Seven Wild Beaches in the Pacific Northwest

If you’re look­ing for a beach where you can buy Mai Tais from a cabana and play vol­ley­ball in a nice raked court, look else­where. These Pacif­ic North­west beach­es are as rugged as they are beau­ti­ful, and the dif­fi­cul­ty of get­ting to these spots only enhances their beauty.

Ahous Bay, British Columbia

A mile-long cres­cent of sand that can only be reached by sea kayak on Van­cou­ver Island’s rain­for­est-clad West Coast.

The west coast of Var­gas Island, British Columbia

High­lights:  Hav­ing a long stretch of beach acces­si­ble only to you and a few oth­er skilled kayak­ers. Pad­dle the rocky coast­line of Var­gas and Blun­den Islands, vis­it­ing wild surf beach­es along the way. Don’t be sur­prised to see wolves trot­ting down the beach in the morn­ing and evening.

Cape Ala­va, Washington

Where the Cape Ala­va Trail ends after 3.5 miles of slip­pery board­walk at the beach, you’ve reached the main entry point to some of the most spec­tac­u­lar coast­lines in the world: 72 miles of wilder­ness beach, head­land, and sea stacks of Olympic Nation­al Park.

The West Coast of Olympic Nation­al Park, west of Lake Ozette

High­lights: Off­shore sea stacks, spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets, and the wilder­ness beach that extends for days of back­pack­ing to the north or south. Look for Makah pet­ro­glyphs etched into the rocks at Wed­ding Rocks, a few miles to the south. Hik­ing trips range from a 9.5‑mile loop between Ozette, Cape Ala­va, and Sand Point to a 20-mile down the coast to Hole in the Wall and Rial­to Beach. Keep your food in bear canisters—not because of bears, but clever raccoons.

Coast Trail, Red­woods Nation­al Park

After hik­ing through the coastal red­woods, you’ll find your­self on the wide-open coast­line with scream­ing gulls and bark­ing sea lions.

Red­woods Nation­al Park south of Cres­cent City, CA

High­lights: Hik­ing through the most majes­tic for­est on earth, only to open up on the coast, where you can hike for miles in either direc­tion. Watch­ing Elk on the beach at sun­set, as the evening coastal fog moves inland.

Pho­to by Jon Eppard

Toleak Point, Washington

On the south coast of Olympic Nation­al Park, part of a 17-mile trip from Third Beach to Oil City

High­lights: This isn’t a walk on the beach—it’s a hike, com­plete with round­ing rocky head­lands at low tide, ford­ing streams, and rope lad­ders up rock walls. The rewards are worth it: incred­i­bly stun­ning rocky head­lands like the Giant’s Grave­yard, bald eagles, and riv­er otters cavort­ing on the beach.

Cow Bay, British Columbia

ClayoquotNod off in your tent lis­ten­ing to whales. Wake up to either hike or paddle.

The south­west cor­ner of Flo­res Island, Clay­oquot Sound, British Columbia

High­lights: Cow Bay’s not named for bovines, but for female Gray whales that feed in the shal­lows dur­ing sum­mer. Wolves often cavort on the beach. A mas­sive bay with small surf, a fresh­wa­ter creek, and access to the Wild Side Trail on Flo­res Island, the only ways in are via the trail or by sea kayak. For skilled kayak­ers in calm con­di­tions, you’re per­fect­ly posi­tioned to pad­dle up the exposed out­er coast of Flo­res Island for a soak at Hot Springs Cove. For hik­ers, the Wild Side back­pack­ing trail begins at First Nations vil­lage of Ahousat and ends at Cow Bay.

Point of Arch­es, Washington

The poster shot of Olympic Nation­al Park is no accident.

Point of Arches

The North Coast of Olympic Nation­al Park

High­lights: Arguably the most stun­ning coastal spot in the low­er 48, Point of Arch­es is a series of sea stacks, head­lands, and coves sep­a­rat­ing Shi Shi Beach from the rest of the Olympics’ coastal trail. It’s as rugged as it is beau­ti­ful: you’ll be haul­ing your pack up and over head­lands with ropes and wood­en stairs sus­pend­ed from cliff faces. But it will be worth it. There are few beach­es this wild and beau­ti­ful. For an added bonus, watch the Olympic pop­u­la­tion of sea otters snack on the tide­pool life.

Vancouver Island

Rugged Point, Van­cou­ver Island

A dif­fi­cult-to-reach sec­tion of Van­cou­ver Island between Kuquout Sound and north Noot­ka Island, one of the least vis­it­ed sec­tions of Van­cou­ver Island

High­lights: Miles and miles of wild beach cov­ered only with wolf and bear tracks, with plen­ty of pro­tect­ed rock land­ings on the north and south ends. Reach­able only by sea kayak or water taxi, Rugged Point is a great spot for kayak surf­ing, pad­dling with numer­ous Gray and Hump­back whales, and explor­ing off­shore rocks.