Best Spots for Storm Watching in Washington State

by Lauren Braden

in Trip Ideas

stormwatching_WashingtonImagine you’re watching  a 30-foot ocean swell pound itself against a basalt headland while you sip scotch from your plush recliner, safely behind double-pane glass. Outside, it’s raining horizontally. Winds are topping 60 mph, howling off the ocean and bringing the spray of salt along for the ride. And you are warm and dry and just a little bit tipsy from the scotch. Ah, life is good.

If you save your trips to the Pacific Northwest coast for the sunny days of summer and saltwater taffy, your sun-kissed self is missing out. Right now, in mid-winter, our Oregon and Washington coastlines are at their most spectacular–if you have head-to-toe raingear and a good sense of adventure.

During a recent storm on Washington’s Chito Beach, the surf was so high that it sprayed the windows of our cabin, and high winds knocked branches against the metal roof. It was exciting, so exciting, I barely got a wink of sleep. But oh, it was fun.

Storm-watching season has been in full swing for a few months already, but it’s not too late to catch a Pacific Northwest storm from a front-row seat. Winter storms pound the coast from November through March. Here are my top picks for places to watch those storms in Washington.

SEE ALSO: Storm-Watching on the Oregon Coast  |  Storm-Watching Essentials

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1. Chito Beach Resort

chitobeach.com | (360) 963-2581 | chitobeach@gmail.com
7639 Hwy 112 in Sekiu, WA (MAP)

Chito Beach sits on a basalt outcrop between Clallum Bay and Neah Bay, a sweet location for catching the brunt of Pacific Ocean storms.  Every cottage here is waterfront, but The Rock House is perched on its very own seastack and may just be the best cottage for stormwatching in the whole Pacific Northwest. The cottages are fully-loaded so you can hunker down–full kitchens with everything you need, TVs with DVD players, wifi, games, puzzles, even tide tables. Clallum Bay and Neah Bay are both sleepy towns, so come prepared to stay in and cook up a gourmet feast for yourself in your own cottage. The small store next door has groceries and basics if you forget anything. In summer months, backpackers pass right through here as they head to Ozette Lake or Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park; a relaxing night at Chito Beach Resort is quite the finish to one of those gorgeous hikes. Rates: $120 – $215. No pets or kids under 16.

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2. Quileute Oceanside Resort

quileuteoceanside.com | (360) 374-5267 | relax@quileuteoceanside.com
La Push, WA (MAP)

photo courtesy of Quileute Oceanside ResortThe storms of La Push are legendary. You’re on the reservation here, made internationally famous by the Twilight book series, and the recent surge in tourism is a good thing – the Oceanside Resort has never been better. Both the cabins and motel rooms are large and comfortable. Cabins range from “camper” (with rustic wood interiors) to “luxury” (with extras like jacuzzis) though all cabins offer the ability to cook up your own meals. After dinner, sit by the fire and watch the pounding surf. Views of the ocean are outstanding, and of course, you are right on the beach. If the storm dies down a bit, several short hiking trails are nearby. Rates: $63 – $280.

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3. Kalaloch Lodge

olympicnationalparks.com | (360) 962-2271 | info@visitkalaloch.com
157151 Highway 101,  Forks, WA (MAP)

Kalaloch LodgeHere’s a real escape. Kalaloch Lodge is a favorite destination for Seattleites hoping to trade the persistent drizzle back home for some high weather drama on the coast. Accommodations include lodge rooms and basic bluff cabins with kitchenettes, most with good views of the water below. The whole place is perched on a bluff, so even on days of high wave velocity, you’re protected from a direct hit in the safety of your rustic lodge room or cabin. Dogs are permitted on-leash. Kalaloch Lodge’s restaurant has standard lodge fare like clam chowder, fish and chips, and steaks, and prices are moderately high. Here’s a tip: you probably won’t save money by getting a lodge room and eating in the restaurant. We always pay extra for a bluff cabin so that we can cook our own meals (saving some cash) and spread out a little. Bring all the ingredients you’ll need for cooking and your beer or wine with you, because supplies aren’t easy to find way out here. Bring some good books, too, because your iPad isn’t going to have a signal. Such is the life on a real getaway!  In between storms, take advantage of the sunbreaks because miles of beach trails are waiting to be explored. Watch your footing when crossing piles of driftwood, as logs can be unstable, especially just after a storm.

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4. Iron Springs Resort

ironspringsresort.com | (360) 276-4230 |
Copalis Beach, WA (MAP)

This newly-remodeled resort set right on Copalis Beach dates back to the 1940s as a place for families to unwind, fish and wander beautiful beaches. When the True family bought and remodeled the collection of 28 cabins they had vacationed in for decades, they prioritized sustainability and preserving the resort’s charms. The remodeled cabins reopened in 2011, and the result is stunning. Each cabin has a full kitchen, wood-burning fireplace and deck. Cozy chairs and blankets await near floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the ocean–a perfect perch for when the storm rolls in. The on-site general store stocks basic groceries and supplies. Dogs are very welcome. Rates: $159–$289.

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5. Vacations by the Sea Condos

vacationbythesea.com | (360) 268-1119
Photo courtesy of Vacations by the Sea1600 West Ocean Ave. in Westport, WA (MAP)

Snag one of these water-front vacation condos and enjoy the storm! The condos have individual owners, so each is different. What I really love about this place is that it’s adjacent to Westport Light and Westhaven State Parks, and from your condo you can hike to both the Grays Harbor Lighthouse and the awesome South Jetty, a favorite for birdwatchers. Rates vary from $150 – $300. Kid and pet-friendly.

 

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6. Cape Disappointment State Park Yurts and Cabins

parks.wa.gov | (360) 642-3078
Ilwaco, WA (MAP)

courtesy of cape disappointment state parkPerched on the edge of the earth, Cape Disappointment is a fabulous Washington State Park at the south end of the Long Beach Peninsula, situated where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. The yurts at Cape Disappointment are within walking distance to the beach, where you can watch waves pound steep cliffs or stroll along a sandy beach. Avid photographers come here for the chance to view huge waves crashing into the cliffs that support the historic Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Each yurt is 16 feet in diameter and 10 feet high, and is furnished with bunk beds that sleep three people, a full-size futon, floor lamp, small end table and heater. The cabins are 13-by-13 feet in size and have a covered front porch, picnic table, outdoor fire pit, heat and lights. Bathrooms and showers are nearby. Rates are $62 – $72, up to six people per yurt or cabin. More on the yurts.

 

Northwest Storm Watching

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