Every time we drive south from Seattle we always pass by (and don't stop at) Saltwater State Park. We finally stopped to check it out! Lucky for us it was low tide and we got to explore some cool tide pools.
The park has parking close to the beach, camping, & a nice little saltwater cafe that opens seasonally. Chill with a picnic at one of the many tables throughout the park or explore nearby beach and woods.
Despite being a touch rocky at low tide, not a bad place to launch a kayak to head straight across the Sound to Point Robinson Lighthouse on Vashon Island (Maury). We also heard that it's a great diving spot.
All & all, not a bad little park…that we finally stopped to check out. You should too!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Just a short drive from Gig Harbor exists Kopachuck State Park - a forested park on Henderson Bay with plenty of water access and some pretty cool nearby bays & islands to explore. There's lots of parking (Discover Pass required) but it's not that close to the water. If you've got hardshell kayaks, you'll have a little hike down the hill to the beach (I'd look at a map before you go). Luckily for us, our inflatable packs up nice and we made the short trip down the trail to the water.
While hiking down to the beach we stumbled upon a marine trail campsite. It was cool to see in person since we recently joined the Washington Water Trails Association. It's a pretty sweet deal - a minimal annual membership for discounted, members only aquatic campsites up and down the Puget Sound allowing paddlers a place to camp (that way you could complete some super long paddling trips).
We eventually made it down to the water and started paddling south towards Horsehead Bay. It's popular to go the other way towards nearby Cutts Island State Park (some of the locals call it Deadman's Island!) or Raft Island, but we've been there done that. Also, it was a busy summer weekend day and several power boats were WAHHHH-ING!!! around the islands (we only like power boats WAHHHH-ING when we're actually in them:).
Paddling into Horsehead takes you past a tempting sand spit…tempting because it seems to be private property…otherwise it would be a great place to stop for a snack. We paddled in and out, pretend shopping for our favorite beach house, and eventually drifted back to our launch site at the park.
Kopachuck is a nice day trip and it was cool to finally see a WWTA campsite. If you haven't paddled around here before it's definitely worth a visit. A circumnavigation of Raft Island (private/residential) is totally doable and exploring Cutts Island (beach and hike around) is fun too. You could do it all in one day pretty easily. If that day is a warm summer one you may not be alone!
There's lots of parking but not a whole lot of beach space - I'd choose a different beach if you planned to spend the day tanning (or, as tanning as Northwestern-ly possible:). However, word on the street is that at low tide a sandy beach appears…maybe there's tanning to do after all!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Our exploration of the San Juan Islands continues with a little trek to the tallest point on the islands - Mount Constitution. Located on Orcas Island (Orcas is the mountain-y one), Mount Constitution sits in Moran State Park, a 5,000 acre or so state park with lakes, mountains, waterfalls, lots of hiking trails, camping & day use areas.
Mt. Constitution sports an awesome stone lookout tower (built in 1936). The views are excellent, you can actually go inside and up in the tower (as opposed to it being locked up like some sites in the NW), and there are bathrooms in the parking lot.
Although you can park lower on the mountain and hike up (the popular trail is about 7 miles with a 1500 ft elevation gain), you can also just drive and park on the very top. Just know you'll need a Washington State Discover Pass ($10 a day or $30 a year) to park a vehicle at the park. We usually purchase ours each year at REI in Seattle and keep it in the glove box.
Also, if you are hiking up, know that sometimes there isn't portable drinking water at the top so plan ahead! We highly recommend heading to the top and checking out the view - it's amazing!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Nice map of Moran State Park
Check here at the State Park website for current info
We thought we'd take one more little paddle on our quick-trip to the coast North Carolina last Fall- a visit to the quaint little town of Beaufort. First of all, this ain't no South Carolinian town of Beaufort (bew-fert)…this here is Beaufort (boh-fert - soft -t at the end there). Glad we cleared that up.
Beaufort is a scenic, quiet, & friendly seaport village near the southern section of the Outer Banks. From our point of view it is perfect - cute small town with nice restaurants and places to explore on foot, cool history, and some great paddling nearby. The town's Front street is just across a skinny waterway (Taylor Creek) with the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve on the other side - an awesome sanctuary to explore by kayak (wild ponies anyone?).
Added bonus: the town was once upon a time a hangout for some special guests…pirates. Blackbeard had been to the town and although he wasn't that impressed back in the 18th century, his beloved ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, grounded & eventually sank near Beaufort. They recently found her & the Maritime Museum in Beaufort gets first dibs on all of the artifacts being resurrected from the sea. Arrr.
You get a taste of the history of this place when you check out the Beaufort Historic Site. Located right in the middle of the historic part of town, the site has several historic buildings/houses to explore. Gorgeous stuff.
There's lots of other places to check out in town - we stopped by the Beaufort Coffee Shop (Cru Bar & Coffee Shop) for a cup of Joe. When you're on the road in the South and you hear the sound of a real espresso machine you go there...we're from Seattle after all! We also strolled the General Store & Taylor's Creek Antiques.
While walking along the waterfront in town you'll notice signs for the Rachel Carson Reserve - just across the Creek.
After exploring town we finally drove down a few minutes to a nice boat launch. We launched from the Beaufort boating access ramp on Lennoxville Road. There was a parking lot and it turned out to be a great place to set off. We paddled against the current eastward (which felt like northward), out past the end of Carrot Island. The current was pretty swift here. Without too much planning, we always paddle against the current first - that way it's an easy ride back (you don't want to try it the other way around!).
As you paddle, there are great beach houses and nice boats to check out on the mainland side, and pretty wildlife scenes from the reserve on the other. A reserve boardwalk, pictured below, is right across the creek from the boat launch. Taking it gives you views of the other side of the island.
The put-in is also right next to The Boathouse & Front Street Village - a future residential area with boat storage, marina, boat fuel, groceries, and more. There is a lot planned for this area, check out more here. For us, it was a great place to grab a snack after our paddle & check out the old fishing net wheel, left over from when this was once part of Beaufort Fisheries.
Do we recommend a visit to Beaufort? For sure. Great paddling and a quaint, historic town…perfect! Just don't call it Bew-fert.
~Paul & Amber ETC
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