Grays Harbor’s 50 miles of ocean coastline are a beachcomber’s paradise. Treasures range from driftwood to shipwrecks and everything in between. In years past, treasure hunters have found household debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, and Nike shoes and rubber duckies from container spills. With some basic knowledge and a little luck, you too can discover something amazing or interesting on the beaches of Grays Harbor.
Carl Ebbesmeyer is a researcher that tracks the treasures floating across thousands of miles of ocean. He calls his study flotsamology. Experts like Ebbesmeyer suggest the best treasures will be found after a storm along the wrack line — the swath of debris deposited by the previous high tide. Follow the descending tide for deposits of driftwood, bullwhip kelp, bottles, plastics, glass, balls, buoys and more. Watch for shells, rocks and agates as the tide nears low.
Check the weather and tide tables for your planned beach before heading out, and make sure to take some supplies to be prepared. It’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit, snacks and plenty of water in your car. Rubber boots and rain gear as well as some good plastic-coated garden-type gloves will be helpful in muddy conditions. Of course, you’ll want a container to stow your finds in, and a camera for restricted items or treasures too big to take home.
Most beaches will gather flotsam as the tide goes out, but in Grays Harbor there are a few beaches that stand out as treasure troves of desirable debris. Grayland Beach is one of the best. The local area hosts a yearly Driftwood Show and Glass Float Hunt and is so well known that the beachcombing here is competitive. Be sure to arrive early and follow the tide out. After a big storm, you will find sand dollars, driftwood, bullwhip kelp, sea creatures, cool rocks, shells and incredible amounts of flotsam. You may drive on this beach year-round, but beware of soft sand at the beach approaches. It’s always a good idea to have shovels, tow ropes and lumber to assist in towing a stuck car.
The best shell and driftwood collections are to the south where you will find moon shells and periwinkles. Stay overnight at Ocean Spray Beach Resort located just off the Grayland Beach Access. There are several beach-themed shops in the vicinity and if you’ve got a hankering for something sweet you must stop in at the Beachcomber Grocery & Deli where the swirl cones are a family favorite.
Rock hounds will certainly enjoy the next beach on the list: Cohasset Beach. Just south of Westport, the Schaffer Island Beach Approach ends in a walking path to some of the best agates and rocks around. Stroll this beach south to Bonge on State Route 105. The lowest tides uncover the greatest amount of surf-smoothed jasper, quartz and petrified wood, so time your arrival to get there about two hours before low tide. Of course, storms bring in flotsam and uncover more rock; however, it is easiest to spot sea glass and agates in the sun. The beach access is across from Cranberry Road Winery and just down the way from White Cap Espresso. Both are great places to warm up after a long hunt. Twin Harbors State Park has cabins, yurts or camping spots available or there are some cute vintage accommodations like the Walsh Motel in Grayland.
If you prefer heading north of the harbor, there are two excellent beachcombing beaches near Seabrook. To the south of Seabrook is Roosevelt Beach and to the north is Pacific Beach. Roosevelt beach is an often-overlooked gem that feels gloriously remote. There is not as much traffic here as other beaches and thus the competition for rarities like glass floats is a lot less. You can only drive on this beach part of the year here so be prepared to walk a distance if necessary. Roosevelt is especially good for rocks, large pieces of driftwood and various flotsam. Consider staying the night at a Seabrook cottage so you can hit Pacific Beach the next day. While you’re there stop in at Frontagers Pizza where the gelato is a treasure all its own.
Pacific Beach is a favorite for many reasons. The beachcombing is great, the sand is perfect for sand castles, the winds are a kite flyers dream, and it is home to Pacific Beach State Park – one of only a few Washington State parks that allows camping within 100 feet of the beach. This is a popular location for beach combing so get here early. You can drive on portions of the beach, but all-terrain vehicles are not allowed in the park or on the beach or dune areas. You’ll find driftwood, buoys, some shells and other flotsam. The local community is adorable and the shops and restaurants are a quick walk from the state park. Surf House Cafe is a favorite for warming up and filling your tummy.
Grays Harbor beaches are full of treasure just waiting to be found, many of which have travelled thousands of miles through the winds and currents. With a little preparation and planning, your beachcombing adventure will surely be fruitful. Check your tides, anticipate the weather, take the necessary gear and head to the beach ready to collect your next big jackpot.