The stretch of coast known as North Beach begins in the vacation and retirement community of Ocean Shores and stretches north for 30 miles to Taholah, on the Quinault Indian Reservation. In the southern section of North Beach, in Ocean Shores, low windswept dunes covered with beach grass back the wide, sandy beach. Kite flying and horseback riding are among the favorite activities here.
North of Ocean City, high bluffs, haystack rocks, secluded beaches, and dark forests create a more dramatic coastline. Along this stretch of coast there is beach access at Ocean City, Griffiths-Priday, and Pacific Beach state parks. Razor clamming is one of the most popular activities on the secluded beaches of this area. To try your hand at clamming, you'll need a license, a shovel, a tide table, and a schedule of when beaches are open for razor clamming, which is only a few times a year. If you've got everything arranged, head out to the beach at low tide and start looking for clam holes. When you spot one, dig fast. Good luck! You can find out when clamming season is open by contacting the Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce (tel. 800/345-6223 or 360/268-9422; www.westportgrayland-chamber.org).
The 18 miles of coastline between Westport and Tokeland is called South Beach or the Cranberry Coast, and along this stretch of beach are plenty of places to access the sand and surf. Four state parks provide the best facilities and easiest access. Twin Harbors State Park is 2 miles south of Westport and has more than 3 miles of beach. Grayland Beach State Park is south of the town of Grayland and has a campground and more than a mile of beach. Both of these parks have interpretive trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Just outside the marina area of Westport is Westhaven State Park, and just south of town is Westport Light State Park, where you'll find the popular Dune Trail, a paved 1.3-mile concrete boardwalk that parallels the beach and links Westport and Westhaven state parks. These latter two parks are day-use areas only.
In the South Beach area, charter fishing, clamming, and whale-watching are the big attractions, and most activity centers on the marina at Westport. Boats head out daily in summer in search of salmon, tuna, and bottom fish. If you'd like to try your luck at reeling in a big one, try Deep Sea Charters (tel. 800/562-0151 or 360/268-9300; www.oceansportfishing.com). Rates range from about $97 to $212 for a day of fishing. In the fall, salmon fishing is also popular right off the docks in the Westport Marina.
Each year between February and May, gray whales migrating to the calving grounds off Baja California, Mexico, pass by the Washington coast. The whales sometimes come so close to the mouth of Grays Harbor that they can be seen from the observation tower at the marina in Westport. However, for a closer look, you might want to head out on a whale-watching boat trip. Deep Sea Charters (above) has trips in March and April, and rates are $30 for adults and $20 for children.
All along the South Beach area between Grayland and Tokeland, you'll see cranberry bogs beside the highway. The cranberry harvest begins around Labor Day and continues on through October. To harvest the tart berries, the bogs are flooded, which causes the ripe berries to float on the surface of the water, where they can be easily scooped up mechanically.
Each year in late April and early May, Bowerman Basin in Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge [ST] (tel. 360/753-9467; www.fws.gov/graysharbor) becomes a staging ground for tens of thousands of Arctic-bound shorebirds. This is one of the largest gatherings of such birds on the West Coast and one of the state's biggest annual events for bird-watchers. If you're a birder, don't miss this impressive event. The refuge is adjacent to the Aberdeen/Hoquiam Airport on the west side of Hoquiam.
Between early May and September, the Westport Ocean Shores Passenger Ferry, Silver King Motel, 1070 Discovery Ave. SE, Ocean Shores (tel. 360/289-3386), connects Ocean Shores with Westport Marina. The ferry operates daily between mid-June and Labor Day, and only on weekends from early May to mid-June and from Labor Day to late September. The crossing takes between 20 and 40 minutes; a round-trip ticket is $10. In Westport, the office is at 321 Dock St. (tel. 360/268-0047).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.