As the daylight hours dwindle and the gray returns to the skies of the Pacific Northwest, many around the region will retreat indoors and put their wanderlust on hold until the weather is better. While the comforts of inside do sound appealing, out along the Washington Coast, incredible adventures are awaiting you. While many flock to the coast during the summer months, Grays Harbor invites you to visit year-round, experiencing the wet, wild and wonderful storm season along the coast. From Kalaloch to Grayland and everywhere in between, storm watching doesn’t get any better than Grays Harbor.
Each fall, winter and spring, the coastal stretches of Grays Harbor get blasted by storm after storm. Packing heavy rains that fall sideways from the strong winds, the storms are frequent enough that each year one or two packing 60+ mph winds are common. Causing huge waves, watching the storms is a rite-of-passage for residents of the Evergreen State and is a great activity as a day trip or a weekend getaway. Before you head to the coast, make sure you check the weather to make sure that the storm is going to be a good one. Look for large swell warnings, strong winds and heavy rains in the forecast for any of the coastal towns. Here are some tips on where to storm watch in Grays Harbor.
While nearly every beach will give you a memorable storm-watching experience, there are five locations that are considered to be the best of the best.
To the north, you’ll find Copalis Beach and Griffith-Priday State Park. When accessible, this park gives a unique experience to storm watchers. If the storm surge isn’t too high, you can walk the trail toward the Copalis River. Along this stretch of coast, the endless onslaught of pounding waves backs up into a neighboring stream and river, turning the waters into a murky mess of salt and freshwater.
The Seabrook area of North Beach gives you a chance to see and experience storms from the comfy confines of your car. If you want to see the waves and storm surge, head toward Seabrook and park along the pullout near Yellow Bluff. This place will give you the full power of the wind while seeing the huge breakers crash against the shores. Farther north, Pacific Beach State Park gives unblocked access to the beach and waves, without getting you into any seriously risky predicaments.
Moclips Beach is also a fantastic place to watch storms. Around town, you’ll have chances to look out from roadside pullouts or even hit the beach. A local favorite is found just 3.6 miles north of town. At this place, you can park at the pull-off near the small bridge and get a serious gauge for how powerful the storm you are watching is.
No storm-watching experience is complete without driving a few miles outside of the county line and exploring the beaches and bluffs found at Kalaloch. Kalaloch is a world-renowned storm-watching destination and is consistently named the best place to watch a storm by Seattle publications. Whether you sit and watch the storms from the comforts of the Kalaloch Lodge or head down and witness it firsthand at Ruby Beach, the region is beautiful, unforgettable and a wet and windy rollercoaster during a storm.
Grayland Beach State Park is found just south of Westport, where dunes and sand lead up to the breakers of the Pacific. Here, the storms show off their full power, thanks to the lack of trees and bluffs. The winds will batter your car, rocking it back and forth. Offering roughly 8,000 feet of coast to explore, the storm watching here gives you a little of everything you could desire. The downside of watching from the parking lot is that you won’t see the waves. Those brave enough to test themselves against the elements can park along Cranberry Beach Road and walk to see the pounding surf.
Also in Westport is the observation tower right by town. Here, you can climb a few flights of stairs and take in the views of the huge storm surges and get blasted by the powerful winds. This is one of the tallest places on the coast and is a must-stop at any time of the year. The 360-degrees views are fantastic from this place gives some of the best views in the region, even giving glimpses of the Olympic Mountains on sunny days.
In Ocean Shores, your best bet for storm watching is found at the jetty. In the past, storms have been known to bring with them waves that crash over the jetty and surges that nearly reach the parking area. This is a classic place to watch storms in Grays Harbor and one that can be quite memorable, especially when the frothy sea foam is flying overhead with the powerful gusts.
Storms can be dangerous, so before you head out, remember these safety tips. During a storm, park as far from the water as you can. Each year, cars get stuck and buried by the storm surge. The storm surge also pushes the tides higher than expected, so do not park on the beach itself. Instead, park at a designated parking area near the dunes or on a bluff. Once you do find a place to park, please remember to be extremely cautious if you get out of your car. During storms, avoid standing or walking along driftwood and stay out of the water at all times. Sneaker waves can come at any time, easily sweeping you off your feet and pulling you into the extremely cold and turbulent waters. The waves from the storm surge also toss logs and large pieces of wood easily, so maintain as much distance from the water as possible.
Remember that you don’t have to get out of your car to watch the power of storms. All around Grays Harbor there are numerous scenic overlooks that allow you to watch the churning seas from a safe distance.
Where to Stay
To make a weekend out of storm watching, the coast of Grays Harbor has numerous destinations perfect for your lodging needs. One of the best parts about these is that during the offseason, the rates are usually much lower than the summer months. There is nothing better than listening to the wind howl while cozying up with a glass of wine in front of a fire with that special someone.
Within an earshot of the raw power rolling in from the Pacific, enjoy any of these places to make a storm watching memory. Near Grayland Beach State Park, the Ocean Spray Beach Resort offers quaint New England-style cottages with electric fireplaces and is just a three-minute walk from the breaking waves. Farther north, the Iron Springs Resort has cabins with private decks, wood-burning fireplaces and direct beach access for your storm watching wanderings. Also close are the houses and cottages at Seabrook Resort. Seabrook will provide you with stunning amenities and quick access to the coast and the bluffs. Finally, watching a storm roll in at the historic and gorgeous Ocean Crest Resort. Offering rooms right on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the Ocean Crest is one the best storm-watching destination in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you get a room with a standalone fireplace and even balconies.