Water & beach activities
Washington State Parks offer a wide variety of beach- and water-related activities for the whole family.
Some of the best times to explore the wonders of beaches at Cape Disappointment, Grayland Beach, Griffiths-Priday, and other Pacific beaches are after winter storms and during low tide. Other favorite places to explore beaches in Washington include Joseph Whidbey and serene Sequim Bay.
Post the "gone fishing" sign on your door and head for one of the 80+ parks where you can dangle a hook. Many state park lakes and ponds, such as Cascade Lake at Moran, are regularly stocked with rainbow, cutthroat, and kokanee trout. Fish for largemouth bass at Curlew Lake in the sunny Okanogan Highlands, or for salmon and trout at Seaquest in the shadow of Mount St. Helens. Triton Cove on Hood Canal, once a small trailer-in fishing resort, is still a great spot for catching offshore salmon, red snapper, and cod.
A current Washington state fishing license is required for all but a few game species. For license information, visit the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) licensing webpage or call (360) 902-2464. For current season openings and fishing locations, visit WDFW’s website.
Shellfish & Seaweed Harvesting
Edible Northwest shellfish, abundant on many park beaches, can be harvested in season. Visitors may harvest clams, oysters, mussels, goose barnacles, Dungeness crab, red rock crab, shrimp (including sand shrimp), scallops, squid, octopus, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crayfish and seaweed from approved parks during open seasons.
Clamming and oyster harvesting are excellent at Potlatch and Belfair (south Hood Canal) and Dosewallips (north Hood Canal). Many state parks provide great crab wading or crab pot fishing locations. Other good shellfish-gathering spots include Spencer Spit, Birch Bay, Fort Flagler and Twanoh. Daily personal catch limits apply for all harvestable species.
Seaweed may be taken from Fort Flagler, Fort Ebey and Fort Worden state parks from April 16 to May 15 only. All other state parks are closed year-round to seaweed harvesting.
You must have a Washington state shellfish license to harvest shellfish, squid, octopus, sea cucumbers, and seaweed. For license information, visit the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) licensing webpage or call (360) 902-2464. For current season openings and beach location visit WDFW website. Shellfish harvesters are urged to check the Department of Health Washington shellfish safety map for health-related closures and advisories on the same day they plan to harvest.
Good scuba diving can be found at more than 20 state parks, including Fort Ward on Rich Passage and boat-access-only Blake Island. There’s an artificial reef to explore at Saltwater, just minutes away from both Seattle and Tacoma. Divers especially like Potlatch for its accessible location and its easy diving descent.
Several riverfront parks are of special interest to whitewater kayakers. Big Eddy, a satellite of Wallace Falls, offers whitewater adventure on the Skykomish River. Riverside welcomes experienced kayakers with solid local knowledge of the Little Spokane River. Kanasket-Palmer is strictly for experts only.
As of May 15, 2015, people can ride like the wind along sections of ocean beaches in kite buggies, blo-karts, kite boards and other wind/sand sailing recreational vehicles. Wind-powered vehicles are now allowed—subject to certain conditions and seasonal restrictions—in designated areas on Long Beach, South Beach and North Beach in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties. Check state park kiosks and offices for maps before you head out. Check state park kiosks and offices for maps before you head out or download the maps here (Long Beach map (PDF), South Beach map (PDF), North Beach map (PDF)). Find out what you need to know before you go to be safe and have fun—download the guidelines for using wind-powered vehicles on Washington’s ocean beaches (PDF).
Some of the world’s best windsurfing is found in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where more than a half-dozen state parks boast ideal sailboarding conditions. Doug’s Beach is rated for advanced windsurfers, but nearby Columbia Hills (with the same high winds but no barge traffic or swift river currents) is perfect for beginners. Other popular windsurfing parks include Crow Butte, Maryhill, Lincoln Rock, and Lake Wenatchee. Saltwater sailboarders catch the wind at Dash Point near Tacoma and Shine Tidelands on Hood Canal.