Fly a kite, soak in a spa, from Blaine to Long Beach
• Average July high temperature, Long Beach: 65.6°F
• Average July water temperature, Neah Bay: 53°F
• Average July water temperature, Seattle: 56°F
Wrapped in mists and storms much of the year, Washington'sbeaches are like Greta Garbo - moody, passionate. Summer sunshine,like Garbo's rare smile, intensifies everything - trees aregreener, seas bluer, and the warm air ... ahhh, it's like akiss.
Yet even in summer, Washington's is an elusive coast. Miles ofzigzagging shoreline contain hidden mysteries - San Juan Islandcoves, rocky pockets on Puget Sound shores, vast sandy stretches onthe Pacific Coast. Washington's beaches are as hard to know asGarbo. But, oh, the joy of trying.
BEST DINNER ON THE BEACH
Christina's, Orcas Island
This is heaven: Late afternoon on Christina's rooftop deckoverlooking East Sound. A favorite companion, a glass of MadeleineAngevine, and a platter of poached oysters or cracked crab. Couldbe dinner, or just the beginning ...
310 Main St., Eastsound. Dinner only (bar opens at 4 forappetizers); entrées $14.50-$34. Reservations recommended;(360) 376-4904.
BEST DISAPPEARING BEACH
Spencer Spit State Park, Lopez Island
This 1/4-mile-long spit grows or shrinks depending on thetide--but never quite reaches private Frost Island, just beyond itstip. Views of Orcas Island, an old homestead for picnicking, andwalk-in campsites make this a great destination for a day orovernight. Mooring buoys accommodate boaters.
Northeast side of Lopez Island. Information: (360) 902-8844.Camping reservations: (800) 226-7688; www.parks.wa.gov.
BEST BEACH TOWN
Langley, Whidbey Island
Got an hour? Or a weekend? Either lets you savor Langley'scliff-hugging main street. Shop for art, then stop at the tiny Boyand the Dog Park overlook for views of Saratoga Passage. Putter onthe beach--narrow Langley Sea Wall Park runs 1,000 feet below theoverlook and can be reached by stairs or by a path next to the DogHouse Backyard Restaurant. Or overnight at the stylish Inn atLangley (360/221-3033) and watch the tide go out from the comfortof a whirlpool spa.
Southeast side of Whidbey Island, reached from the Seattle areaby the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton. Langley Chamber of Commerce:(360) 221-6765; www.whidbey.com.
BEST CALIFORNIA-STYLE BEACH
Alki Beach, West Seattle
Okay. So you need the constitution of a polar bear to swim here.Still, on a July day, the 2-mile beach bordered by Alki Avenuefeels sunnily Southern Californian. Radios blare as city dwellerscatch the rays and volleyball players churn up the sand. Reserve apicnic table (206/684-4081) and get knockout views of downtownSeattle with your meal. Nearby eateries range from the originalSpud Fish and Chips (2666 Alki Ave. S.W.) to fine dining atPhoenecia at Alki (2716 Alki Ave. S.W.; reservations206/935-6550).
From State 99 south of Seattle, take the West Seattle Freewayexit and follow Harbor Ave. signs.
BEST HARD-TO-REACH BEACH
Ozette Loop Hike, Olympic National Park
It's a long drive and a long hike, but this Olympic Peninsulagem offers a beautiful wilderness beach experience. From OzetteRanger Station southwest of Sekiu, take a 9-mile (about six hours)loop hike - a 3-mile-plus boardwalk stroll to Cape Alava (thewesternmost point in the contiguous United States), 3 miles southalong the ocean, and 3 miles back to the ranger station via anotherboardwalk. Or camp just up from the beach. Just don't bring yourdog - no pooches allowed on the trail.
From Sekiu take State 112 west about 2 miles; follow signs forLake Ozette and turn south on Hoko-Ozette Rd., then continue 21miles to the Ozette Ranger Station. Camping reservations: (360)565-3100. Information: (360) 565-3130. www.nps.gov.
BEST ROMANTIC GETAWAY
Generations of lovers have hidden out in the rustic cabins ofthis Olympic Peninsula lodge. No heart-shaped tubs, just wide,driftwood-laden beaches and nurturing solitude for you and yoursignificant other.
35 miles south of Forks on U.S. 101. $126-$240. 44 cabins,including 8 original bluff cabins (these have views); 20 more roomsin main lodge and a motel unit. (360) 962-2271; www.visitkalaloch.com.
BEST ATLANTIC CITY-STYLE BEACH
On a beautiful day, Ocean Shores's 6 miles of flat sand turnsinto a highway for horseback riders, mopeds, cars, kite fliers,strollers. Inland, there's bicycling, gambling, golf. Most of the'50s-style motels have been upgraded, and new beachfront lodgingabounds--Best Western Lighthouse Suites Inn ($139-$209;800/757-7873), the Shilo Inn ($139-$229; 800/222-2244), and HolidayInn Express ($139-$259; 888/770-7878).
A 70-mile drive west of Olympia, 22 miles west of Aberdeen.Ocean Shores Chamber of Commerce: (360) 289-2451; www.oceanshores.org.
BEST KITE-FLYING BEACH
The state's oldest coastal resort has a restored downtown, a newboardwalk, and 28 miles of sandy beach. But many know it as one ofthe best places in the world to fly a kite. That's why 200,000highfliers gather the third week of every August (in 2002, Aug.19-25) to celebrate. At the World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame,the show of fighter kites is but a tiny portion of a 1,200-kitecollection.
Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau: (800) 451-2542; www.funbeach.com. World KiteMuseum, Third St. N.W. and Pacific Hwy.; admission $1.50; open 11-5daily through August. (360) 642-4020.
BEST DRIFTWOOD BEACH
Fort Canby State Park
Feel the Pacific's awesome power, where the ocean meets theColumbia River at Cape Disappointment. Storms dump driftwood onBenson and Waikiki beaches. You can't burn the driftwood or haul itaway without a permit, but you can admire it, climb on it, and, ifinspiration hits, build temporary creations. New log cabins andyurts provide close-by lodging.
2 1/2 miles southwest of Ilwaco. (360) 902-8844. Cabin and yurtreservations ($42-$50 per night for up to six people): (888)2267688. www.parks.wa.gov.