Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Portland Report reviews The Beach

Last weekend the lovely T and I headed north and west to Long Beach. That’s right, north and west, not south and west. We spent the weekend on the Long Beach, Washington peninsula.

A number of people warned me ahead of time that there is nothing to do in Long Beach, that there is no excitement, no arcades, no boardwalk, no stuff. That’s ok! I’m not much of a shopper in the first place, and I rarely feel the need for commemorative t-shirts or coffee mugs to serve as tangible evidence that I have been somewhere. So, I don’t mind if there aren’t very many tourist shops on the peninsula, in fact, all the better.

We went after Labor Day, so the tourist population was decreased anyway. There are two stoplights on the Peninsula. One is a blinking red light so that hardly even counts. Suffice it to say, there was no traffic to speak of. We escaped Portland early enough on Friday to dodge most of the outbound rush.

We stayed in a cottage on the main drag. It was small but cute and the bed was extremely comfortable. A funny thing about hotels in Long Beach is that most of them are not on the water. A few of the newer ones are and have the coveted ocean view, but the majority are along the main road or in little forest clearings. I didn’t see any that had the kind of beach frontage where you open your sliding glass door and walk out onto the sand. Of course, there may be some that I missed. I wasn’t there to do a comprehensive lodging review. The cottages we stayed in are for sale but I’ve never been tempted by the life of an innkeeper.

Saturday morning was cloudy and cool but we went to the beach anyway. We’re Pacific Northwesterners! A little moisture isn’t going to keep us indoors! We walked probably a half a mile down the sand and then just sat and watched the breakers. Mostly, it was to give the old dog a rest. We decided that we need to invest in one of those collapsible water bowls that places like REI have. The dogs were thirsty but had to wait until we got back to civilization for a drink.

The sun broke through and the clouds burned off by about noon. By then we had gone back to the cottage, watered the dogs, had a quick pee, and set off again for points north. We went up the ocean side as far as we could and spent some time looking at houses and lots that were for sale. Despite the economy being in the toilet, the prices were out of our range. Saw some beautiful lots with ocean views but 200K is not within our budget. While we were driving around we realized that we were in some kind of residential community. Not just a group of houses that are in the same vicinity, but the kind that requires memberships and dues. No thanks! That kind of thing puts me right off.

We fought our way free of the dreaded homeowners association neighborhood and headed over to the bay side of the peninsula. The Willapa Bay is beautiful! It’s huge, for one thing, and across the water are islands and mountains covered with fir trees. The sun was out and the water was sparkling. It was really lovely.

We drove around a little and found the charming town of Oysterville. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and they are doing a great job of maintaining it.

It is easily the most appealing town on the peninsula but very small and, unless you own an oyster bed, there is no work at all. Well, I would guess that just about anyone could get a job shucking oysters but that doesn’t really appeal to me. We stopped at a cannery with a retail shop and bought a small container of extra small oysters. We also got their own special brand of breading mix and, for a snack, some smoked salmon spread. So Delicious!

After that T wanted to head back into town but I insisted that we go to the end of the peninsula. Insisted! I wanted to see the end before we turned around. Here is where I realized that my camera was back in the room – we found the road that went as far as it could and sure enough, it said END. It was Washington SR 103.

Actually, you can’t go to the end of the peninsula. It’s a combination of state park and national wildlife refuge. There are hiking trails, though, and we took the shorter loop which skirts along the snowy plover breeding ground and then turns back through the forest. We wanted to take the longer hike which goes across the peninsula, down the ocean beach for half a mile and then back across the peninsula, but we had the old dog with us and there was no way she could have made it. I, for one, was not up to carrying her back to the car. As it was, we stopped and rested several times so that she wasn’t too badly tired out. We got back to the car and loaded up the dogs and I was ready to say, yes, we’ve gone as close to the end as possible.

We ate dinner at two different places. One might have been called Castaways and should have been cast away. Not worth the money. Everything tasted like it had been fried in stale oil. Yuck. The other place, 42nd Street Café, was fantastic. We skipped the sea food – T had county fried steak and I had the pork tenderloin. So damned good! Even the salad dressings were better than usual. I highly recommend it if you are ever searching for a delicious meal in Long Beach Washington.

And speaking of delicious, did I mention that those oysters were outstanding?! We took them home, carefully packed in ice in the cooler, and T pan fried them. Yum. Double yum! No tartar sauce for me, just lemon juice. Holy smokes, my mouth is watering right now!

Sunday was spectacular. The sun was out and not a cloud to be seen. We went back to the beach for another short stroll. It was shorter than we intended because the younger dog is an idiot. She went racing up to say hi to a family, wouldn’t listen when we called her back, and scared the crap out of the people. Well, she is a Rottweiler, so she’s pretty scary when she’s running right at you. It was mortifying. They can’t know that she is obnoxiously friendly. Sigh.

We packed it up and headed out of town. Bought some smoked salmon and smoked tuna before we left and have that to look forward to. Stopped at one of the two lighthouses on our way down the peninsula. What an isolated life that must have been. Cold, damp, remote. Brr… people could easily go crazy in those places.

Just before we crossed the Astoria bridge I insisted on one more scenic detour. There was a sign for “Dismal Nitch” and honestly, how could I resist? It’s only a rest stop now, but it was a place where Lewis and Clark got stranded for a while and uh, they didn’t like it so much. It’s really just a wide spot between the water and the steep mountain behind it. On a bright sunny day it’s fine, but I guess I can imagine foul weather and no nice warm Toyota to sit inside… Again, no camera, so the picture is from the interweb.

We had a grand time and I would definitely go back to the Long Beach peninsula.


  1. ekg-

    are you frightened that larger photos will detract from your prose? i say one big photo that you think sums up the trip and not those tiny ones that make us have to get out our magnifying glasses. glad you had a great trip!


  2. Sounds fun! Glad ol' Cookie is still getting out and about.

    Didn't we have a swim meet in Long Beach once? We drove up there with the Cooks. I know I did the 500m, and afterward me and Jaidee played on the school lawn and it was gray and rainy.

  3. Rhine, I took these from the interwebs and it's the best I could do... next time, camera and freshly charged batteries! Now stop complaining! I put them in for you...

    Zoe, I don't think it was in Long Beach. I remember going to a swim meet on the coast, but I'm pretty sure it was the Oregon Coast. I remember you swimming the 500, or was it even longer? I think it might have been Lincoln City... not sure anymore! I know we went south on I-5 though, not north.

    Thanks for the commentary, you two! My most reliable commenters! XOXOXOXOXO