The Cranberry Coast – PNW Series

Welcome to the first blog post in a (hopefully) long-running series on things I find fascinating in the Pacific Northwest.

I read an article once, many years ago, that you should go sight-seeing in your hometown. That’s something I did in Buchanan, MI – going to each new antique store as it opened downtown and wondering around the vineyards. It’s a habit that will prove to be invaluable as I’m exploring a new city.

(some of the photos in this post are instagram photos I took with my iPhone. I love instagram in a big way. I also love Hipstamatic.)


Living less than 3 hours from the ocean is super exciting for me. We are used to spending days lounging on the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. I was hoping to find a west coast replacement for that and I believe I did. Granted, the water isn’t quite as warm and “it tastes funny” (as Cody put it) but the surf and the seagulls and the warm sun on my face is what we were looking for. (yes, he’s in the ocean in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. their suits were in the car. I should’ve had them change. oh well. I had also brought a warm change of clothes so they were all set after this.)

I did a lot of research on where to go. The shortest drive is right around the sound and straight west. There was a town that kept coming up as the tourist place to go. That was exactly what I didn’t want. I wanted to go to a beach the locals go to. I wanted to find a tiny town with great seafood restaurants and friendly people. The type of town I would buy a home in. ($ and job providing of course) What I found was an 18 miles stretch referred to as “The Cranberry Coast”. So named for – you guessed it – tons of amazing cranberry farms located in Grayland, a town right in the middle of this area. (In a few travel guides I picked up this area is also referred to as Grays Harbor’s South Beaches and also South Beach.)

This boat grabbed my attention as we were driving along. If it could talk – oh the stories it could tell….


We started with breakfast in Tokeland at the Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant. This charming hotel is on the State Historical Register. It was built as a home in 1885, then expanded and used as an inn in 1889. They boast being the oldest resort hotel in the state of Washington. We went specifically for the crab benedict. It did not disappoint. :)

We drove north along the ocean and stopped to check out Washaway Beach. A place where the ocean is reclaiming the land, bit by bit, piece by piece. One of the last houses still in-tact, has been aptly named “Isle Knot Go” … (view from the road)

(view from the ocean at low tide, based on the driftwood and rubbish in the rocks, I imagine at high tide the ocean would be almost at their doorstep)

Next we pulled off the road at a little cove and ran around for a bit…

It should be noted that there were random other people on the beach here… few and far between, but we weren’t alone… until we got here…

… then in this moment we were suddenly all alone for as far as I could see. Now, it’s fair to say I’m scared of bears. Like, morbidly afraid of them. I’m getting better – I’ve watched several documentaries and news story interviews with people who’ve been attacked and survived. I’ve memorized what to do in case of attack. I don’t yet own bear spray but I plan to get some. Anyways – I realized that there were more than likely bears living up in the hills beyond the beach here. There is a road between the beach and the hill that is fairly well traveled – so I figured I’d hear cars honking and screeching tires should a bear decide he wanted to wander down to the ocean. Still, I gathered the kids and we moved to what I figured was a slightly less bear-friendly stretch of ocean.

Then we drove north for some lunch in Westport and walked through the little shopping area right on the harbor. Westport is on the mouth of Grays Harbor and has the largest marina on the outer coast in the Pacific Northwest. There are charter fishing companies located all over this little town. There were fishermen selling fish right off the dock. The shopping area is cute. The best part (for the boys) was Whale of a Cone – we sat at a little table and enjoyed ice cream. And we weren’t the only ones in town who did…

This is Carley. The ice cream shop here has a little poster with her photo/name on it in the window. She hops up to the opening and the girl gave her a kiddie cone with ice cream. It was adorable. Carley also got what was left of Cody’s ice cream when he dropped the bottom inch or so of his cone onto the ground as she was walking by. We asked her owner if she could have it and he said “that’s what we’re here for”.

This museum was a Coast Guard Station from 1940 – 1973.

We made a small detour to check out the Grays Harbor Lighthouse. The lighthouse is the tallest in the state of Washington. 135 steps to the very top. Unfortunately there were no tours going on while we were there so we didn’t get to climb the steps and see the view from the top. Maybe next time…

Next it was off to Grayland to explore the cranberry farms. You can find these farms right off Cranberry Road. :) There is an annual cranberry harvest festival every year in October with a parade, market, and cranberry cook off.

The top of the hill looking back over the fields and in the distance, the ocean.

up this road 1/2 mile further is the spot the community will gather is there is a tsunami. all the signs point this way…

Most of the farms buildings had signs identifying the farms as certified growers for Ocean Spray. Which is awesome.

The Grayland Community Hall was built in 1930 by the Finnish people living here at the time. It was used as a meeting place and dance hall. The building is still used today.

From here it was back to the ocean where we once again drove onto the sand and parked the wagon on the beach (love my little car).

We got out and ran around. Looking at the shells and admiring a crab. Even after I explained that someone else had already eaten him and he couldn’t hurt them – neither boy would touch it.

There wasn’t one obvious road on the beach here… Multiple trails all heading north or south and then spots where previous drivers had parked facing the water’s edge. Dropping our blanket and throwing sand in the roadway is a definite new experience for us. :)

We had some obligations and had to be back in Seattle this evening, so we missed a west coast sunset. This was our parting view of the ocean… until next time that is…

Thanks for reading along on our first sight-seeing adventure in our new area. I’ll be exploring more and posting more in the weeks and months ahead.


About Danielle Nielsen

I am a photographer who loves to bring out the best in you and your life. Capturing those little moments that make you special are my favorite. I am an "on location" photographer and available for travel anywhere you'd like photos taken.
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6 Responses to The Cranberry Coast – PNW Series

  1. mandy says:

    thanks for bringing me along, it was a nice day… you are a great writer as well as stunning photographer… so many other talents to be discovered I think. :)

  2. Alicia says:

    Love it! Great pics and great narration! I love hearing the stories behind the pictures.
    So glad you’re embracing the West Coast. Makes me even more anxious to visit. :o )
    Looks like you’ve got the start of a nice coffee table book here too. I can see it being sold in some of those little boutique shops along the coast.

    • Thank you Alicia. I’m anxious to get over there this fall and winter and spring. Then I’ll assemble a coffee table book and see about getting it in some shops. I think that’s a brilliant idea. :) Let me know if you can get out here. I’d love to drag you around too. :)

  3. Deb says:

    Thanks for the tour. You moved to a beautiful part of the country. I’ll be looking forward to further adventures.

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