Every August, competitors show their stuff at the Washington State International Kite Festival.
Near the village of Nahcotta, Wash., way out on the Long Beach Peninsula, gulls wheel and squawk over the tidal mudflats, and barges churn through the foggy bay bearing buckets of oysters. Oyster shells are everywhere—piled high beside the dock, scattered in the beds of old pickup trucks—and a rough magic prevails. The peninsula, 120 miles from Portland, is the perfect place for anyone craving the coast and its gritty and honky-tonk delights.
The charms of this kid-friendly getaway, settled some 150 years ago by oystermen, are largely unsubtle. There’s the beach, which is, well, long. It stretches on unbroken for 28 miles, passing through the towns of Seaview, Long Beach, and Ocean Park before the peninsula continues north to Nahcotta. On warm, sunny days it becomes a haven for sunbathers and kids building sandcastles, and casual strollers find solitude walking the paved Discovery Trail, which undulates for two miles through beachgrass dunes near the streets of Long Beach. Each spring, locals gather to watch migrating gray whales. And every August more than 500 competitors show up at the Washington State International Kite Festival, where $4,000 kites swoop through choreographed figure eights like Rockettes in formation.
Long Beach’s World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame has some 350 kites from Japan, where they were traditionally used to keep evil spirits at bay.
The peninsula’s most clamorous thrills are a quarter mile inland, in downtown Long Beach. Here, the air is thick with the ping of pinball machines and the sweet smell of cotton candy. There’s a place to play laser tag and a putt-putt golf course. But the principal delight is a gift shop named, oddly enough, Marsh’s Free Museum. At Marsh’s you can buy all sorts of things, from cheesy T-shirts and used waffle irons to souvenir nail files, as you marvel over Mary Lou, the human skeleton, and myriad antique machines: a circa 1940 "kiss tester" and an even older stereopticon promising a scandalous, eyeball-scorching glimpse of . . . "the nudist colony."
After a recent visit to Marsh’s, still aghast at what I’d beheld (I can’t tell;VIA is a family magazine), I went down to the beach. I saw kids building a sand condo and looked out on frothing waves. The sea breeze felt soft on my skin and cold water lapped at my toes. After a while, I shook the sand out of my shoes. Then I bought some fried clams to go and got in the car to drive home, wholly refreshed.
Photography by Larry Geddis
This article was first published in May 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Pick upAAA Oregon and Washington mapandTourBook guide. Contact theLong Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau: (360) 642-2400, www.funbeach.com. Area code is 360.
The Ark Restaurant & Bakery3310 273rd St., Nahcotta, 665-4133. Shoalwater Restaurant 4415 Pacific Way, Seaview, 642-4142.
The Historic Sou'Wester LodgeFrom $79. 3728 J Place, Seaview, 642-2542, www.souwesterlodge.com. Moby Dick Hotel, Restaurant and Oyster Farm From $90. 25814 Sandridge Rd., Nahcotta, 665-4543, www.mobydickhotel.com.