset, to watching waves crash and the wind blow during a winter storm, the Ocean Crest is everything you would imagine a lodge on the Washington coast to be. I consider this area to be the true Washington Coast experience, and a perfect getaway for an anniversary, date weekend or just a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

4)      Ocean Shores
a.       Honestly, staying in Ocean Shores proper is much pricier than it should be; however, any of the hotels are fine to stay at. You can also camp out toward Damon Point or at Ocean City State Park. The best indoor lodging for the money is a stay at the Quinault Beach Resort. With a more private section of the beach, great food and a pool and hot tub, this is the best lodging destination for the Ocean Shores area.

Other Places of Interest and Things to Do:
Life is a Beach
      1)      Walking on or near the Ocean Shores Jetty
     2)      Canoeing in the 27 miles of man-made lakes and canals in Ocean Shores
     3)      Driving the beach (Please be careful and read all signs
    4)      Golfing in 30 mile an hour winds in Ocean Shores

From North Beach News. Drive Carefully
If you want a crowded, typical tourist experience in Ocean Shores, please visit their website. It has lots of information. They have many stores selling the same t-shirts, knickknacks and numerous flavors of salt-water taffy. I am not diminishing this experience, but to capture the true spirit of the area, you should see it through the eyes of a local.
Enjoy the beach, and no matter what type of trip you take, remember that it should be fun!

See you on the trails!
Douglas Scott
Exotic Hikes

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