Although not as well-known as adjacent Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., is certainly comparable to its larger neighbor for exploring Washington State's natural beauty. Situated on the banks of the saltwater Puget Sound, Tacoma's beaches offer both rocky and sandy shores, views of Mount Rainier and plenty of wildlife sightings. Whether you're interested in fishing or taking an icy dip or boating excursion in the Sound, Tacoma's beaches provide ample opportunities for all types of outdoors lovers.
Anchored by the historic Titlow Lodge -- a former hotel built in 1911-- Titlow Park boasts a Puget Sound view, a lagoon and several miles of trails through grassy flatland. With a tour of the park, you can also spot Tacoma's famous Narrows Bridge, a replacement for the first Sound-spanning bridge named Galloping Gertie, which collapsed during a windstorm in 1940. The current bridge became a model for suspension bridges when it was completed in 1950. Titlow Park is also one of the city's best places to see -- but not touch! -- seals and sea lions in the spring and summer, as well as boating and fishing.
Dash Point Park
Nearly three acres in size, Dash Point Park is known for its 700-foot long sandy beach offering views of the lush greenery and stately homes of Vashon Island across the Puget Sound from the park. Unlike other parks in Tacoma, Dash Point offers visitors a parking lot right next to the water, so visitors with limited mobility can still easily access these waterfront views. Open before sunrise and closing after sunset, Dash Point also has a fishing pier, picnic facilities, a basketball court and a playground for young children.
Point Defiance Park
With more than two million visitors each year, Point Defiance Park is one of the Tacoma's most popular. Offering Puget Sound views like the other Tacoma parks, Point Defiance is also home to a large forest, a Japanese Garden and a Rose Garden. You can take advantage of the park's natural features by boating, swimming and hiking, or spend your time on one of the park's more modern attractions, which include batting cages, tennis courts and Go-Karts. Dash Point is also open before sunrise and stays open until after sunset.
Browns Point Lighthouse Park
The original Browns Point Lighthouse wasn't exactly a lighthouse. It was really just a lantern attached to a stick on Point Brown in 1887, before Washington became a state. You can tour what this lantern later became: a full-fledged, wood-frame building completed in 1901. You can even rent out the lightkeeper's cottage for a week-long vacation. Although the park itself is open from sunrise to sunset, the free tours of the lighthouse are only offered March through November. In addition to the lighthouse, you can also experience the four-acre park's other amenities, which include a sandy beach, picnic spots and hiking trails.