67 miles W of Olympia, 67 miles S of Lake Quinault, 92 miles N of Long Beach

Washington's central coast -- the North and South Beach areas and the Grays Harbor towns of Aberdeen and Hoquiam -- is something of an anomaly. Though far from being the most scenic stretch of Washington coast, it has the state's most popular beach destination, Ocean Shores, a modern beach development with numerous oceanfront hotels and hundreds of vacation homes. Although not as scenic as the Olympic Peninsula coastline, this area is easy to access from the cities of Puget Sound -- Ocean Shores is less than an hour east of Olympia -- and is a popular weekend vacation spot.

The most scenic stretch of this coastline is known as North Beach, the beach north of the mouth of Grays Harbor. The farther north you go on this stretch of coast, the more spectacular is the scenery, even rivaling the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula's shoreline in some places. The South Beach area, so named because it occupies the south side of Grays Harbor, is an 18-mile stretch of flat beach bordered on the south by Willapa Bay. At the north end of South Beach is the town of Westport, Washington's busiest sportfishing and whale-watching port. Across the mouth of Willapa Bay from the South Beach area lies the northern tip of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Separating North Beach and South Beach is the large bay known as Grays Harbor, on whose shores are the two lumber-mill towns of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. These towns were once some of the most prosperous in the state, as their stately Victorian mansions and imposing commercial buildings attest. Unfortunately, they have yet to benefit from the prosperity that has overtaken the Puget Sound region, and historic commercial buildings stand empty and abandoned. Still, history is to be seen in these towns, though most people visit this region for the beaches, fishing, and clamming.