Fishing, History & Alligator-Men – Long Beach Peninsula, WA
The past few days we’ve extended beyond our little beach-haven and visited the sights around us. Our RV spot is actually out on an outcropping on the very SW end of Washington. The rocky headland that is Cape Disappointment is but the tip of a long peninsula that runs like a long, narrow finger into the ocean and carries both history, quirky attractions and summer fun. Within a few hour drive you can capture it all, although it’s more fun to take your time and do it in stride. We’ve not even gotten close to seeing it all, but I figured I would give you a taste of what we’ve managed:
1/ Fishing & Markets At Ilwaco
There’s no doubt the history of Ilwaco is connected to the sea. Thousands of years ago the Chinook Indians lived with the sea and their cedar canoes in this very area. Today, this quiet port just east of Cape Disappointment offers no less than 25 charter boats and has at least 5 shops dedicated to canning, smoking and preserving your catch. There’s also a nice sprinkling of small restaurants, a wonderful local Heritage museum too (free on Thursdays) and a rather lovely Saturday market (mostly crafts, but a few veggies). We decided to take in the market by the port and couldn’t resist buying some locally-smoked albacore tuna that was transformed mere hours later into the most delectable tuna salad (with home-made mayonnaise) that we’ve ever eaten. Oh YUM! Most definitely worth a day.
2/ Quirky Long Beach
Long Beach feels like a non-stop summer carnival. It’s on the lower end of the pacific side, just north of Cape Disappointment and offers a cute, family-friendly downtown with access to the massive beach that runs all along the peninsula. Billed as the longest in the US, the beach offers over 28 miles of uninterrupted sand & waves that you can drive, bike, walk, horse-ride, paddle, surf or just gawk at. The downtown is a total beach hangout bursting with kiddie-rides, ice-cream shops and kites (in fact kites are quite the thing here with steady, constant winds and a World Kite Museum no less). But beyond the beach, the real quirkiness of Long Beach lies at Marsh’s Free Museum. This crazy little shop right on the main drag packs a ton of weird antiques and knick-knacks, the oddest of which is undoubtedly Jake The Alligator Man. He’s the mummified remains (or so it goes) of a half-alligator, half-man dwarf who is lovingly preserved and displayed at the shop. Each year on his birthday he gets out for a party where the local gals compete to be his bride. COOOOOOL! We walked the boardwalk by the beach and promenaded through town, but I definitely had the most fun at Marsh’s. Yes, I’m an odd gal, what can I say?
3/ Historic Oysterville
The drive north along the peninsula is nice, but not exactly stunning except when you turn right and head to the bay at Oysterville. Suddenly you’ve left the resort coast and entered a historic town with sleepy bay and mountain views. This place, not surprisingly, is known for oysters and one of the first things you notice are the huge mounds of shells that decorate the banks. But the other, perhaps more interesting thing are the frozen-in-time 19th century structures. The entire town may only be a few blocks wide, but eight houses, the church, the cannery and the schoolhouse are all on the National Register of Historic Places. You can visit the old church, pick-up a walking guide and perhaps grab a few oysters on the way home. A cool little spot and definitely worth the drive to see.
That’s about the limit of what we’ve managed in our short time here. There’s still a ton we haven’t seen, but we’ve had enough of a taste to enjoy the area. Out of everything we’ve experienced here my heart lies with crazy, wild Cape Disappointment. I liked the sleepy feel of Ilwaco, enjoyed the resort fun that is Long Beach, admired the history of Oysterville, but I’m in love with the end of my day by the churning waters and wild scenery at our RV spot. Despite the lack of internet, this is an astounding place that I would definitely recommend for an extended stay. I think the paws would agree too. We’re back to OR after this, but we’re very happy to have put WA on our map!