“Smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly”, Van Morrison.
Tuesday morning and we are heading to the ocean for a mid-week, mom and daughter break with four days and three nights exploring the shore and coastal towns of the WA beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Road tripping south on Interstate 5 and Highway 101, this mini vacation found us visiting three popular coastal towns along the Long Beach peninsula; Seaview, Ilwaco, and Long Beach. It is an easy drive from the metropolitan cities of Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia. A few hours on the road will find you breathing in that sea air and relaxing to the sound of crashing waves on the shore. Whether an extended weekend getaway for two or a week vacation for the whole family, the Long Beach peninsula offers something for everyone.
Our first stop found us at the Sou’Wester Lodge and Trailer Park in Seaview Wa. To experience the Sou’Wester is to experience a step back in time. Pick your favorite era, at this eclectic lodging, they will have a room or travel trailer to match your taste. They call themselves a hodgepodge with classic 1920’s style lodge rooms to kitschy travel trailers or plain old-fashioned campsites. The Sou’wester houses an artist residency program and a wellness program along with a Finnish sauna and spa as well as their very own retro 2nd hand shop called The Thrifty trailer. They are minutes from the sand and surf, borrow a bicycle or stroll down to the shore on foot.
We checked in about 4:00 pm, settling into our cozy 17-foot Airstream Travel trailer, decorated in the groovy avocado greens and burnt sienna oranges of the early ‘70’s.
After unloading our belongings, it was time for dinner with reservations at The Salt Hotel and Pub, in Ilwaco, WA. There was only one thing amiss. As I shut the travel trailer door and turned to lock it, I found there was no lock. I had a key but no lock to put it in, just a hole in the door.
Being that we were now running late for dinner, I decided to pack all our electronics and valuables back in the car and we would deal with the lock situation upon our return. We did end up spending the night in the trailer with no lock with the next day being moved to a romantic 1920’s style lodge room inside the main building. The owner of the Sou’Wester was very accommodating and even though this was a slight faux pas, it rewarded us with a fuller experience of all the Sou’wester has to offer.
Dinner on the Ilwaco Marina
Ilwaco is a quaint fishing town in which the Salt Pub overlooks its beautiful marina and Port of Ilwaco, filled with noble fishing vessels and trolleys. It is no wonder the “catch of the day” is popular with the locals at this eatery. Being vegetarian in a fishing village seems like it would pose a share of problems but at the Salt there are delectable dishes for vegetarian and vegan guests.
This evening our meal consisted of the Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad as a starter, followed by entrées of smoked tomato and basil polenta cake and plain mac-n-cheese. The food at the Salt is hand made in a simple and elegant fashion with much of it locally and sustainably grown. Good food, great view, and friendly staff is a recipe for a fine evening of refueling after a day of travel. And after dinner, a promenade among the docks winds you along the waterway and past many of the offerings of Ilwaco, including its many art galleries and sole proprietor gift stores. A day visit to Ilwaco is a fine way to relax, refuel, and enjoy the scenery.
With the morning sun came day two of our mini-trip and Cape Disappointment State Park was on our agenda. Cape Disappointment is one of Washington States most popular and famous parks due to its beautiful beaches, two lighthouses, the Lewis and Clark history and Interpretive center, and miles of trails which lead hikers through varying ecosystems. These natural spaces include coastal beaches to grass covered dunes to dense forests with time tested old Spruce and Hemlock trees. This morning found us picking up the Discovery Trail and hiking to North Head Lighthouse.
The trail itself is mostly paved and extends 8.3 miles, connecting Ilwaco to Long Beach and is extremely user friendly for walkers, bikers, and wheelchair accessibility. There are two lighthouses within the park, each having breathtaking views. The first one we visited, North Head Lighthouse is perched on a headland with the ocean waves crashing against craggy cliffs beneath you. An awesome sight to behold!! From that height it is easy to spot Herons, Gulls, and even an occasional Eagle flying atop the waves searching for their daily meal.
The second to be visited was Cape Disappointment Lighthouse which stands majestically, 53 feet tall, overlooking the north side of the Columbia River bar. A 180-degree view of rolling river meets roaring ocean lays in front of you, as far as the eye can see to the horizon.
The force of the Columbia flowing into the sea creates one of the most treacherous waterways known to sailors, as evidenced by the 234 documented shipwrecks near the mouth of the river from 1725 – 1961. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was built to minimize and mitigate these nautical disasters. The lighthouse saw its first lighting in 1856, continuing today to serve as a station for the US Coast Guard, responding to 300-400 calls every year.
Now hungry after our morning of hiking, my daughter and I are ready to grab some lunch. With our bellies grumbling, we headed out of the park and drove down the highway about 15 minutes back into downtown Ilwaco and to Serious Pizza. Owned by Jim and Chi Chrietzberg, Serious Pizza came highly recommended and with good reasons. We ordered The Jetty pizza with all its mouth water toppings such as Provolone, sliced pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese.
Anybody can dine on pizza at Serious Pizza. They offer an array of choices from meat lovers to vegetarian, vegan, and even offer several gluten-free options. But it is Jim’s attention to detail, friendly manner, and warm customer service that made this meal a pleasure. The recipes are Chi’s masterpieces, all handmade to order, exhibiting her to be a fine artist and chef. It is for this attention to quality that it is best to call ahead. The wait can be long, but the end product is well worth the wait.
A Walk on the Seashore
Where the morning busied itself with hiking to lighthouses, the stretch of afternoon lent itself to some solitary time walking along the sandy shores of the Seaview beach. With miles of clean sand, surf, and shorebirds, the beaches at Seaview are a little less busy than their neighbors to the north, so if it is solitude you seek, Seaview may be your “Shanti” or “Peace”. Listening as the waves ebb and flow creating the sound of “Om”, and quieting your mind as you walk barefoot in the sand or perhaps sit in silence building a Cairn of stones.
The Discovery trail weaves itself along the shoreline providing a pleasant walking/biking path for any traveler seeking to stretch their legs.
Brunch New Orleans Style before a Horseback ride on the Beach
A good morning to lay in and be lazy, we awoke slowly, preparing for our new day of adventure and heading into Long Beach. But before we left Seaview we needed to make a stop at the 42nd Street Café for a late breakfast of Beignets and Café Au Lait. A pleasant surprise indeed! The carafe of brewing coffee and steamed milk with a hint of nutmeg accompanied the doughy beignets covered in powdered sugar. Delicious!
Serving up “Original Gourmet Comfort Food”, Cheri Walker and her husband Blaine have owned the café since 1994. They kept with tradition, serving well known “roadhouse” dinners, improving upon them with the use of local and seasonal products.
A good breakfast to start the day and we were ready to ride. A one-hour horseback ride on the sandy beach with Back Country Horse Rides. They are a guided horse rental service out of Long Beach, and this day our guide was Justin. We rode out along the tall grass and dunes, then out onto the sandy stretch of Long Beach. Our well-tempered horses walked an easy pace along the shoreline, occasionally taking notice of a playful dog or automobile coming down the beach.
These “dude” horses, as they are referred too, are specifically trained for trail riding with riders of all ages and levels of experience. We trotted for a bit, allowing the horses to enjoy the faster pace, changing back to walking once we had bounced in the saddle enough times. With the ocean breeze in your hair, looking out over the waves atop a saddle and steed, there is a sense of calm and peace that only the sea can stir in a soul. We turned the horses around and headed back through the dunes to where we had begun, grateful to Justin and the horses for a very memorable ride.
Our one night in Long Beach situated us on the edge of the dunes at The Adrift Hotel. A modern, upscale hotel with an eclectic vibe, fusing old and new together to create something spectacular, comfortable, and easy. Maybe it is the beautiful and austere surroundings of this coastal town or the values of nature in the Pacific Northwest, for, at the Adrift, the environment and our impact on it is of vital importance. They go beyond recycling. When the Adrift was remodeled they used reclaimed or recycled furnishings for much of the décor, giving it the rustic, eclectic look it has today. But it was their decision to incorporate renewable energy in the form of solar panels that really set them apart.
One year after the solar panels were installed they were supplying hot water to both hotel buildings, decreasing their propane usage by 26%. It is integrity and commitment to an ethos, to work and live in congruency with their values as well as their surroundings that you experience at the Adrift. It is clean, comfortable, with a simple elegance and ethic I can happily put my money on. The staff is friendly, helping guests pick out a courtesy bicycle for the day or offering dinner advice from the menu at the hotel’s bar and grill, The Pickled Fish. With the ocean only footsteps away, the Adrift is convenient as well as a classy choice to stay the night.
G’Day is the greeting at the Lost Roo. Walking into the spacious grand dining room, there are television screens broadcasting sports of all sorts and people everywhere. Despite the sports bar atmosphere, the Lost Roo is a multi-faceted destination with a full-service kitchen that can create anything, special order. Their menu is vast and has several vegetarian and vegan options in which to make a selection. We were seated in their enclosed garden deck which provided a nice view and a slightly quieter environment. We ordered the Portobello mushroom burger and the Black Bean Rice Bowl from a section titled “from the Fields”. The bowl came with black beans flavored with a slightly spicy salsa, whole grains, fresh cilantro, corn chips, and two grilled avocado halves.
I have to admit I was skeptical at first on how well a sports bar would serve vegetarian fare, but I have to admit I was sincerely impressed, pleased, and satiated with my choices. My daughter feasted on the Portobello burger with a side of tater tots. Hands down it is the best Portobello burger I have ever tasted. The greens were very fresh, the mushroom patty had been grilled in a vinaigrette to perfection and the tangy mustard sauce added a nice contrast. The wait staff is kept hopping for the Lost Roo is a very popular place for locals and visitors alike, making reservations a good idea. The staff is courteous, knowledgeable, and friendly at this restaurant down under where casual class and quality reside.
After a good night sleep in our comfortable beds at the Adrift Hotel, we awoke refreshed and ready to begin our trip home. We walked along the Long Beach boardwalk, sipping our hot morning coffee and watching our breath in the chill, misty air. With the slight melancholy that only the sea can emote, we silently said good bye to the Long Beach peninsula and turned our car for home.