We’ve been blanketed in fog — weather-wise and mentally — for a week, so had to find the sun. Where to go for a short escape? The longest beach in the world.
Brazil’s 132-mile Praia do Cassino appears to be the indisputable winner in the “world’s longest” category. But we didn’t have the time or the money this weekend to check.
If Long Beach claims to be the world’s longest, fine by us, because it’s the closest. (All the 90-mile-long beaches are in Australia, New Zealand, and the famous Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.)
After almost three hours of driving through fog, we hit the southwest corner of Washington and discovered what we were searching for — sunbreaks. Finally, the sun broke through the clouds and stayed.
Ah, Long Beach, the little longest beach that could.
This is one of our favorite West Coast beaches because it’s so long and wide, you can walk miles without encountering anyone along some stretches.
The sand is tough enough for cars — yes, Washington permits driving on its beaches — yet as fine as powder. Close to the grassy dunes, we sifted sand through our fingers and compared it to powdered snow on the slopes.
Except we were meeting grown men in shorts and T-shirts playing with big kites. And small girls shrieking and racing in and out of the waves. Families were laughing and taking pictures of each other at ocean’s edge, while their dogs plunged into the waves.
There’s a giddiness to being on the beach on the last weekend of October, soaking up the rays.
Long Beach makes it so easy. For those who don’t want to walk hours across the sand, there’s an elegant boardwalk stretching through the seagrass for about a half-mile.
We’ve seen mule deer and rabbits here on other visits — not a single creature this trip.
But the view of the ocean is amazing, especially at sunset. We watched pelicans skim across the waves, and were delighted to see northern harriers hunting.
Every time we visit Long Beach, we walk farther along the wonderful Discovery Trail, an 8.5-mile, paved path winding along the coast above the dune lines. It’s great for bikes (free at some hotels), foot-powered surreys (rent them at Long Beach Moped), and simple hiking.
Unlike the boardwalk, which offers an elevated view of the Pacific, the paved trail sometimes dips below dunes, so hikers can always hear the ocean, but can’t see it. There are some clear paths through the sand to the beach, and visitors are asked to be careful not to damage native grasses or Long Beach’s precious clam beds.
Digging for razor clams is so prized on the Washington coast, that there’s a limit of 15 per day, to preserve the stock. Fines are serious too — collect one clam over the limit and face a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Other illegal clam digging can bring $5,000 fines and a year in jail.
We missed the October clam digs. Another season is set to open Nov. 1, depending on state testing. Licenses and proper gear required.
EAT: We passed on the eggs Bennie with local vegetables in favor of a real Scandinavian breakfast — pickled fish (salmon, cod, bay shrimp), multi-grain toast, and a cheese sampler at Pickled Fish. We sat at a narrow table for two in front of the huge, oceanfront windows and luxuriated in the view and organic Adrift Blend coffee from Columbia River Coffee Roasters. No need for lunch after such a hearty breakfast. Dinner was small-plates heaven, with crab mac ‘n cheese (generous portions of fresh crab and creamy, California cheddar), sardines on flatbread with pickled seaweed, and a roasted beet salad with local cranberries and Oregon smoked blue cheese. The carnivore downed three teensy elk sliders.
Pickled Fish Restaurant, 401 Sid Snyder Dr. SW, Long Beach 98631; 360.642.2344.
STAY: Adrift Hotel and Spa has rooms for as low as $75 this season. This is a cool hotel, unique on the Washington coast for its industrial-recycled-chic and comfort. Rooms are large, most with big-window ocean views, and dramatic prints by Portland photographer Giles Clement. Rooms include LCD TVs and DVD players — suites have a set in the beachfront living room and in the bedroom. Beach bikes are free, and include new, wide-tire models for beach cycling. Movies, board games, table games (shuffleboard, foosball), and books are free too, so this is a family destination.
Adrift is only a few hundred feet from the sand, so a non-view room is still special — the sound of the Pacific lulls you to sleep, in any room. Coffee, tea, and fruit-laced water is available 24 hours in a lounge with a gas fireplace. Wi-Fi is free.
Adrift Hotel, 409 Sid Snyder Dr., Long Beach 98631; 360.642.2311; adrifthotel.com.
PLAY: If this isn’t exactly the world’s longest beach, Long Beach might boast the largest number of kites. There were dozens on the beach when we were there, from school bus-sized works of art that took several adults to manoeuver, to little plastic triangles traded back and forth between sisters. Linger indoors with more than 1,500 kites from 26 countries at the World Kite Museum. It’s billed as the only museum in the U.S. devoted solely to kites.
World Kite Museum, 303 Sid Snyder Dr., Long Beach 98631; 360.642.4020; kitefestival.com.