Washington's hidden coast

Escape to the Long Beach Peninsula for fresh seafood, beach strolls, and the rough charm of shore towns

Tree-lined street
Photo: Jim Henkens

Foodies have been flocking to the Long Beach Peninsula for a long time. Ever since, in fact, Jimella Lucas and Nanci Main started coaxing exciting seafood dishes from their restaurant perched on the Nahcotta dock.

That was 20 years ago. Today, oysters are still caught in the peninsula's Willapa Bay, salmon is troll-caught just offshore, and cranberries and wild berries and mushrooms still flourish. So, naturally, when my friend Betsy and I started talking about a trip to the peninsula ― Betsy, who starts planning the next meal while we're forking up crumbs from this one ― our conversations focused on food.

Winding up the Oregon coast to Astoria and over the Columbia River bridge, we debated where to dine. The Shoalwater Restaurant, tucked inside the elegant vintage Shelburne Inn? Moby Dick Hotel and Oyster Farm, where bivalves come from the hotel's own oyster beds? The Ark perhaps? The former owners, Lucas and Main, sold it in 2004, but we were curious about its recent incarnation under new owners.

So, on just a few days' notice, we'd found rooms at an inn within earshot of the sea. (Among the many pleasures of spring on the Long Beach Peninsula ― the silvery flocks of migrating shorebirds, the unpredictable but often unnervingly beautiful weather ― is the lack of crowds.)

I slept that first night with the window cracked, letting in the salt air and low rumble of waves from beyond the dunes, then rose early for a walk down the wide, flat beach, returning on the paved trail and wooden boardwalk that run through the dunes. In the town of Long Beach, we briefly browsed the kite shops and gift shops and Marsh's Free Museum, a collection of souvenirs, oddities, and attractions like Jake the Alligator Man. Then we hopped in the car, intent on spending the day browsing and nibbling our way north to land's end.



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