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Woodard, Chelsie McKinney.JPG
The 1.5 mile hike to the picnic area at Woodard Bay is well worth the effort. (Image: Chelsie McKinney)

4 hidden beaches begging for a summer picnic

Each summer our family crafts a Summer Bucket List, compiled of things we’re excited to do around home, treats we want to eat, places we want to explore and the like.

The list is usually a mix of old favorites and new ideas. Nothing too extravagant, but a list of plans that will mark our summer well. The majority of our list revolves around the outdoors, because, let’s face it, we have to take advantage of the Pacific Northwest sun as often as we can! That means beaches and picnics are always part of our summer adventuring.

If you are gathering ideas for your summer plans, be sure to pick at least one of these “hidden” beaches to visit. Each one is just begging for a peaceful picnic, walk along the sand (or rocks), and an Instagram snapshot or two.

Woodard Bay Conservation Area - Olympia
The 1.5 mile hike to the picnic area at Woodard Bay is well worth the effort. Truly, one of my personal favorites! Park at the seasonal boat launch and begin down the paved path. You can take the path all the way to the covered picnic tables or turn left onto a wooded nature trail about 100 feet in. Either route is beautiful and you can see peeks of the Bay through the trees as you walk. I especially love the signs around the picnic shelter that explain the history of the area. Wildlife abounds at Woodard Bay - from forest animals to owls (I’ve seen them close up there twice now!) to harbor seals. Most of all though, you’ll see bats. The old pier is a home to a whole colony of them! Don’t worry though, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

Saltar’s Point Beach, Steilacoom
Chloe Kadel, a local, graciously shared the secret beach in Steilacoom: Saltar’s Point. “It's not the big visible Steilacoom park everyone drives by - that's Sunnyside,” she said. To find Saltar’s Point, you walk over the train tracks through a caged steel staircase. There are only four parking spots, but lots of street parking. Once there you’ll enjoy a long beach that is picnic friendly, has bathrooms, and an old pier. Kadel says Saltar’s Point is great for train and ferry watching and shared that there is often lots of porpoise and seal activity too. Sounds like a winner, one for the bucket list for sure!

South Beach - Camano Island
Take exit 212 off I-5 and head west. You’ll see signs to both Cama Beach and Camano State Park. Both are amazing, with various trails and beaches to explore, but South Beach at Camano Island State Park really takes the cake with their driftwood barrier and picnic tables scattered about. Perhaps the best part? Never have I ever experienced typical beach wind here. It’s calm and serene and the perfect place for a meal and an afternoon of rock skipping. My kids beg to go to Camano and the eagles and sea otters you might see make it a great stop.

Rosario Beach - Anacortes
Located at Deception Pass State Park, Rosario Beach is not just a beach, it’s a tide pool! So, pack a picnic and prepare to spend a day exploring AND learning. Here, you can print a Tide Pool Discovery Hunt guide to help you identify all you’re seeing and often there are volunteers available for questions. Mom-of-three Bianca Tarleton, loves Rosario, and says that parking is close and picnic tables are almost always available. She does recommend though that you reserve the tide pool experience for children 5 years of age and older. The pools are a fragile ecosystem and thus are not for tromping around in.

“When you are exploring the beach, you are exploring the homes of hundreds of sea creatures. Be careful and respectful," volunteer Melody Kuschnereit reminds us. "When you walk, watch your step. Try to avoid stepping on the seaweed because many fragile creatures are living beneath it. When you dig a hole or flip over a rock to see what you can find, remember to always replace the sand or rock very gently. Animals living under the rocks and sand may die if they are left exposed. Be gentle when handling creatures and always put them back where you found them.”

And, of course, after your picnic, make sure you take all your belongings and trash with you!

Do you have a secret beach in your arsenal of favorite stops? We’d love to hear, so don’t be shy, share the Washington wealth!