The Olympic Peninsula beckoned with its temperate rainforest, rocky coastline, and snowy mountains. Driving towards the Pacific Ocean from Seattle, Washington, through small historic towns on our way to the coast, we began to adjust to our new surroundings. Chilly winds and brief rains, threatening storm clouds. Thick coniferous forest with occasional clear cuts that reminded us of this region’s roots in the timber industry.

Exploring several towns on our first day on the Olympic Peninsula, I think we’ll call Aberdeen our favorite. Driving up the hill on winding streets reminiscent of Lombard Street in San Francisco, we admired the unbelievably big and beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas. Reds, salmons, whites, pinks, and purples appeared in everyone’s yard. The view from the top of the hill into Gray’s Harbor was spectacular.

This is coffee country and driveup espresso shacks are everywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. These little shacks provide residents and visitors with the opportunity to get a latte, mocha, or cappuccino without getting wet in the drizzle and cold. I’ll take a mocha. Yum.

I'll take a mocha


We made it to the Pacific mid-afternoon, following the signs off the main drag to Ocean Shores beach access. Guess where you park your car? On the beach! This part of the coast is flat and sandy. The guide book tells us that the coast gets rocky as we move further north, and that we’ll see “sea stack” rock formations in the surf. Here, it’s wet compact sand and actually a state highway. I’m serious. The first time I heard this, I thought it was a loving nickname for the beach because you’re allowed to drive on it. Alas, there’s a 25 mile speed limit, no horseplay allowed, and no driving in the razor clam beds. What I need to know is…how do you know you’re driving in a razor clam bed? I hope I didn’t drive in any as we couldn’t resist the urge to take a short trip up the beach in our rented Chevy Cruze. Other than a brief flirtation with disaster as we almost went into some drier sand, it was a fun experience. And thanks to one of the locals, I now know what a razor clam looks like (well, at least I know what their shells look like). I even know about how to dig for them. But I still don’t know how to find the clam beds.

Razor clam - just the shell

We stopped briefly in Ocean Shores, with its hopeful pedestrian shopping area, then headed north to Ocean Crest Resort in Moclips. A random find for us and an apparent favorite of olympic speed skater Apollo Ohno, this oceanfront resort was quite a treat. Indoor swimming, hot tub, tanning bed, and massage therapy available in the onsite cedar lodge, and beach access through a meandering but steep wooden walkway and stairs through a wooded ravine. We were able to get the best room in the house for a bargain $120 a night. Traveling in shoulder season has its advantages. A view of the ocean from the top of a 100 foot bluff, a nice stroll on the Washington state highway….errr beach, and we finished out our first day exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Tomorrow, we’re headed to the rainforest.

Dogs and cars are welcome on this beach

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