Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were onto something when they arrived at Cape Disappointment.
The explorers had traveled along the Columbia River in the fall of 1805, not really knowing what they would find when they got to the Pacific Ocean. The place they ended up is pretty special, it turns out.
You can follow in their path with an RV trip from the Inland Northwest to the coast. Once you get there, camp in a fantastic state park, access an incredible recreation trail, hike through coastal forests and beaches and even take a shot at salmon fishing.
Here are seven reasons we loved being on Washington's southern coast.
1. Excellent camping: Cape Disappointment State Park offers fantastic spots along a gorgeous section of beachfront. RVers can get full hookups or dry camp just steps away from the ocean. If you want something a little more civilized, several full-service RV parks are scattered around the area.
2. Hiking opportunities abound: Eight miles of trails wind through the park. Two-mile long Benson Beach is one of the prettiest stretches of ocean on the coast. And you can even follow Capt. William Clark's footsteps on McKenzie Head, a popular short hike with interpretive signs.
3. Interesting history: If you want to delve deep into the Corps of Discovery story, check out the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. There you'll see a number of artifacts, read journal entries and watch a movie about the explorers. The center also has one of the nicest views you’ll find in the park.
4. Lighthouses: Speaking of views, two beautiful lighthouses offer commanding vistas of the Pacific. The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is still a working U.S. Coast Guard station overlooking the famed Columbia Bar, the mouth of the mighty river. And the North Head Lighthouse might be the most photographed place on the coast of Washington, standing majestically above Benson Beach.
5. Follow the Discovery Trail: In Spokane, we know a thing or two about great recreation trails. Add to your list the paved Discovery Trail, traveling 8.2 miles from Ilwaco to Long Beach. It’s short, but stunning, offering the rare opportunity to ride your bike amid dunes along the ocean.
6. Further explorations: The tourist towns of the Long Beach Peninsula can be a little kitschy, but you can find plenty of treasures amid to go-kart tracks. We stopped at the excellent Sportsmen’s Cannery & Smokehouse in Seaview to pick up some fish. Farther north, check out Oysterville, a national historic district. At the top of the peninsula, more great hiking and beaches can be found at Leadbetter Point State Park.
7. Surprising Astoria: This town looks and feels old, mainly because it is. It was founded in 1811, predating Seattle, Portland and Spokane. In recent years, an artsy crowd has taken over, making the downtown feel vibrant with a number of new breweries, shops and restaurants. You won’t go wrong at the popular Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro, where we order the mighty fine five buck breakfast special.
This week’s Going Mobile question
What are your favorite beach camping spots in Washington? Share your suggestions with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll pass them along in the next column.