Lighthouses, Famous Explorers, and Mushroom Hunting in Long Beach, WA

   Long Beach Washington

The Long Beach Peninsula in Washington State has long been the playground of Oregonians for decades, and after spending a few days exploring the peninsula, I know why. Hikes lead you to lighthouses perched atop windswept cliffs. Landmarks show you the footsteps of famous explorers. On the beach, you can enjoy bonfires, stroll next to the crashing waves, fly a kite, or ride a bike. And, you can also indulge in local cuisine and seafood, and in the fall forage for mushrooms.

Whether you are planning a family, romantic or solo vacation, Long Beach has plenty of exploring options. Here are my 5 reasons to vacation in Long Beach, Wa.

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There are plenty of ways to get the local travel scoop. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about Long Beach, WA at TripAdvisor,, and Expedia.

5 Reasons to Vacation in Long Beach, WA


Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? On the Long Beach Peninsula, there are two at Cape Disappointment State Park – North Head Lighthouse and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

North Head Lighthouse

The 119-year-old lighthouse is a short walk from the parking lot, and during the summer months, the store and lighthouse are open to visitors. But, even if you go during the winter months like we did, you’ll still get to walk to and around the lighthouse. The views of the coastline are fantastic. During the months of January and May, you might be able to spot gray whales as they migrate north. It can be windy at the lighthouse so be sure to bring a jacket, and don’t forget your camera!

Travel Tip #1: Visitors can camp at the campgrounds at Cape Disappointment State Park, and they can rent North Head Lighthouse lighthouse keeper residences.

Travel Tip #2: If you are traveling with small children I would recommend visiting North Head Lighthouse over Cape Disappointment Lighthouse for a couple of reasons. One is the path to and from the lighthouse is shorter and wider, and two, during the season they will be able to go inside the lighthouse.

Travel Tip #3: During 2016, the lighthouse underwent renovations, and they should be completed by summer 2017. In June, is the anniversary celebration that includes self-guided lighthouse tours, birder tours, refreshments, and more. Check here for more details and updates.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

The trail to Cape Disappointment lighthouse is around 3.4-miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 160 feet. Once visitors arrive, they can walk around the lighthouse, but cannot go inside as it is an active lighthouse, which means you might see the Coast Guard hard at work. The trail to the lighthouse is rugged, so it’s important to wear appropriate shoes. During our stay, we were advised not to hike the trail as it might be slippery and muddy from the recent storms. Instead, we took in the view from Waikiki Beach. We were not disappointed with the alternative.

Travel Tip #4: During the summer, the park hosts summer concerts on Saturdays at 7 p.m. on Waikiki Beach.

Travel Tip #5: The stretch of coast between Oregon and Washington is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific, and over 2,000 ships and hundreds of lives have been lost there. If you want to read more about this area, I suggest The Graveyard of the Pacific: Shipwreck Tales from the Depths of History.


Beach Time

The beach is the big attraction at Long Beach. It stretches for over 30 miles and is the longest beach in the U.S. While this isn’t a beach you go to for swimming because of the strong currents, there are plenty of ways to have fun on the beach like:

  • Beach Fires (Some hotels, like Adrift Hotel and Spa, offer a bonfire package that includes s’mores and a bottle of red wine)
  • Beach Driving (I am not joking! As long as your vehicle has 4-wheel-drive you can drive it onto the beach! Maximum speed limit is 25 mph)
  • Bike Riding (There is an 8.5-mile paved trail along the beach, and you can also ride your bike on the beach.)
  • Sunbathing
  • Walking/Running
  • Dog-walking/running
  • Picnics and Play

Travel Tip #6: Some hotels, like Adrift Hotel and Spa, offer complimentary bikes. Bikes, as well as mopeds and surreys, can be rented at Long Beach Mopeds, and Skookum Surf Co. rents bikes, skimboards and surf equipment.


There are plenty of ways to get the local scoop. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about Long Beach, WA at TripAdvisor,, and Expedia.



If you a history lover like I am, there is no lack of historic spots in Long Beach, WA and neighboring Oregon. If you are specifically a Lewis & Clark Expedition fan, you’ll be in seventh heaven, and could build an entire itinerary around these famous explorers.

    • Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Cape Disappointment State Park – This is a must! The center uses artifacts, journals, historic maps, images and more to give visitors an in-depth view into this historic expedition and their arrival in the Pacific Northwest.
    • McKenzie Head Viewpoint in Cape Disappointment State Park – Clark and his crew set up a home base camp at McKenzie Head while they explored up the peninsula into the Long Beach area. The trail to the summit is about .5 miles long. At the base of the trail near the parking area, there is a trail marker and a monument.
    • Clark’s Tree in Long Beach – The tree is a bronze replica of the original pine tree Clark carved his name and date into.
    • Gray Whale Skeleton in Long Beach– During one of their visits Clark and his party came upon a gray whale skeleton. To mark this spot is a gray whale sculpture and partial skeleton.
    • Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon – The historical park has a replica of Fort Clatsop, and during the summer season, they have candle making, hide tanning and flintlock gun shooting demonstrations that give visitors an idea of what their life was like. You can take a cell phone guided audio tour, join a ranger lead program and explore the areas hiking and canoe trails.


Besides the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, there are a handful of other museums to visit. If you love kites or want to buy a kite to fly on the beach, I suggest visiting the World Kite Museum. They have fascinating exhibits about kites that including military kites, an array of international kites and kite buggies.

Another fun museum is Marsh’s Free Museum. It’s a curiosity/gift shop with historical oddities. Be sure to weave around to the back to see Jake the Alligator Man.

There is also the Cranberry Museum and in neighboring Ilwaco the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.


5 Reasons to Vacation in Long Beach, WA


Local Food and Foraging

Long Beach has a great selection of restaurants that highlight local seafood and produce. Some of the foodie highlights of our stay were fried razor clams, wild salmon with wild mushrooms, sauteed king boletes, and locally brewed craft beer. There is family-friendly dining and fine dining. You can read more about our dining experiences which took us to a historic inn and railroad depot here.

Mushroom Foraging

If you are a mushroom lover, you’ll want to plan your getaway to Long Beach during the Wild Mushroom Celebration, which takes place from October 1 to November 15. During the six weeks, restaurants will have menu specials with locally foraged mushrooms, some hotels will have loding specials, and you can attend expert lead mushroom foraging hikes in Long Beach and Oregon. Read more about how to celebrate mushroom season here.



For more information visit Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.

Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with some complimentary activities for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

There are plenty of ways to get the local scoop. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about Long Beach, WA at TripAdvisor,, and Expedia.

Adrift Hotel and Spa

Five Foodie Stops in Long Beach, WA

29 thoughts on “Lighthouses, Famous Explorers, and Mushroom Hunting in Long Beach, WA”

  1. Jake the Alligator Man sounds like quite the character. I imagine there are no alligators in this area because of the cold climate and water. I will have to visit to find out the story.

  2. The Long Beach Peninsula sounds like it has a bit of everything from history & culture to nature & food. It’s definitely going to be spot to keep in mind when I have some vacation time in the summer, it’s good to know that there are some camping & accommodation options at the parks.

    • Sheena, We toured the campgrounds they are really nice and some spots are close to the beach. Camping there is on our list – we just need to make it happen! I hope you get to visit this summer!

    • Melody, The interpretive center is really nice and you learn so much about their journey. And, as you are out exploring the Peninsula it is fun to stop in their footsteps. You’d like mushroom foraging!

  3. Wonderful sunlight of the beach although it could be cold during the winter time, luckily you have given us some ideas to enjoy the area: especially I love riding a bike and I am a museum fans, glad to know there are so many historic places to visit! @knycx.journeying

    • Western Washington is pretty temperate in the winter, and most places don’t get too cold. There are museums there I didn’t get to visit. I’d heard good things about the Cranberry Museum. Next time I’m there I plan to check it out. I hope you get to visit soon!

  4. We were fortunate to drive through a lot of Washington State, though I don’t recall having made it to Long Beach. It sounds like an incredible spot though, what with the lighthouses, history, and of course, the beach! North Head Lighthouse looks beautiful – and so cool to know to look out for whales if you’re visiting during migration season. Did you see any?

    • Megan, We didn’t see any while we were there, but having lived in Washington for over 10 years I’ve seen lots of whales and it is always a thrill!

  5. I don’t remember ever reading about Long Beach peninsula before. It looks like an incredible landscape. I didn’t realise the beaches spanned so long either. I would really like to visit Cape Disappointment, what a name! I have a real love for lighthouses and have no idea where it came from. Hiking there and finding out more about the history would be a great break. I imagine it really helps to recharge. I’d try mushroom foraging too. I like to get to know about local food.

    • Kate, It sounds like you’d really the Long Beach Peninsula as there is tons of history, outdoor activities and great food. A fun place to experience. I hope it makes it on your travel list!

  6. You had me at bonfires and local seafood. I didn’t know the area along the coast was called a graveyard because of the ships. Very cool info and history. Would love to explore.

    • Holly, It’s such an interesting place and along the river was a location known as the “Ellis Island of the West Coast.” I hope you get to explore this part of Washington soon!

  7. I actually think I do hear Long Beach calling… As a matter of fact I never thought of Washington as a destination for a beach vacation, but I was obviously wrong, it looks really nice. I most of all like that it’s so natural and unspoiled and rather camping than Sheraton. Why is it called Cape Disappointment? Because of the many averages you’re mentioning? However, a name like this lowers expectations and probably avoids….disappointments ????

    • Renata, I so love this area of Washington and the beach is magical. Captain John Meares called it Cape Disappointment after he failed to cross the river. I’ve been there in the sun and the rain, and haven’t found loved it both ways. I hope you get to visit soon.

  8. I’d definitely like to visit during the Mushroom Festival and try to get out with a foraging expert. We hunt mushrooms in our area when there’s been a bit of rain and it’s such fun. Lighthouses are wonderful places to explore at any age too. Fun post.

    • Elaine, I so LOVE hunting for mushrooms and I couldn’t believe all the mushrooms in that area. My patch of blewits did not return this year, but I guess they are known for doing that. It could have been the early snow we got too.

  9. It’s always great to discover such large pieces of nature – I can’t imagine a 30-mile beach, it’s amazing! And it’s even better when coupled with fascinating exploration history! Even names like Cape Disappointment have stories behind them. If on top of that you do spot a whale, that’s the recipe for a wonderful day!

    • Julien, I am so fascinated by the area’s history, and you are right, its beauty and wildlife make for some great travel experiences. I hope you get to visit one day soon!

  10. Another cool place in Washington that I’ve never heard of! I would totally visit the Marsh’s Free Museum. I love when museums are filled with weird stuff!

  11. Wow! So many interesting activities to experience at the Long Beach. So intriguing why the lighthouse is called Cape Disappointment. Has this something to do with the lives lost in the past along the coast?

    • Jing, Thanks so much for commenting! Captain John Meares called it Cape Disappointment after he failed to cross the river.

  12. I always love reading your writeups! And this is no exception. I literally never would have thought “I want to go someplace to forage for mushrooms” – but I just read part of this out loud to Luke and he’s as onboard with it as I am for a fall trip. What a cool idea, and it sounds like this is a wonderful spot to get away 🙂

    • Meagan, That’s great to hear! Thank you. The hubs and I really enjoyed ourselves. One year, I’d like to join one of the foraging trips with the Oregon State park just across the river. I hope you have a great time!


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