Not your typical WheelingIt set-up....

Not your typical WheelingIt set-up….

Escaping the crowds at Westport Beach...oh yeah!

Escaping the crowds at Westport Beach…oh yeah!

We’re winding down to the last day of the July 4th holiday madness at our current “home” in the bustling harbor of Westport, WA. It’s been both great and somewhat trying at the same time. For the first time in a long time the best of my RV campground planning intentions didn’t pan out. What I expected to be a relaxing holiday “hideaway” in a quiet private park (or so the reviews said) turned out to be a super-popular family campground with rigs packed so tight I could almost shake hands with both of my neighbors. People tromped endlessly through all the sites and one neighbor even started chopping wood right next to our front door. Honestly, now? I love that families get out and enjoy camping, really I do, but is it too much to ask for a little personal space?

The cramped situation at camp meant we ended up doing alot of “escaping” to visit the area, and that’s where the positive stuff came in. As far as the area goes, I definitely picked right. The 100-year young town of Westport, WA is at the end of a long spit of land that stretches up around the large bay of Gray’s Harbor on the south-central WA coast. Collectively known as South Beach this area encompasses more than 1,000 acres of cranberry bogs, over 18 miles of uninterrupted beach and….drum roll….a fabulous lighthouse.

There’s alot going on here so I’ll break it down for you:

Gorgeous Grey’s Harbor Lighthouse

Lovely Grays Harbor Lighthouse

Lovely Grays Harbor Lighthouse

The gorgeous 3rd order Clamshell Fresnel

The gorgeous 3rd order Clamshell Fresnel

The 107-foot tall Grey’s Harbor Lighthouse, the tallest in WA was the entire reason we came here. Originally built by the coastline, accretion from the jetties has pushed it back ~3,000 feet making it seem like it’s nestled deep in the woods. Designed by the same guy (Carl Leick) who designed North Head (where we volunteered last month) and lit in the same year (1898) it was one of his absolute masterpieces. He left his designers mark by incorporating an amazing array of decorative details -> colorful mosaic floor tiles, ornate cast iron stair supports, an intricate clock-work turning mechanism and a 3rd order Clamshell Fesnel. The latter is one of only three in existence (in the world?) and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s no longer turning, having been replaced by a newer external light, but is beautifully preserved and a sight to see.

We went early and spent alot of time taking in the stunning beauty of the lighthouse and chatting to the hosts. If it weren’t for the mosquitoes we’d definitely host here (there’s an amazing host spot right next to the light). For lighthouse nuts this is a “must do” and for the rest of you it’s the same. Don’t miss this!

NOTE/ Lighthouse tours are $5/person. Tours are offered Thurs-Mon in summer 10-4PM (check before you go since schedule can change based on volunteer availability and weather). Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but not inside the lighthouse

Bustling Westport Marina

One of the big attractions of Westport is that it’s an active, working marina. This not only provides excellent sources of fresh seafood (I highly recommend the Seafood Connection on Float 8 -> $5.99/lb for wild salmon caught the day before!!), but also no end of opportunities for charter fishing and general marina gawking. We had quite a few grey days during our week that were perfect for hanging around the fishing boats and messing with HDR photography.

Maritime Museum

Westport Maritime Museum

Westport Maritime Museum

The AMAZING Destruction Island Lens

The AMAZING Destruction Island Lens

I’m not a fanatic on museums. I mean I like them and all, but not all of them manage to hold my interest. The Maritime Museum in Westport is cute and small, generally quite nice, but where it SHINES is that it houses the original 1st order Fresnel Lens from Destruction Island Lighthouse. The lens is in a separate building and when you walk in it’s like you’ve entered a million rainbow dance of light. The 6-ton lens has an astonishing 1,276 prisms and 24 bulls eyes (!!), is in pristine condition and is kept in rotation which means it throws endless bands of colorful light along the building walls. It’s a total frikkin’ fairytale!

The same room holds the fascinating story of Lone Tree, a light in a tree that operated on the other side of Grey’s Harbor as a mariners beacon for almost 100 years. No info on this anywhere on the internet, so you’ll just have to come here to get the story.

NOTE/ The Museum costs $5/person to enter ($1 discount if you have a stub from the lighthouse). Open Thurs-Mon in summer 10-4PM. Dogs are allowed on the grounds, but not inside the museum buildings.

Cranberries & Coffee

Westport may not have a farmers market or a grocery store, but what they lack in shopping they make up for in cranberries and coffee. With over 1,000 acres of cranberry bogs you can take a drive to see the bogs, or (if you’re so inclined) turn your wheel towards the fermented stuff at the Cranberry Road Winery. The latter also happens to brew beer (Paul enjoyed the IPA) and offer a lovely dog-friendly outdoor seating area. After a refreshing glass of the sweet stuff head on over to the super-cute & cozy Tinderbox Coffee Roasters, a total modern surprise amongst mostly older Westport decor. We did both, naturally.

NOTE/ Dog-friendly outdoor seating is available at both Cranberry Road Winery and Tinderbox Coffee Roasters.

Surfing & Beach Combing

One of the things I didn’t know before coming here is that Westport is one of the prime surfing locations in all of WA. Around the point there are no less than 3 super-consistent surf breaks, while the rest of the beach-line provides ample opportunity for SUP and other beach combing. There’s even a lovely 2.8-mile paved trail along the beachfront for hiking/biking/walking as well as no end of actual beach for playing with doggie. During the height of the campground madness this is where I went to relax, and it took less than a 5-min walk on the beach to get me away from the crowds and on my own. Stunning!

 NOTE/ All the beaches in Westport are dog-friendly.

We’ve got one more day here in port before we move along to (hopefully) quieter spots further up the coast. Our next spot is a coastal campground where we may or may not fit, so it’ll be an interesting day. Will “the beast” squeeze in or will we be left to fend for ourselves with 40-feet of beastliness and nothing but the Olympic wilderness around us? Only time will tell.

Useful Links:

  • 59 Things to do in Westport, Greyland & Tokeland -> click HERE.
  • Greys Harbor Lighthouse & Maritime Museum -> click HERE.
  • Westport Surfing -> surfing break info HERE and live conditions HERE.
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44 Responses to Holiday Madness Week At Bustling Westport, WA

  1. Jay says:

    Don’t forget to take Polly to Ruby Beach near Forks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’ve booked a spot specially right there so we can thoroughly enjoy the beach. It’s definitely on “the list”!

      Nina

  2. Ralph says:

    Nina,
    The 1st time I saw a fresnel lens was in 1967 at Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove,Ca.
    Augustin-Jean Fresnel not only invented an efficient way to cast light for many miles…I think that a fresnel lens…is glass artistry…..at its absolute finest

    • libertatemamo says:

      Totally agree. I am mesmerized by the beauty of Fresnel lenses and everytime I see one I’m amazed by the artistry that went into creating them.

      Nina

  3. Ha – we had somewhat of a similar experience this weekend. We splurged big-time for a fancy-smancy RV resort. We were hoping to avoid fireworks, and we also wanted to hang out at a pool. Well, the sites here are huge and we have lots of space…but the pool is crappy and tiny and is shared with a KOA…so full of kids. And the local fireworks show was right next door so I spent the evening with 3 hysterical dogs. The best laid plans….

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, we had to stay home for the fireworks too. Cats were freaking out (surprisingly doggie doesn’t mind). Only bonus is that I was able to get a peek of the fireworks from the RV window, so at least I got to see a part of the show.

      Being close to fireworks with pets is never easy.

      Nina

  4. tom says:

    Thanks for the lens pics and the tour / location info.

  5. Jil says:

    I have to admit how brave you were to book such a campground for the fourth….I am noticing more and more how rude other campers are just waking through your space as if it were there own…but I think weekend campers do not have the etiquette gene that full timers have…and if the have kids…well that is another kettle of fish…but it looks like you all survived and now on to better parts….we are sitting our Arthur, what ever that means (we are far removed) but I think they canceled all ferry trips for today from the mainland…

    • libertatemamo says:

      I honestly didn’t expect the campground to get so crowded. Most of the reviews on rvparkreviews said it was a nice, quiet place. Oh well, can’t get it right all the time.

      Nina

  6. Rowanova says:

    Sorry to hear the campground fell so far short o expectations. But it sounds like you’ve found a lot of the other good things the area has to offer. Congrats on all of that! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the finer things.

  7. Doug says:

    I took my chances with the weekender rifraf in the Coconino NF of northern AZ, and it has been surprisingly peaceful—other than a dozen dusty incursions from lawless ATVers, and some subtle harassment from a ranger who suspected that I was a fulltime RVer.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sounds much nicer than our week despite the harassment. It’s a shame that the Coconino NF has started to clamp down on full timers. Sadly the result of too many people abusing the forest rules. Glad you had a (relatively) peaceful time.

      Nina

  8. Mike says:

    If you think you may be back through Westport sometime, take a look at Grayland Beach State Park before you leave. It’s a few miles South of Westport, the North and South loops are just across the dunes from the beach, sites with good room and privacy.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, I drove down and checked it out while we were here. Definitely much more our kind of place. Sadly that park had no openings for July 4th weekend, even when I started booking 5 months ago. It’s a very popular spot!

      Nina

  9. Upriverdavid says:

    Whoa Nelly..Too close for me!
    I know you know John of “Just Finding Our Way”..They stayed at South Beach campground..You said you already have a planned spot but I know you would fit in there. The entrance is a little steep but the beach sites are excellent. They are tiered and everyone has a swell view of the ocean. It’s never been as crowded as Kalaloch and the dump and good water are just up the road.
    I guess we will all be waiting to see where you stayed.
    David

    • libertatemamo says:

      We have South Beach as a backup. We’re booked at Kalaloch so we’ll see what it’s like. Only managed to get 3 days there, so it’ll be a quick visit.

      Nina

  10. keepinontruckin says:

    Very cool spiral staircase photo! Also appreciate the local attraction tips for future reference.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The staircase was very pretty. They’ve done a beautiful job of keeping this lighthouse in shape.

      Nina

  11. Jeff King says:

    Thanks Nina, as always, for your post. I have a quick question. My wife and I just embarked on the full-time RV lifestyle, and to make the transition complete we’ll be adopting a new puppy in three weeks. I understand the challenges of the first year or so of puppy raising, but after that, how do you and Paul manage your dog when you tour places where dogs are not welcome? Kennel? The answer is probably obvious to many people, but we’re new to this. Thanks, Jeff

    • libertatemamo says:

      We leave the dog at home, which basically means in the RV. She feels most comfortable here and typically just sleeps. We usually set temp on the aircon, and have auto-generator start programmed in case the power fails. Typically we’ll only go on trips that are no more than 4 hours. Doggie and the cats do fine in the RV for that time. Enjoy your new puppy!

      Nina

  12. Janna says:

    EWWWWW–the “beast” does not look happy in that campground. Hope your next site is more pleasing!!

  13. LuAnn says:

    We also stayed at a private park in Montague, MI, where we hoped that we would not be overrun with noisy neighbors. Everything was fine until last night when it got pretty crazy. Neighbors brought out their golf carts and kids with bikes took over the park. Today is much quieter, thank goodness as many are beginning to head out. Here’s to quieter days ahead for us all.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We’re waiting for the big exodus today as well. Can’t wait! I think my mistake is that I chose a popular location. The key to a good “hideout” is a small park in a less popular (less interesting) location…at least that’s what I’m currently thinking. We’ll see if I can get it right next time.

      Nina

  14. Merikay says:

    We strongly debated trading our 35′ Alfa on a 40′ when the house sold, but then decided it was running so well and we knew what we needed to do to improve it. If we had traded up, we would have had awhile new set of problems. Someone said to me, The biggest difference between a 35′ diesel and a 40′ diesel is with the 40′ you have fewer places to park.

    You just have to feel sorry for the weekenders, they had to go back to work.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Indeed…5 feet may not seem like much, but it can really make a difference not only in length but also in turning radius. I think 35′ is just around the “sweet spot” for fulltime RV length. It’s a nice balance between interior space and length. Our rig is rated at 40′, but is actually 41.6′ end to end which means we’re really 7-feet longer than you. It’s a lot!

      Nina

  15. Allison says:

    Sorry your weekend was so noisy and crowded. You would probably have to get off the coast entirely to avoid that, and go somewhere boring that children won’t like. We’re in a boring park with no amenities other than a tiny decrepit playground and it’s dead quiet, other than the occasional unmuffled compression brake on the freeway off ramp. It’s almost over, stout heart.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, I think you hit the nail on the head. My mistake was choosing the coast. I think if we’d gone inland to a more boring spot it would have been quiet. Last two years we’ve workamped through July 4th, so I guess I’ve gotten out of the habit of booking for it. Three years ago we stayed outside of Mesa Verde in CO (in the semi-boonies) in a small private park and that was nice & quiet. Lesson learned.

      Nina

  16. Sherry says:

    Sorry about the campground but you did what we do when ours is a loser, you saw wonderful things in the community. Your advice turned out just right for us. The campground was not “too” tight and was actually very quiet all week-end. So I’m doing it again next holiday. Love how you are able to do one post on several days and hit all the highlights with terrific pictures. I’m going to study your technique. I’ll bet my followers would be cheering if they could hear me say this.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Happy my advice helped you out even if it didn’t do any good for me tee hee. I’ll get it right eventually. We DID manage to see alot of cool stuff, likely more than we would have otherwise. That’s a definite positive.

      Nina

  17. Suzanne says:

    “Un-frekin’-believable!” (Muttered to the sound of maps unfolding, and pen scratching across the notepad, reworking my WA itin. LOL!)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sorry Suzanne, but it must be done. There’s just no way you can miss this lighthouse. I won’t allow it :)

      Nina

  18. Cherie says:

    *cheers* to surviving the holiday weekend without obtaining any restraining orders :D

    Always a struggle for us folks living on the road to find places to hide out when the campgrounds bring out more folks. They’re just not used to such living, and it is their vacation.. but sure do wish they had to go through some sort of orientation before setting up camp.

    We did pretty well with our choice, but even so.. surrounded by large family & friend gatherings. Last night we had no fewer than 20 folks outside our window playing corn hole, drinking beer, laughing loudly, cursing at each other (more beer) and shooting off fireworks. Until 5am. Thankfully, they mostly picked up all their trash and left this morning. Ahhh.. our tranquility back.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, I managed to get through it with my sanity in-tact although I DID notice that my usual friendly, outgoing demeanor became more like a grumpy old hermit. The neighbors must have thought we were very odd closeted inside our RV with all the windows and curtains closed.

      Sounds like you had quite the “party” outside your RV. Glad to hear things are back to normal today.

      Nina

  19. Upriverdavid says:

    Do you know Seattle has a couple of lighthouses? Alki Beach and Discovery Park?..I’ll send you a picture if you’d like…
    Or you can Google them..Probably easier, but my photos from a couple of months ago are better..:)…
    David

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, I do. In fact I have a map of all the lighthouses in WA, as well as a Pinterest board and have been eyeing them greedily! We won’t be able to see them all, but I have many planned for our itinerary. Do still send photos though. You know I always love lighthouse photos!

      Nina

  20. Brenda says:

    Ugh, bummer about the campground and the rude people. There is definitely a way to be respectful in cramped quarters. In Canada, we stayed in a campground where we pulled into a corner spot and completely blocked the view of the neighboring campsite. As we arrived, Hector said “sorry” and then we tried to give them as much space as possible. Love your photos of the lighthouse and the Destruction Island Lighthouse lens – fabulous!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I try to be respectful of neighbors in tight places too. I just think it’s basic courtesy.

      Nina

  21. Anna Williamson says:

    Your love for light houses is rubbing off on me! Must put a few on our to do list when we are out along the coast for sure!
    I also cannot understand why some campers refuse to respect other campers privacy, it is basic etiquette. We kept having people taking a short cut through our site last week as well…

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah I don’t really get it. I never cut through anyone’s campsite. I just consider that wrong, but a lot of folks don’t seem to have that value. It’s strange indeed. Our neighbors tromped in and out of our site the whole time we were there. I drew the line when they started chopping wood outside our front door and kindly asked them to move it to their side of the RV.

      Nina

      P.S. Glad to hear I’ve created another lighthouse nut…my evil goal is to convert you all!!

  22. I can so relate, we have the same experience in Vermont and at the Maritimes. Like you we became hermits with all blinds closed or we go out and come home very late. There are really some rude and insensitive weekender campers.
    Luckily this holiday, we left Betsy alone in KY and flew to CA for a quick visit, so we missed all the campground chaos.

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