Washington's beaches tend to impress on a grand scale: towering cliffs and sea stacks, powerful winter storms, tide pools filled with colorful sea stars, and sweeping views of mountains or ocean. Consumed with the scenery, many visitors forget to look down at the tiny treasures underfoot. Washington has several good beaches for hunting seashells -- if you can aim your eyes downward.
Maxwelton Beach Park
Maxwelton Beach Park sits on the southern end of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. The long, wide beach expands significantly when the tide goes out, exposing many more yards of sand -- and tiny treasures such as smooth stones, sea glass and seashells. The beach is a favorite among Whidbey Islanders for its views of nearby islands and of the Olympic Mountains, and for its excellent beachcombing opportunities. A baseball field and playground at the park here will keep the kids busy after exploring the beach. Across the street, Old Maxwelton Store stocks provisions such as snacks and beach toys.
Ocean Shores is a top destination for Washington families seeking a warm beach vacation. The town on the Pacific Ocean has 6 miles of public beaches offering an array of activities, including horseback riding, clam digging, kite flying, sandcastle competitions and beachcombing. Finds on Ocean Shores beaches include seashells, critters such as crabs, urchins, sea stars and sea cucumbers, and sea glass. Visitors flock here in early spring to catch views of migrating pods of gray whales. The town itself has beach houses for rent, and activities include bowling, go-karts, shopping and golfing.
Point Roberts is known as a geopolitical anomaly: The town sits on the end of a peninsula, the majority of which belongs to Canada. Only the very tip belongs to the United States, and visitors to Point Roberts must either go through British Columbia, or take a boat across Boundary Bay to get here. The spot also is known for its stunning, clear water, and scenic vantage point overlooking a collection of islands. Maple Beach is the best of the town's four beaches for shell hunting. When the tide moves out, visitors can spot sea stars, crabs, sand dollars and other sea creatures. Nearby Lily Point Beach draws shellfish lovers, who collect oysters and dig for clams.
Point No Point Beach
Point No Point Beach, on the northern end of the Kitsap Peninsula, overlooks Puget Sound and Whidbey Island, with views stretching to the Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier. In 2009, Travel + Leisure named it one of the 10 best U.S. shelling beaches for its abundance of creatures such as dogwinkles, limpets and geoducks, bizarre-looking burrowing clams. Point No Point also is known for its lighthouse, which is Puget Sound's oldest. Orca and gray whale pods are common sightings here, and visitors can rent the lighthouse keeper's house overnight.