Holiday Madness Week At Bustling Westport, WA
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
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 It’s no longer turning, having been replaced by a newer external light, but is beautifully preserved and a sight to see.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.
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.