Beachcombing in the Pacific Northwest: Worth the Wait

By Tarah Nicole 

beachcombing near seattle

The beauty all around the Pacific Northwest is like no other. My hubby and I briefly lived here when we first started dating over 15 years ago, and we’ve always been infatuated with its serene mystical beauty. We visited ten years ago when our daughter was about one, and we’ve always dreamed of returning. Needless to say, it’s been ten years too long to get back out and adventure here.

Pacific Northwest water view

One thing I really appreciate here is the way buildings are built around old majestic trees; it’s quite impressive to travel along the highways when stunning trees line every view. This truly allows you to appreciate the natural beauty all around as you go about your daily life.

I also appreciate the chill drivers who just seem to be enjoying the ride. Not in a hurry to get anywhere, most drivers are content going five under the speed limit and staying in their exact spot from the time they get on the highway until they reach their destination (total opposite of the Chicago drivers I’m used to). Another great thing that I forgot how much I missed is simply the general kindness of people; they’ll ask how your day is and wait for a reply; they won’t push you out as quickly as possible, and they’re willing to share a bit about them to see you smile!

view of washington from the plane

Needless to say our li’l pack enjoyed a nice extended weekend reuniting with our family just north of Seattle. This adventure is our daughter’s first trip on a plane that she remembers, first time seeing the mountains, first time meeting many family members, first trip to see the ocean, and much more.

A few months back, when we planned our trip to a cousins’ reunion in Lake Stevens, Washington, I asked my hubby if we could do our own little mini vacation as well; it has been ten years since we took more than a weekend away, and he agreed without hesitation. We had two general plans of what we were hoping to do while out in the Pacific Northwest, and one ended up working out. My brother-in-law needed a ride to the airport so we arranged our travel time to be able to drop him off.

First Stop: The Beach

washington beachcombing finds

That led our li’l pack right next to our old apartment by Puget Sound. My hubby and I looked at each other in sheer excitement—we both knew where we were. We wandered down the street and ended up at our old beachside sanctuary where we used to take nightly walks with our first husky pup together. The beach is right next to the marina in town. Arrive to the shore (imagine this: densely forested hilly bluff sides, a cute pathway, and bridge over a river), climb over some rocks and huge driftwood piles, and you’re there, with gorgeous Puget Sound and Mountain views all around.

We luckily happened to hit the shore at a negative low tide, thanks to a tip from my sweet sister-in-law. Not expecting to find much but broken shells, we started to wander and chat. I had my hubby lift up a larger rock to show our daughter the ocean critters hiding underneath. Our girl was infatuated with crabs of all sizes, mussels, clams, and more. It was absolutely awesome to share. 

We wandered a bit more, my hubby and daughter both finding lovely pieces of beach glass, and rare colors by us, to boot…and then it finally happened. I about passed out from excitement. I found my first piece of salt water sea glass, a frosty light blue wonky heart-shaped piece. After that, we just kept finding beachcombing treasures. We each ended up finding some sea glass, pottery, stones, empty shells, and I even found a spark plug. After almost two hours exploring together, we filled our largest shells with our finds and headed back to the car. We washed up and headed down the coast to find new perspectives on the Pacific Ocean.

Adventure In Astoria

bridge near astoria oregon in the fog

From the Seattle Tacoma Airport (SeaTac) we headed down the coastal highway to Oregon. We stayed the night in Astoria, as we had fallen in love with this riverside city when we first visited ten years ago. Many movies have been filmed in Astoria. The mouth of the Columbia River boasts views of bridges, old canneries, freighters, lost ships, and more. The spectacular scenes all around are like no other—when the fog rolls in over the houses on the bluff it’s like a well-planned scene from a favorite movie.

cannon beach haystack rock

I’ll say it again, there is something magical about this part of the country. We headed south to infamous Cannon Beach and its astounding sights, including Haystack Rock, which is basalt and was formed when lava flowed from the Blue Mountains and Columbia River Basin about 15–16 million years ago. This basalt sea stack stands at 235 feet. It is enchanting and appears to have faces in it as you wander around its magnificent beauty. I’m thankful we were there when it was foggy as we got the full effect and saw many of its faces.

As we wandered around and enjoyed the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and its amazing perspective formations, I was intrigued by the textures washing up to our toes. I started collecting small basalt stones; some with quartz or agate forming on them, shell fragments, seaweed, and rope…we even saw a few different kinds of jellyfish. It was a fantastic time. We headed back to our hotel off the Columbia River in Astoria and enjoyed watching the fog and freighters all night.

Last Stop: The Beach

hiking in pnw

On our way back to SeaTac we had initially decided we wanted to try to find a hotel with a pool so we could just chill for the night and head home in the morning. Well, it seems that Washington had other plans for us. We ended up at our hotel to find the pool out of service, which led us to dinner instead. A thought came to my mind as the sun began to set…I looked at my hubby and daughter and asked if they’d mind if I headed to our old beach, which was less than three miles from our hotel. They both exclaimed they wanted to come along.

We pulled up to the local beach near our old place that we used to drive to in the morning before work. We called it Jurassic Beach. It has a long downhill pathway with huge ferns, moss, and trees that lead to a bluff over the sound, and some intense stairs that lead down to the sound and a gorgeous driftwood-covered shoreline. To one side is the mountains and the sun setting, dead center is a lovely lighthouse that appears to be floating in the sound, and to the other side is Mt. Rainer boasting in all her glory as planes head over the horizon to land at SeaTac.

sea pottery from pacific northwest

We wandered for just a few minutes. I found some cool lined stones that appeared to have letters on them, and my hubby and daughter each found me a piece of sea glass. We headed back up the beach, intense stairs, and the steep forest pathway as the sun set behind the mountains. The colors changing over the horizon were absolutely brilliant…every hue in the spectrum seemed to grace our walk back as if nature was giving us the gift of a spectacular embrace. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and quite the magnificent end to our trip. My hubby and I are both so grateful to share these special places with our daughter.

best beaches for beachcombers

Learn more about the best beaches and destinations for sea and beach glass, seashells, fossils, rocks, and more beach finds around the world. Articles ›

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine November/December 2022 issue.

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