As we re-learn how to travel in the age of COVID-19, largely favoring outdoor adventures close to home, the appeal of untrodden paths and un-crowded destinations grows. Many of us – the Wide World of Travel team included – are on the hunt for undiscovered gems where we can find space, quiet, and if we’re lucky, an oceanside perch prime for relaxing. While we firmly believe there are still plenty of these out there, one comes immediately to mind, uncovered by our trekking troupe in trips up and down the West Coast: Ocean Shores, Washington. Let’s introduce you to this quaint little town.
A brief history of Ocean Shores, Washington
For a town of its size – a modest 5,600 – Ocean Shores has a deep history. Originally a trading post, it was visited numerous times in the 1700s by naval captains who named and re-named the area several times over. The first settlers, however, didn’t arrive until the 1860s and they quickly turned their newly claimed land over to Ocean Shores Development Corporation.
What followed was a wealth boom. By the 1960s, and following the legalization of gambling in Washington, Ocean Shores Development Corporation sold off plots of land in the area like hotcakes. Expecting a new casino to land nearby, folks from all over the country scooped up property while developers feverishly built houses to accommodate them. A golf course, “boatel” (floating boat hotel), mall, and other draws were added in a hurry, making the area an even more attractive vacation spot – and all of this happened before the city was officially incorporated in 1970.
After 1970, however, the development frenzy of this quaint little Washington town ebbed and economic hardships weighed on the city’s growth. While things picked up again in the 1980s, Ocean Shores was never the same boomtown – and that turns out to be a boon to travelers looking for a quiet getaway in 2020.
How to get to Ocean Shores/how to get around
Ocean Shores is about a 2-1/2-hour westerly drive from Seattle, so it’s recommended you fly in and rent a car. You’ll want some wheels anyway, as it’s tempting to make day trips up (or down) the coast to see the quaint towns that look out onto the Pacific. Car rentals start at about $35/day.
Alternatively, you could make your way to Portland, rent a car, and drive north. The drive is a bit longer at 3 hours and the rental rates are actually higher, running around $50/day. Honestly, it’s best to go the Seattle route.
Once landed in Ocean Shores, take advantage of the freedom your own car affords; trek out to Astoria and Long Beach in the south or up to Forks on the edge of Olympic National Forest. If you’re staying in Ocean Shores for the day, however, the entire town is walkable.
Where to stay in Ocean Shores
Most of the hotels on the Ocean Shores strip lie in the north as you enter the town. There are actually quite a few, but not all are created equal. For a comfortable stay with a bit of character that doesn’t require a splurge, head to the Oasis Motel. A quaint A-frame right off the Ocean Shores Golf Course and steps away from the beach, these simple digs have the basic amenities (like TVs, WiFi, and a coffeemaker in most rooms) and are eminently comfortable. Rooms run around $110/night.
For a luxe-r treat, consider the Collins Inn & Seaside Cottages down south. This converted home and cottage collection is beautifully designed with lots of hardwood and stone, dotted with charactered accents and artwork that give the space a cozy vibe. Get yourself a room with a jacuzzi, an ocean view, and a fireplace and you’ll be set. Prices run around $250/night.
Airbnb also has a share of accommodations in Ocean Shores, with prices ranging from the super low $50s/night to $150+/night. Pro tip: If you plan on lingering in your room, make sure you can get WiFi and TV. Not all properties have them.
What to see/do in Ocean Shores
A trip to Ocean Shores is likely all about the beach – walking along it, lingering in the sand, splashing in the water, and forgetting about what time it is. You can certainly do that, but Washington weather doesn’t always make for the greatest “lounge and sun” experience. However, you can do plenty of other fun water-adjacent things, like grab a kite for some beach flying or charter a boat to take you on a fishing adventure (don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert angler).
Inland, the Ocean Shores Golf Course is definitely an activity draw. Even if you don’t know your nine iron from your three wood, you can enjoy a few holes at this beautiful course. Nine holes will run you about $30 and club rental is $10. Oh, but views of the Pacific as you slice your way into the rough – priceless.
If you’ve got the kids in tow, drop by the Interpretive Center, designed to educate the public on Washington’s coastal history. You’ll find interactive exhibits (indoor and outdoor) showcasing rocks, shells, wildlife habitats, and lessons about past oceanic events (like the 2011 Pacific Ocean tsunami). That was a doozy.
If you’d rather just relax, enjoy a pint, and listen to some tunes, you might want to head to the Green Lantern Pub – a homey gathering space that’s simple, filled with Americana, and perfect for a satisfying burger and brew. Oh, and they feature some delightful local musicians showcasing rock, country, and a hodgepodge of other musical styles. Keep an eye on their Facebook page (linked above) for upcoming performances.
Where to eat in Ocean Shores
To be clear, Ocean Shores isn’t a place you come to for high-falutin’ fare, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t good. Take Fat Marty’s for instance, dishing up Carnitas Tacos that make your mouth sing; or Alec’s By the Sea, luring hungry patrons with tender steaks and crispy-crunchy zucchini fries. Who wouldn’t say no to those?
Maybe beer is more your speed; in that case, head north to Ocean Pours Taproom, where a dozen-and-a-half varieties are begging to be sampled, then amble over to Dugan’s Pizza where steaming-hot, hand-tossed pizza pie has your name on it (the sausage-studded Sicilian is a must).
Close your night out with a nightcap, selected from the shelves at Martin Bruni Liquor, as your relish the sunset and the sound of the waves.
For more information on Ocean Shores and ideas for local activities, visit the Ocean Shores tourism website.