Adventures on Washington State’s Cranberry Coast, Part II
Isn’t it always the case that when you travel someplace new, you wish you had more time to spend there? We just discovered that in Glasgow (and Edinburgh and Inverness and…) but that’s another blog for another day. This is about Washington State’s scenic Cranberry Coast.
We spent four days there in mid-summer and pined for more. So we returned a month later for a camping trip with long-time friends, Mary and John Tyburski. Again, we were enchanted by the area. Cranberry Coast, Part I is here.
Friday afternoon. Taking I-5 north, we make our ritual stop for milkshakes at the Dairy Barn in Chehalis (Exit 77). Cookie Dough and Hazelnut shakes in hands, we head west on SR6 through PeEll, which has what must be the world’s largest stop signs, and through Frances and Lebam—a town with a name to love. It’s backwards for Mabel.
We pass the Pacific County Fair in Menlo, hurrying on to Raymond, where we pick up SR105. We’re eager to get to our campsite before sundown at Twin Harbors Beach State Park. Setting up a campsite in the dark is not my idea of fun and it’s raining so we are grateful for our snug tent camper. Our days of sleeping on the ground are over. Guess we are getting older…
What a multi-generational community we find! Park demographics include all ages, from infants to grandparents and a diverse, well-behaved canine population. We must have missed the memo that said “bring your dog.” Two doors down, so to speak, at least 30 high school girls (also well-behaved) are on a field trip and eating dinner under the world’s largest tarp.
Much later, two cars of very polite surfers from Port Orchard set up their tents next to ours in the dark. We save them from an imminent medical emergency by lending them our hatchet. Watching a barefoot surfer try to chop wood with machete is not a pretty picture.
Saturday morning. With the rain gone, we explore the beach, which is nearly empty and quite beautiful with seabirds, crashing waves and fishing boats in the distance. I’ve never seen so many whole sand dollars on a beach.
11 a.m. We drive to Westport, which is only a few miles north of the state park. Not surprising, there is LOT to do here. A local blog, Discovering Westport keeps track of what’s happening. The Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce also has a good Web site. Also, check out the live beach cam and for live views of the beachs and marina plus weather info.
The Westport Marina is an active, working marina with fleets of pleasure and commercial fishing boats. The captain of the MV Scooter has returned with four fishermen and is cleaning their salmon catch. Two massive sea lions are savoring the scraps that the captain tosses overboard as he fillets the fish.
12:30 p.m. It’s lunchtime and we stop by the Half Moon Bay Bar and Grill. Panko breaded Willapa oysters, a seafood sampler and Dungeness crab melt on ciabatta sound WAY better than sandwiches back at the campground. The restaurant’s panoramic view of the marina plus a large, see-through aquarium with Nemo and various other tropical fish add to the ambiance.
2 p.m. Across the street from the marina, downtown Westport offers shops and galleries with fine art, kites, jewelry, fudge and the usual beach mementos. We make a mental note to check out the food at the One Eyed Crab.
3 p.m. At the “westernmost winery in Washington State,” we are greeted by the friendly owners of Westport Winery. We enjoy quite a flight of reds and whites in their impressive and busy tasting room. We purchase a bottle of Maritime Muscat and Tyburskis buy Going Coastal Sparking Gewurztraminer. Each bottle purchased benefits of local non-profit group at this family-run winery. Current wines are listed on their Web site.
4:30 p.m. The Grays Harbor Light Station is a significant landmark on the Washington coast. This active lighthouse is Washington State’s tallest at 107’ tall. It’s 123’ above sea level. Mary climbs the 135 steps to the top for the coastal view. We wander around the surrounding woods. John naps at the campground.
5:30 p.m. We’re in Grayland (about 10 minutes south of Twin Harbors) for dinner at the very popular Bennett’s Restaurant. It’s good that we are early because by the time we leave, the line is out the door. Seafood and wine in a great restaurant. I admit it. This is my kind of camping.
7:30 p.m. The fog has cleared and we are watching the sun’s golden orb dip into the sea. Back to the campsite for a campfire and glass of wine.
Sunday morning. Tyburskis take off for home while we head back to the beach for a long walk. We then head back to Westport to explore the charming Westport Maritime Museum. Housed in a 1940 Coast Guard station, the museum features exhibits on community history, ship wrecks, logging, cranberry harvesting and other local topics. Full-sized whale skeletons are displayed in outdoor glass pavilions and the massive Destruction Island Lighthouse lens is showcased in a separate building on the groups. Community museums offer fascinating exhibits. We are glad we visited.
Next, it’s time to figure out where all those surfers are going and how Westport can support multiple surf shops. We are directed to Westhaven State Park, a day-use area with a beach on the south side of the Westport Jetty. There we are amazed to see hundreds of surfers in black wetsuits looking like seals in the water along with kayakers, paddling through the waves. We later read that Westport is Washington State’s premier sport for surfing. Who knew? We didn’t.
1 p.m. It’s time to return home from the Cranberry Coast. Before we leave Westport, we have time to squeeze in one more meal – this time at the One Eyed Crab. The place is packed with Sunday diners eating all manner of seafood from crab legs to tuna to oyster burgers and chowders. Kids are going for the corndogs. We devour halibut (which has a light, tempura-like coating) and chips, and clam chowder. (Only one week later, the Sunday New York Times Travel Section published an excellent review of the restaurant.)
Even after making two trips and six days in the area, we still didn’t have enough time to fully explore the Cranberry Coast. What about a fishing trip? Kayaking in the Willapa Bay? More time in the museums? More local wine? More oysters? We’ll be back.