After we left Lake Quinault and the rainforests, we headed down Highway 101 to the pacific coast! This was me and Matt's first time seeing the Pacific ocean. The beaches were spectacular and the scenes were dreamy...
Ruby Beach // Olympic National Park, Washington
We made a quick stop to see Ruby Beach. It was an easy place to just get out of your car and walk around for a few hours and see a lot. The hike down was so easy. We even took our shoes off and enjoyed the tide pools.
It's one of the most visited and loved beaches on the Olympic coast. It was so beautiful and so unique. Out of a dream. I absolutely loved this place. Twilight was filmed here!
Sea stacks are ancient columns of rock standing in the sea. They are a defining characteristic of the Pacific North West coast. I love the one above with the hole in the center.
The weather was chilly, foggy, misty, and extremely cloudy. You always need a raincoat when visiting Washington. It rains a lot!
Since it was a very cloudy and overcast day, I had to use a tripod. That allowed me to use a really slow shutter speed so I could let more light in. You need a tripod for this because hand holding with a slow shutter speed would make the image completely blurry because our hands are naturally too shaky. I also always use a remote clicker to press the shutter when using the tripod.
Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park is the most beautiful beach in Washington, with soft red sand, tide pools, driftwood and beautiful bluffs. The views and seascapes are fantastic. A Washington gem!
First Beach // La Push, Washington
First Beach is a beautiful and very popular beach known for it's huge waves!
It's located in the small town of La Push which is on the Quileute Indian Reservation right outside of Olympic National Park.
The Quileute Indian Reservation is a sovereign nation which means they have their own government (a Tribal council). Indian reservations are considered to be very sacred and spiritual locations and the local Indian tribes have strict rules. They do not allow use of alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco, littering, or disturbing/removing nature and animals. They see it as a sign of disrespect and they do enforce it.
Matt and I were in wildlife heaven! I don't think we stopped smiling the entire time we were here. It was so incredibly beautiful. I've never had thousands of seagulls and pelicans swarming around my head in my entire life. It was so cool.
The dominant wildlife here are whales, dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, harbor seals, great blue herons, black crows, eagles, and otters. These birds were flying around at all times. They never stopped. Wild and free!
Herons are my favorite birds. They are majestic and beautiful and I love photographing them. This guy was enjoying an early morning sunkist sunrise along the river at Mora campground. This is also the campground where we parked the Camper Van each night. We loved this campground as it was clean, lush, and a great central spot to easily visit all of the local beaches.
In the main downtown area of LaPush there are a few restaurants, gift shops, lodging, a mom and pop grocery store, and a nice marina where lots of fishing boats are docked. This harbor is home to so many animals. It provided endless opportunities to view wildlife. This is where all the flying birds were. And all you have to do is park at First Beach and get out of your car. No hiking necessary to see epic views.
One morning we really wanted a hot meal so we went to this restaurant and ate breakfast. It had gorgeous views of the ocean and harbor from inside. We looked out the window the entire time we ate. I loved it so much. It was a beautiful scene with the birds flying and the sea stacks in the distance. After we were finished, we walked right outside to First Beach and took a morning stroll along the sandy coast. The seagulls were still flying in a frenzy and we even saw a harbor seal swimming too. The hot morning sun was so warm and against my face. It was simply perfect.
Rialto Beach // La Push, Washington
I saved the best for last! Rialto beach is a stunning area composed of rocky ocean beach and coastal forest. Giant drift logs, pebbles, sea stacks, and pounding waves are some of the things you will find here. Rialto beach is one of those beaches that beg you for more time. We took a lunch and spent an entire day here including catching sunset. It was so much fun!
The trek down the beach to see the iconic sea stacks is a 1.5 mile hike. Tips: Bring a backpack with plenty of water and snacks. And definitely carry an extra pair of socks too as you will have to cross some deep tide pools on the hike. Most important: You must check the tides! You usually have to get out of there soon after sunset otherwise the tide water will come in and trap you over there. Be very mindful of that! Same goes for Ruby beach and other PNW beaches. Read up on it before you visit any of these beaches.
I was really interested in comparing the Olympic coast with the NC coast on this trip to Washington. My findings surprised me...
North Carolina has fine sandy beaches with lots of different types of sea shells and some occasional washed up seaweed and jelly fish. And unobstructed views of the ocean and horizon. Your typical beach.
The Pacific North West coast beaches are different. Way more natural and fairytale like. They are a mixture of sandy and rocky. Some beaches, like Rialto, are made up of primarily stones and little sand. Circular pebbles, deep blue and gray in color blanket the coast and surf. These stones are soft and silky to the touch but hiking on this terrain for a few hours was tough on the knees. Tall sea stacks are scattered throughout the ocean adding even more beauty and charm to the beach. Rialto beach also has no sea shells. This goes for the other beaches too. I had to really look to find a single shell and even then I still didn't find many. But we did collect our favorite stones including some gorgeous teal and red stones in the mix too.
Rialto beach is home to an abundance of intertidal life. The most popular area to find life is over by the Hole-In-The-Wall arch down by the sea stacks. This is the Giant Green Anemone which were everywhere. It has tentacles that open like flower petals.
These two sea stacks were the most beautiful ones I saw on our entire trip around the coastal region. The whimsy trees poking out of the top added so much character and interest. It makes you really want to know their story. They look like they belong together. I love how they reflect on the surf at low tide. Breathtakingly beautiful!
Algae and seaweed make the surface rocks extremely slippery so you have to be really careful. However the farther you are willing to walk, the more you will see including so many starfish (sea stars) and other urchins. It was my first time ever seeing starfish in the wild. They were so much bigger and fatter than I ever expected and beautiful in color: purple, red, and orange. I wish I could have picked one up but unfortunately they were mostly hiding under rocks and were hard to reach but I did get a few sweet shots that I love.
Matt and I were really hoping for a colorful sky this particular evening but it didn't happen. Instead we got to enjoy this warm sunset which illuminated the sky with this bright golden orangey glow. I call these 'sunkist sunsets.' It was a great finale to an awesome day.
Other marine life you can expect to see in the tide pools at low tide include rockcrabs, wolf eels, pricklebacks, brittle stars, barnacles, clams, and sea snails.
I really love my photos from this part of the trip so much. Looking back I can't believe we saw as much as we did in just 2-3 days. We barely scratched the surface of this natural pristine coastline. Visiting the Olympic Coast beaches was a once in a lifetime experience. So much to explore and take in. A beautiful and dreamy place on Earth where you can truly get back to nature.