The Hidden Coast Scenic Byway is an unassuming stretch of road that winds its way along a less traveled and unspoiled section of Washington’s coastline. Far removed from the bustle of city life, this journey will take visitors back in time to experience a slower, more tranquil pace. From pristine sandy beaches to rugged cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the scenery is awe-inspiring. There is an amazing amount of beauty packed into just an hour-long drive with no stops, but you will want to stop along the way.
When following Highway 109, the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, be prepared for a lack of services. These towns are tiny. One may have a gas station, the other a market. The highway abounds with old family-owned resorts that generations of Washington residents in the know have visited year after year. They are charming but not necessarily up to date. For a more luxurious experience, plan to make Seabrook your home base during your trip.
My lodging at Seabrook was hosted for one night and I paid for the second night. Additional items were included as part of the press trip. All opinions are my own.
This road trip begins in Hoquiam on the shores of Grays Harbor. The town is known for its logging history and historic homes. Visitors won’t want to miss the Polson Museum. Donated to the city by the Arnold Polson family, in 1976, this historic mansion became a museum highlighting local history. It also has a nice gift shop and you can picnic on the grounds. The Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is a nice destination to stretch your legs and observe shorebirds from the 1,800-foot boardwalk.
2. Ocean Shores
A quintessential beach town, Ocean Shores has long been a family favorite on the Pacific Ocean. During the summer, enjoy all your favorite activities such as beachcombing, go karts, outdoor dining at local seafood restaurants, and much more. This vibrant town doesn’t shut down in the off season. With many full-time residents, there is always something going on. Make sure to check out the event calendar. There are events taking place each month, many at the Ocean Shores Convention Center. One popular annual event is the Celtic Music Feis, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. Highlighting Irish music and dancing, it is a fun event. Bennett’s Fish Shack is a local favorite. Make sure to try the cheese curds — the best I’ve ever eaten.
3. Ocean City
Blink and you will miss it, but Ocean City is worth a stop to visit the Ocean City Market Place. Throughout the year, special events bring in local and international chainsaw artists as well as vendors. The events are free and provide an opportunity to observe this unique art form. This sleepy area off the coast also offers many RV parks and older beach “resorts” where you can enjoy the local sandy beaches.
4. Copalis Beach
This cute hamlet is a beach town like no other. Famed for “razor clams” from the local beach, Copalis Beach has a rustic charm that is perfect for a coastal getaway. Make sure to check out the Green Lantern Pub, a local favorite.
An interesting stop while visiting Copalis Beach is the Ghost Forest. Formed by a tsunami, these eerie trees can be seen from a kayak or canoe. Public access is from a pull-off near the entrance of Griffiths-Priday State Park. Plan to visit the park as well for its beautiful beach. Pass by grassy sand dunes to a beach that is bordered by the Copalis National Wildlife Refuge and the Copalis Spit Natural Area. It is also a popular spot for razor clam harvesting when in season.
Iron Springs Resort
The Iron Springs Resort has been an iconic Washington resort since the 1940s. Generations of families have vacationed here with the tradition passed on. The cabins are newly renovated with full kitchens, satellite TV, and Wi-Fi throughout the resort. There is an onsite general store, private beach access points, and hiking trails. The property is gorgeous and the cabins are situated for the best views.
Copalis Beach Airport
Also known as the Copalis State Airport, it is the most unique airfield in Washington. Located near where the Copalis River flows into the ocean, this is the only beach airport in the state where it is legal to land your aircraft. It is a tricky place to land and only for an experienced pilot. Be sure to land at low tide. There’s no overnight aircraft parking.
Town or resort? Seabrook is a little of both. This planned community has full-time residents and vacation rentals with a darling, small-town atmosphere. It is such a surprise driving the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere when the highway slows to 25 mph and this vibrant town seems to appear from the mist. It is very upscale. I stayed here while exploring the areas off the Washington Coast. The town was inspired by Seaside in Florida, made famous by the movie The Truman Show, which was filmed there.
I chose the adorable Seaberry cottage to rent during my stay for two reasons: the location and it was pet-friendly. The Seaberry is on the oceanside of the resort. The location was perfect due to the proximity to beach access, and it was just a short walk to the Seabrook town center with shops, restaurants, and a newly opened marketplace.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to the location of your rental if you have a pet. Most visitors just bike everywhere, but with a pet, you will most likely walk. The resort is large and vacation rentals towards the back of the property can be quite a hike to the town center.
The Salty Dog
The cute pet store, The Salty Dog, is a must-stop for all dog lovers. It carries so many unique and fun items for a man’s best friend. Crates are available for rent during your stay as dogs are not allowed to be left in the vacation rentals without being secured. The store also has a dog wash available with an elevated tub and all the necessities such as shampoo, towels, and a hair dryer.
See where the forest meets the sea at the lovely Ocean Crest Resort, which is home to one of few restaurants in the area. Relax at the onsite Cedar Serenity Spa. The resort is nestled on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a heavily wooded property. Hike an elevated boardwalk to reach the beach or enjoy other hiking trails nearby. For the history lover, visit the Museum of the North Beach and learn about the John Wayne movie filmed in Moclips.
The Hidden Coast Scenic Byway ends at Taholah, a small village located on the Quinault Indian Reservation. Visitors are welcome but only in certain areas. The beaches in this area are not open to the public. The Quinault People live in the same area their ancestors have for centuries. Plan to visit the Quinault Cultural Center to learn about the history of its people and view the incredible basket collection. Also visit Quinault Pride Seafood, which has a store at the cannery. There is a variety of seafood available for purchase as well as souvenirs.
End your visit by returning along Highway 109. The Hidden Coast Scenic Byway is on the Olympic Peninsula and you can easily extend your stay by visiting the Olympic National Park. It is not too far away and I added time at Lake Quinault and Ruby Beach with a day trip from Seabrook.