Weekend wonder at Long Beach Peninsula
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Long Beach Peninsula is the kind of place I dream about when I imagine quiet walks along a seemingly endless shoreline, ocean-inspired meals and blissful silence but for the whoosh of the waves.
This 28-mile tongue of land cradled by the Pacific Ocean, Willapa Bay and the Columbia River binds a handful of sleepy communities that feel lost in time and almost completely unchanged over the years. Come for the soothing melody of the ocean, the joy of biking through sand dunes with the wind in your hair and the exhilaration of forest hikes to jaw-dropping vistas.
We checked in at Adrift Hotel, a beachside property that offers complimentary bikes, an irresistible way to explore the coastline. We took to the Discovery Trail, an eight-mile paved bike path that winds through the sand dunes, past bright yellow bursts of fireweed, alongside dune grass blowing in the wind and sandpipers scurrying close to the shoreline.
We stopped at the peninsula’s southernmost hamlet, Ilwaco, for lunch and a salty cucumber cocktail at the Salt Hotel & Pub, a cute, harbor-side restaurant where the ahi tuna on the tacos is reeled in straight from the waters offshore. Stroll along the harbor and it’s easy to tell fishing is Ilwaco’s main attraction. Starting in May, sturgeon and salmon charters depart daily from the port, taking avid anglers out in search of a great catch.
You can’t visit the peninsula without heading to Cape Disappointment State Park, named by Captain Meares in 1788, when he failed to cross the bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. A notoriously dangerous crossing, it’s a place where millions of gallons of freshwater collide with ocean swells, creating waves that reach heights of 40 feet.
Thanks to dense fog, fierce currents and a shallow, shifting sandbar, some 2,000 vessels have sunk here since 1792, hence the nickname the “graveyard of the Pacific.” One of the many picturesque beaches at the park, Dead Man’s Cove, earned its name because of the sailors’ bodies that would wash up on its shores.
A fabulous array of forest hikes can be found at Cape Disappointment, with trails that lead uphill to its two lighthouses, and down toward the sand dunes and the beach. On the coastal forest loop trail the sheer girth of trees at least 200- to 300-years-old is compelling, while the hike past Dead Man’s Cove to Cape Disappointment lighthouse has a series of spectacular scenic overlooks, each one more spellbinding and uplifting than the one before it.
On our second night we slept at the Shelburne Hotel in Seaview, the oldest hotel in continuous operation in Washington state. With its wood-paneled walls, stained glass windows and original claw foot tubs, the Shelburne’s 15 rooms date back to 1896 and have been lovingly preserved and restored.
After dinner we walked to Seaview Beach for a spectacular sunset walk and sampled Adrift Distiller’s delectable cranberry liqueur before slipping into a blissful sleep. We returned home soothed by the quiet beauty and indisputable charm of the peninsula. Really, a weekend here is all the time you need to calm your soul.
For more details, go to http://www.visitlongbeachpeninsula.com
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