Shi Shi Beach, Washington
Herons soar overhead as crashing silvery waves rumble over sand and stones, interrupted only by looming sea stacks and towering bluffs fringed with sitka forests. What could be a scene from a land before time is actually Shi Shi Beach, part of Olympic National Park and considered the Northwest's purest stretch of coastline. Having gained notoriety as the most gorgeous of the Olympic Peninsula beaches, Shi Shi has also gained a reputation for being one of the most difficult to reach. The beach's remote location has ensured its safety from developers, and has left the 2-mile, crescent-shaped beach to revel in its own wilderness.
Hikers willing to traverse the coastal and headland trails that lead to Shi Shi are amply rewarded with a beach and coastline so rugged, so truly untouched by all but nature's hand, they are rendered speechless.
The official route to the beach is via a trail starting at Ozette, in the park. Rangers warn the hike is a difficult 13 miles, with slippery, muddy terrain, and hikers often must utilize rope and sand ladders built by park officials. Hikers should carry a tide guide, as part of a river must be crossed. The unofficial route to Shi Shi is a 2-mile hike through the Makah Indian Reservation, to the north. A trail is currently being built there, but is off-limits due to private property concerns. However, these rules aren't strictly enforced and many people reach the beach via the reservation.
Best Backcountry Camping
Shi Shi Beach
Nature enthusiasts, take note! A trip to Shi Shi Beach is an unparalleled opportunity to commune with the very heart of nature. After trekking through remote, coastal wilderness to reach this beach, backpackers are known to pitch a tent and revel in the splendor. Shi Shi Beach has remained untainted by the touch of humankind, and those willing to seek out its shores will be more than rewarded spending the night amidst crashing waves, soaring birds and sparkling stars.
Best Front Country Camping
Best Front Country Camping
Web Site: www.nps.gov/olym/pphtml/camping.html
Clearly, folks committed to visiting Shi Shi Beach love the backcountry wilderness, but it's understood that not everyone is prepared to sleep there. Visitors hoping to camp in a slightly less "wild" territory can spend the night in one of Olympic's designated front country campgrounds. Ozette Campground is the most conveniently located in terms of proximity to the trailheads leading to Shi Shi Beach. The campground offers 15 sites on a first-come, first-served basis, has nearby bathrooms, and does not offer hook-ups, laundry or showers.
Best Bed and Breakfast
King Fisher Inn
Web Site: http://www.kingfisherenterprises.com/inntour.htm
This charming retreat overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca is part of King Fisher Enterprises, known for organizing marine and fishing tours. The charming rooms and suites are decorated with handmade wooden furniture and quilts, both created by the inn's owners, Ken and Neta Welever. The owners have helped ensure an intimate atmosphere by painting the inn's murals and designing its light fixtures and stained-glass windows. Guests are immediately made to feel welcome, and when not taking advantage of nearby beaches, hiking or boating, can relax on the inn's decks overlooking the strait, with views of Vancouver and Canada in the distance. The inn also features a library of 500 videos and 300 music CDs, as well as free guest laundry.
Best Waterfront Accommodations
Chito Beach Resort
Web Site: http://www.chitobeach.com/
Perched on the shores between Clallam Bay and Neah Bay, Chito Beach Resort offers peaceful cabin retreats in a gorgeous, waterfront setting. In a region where cabin accommodations are often disappointing, Chito is a true gem. Three of the four cabins sit directly on the beach and all are carefully decorated with antiques, original artwork and plants. The cabins include full kitchens complete with cooking and eating utensils, board games and even CD players. A bonfire pit, grills, volleyball, horseshoes, badminton and croquet are available for communal enjoyment. The splendid accommodations and spectacular vistas are only part of the package - Chito Beach also boasts proximity (17 miles) to Shi Shi Beach.
Food & Drink
Best Homestyle Dining
Hungry Bear Cafe
Web Site: www.hungrybearcafemotel.com/cafeandmini.html
Bring a hearty appetite and strong arteries to the Hungry Bear Cafe, where the house special is a 1-pound hamburger and breakfasts feature homemade biscuits and gravy. Portions are large - from the Logger's Breakfast to Reuben sandwiches, patty melts, steaks and seafood - guests won't walk away hungry. Meals include fries and soup or salad, while dinners also feature choice of potato, vegetable and roll. Java lovers take note: Hungry Bear boldly claims to brew the Olympic Peninsula's best cup of joe.
Best Local Seafood
Web Site: www.visitkalaloch.com
Tummies are bound to rumble while exploring the reaches of Olympic National Park, and the restaurant at Kalaloch Lodge will satisfy hunger while serving up freshly caught and perfectly prepared seafood. The cozy cedar-paneled dining room overlooks the vast Pacific, and the creative menu features Seaside Benedict; fish-filled "chowdah"; and a divine Salmon Oscar, salmon topped with crabmeat, bay shrimp and bernaise sauce. After dining, relax with a stroll along the beach.
In a region where fish reigns supreme, seafood-weary travelers will welcome a freshly made pizza. One of the few pizza parlors on the Olympic Peninsula, Pacific Pizza serves up a mighty tasty pie. At this family-operated restaurant, pizza crust is made fresh daily and toppings are generous. Someone in your party doesn't want a slice? Indulge in the salad bar, or try the flavorful homemade lasagna.
Best Day Trip
Victoria, British Columbia
Web Site: www.tourismvictoria.com/
A ferry ride across the strait transports visitors away from the Olympic Peninsula wilderness and into the quaint town of Victoria, British Columbia. This harbor town and its rich culture exude Victorian charm. Visitors should explore the lovely Inner Harbor, home to the oft-visited Fairmont Empress Hotel, Royal British Columbia Museum and Parliament Buildings. A harbor boat tour lets tourists visit Point Ellice House, now a museum, where guests can admire Victorian artifacts or play croquet on the lawn. A maritime museum and enchanting shops line Bastion Square, and evening revelers will enjoy a stroll along the harbor's promenade, where street performers and musicians abound.
Best Kid Stuff
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
Web Site: www.visitsolduc.com
Is the family weary after hiking from Shi Shi Beach? Loosen everyone's muscles in nature's soothing hot springs. Located in the heart of the park, Sol Duc Hot Springs is a perfect retreat for travelers. The 98- to 104-degree hot spring pools and swimming pool await grateful bodies and help the whole family unwind. After frolicking together in the water, schedule a massage with one of the resort's massage therapists or grab a bite to eat at the poolside deli. Once everyone has caught up on rest, a hike through the magnificent old growth rainforest to Sol Duc Falls is a breathtaking and painless endeavor. A gift shop, grocery store and accommodations will suit the needs of most families, though reservations are recommended for overnight stays.
Makah Cultural and Research Center
Web Site: www.makah.com/mcrchome.htm
The Makah Nation has helped preserve the fascinating history and culture of the area's original settlers with the creation of the Makah Cultural and Research Center. Located in Neah Bay on the reservation, the center houses innumerable artifacts gathered from a beach at Lake Ozette, where a mudslide 500 years ago covered and preserved an ancient Makah fishing village. The museum showcases a long house; cedar dug-out canoes; whaling, sealing and fishing gear; baskets and tools. Visitors to the museum shop can purchase carvings and jewelry by Makah artists.
Best Fishing Charter
Web Site: http://www.tommycodcharters.com/
The waters surrounding the Olympic Peninsula are notoriously rich fishing grounds, begging to be explored. Tommycod Charters provides a professional crew and boat to take anglers of all experience levels out to sea. Charters carry guests into the waters of Neah Bay and the Puget Sound to fish for halibut, bottomfish such as lingcod, and of course, the ubiquitous salmon. These adventures feature a modern boat and equipment, and with a limit of six passengers, there's plenty of room for everyone. Not quite sure what to do with your catches? Tommycod cleans and bags the fish for you.