| |

The 4 Best Beaches for Families in Olympic National Park

Sharing is caring!

Heading to the beach? Here are the 4 Best Olympic National Park Beaches for Families,  Tips for what to pack & bring to the beach + Places to Stay Near the Beach. 

Heading to the beach? Here are the 4 Best Olympic National Park Beaches for Families + Places to Stay Near the Beach

The 4 Best Beaches for Families in Olympic National Park

We went camping over on the Washington coast close to Olympic National Park for our second summer in a row and I have to tell you that this is one of the most beautiful parts of the Northwest. The incredible ruggedness of the beaches is so much more dramatic in Olympic National Park than in any other beach area of Washington & it reminds me a lot of the beaches in Oregon & Northern & Central California, with some of those beautiful, rugged beaches & coastline. What I love about these Olympic National Park beaches, though, is that they are much quieter than the very busy OR & CA beaches with fewer tourists and so peaceful to visit & just sit & enjoy the beauty. In the summertime, it is their busiest time, so you will find more people, but it still felt very peaceful to us at any of these beaches.

The lower numbers of tourists is partially due to the fact that it is a lengthier drive to get out to these locations (3+ hours from Seattle or Tacoma) and there are more limited places to stay if you are wanting to spend a few days in Olympic National Park, so you have to do more planning. However, I’ll share some tips for lodging at the bottom of this post as it’s definitely still very doable with some great towns to stay in – you will just want to plan ahead as locations can get booked up early.

I’ve chosen 4 of the best beaches for families in Olympic National Park with kids of any age to visit – from the little babies & toddlers up to teenagers.

4 Best Beaches for Families in Olympic National Park:

Rialto Beach 

Rialto Beach at dusk in Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach is the easiest beach to access on the northern end of the Olympic beaches. It is about 10-15 minutes away from Forks and just on the north side of the Sol Duc river, directly across the river from the tiny town of La Push (& First Beach). It is also located right next to the Mora National Park campground and a Olympic National Park Ranger station.  This beach is definitely a rougher, rockier beach than it’s neighboring First Beach (this is on reservation land), where the sand is quite soft & the water is much more protected in a little cove. However, the big draw for this beach is the ruggedness of this beach coastline, especially as you walk further to the north and view the sea stacks jutting out into the ocean.  {Just make sure to be aware of the tide tables & changing tides, so you don’t get stuck} Make sure to keep an eye out for sea life from this beach, too, as you might just spot whales, seals, and more sea life out in the waves.

Rock stacking at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

For kids, the biggest draw is the driftwood and the rock-finding. This beach is definitely one that has the most driftwood forts of any of the northern Olympic beaches. My girls could have literally played here for hours with all the fun forts that were already in existence & their fun in making more forts. This can be a very windy beach, but with all the large logs and then the smaller driftwood pieces, they could create cozy little forts to hang out in.

Collecting rocks at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

The other draw for both kids and adults alike are the unique rocks you will find here – if you sit down closer to the water’s edge when the tide has started to go out & start digging thru the rocks to find quite an assortment of different colors of rocks.  The closer you sit after the tide has gone out, the more vibrant the colors may be of the rocks, as they have not been dulled by the elements as long. There are also so many different shaped rocks, many that are very thin & long, perfect for stacking on top of each other to see how high you can stack your rocks (you will find many of these fun rock stack photos on Instagram from Rialto Beach).

Rialto Beach, as I mentioned can get quite windy, so I always make sure to pack jackets/sweaters and layers when coming to this beach. Even if it’s a warm day elsewhere around the area, this beach always seems to be a bit colder. A nice benefit to this beach compared to most of the other National Park beaches is that they do have full bathrooms here with flush toilets and sinks, which is always nice with kids. There are also several picnic tables on the other side of the driftwood, too, if you want to bring a lunch to eat at the beach.

Second Beach

Second Beach in Olympic National Park is a family friendly beach with gorgeous views of the sea stacks, tide pool exploring & breathtaking sunsets

Second Beach is my personal favorite beach in Washington. It does have a short hike (about a half mile) to get to the beach, but even with a short uphill descent on the way back, it’s very doable for most families. Once you descend down the trail and start to view the beach through the trees, it really just takes your breath away. Several large sea stacks and other rock formations, along with the smooth sand to walk barefoot thru and long stretches of beach just make this beach absolutely gorgeous. When it’s a cloudy or rainy day, it’s just as beautiful with the fog clinging to the rocks and you feel like you’ve stepped right into the Goonies. Sunsets here are absolutely worth the wait. Honestly, this beach rivals Cannon Beach, in my opinion, but without all the crowds.

Second Beach has many opportunities for tide pool exploring during low tide to see a variety of marine life

That’s not to say that this beach hasn’t gotten much more popular – just from our first visit last year to this year, beach camping has really gotten even more popular & little tents line the driftwood areas up & down the beach during the busiest part of the summer. But the beach is so wide, especially at low tide, that even with all the tents, you still feel like you have plenty of peace & quiet to enjoy these magnificent views. The tide pool exploration around the sea stacks is incredible, too, as we’ve spotted numerous sea urchins, sea stars, crabs & more.

Second Beach with the Sea Stacks

Photo Credit: my sister in law, Holly

There are several parking areas for Second Beach near the trailhead, but it does get crowded in the summer, so keep that in mind. There are also several pit toilets as well for you to use. As I mentioned, the trail can be a good uphill walk on the way back for a short bit, so just keep that in mind with the number of items you bring as you will also have to climb over driftwood when you enter & leave.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach Sea Stacks at Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach is about 10 minutes north of Kalaloch Beach and located at the southern end of Olympic National Park. This beach is simply breathtaking, with the unique, rugged sea stacks out in the ocean. A number of the beaches along the Olympic coast do have the sea stacks, but this beach in particular has some unique rock formations that make for some really cool photo opps and kids love to climb on the lower parts of these.

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park is easy to access and a kid friendly beach with lots of driftwood, rocks to stack & sea stacks for tide pool exploration

 

You can get a glimpse of this beautiful view even from the parking lot, so  if you are driving down the highway & don’t have time to stop at the beach, at least pull into the parking area & get out to take a few pictures – you can see how cool it looks from up near the parking lot. This is a pretty rocky beach, so you’ll want shoes or water shoes to walk around this beach, but that means that the tide pool exploration is great during low tide.

Kalaloch Beach

Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park is a family favorite with its soft sand, driftwood for building forts & opportunities for whale watching & more

This Olympic Park beach is typically the easiest and most accessible beach for most folks in the Northwest (unless you’re coming from further up north near Port Angeles) as it’s just an hour and a half north of Ocean Shores and you can park right by the beach. Kalaloch Beach is not too far away from Lake Quinault and the Quinault Rainforest, so there are several fun options if you decide to head north from Ocean Shores for the day. It’s also about 45 minutes south of the Hoh Rainforest, so you can also easily get to it if you’re staying in Forks as well.

It’s also just down the road from Ruby Beach, so combining Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach into a day trip makes for an exciting beach day, with 2 very different beaches and arguably the two most popular beaches of Olympic National Park, just due to their location & fun for families.

Driftwood at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park

This was one of my girls’ favorite beaches as they just loved all the driftwood for building forts.  The sand is also so soft, too, which is nice for relaxing & building sand castles and more. My girls could have spent hours at this beach. Kite flying is also a popular past-time at this beach, with the soft sand & long expanses of beach to fly.  There is some tide pool exploration here and it makes for a nice spot to watch marine wildlife, including seals and whales. A friend of mine was just at Kalaloch Beach at the end of August & they had fun watching whales from the beach.

Kaloloch Tree has stood the test of time on the Olympic coast in Olympic National Park

Photo Credit: my friend Shari

Kalaloch is also home to the iconic Kalaloch tree, which is this amazing tree right on the bluffs, that has withstood the test of time. The bluff has eroded underneath it, so you can see all the roots & it’s such an impressive site to see.

Honorable Mention:

Shi Shi Beach – 

Shi Shi beach is definitely another beach that you’ll want to consider when visiting Olympic National Park; however, this is one trail that you’ll want to make sure is doable for your family as it does have a bit of a steep trek down once you hit the beach. Thanks to information from the Washington Trail Association site (my favorite resource for hiking trail info), it sounds like you have to be able to hike back up {& possibly down) using a rope, so you’ll need some upper body strength to be able to pull yourself up. The views look amazing from this beach, though, so totally worth it if it’s doable for your family.

First Beach

First Beach is in between Rialto and Second beaches and a kid-friendly option with easy access, sandy beach & calmer waters

I didn’t include this beach in our Top 4 Beaches as this beach is not an Olympic National Park beach as it is on the Quileute Indian Reservation right in the tiny town of La Push. But this beach sits right between Rialto Beach and Second Beach – it’s just directly across the river inlet from Rialto Beach (which means you have to drive a little ways back to hit the road to La Push as there is no bridge right by the beaches to connect them). First Beach is definitely in our top 3 beaches in Washington as the views are outstanding with the sea stacks out in the water, the water was calmer than the other beaches as it’s a bit more protected if kids wanted to go in the water on sunny summer days, there was a lot more sand on the beach (compared to the rocky & windy Rialto Beach just across the inlet) and it’s very accessible for families, especially if you have younger kiddos.  There is a parking lot right next to the beach. Due to its accessibility and being right in La Push, though, it can get more crowded than Second Beach, though (or Third Beach).

First Beach & Quileute Resort on the Olympic Peninsula

When we were visiting First Beach last year, we were amazed to see a large grey whale come in really close in the cove, too, just around the breaking point of the waves. He was so close that there were a large group of us that were starting to get worried he was in trouble, but turned out he just wanted to hang out close to shore, maybe following some fish and after about 15 minutes, he headed back out further in the ocean. It was an incredible sight to see a whale that close. I’ve heard that you can also spot eagles, seals, otters & more frequently, so great place for marine animal viewing.

Tips: 

Bring layers for your trip to the beach

We did arrive on some of the warmest weather days this summer and they do get some of that warm weather on the coast but it’s always at least 5 – 10 degrees cooler on the beaches in Olympic National Park, so I’d always recommend bringing layers when you head to one of these beaches. I always pack a backpack with sweatshirts & even pants as well as a change of shorts/pants as my kids always seem to get wet.

Bring baby powder –

We learned the hard way that we should pack a trial size baby powder in our backpack as our daughter’s shorts got quite wet from playing in the surf at Second Beach, so when you combine wet shorts with all the sand, it made for very uncomfortable hiking back to our car for her, so we’re definitely adding baby powder to our backpacks from now on.

Pack a Picnic Lunch, Snacks & Drinks in your backpack

Believe me, once you visit one of these gorgeous Olympic coast beaches, you will not want to leave. It is so hard to pull yourself away from these gorgeous beaches and with the exception of Kalaloch Beach (which is within walking distance of the Kalaloch Lodge where you could get a bite to eat at the restaurant), there are not any places to eat, so make sure to bring those items with you so you can spend the whole day at the beach!

Places to Stay along the Coast:

The northern Washington coast is definitely harder to find places to stay if you want to be centrally located , especially in the busier summer months, so I wanted to share a few different options that I have found. There are a fair number of small motels located right in Forks as well to stay. By booking your stay in the fall or spring, you’ll have a much easier time finding lodging & get to experience the mysteriousness of the beaches with the cool fog & clouds, as well as lower rates, too.

Hotels/Lodges:

Quileute Oceanside Resort This location is literally right on First Beach in La Push (about 15 minutes from Forks) with a motel, cabins and RV/tent campground.  It is in the prime location for quick access to the beach & gorgeous sunsets. My family is definitely wanting to head here sometime soon because of the prime location.

Kalaloch Lodge – this is an Olympic National Park lodge, located right above Kalaloch Beach & would be a great, central destination

Quinault Lodge, an Olympic National Park lodge on the banks of Lake Quinault

Quinault Lodge – this is also an Olympic National Park lodge, located further inland, but it’s about a half hour away from Kalaloch Beach & 45 minutes to Ruby Beach. So this is a good central location as well and it’s a beautiful historic lodge right on Lake Quinault.

Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park is a central location to explore the mountains and the beaches of the park

Lake Crescent Lodge – We just visited Lake Crescent Lodge for the first time this August & I loved this cozy lodge which looks like a big farmhouse right on the shores of the crystal blue waters of Lake Crescent. There are hotel rooms & cabins to rent. It’s about an hour from La Push, where Rialto & Second Beaches are located.

Olympic Suites Inn – I did not see where these are located, but they said they are located in Forks along the Calawah River, with 1 & 2 bedroom suites

Campgrounds:

Camping is often your best bet for where to stay on the Olympic coast, but even campsites now can be difficult to find as you have to either book early as they book out months in advance or they are first-come, first-serve for many of them. However, there are some county or private campgrounds that you can find availability even more last-minute (we found a campsite a week before in a prime August weekend this year)

Cabins at Kalaloch Campground

Kalaloch National Park Campground – this is an amazing campground situated right above the beach with RV & tent sites, as well as cabins, but it does fill up very fast as it’s one of only 2 Olympic Park campgrounds that accepts online reservations. My friend Shari & her family camp here a few times every summer & just love everything about this campground. Some of the cabins are even perched on the bluff right above the beach – amazing views!

Mora National Park Campground – this campground is just 2 miles from Rialto Beach, so it’s a great central location. However, it is first-come, first-serve & does fill up on busy summer weekends, so you’d want to get there early or go during the fall/spring.

Hoh National Park Campground – The Hoh rainforest would be a beautiful place to camp, right in the Hoh rainforest & national park. It is also first come, first serve. Just be prepared with bug spray as we saw tons of mosquitos in the evening while we were hiking, so I can only imagine camping there.

Lake Quinault RV & Campground – there are 3 different locations around Lake Quinault for RV & tent camping and it does look like you can reserve these online

Riverview RV Park & Campground – this is newer campground where we have camped the last 2 years as it was where we could guarantee a spot, even booking just a week  ahead for busy July & August weekends (although it is getting more well known, so may start filling up faster). They have an upper area where there is an RV park and a very nice, newer bathroom facility (flush toilets & showers with locked bathrooms operated with codes, very clean!) and then down closer to the river, there are about 30 tent campsites. These sites are huge (with the exception of a few) and so nice in the grass with trees all around. We really liked this campsite as it was also centrally located on the road to Rialto Beach, about 5-10 minutes away & about 15 minutes from Second Beach/La Push & Forks.

Three Rivers Resort – this location has both cabins and camp sites and it was directly across the street from where we stayed at the Riverview campground. They do also have a little store on site as well. This campground & cabins are right on the main road to Rialto, though, and did look like you have less space in the campsites, so I would prefer the campsites at Riverview to these due to space & road traffic/noise/busyness, but the cabins did look like a good option if you want a cabin (although they were close together).

Camp on the Beach – There really are some amazing beaches all the way down the coast in Olympic National Park & several of these beaches are perfect for camping on the beach – it’s on my bucket list! Shi-Shi Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach would make excellent beaches to camp at, you just need to make sure you have the appropriate gear since all of those beaches do require a hike to get to them (Second Beach is the closest with about a half mile hike to get to the beach) so you’ll need to backpack in to camp. You also need appropriate bear canisters for food storage, which is required, as well as permits.

What are your favorite beaches for families in Olympic National Park? And where do you love to stay when you visit? We’d love to hear about more options for lodging or camping!  

Find more ideas of things to do & where to stay in Washington on our Washington Travel page.

Similar Posts

3 Comments

  1. I love OlyNP! I did Cape Alava and Sand Point over Labor Day, but am hoping to hit up more beaches in the fall/winter. Glad your family enjoyed the park!

    1. Oh those look like some great hikes! We haven’t explored that area of the park as much, so looking forward to checking out those areas

Comments are closed.