Sea glass hunters always think of Fort Bragg, California when you mention "Glass Beach". However, this may be the better of the two!
There's not as much sea glass at Washington's Glass Beach, but still a lot more than most beaches and definitely better colors.
It's quite a long hike to get to the beach and you're racing against the changing tide, but the scenery is fantastic. I wouldn't want to go in wet weather though!
If you're planning a visit in the near future - or you just want to look at pretty pictures and daydream - here's my complete guide to Glass Beach at Port Townsend.
Why is there so much sea glass here?
Before humans started to care more about the environment, the ocean was a handy place to get rid of trash quickly and cheaply. Much of the sea glass we collect these days comes from trash dumps, such as Glass Beach at Fort Bragg.
Until the late 1960s, trucks backed up to the edge of the bluff at McCurdy Point and dumped Port Townsend's refuse onto the rocky shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The city then decided to clean up its beaches, discontinuing the practice of dumping and bulldozing debris over the bluff.
My Glass Beach Adventure!
North Beach is Port Townsend's main beach. It faces north out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with beautiful Whidbey Island to the Northeast and the San Juan Islands.
My husband and I parked up about two hours before low tide, turned left and started hiking. It was mid November and, as you can see from the short video below, it was the perfect weather for a long walk.
As we started the 3 mile hike from North Beach Park, we were surprised as we seemed to have the beach completely to ourselves. I had expected to meet a number of other beachcombers (and did later on) but it was exciting to think that we may have had it to ourselves!
It was important to keep a somewhat fast pace so that we wouldn't get caught by the high tide on the way back. The beach is narrow to begin with and parts do get cut off as the tide rises, so plan ahead and check the tide charts.
Also, let somebody know where you're going and when you plan to be back, just in case. If you do get your timings wrong, you'll definitely want to know that help is on the way.
With this in mind, I was forced to keep my head up and keep walking. I even resisted looking for sea glass during the hike (well, I tried!).
The walk was pretty easy going for the most part. The beach is mostly sandy with large patches of golf ball and softball sized rocks. As you get further down the beach there are some firm mud patches, lots of mushy seaweed and tons of driftwood.
We walked for around 30 minutes before finding our first piece of sea glass.
Finally, after walking for about 45 minutes, we noticed the beds of rocks now consisted of smaller pebbles. We also started finding a piece of sea glass every few steps.
It was clear that we were getting close to the old dump site known as "Glass Beach" which actually begins at McCurdy Point and continues south along the shore.
As we came around the bluff, we noticed the two old car axles which mark the beginning of Glass Beach. It took about 90 minutes to arrive at this location so be aware that it is quite a hike!
Immediately, we started to find lots of well rounded, mostly clear, perfectly frosted pieces of sea glass nestled between stones. As usual, I picked up more pieces but the Mr. is more discerning and found fewer in total, but more of a higher quality.
We found several beautiful pieces of sea glass in blue, red, grey, green, brown and, of course, clear. We also found a few pieces of pottery, a couple of nice oyster shells, several pieces of driftwood and a beautiful agate.
We continued to search for sea glass treasures for almost an hour before noticing that the tide was on its way back in. We also noticed that the handful of other sea glass hunters were starting to make their way back towards North Beach - that was a clue to get moving!
Don't be tempted to stay out longer than is sensible; that tide is not going to wait! When it's time to start hiking back to the parking lot, get hiking! The walk back can be a little tougher, especially when your backpack and pockets are loaded with sea glass, rocks, shells and driftwood.
Because of the rapidly rising tide there were a few spots where we needed to get closer to the rocks at the base of the bluffs. This made walking a little more difficult and time consuming.
There are also a few fallen trees that were easy to walk around when the tide was low, but that all changes as the tide rises. You either need to climb over them or walk a little way into the water.
On the way back towards the parking lot we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with a couple of local sea glass collectors, Cheryl and Teresa. These lovely ladies were happy to show us their finds of the morning.
My Tips for the perfect Glass Beach visit
My Glass Beach treasure!
Here are some of the treasures we found on Glass Beach.
Directions to Glass Beach, Port Townsend
Drive to North Beach parking lot: 5887 Kuhn Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368.
Hike west from the parking lot for around 3 miles. Google Maps measures the distance as 2.6 miles in a straight line, but you can see a curve in the beach so allow for the extra distance.
Once you round the bluff, you're on Glass Beach.
Here are a number of landmarks along the route so you know you're heading in the right direction!
I highly recommend visiting Glass Beach, in fact it's my favorite sea glass beach in the United States (so far!).
While You're in Port Townsend...
Port Townsend itself is a wonderful, historic town. Originally planned as a busy sea port, the railway only made it as far as Tacoma and left Port Townsend in a bit of a mess. These days, it's a bohemian paradise full of historic buildings.
If you enjoy history, here's the full story.
When you visit, make sure to enjoy an evening at the Rose Theatre. The Rose opened as a vaudeville house in 1907 and has experienced the transition from live theatre to silent film, to talkies, to Technicolor and now to digital projection across three unique screens. Every show is personally introduced by a host which sets the movie up perfectly.