Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula Is an Honorary Part of the Oregon Coast
For many Portlanders, a weekend at the beach means Oregon's north coast: families head to Cannon Beach and Seaside, while others spend a couple of boozy nights in Astoria, where the north coast ends. But just across the Columbia River sits the Long Beach Peninsula—a sliver of land, separated from the rest of Washington by Willapa Bay, that's been a bustling vacation destination since the 1870s.
Indoors and out, visitors will find much to love about the peninsula's family-friendly attractions—most famously Marsh's Free Museum, home to Jake the Alligator Man (a mummified half-man, half ... well, you know). A few blocks away, the tiny, family-run Neptune Movie House shows new releases and more on two indoor screens—the theater started an outdoor drive-in experience during the pandemic.
The 8.5-mile Discovery Trail runs north-south through the area's forests and dunes—with occasional beach views and public art displays along the way. Cape Disappointment State Park offers hiking trails through old-growth forests, a small museum that tells the story of Lewis & Clark, the ruins of old military bunkers, and two lighthouses. The park's massive campground hosts more than 200 sites, three cabins, 14 yurts, and two vacation homes at the base of a windswept headland. (Most sites fill months ahead of the summer rush, especially for weekend stays, so make your reservations yesterday.) At the northern edge of the peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Willapa Bay and offers easy beach access, several hiking trails, and plentiful opportunities to spy native and migrating birds.
The peninsula sits between Willapa Bay, noted for its prolific oyster beds, and the Pacific Ocean; naturally, seafood dominates food menus all over the region. The Depot Restaurant, housed in a converted train station that dates to 1888, is a standout. The fine-dining spot specializes in fresh-caught seafood and locally sourced ingredients—think oysters from Willapa Bay, cranberries from neighboring bogs, and mushrooms foraged from nearby forests. On the top floor of the Adrift Hotel at Pickled Fish Restaurant, the views are just as drool-worthy as the menu, which pairs seasonal seafood specialties with creative cocktails.
It's not all fish: Dylan's Cottage Bakery & Delicatessen has been a community fixture since 1908, and is beloved for its fresh-baked, scratch-made pastries, doughnuts, and breads. Wash everything down at the North Jetty Brewery, which crafts a stellar lineup of ales and lagers.
For bedding down, the Long Beach Peninsula has seen a recent influx of hip overnight options that range from rustic to something approaching luxe. (Even the area's nicer hotels might decorate with repurposed cranberry boxes or use upcycled doors in lieu of bed headboards.)
In Ilwaco, the chic Salt Hotel boasts modern rooms, an outdoor gathering space, and a second-floor pub that overlooks a working harbor and the Columbia River. Farther north, the enchanting Sou'wester Historic Lodge and Vintage Travel Trailer Resort hosts more than 30 vintage trailers that date back to the 1940s—as well as lodge rooms, cabins, tent sites, and RV spaces.
Closer to Long Beach proper, find the Victorian-inspired Shelburne Hotel, the longest continuously operating hotel in Washington; Boardwalk Cottages, with 12 units a short walk from the beach; and the Adrift Hotel (its pool is pictured at top), offering modern-industrial rooms alongside on-site attractions that include a craft distillery, heated saline pool, and loaner cruiser bikes.
Top photo courtesy Adrift Hotel