There is such a variety of beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. Haystack and rocky beaches are pummeled by Pacific Ocean waves. Visitors will find calm, sandy beaches on the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the Hood Canal. Freshwater beaches are found on the shores of Lake Crescent. Some beaches can only be reached by hiking down stairways perched on cliffs or long hikes. Other visitors can park and walk right onto the sand.
No matter which beach you choose to visit on the Olympic Peninsula it is sure to be a wonderful experience.
Pro Tip: Unlike many areas of the U.S., Washingtonians head to the beach in the summer to escape the heat. The beaches on the Pacific are wild, windy, and often quite chilly. If you are looking for a beach to lay out in the Sun or swim, a lake or bay beach is a better option.
1. Elwha Beach
The Elwha River dams were removed in 2011 and 2014, which released tons of sediment into the Strait of Juan De Fuca. As the years passed, the beautiful Elwha Beach formed on either side of the Elwha River. It is so wonderful seeing this river recover. New wetlands are now home to beavers, geese, and a variety of wildlife. Look for seals offshore and salmon returning upstream to spawn. What an environmental success! The beach is covered with driftwood and the vast sandy spaces draw people but not too many. This beach is not part of the Olympic National Park, so not many visitors know about it.
2. Rialto Beach
The rocky Rialto Beach is an Olympic National Park beach located near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Strewn with logs and driftwood, this beach is incredibly scenic at any time of the year. Pounding ocean waves pummel the rocks and haystacks. Low tide opens up the 1-mile hike to Hole-in-the-Wall, a haystack with a round hole in it surrounded by tidal pools. A coastal forest is adjacent to the beach just adding to the scenic beauty with its moss-covered trees. If you plan to walk any distance at this beach, come at low tide because it is covered with small stones that make walking challenging; at low tide, you can walk on the sand.
3. Ediz Hook
Mountains, city, and sea — you’ll have views of all three at Ediz Hook. This 3-mile-long sand spit is accessed from Port Angeles and creates a natural harbor off the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Enjoy views of the Olympic Mountains and Port Angeles on one side and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the other. Sea birds flock to the area and you may encounter seals or spot a whale swimming through the strait. The beach is a popular spot for finding sea glass and agates. The protected harbor has calm waters that draw paddleboarders, kayakers, and rowers. It is a perfect spot for a picnic. Make sure to bring your camera; it’s not often you can get a shot of the mountains, city, and sea all in one photo.
4. Kalaloch Lodge
The Kalaloch Lodge overlooks a beautiful Pacific Ocean beach that is flat and sandy, accessed by a steep staircase down the side of a cliff. The sunsets here are stunning. When exploring the Olympic Peninsula, I always stop here to visit the coffee shop and use the restrooms. It is easy to extend your stop for a quick walk on the beach. Better yet, spend the night and snuggle into a blanket and Adirondack chair to watch the sunset.
5. Tree Of Life Beach
This beach is accessed from the Kalaloch Campground and has plenty of public parking to take the short trail to the beach. The Tree of Life, or the Tree Root Cave, is a testament to the resilience and beauty of nature. This majestic Sitka Spruce perches across a ravine with its roots exposed to the air. Somehow, it precariously clings to life and is quite impressive as it overlooks the remnants of demised trees that line the beach. It is a stark reminder of nature’s ability to adapt and endure.
6. Fort Worden Historical State Park
The Fort Worden Historical State Park has more than 2 miles of sandy, saltwater shoreline along the Salish Sea. The waves gently lap onto the shoreline here, offering a delightful coastal retreat for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers. The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is located at the park in two buildings. The main building has a full orca skeleton and a variety of interactive exhibits and videos where visitors can learn about the Salish Sea. On the pier is an aquarium only open during the summer months. It features local, nearshore habitats and species.
A popular activity is strolling the beach and enjoying the panoramic views of the Salish Sea and the rugged Olympic Mountains. During the summer months, kayaks and bikes are available for rent. This park combines a picturesque shoreline with historical charm. Once the site of a military base, visitors can learn the historical and strategic significance of this location. Former batteries overlook the beach and are available to explore. The Point Wilson Lighthouse still belongs to the Coast Guard and is not open to the public, but it is a lovely, scenic photo opportunity. The park has 11 miles of hiking trails.
Pro Tip: Every building has a story at Fort Worden and many are available as vacation rentals. There is everything from small cottages to the mansions that housed senior officers. There is even a castle.
7. The Beach At Lake Crescent Lodge
Crystal-clear waters and gorgeous views await you at the Lake Crescent Lodge. This glacier-carved lake is 624 feet deep and known for its sapphire-colored waters that have very little nitrogen. This lack of nitrogen limits the growth of phytoplankton, such as algae, keeping the water crystal clear. It is so clear that when you step out onto the dock at the Lake Crescent Lodge, you can see all the way to the bottom. Old-growth trees surround the turn-of-the-century lodge. The Adirondack chairs are a perfect spot to sit and enjoy views of the forested mountains, which flow down to the edge of the lake. For the more active traveler, rent a kayak or paddleboard on site.
Pro Tip: If you don’t wish to stay at the lodge, there is a variety of parks and public beaches where you can access Lake Crescent. Check out the Lake Crescent Area Brochure for more information.
8. Ruby Beach
Nestled along the rugged coastline of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Ruby Beach stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. With its pristine sandy shores, dramatic sea stacks, and iconic driftwood, Ruby Beach is an absolute must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.
Iconic sea stacks rise from the crashing waves and the low tide creates tide pools teeming with marine life such as starfish, anemones, and crabs. On the beach, visitors will find weathered driftwood strewn along the shoreline. These gnarled and twisted remnants of ancient trees create natural works of art. When walking along the beach, you’ll often see the wood used to build forts or other sculptures. The sunsets at Ruby Beach are just spectacular with golden hour painting the beach and sea stacks in rosy hues. At a certain point, as the Sun goes down, the sky just seems to turn on and erupt into gold, pink, and orange, leaving visitors in stunned awe at the beauty of it.
For additional information on beaches in the area, visit Olympic National Park. For those that want to hike the beaches in isolated areas of the Olympic Peninsula, you will need an Olympic Coast Beaches Trail Map. When hiking on the Washington Coast, carry a tide chart and know if any section of your trail is underwater at high tide.