Sea glass hunting in Washington had been on my wish list for a very long time. I was expecting great beaches and discovered lots of them!
I hoped that Glass Beach at Port Townsend would be as special as the stories I'd read online - and it was - but I was delighted to find many more beaches worth visiting.
During my first visit in November 2016, I spent a full two weeks in the Pacific North West, driving from beach to beach and searching for sea glass.
It really was a dream trip and I was blessed with great weather too! I feared that the Seattle stereotype might be true and I'd have to endure daily rain, but I hardly saw a drop.
From Seattle, I headed straight to Port Townsend and explored further along the coast past Olympic National Park. I then hopped across to Whidbey Island before crossing back to the mainland.
I even found this place in Forks, Washington (inspiration for the Twilight movies).
Now... I'm a fan of beachy decor, but there are limits!
Anyway... here are my best beaches for collecting Washington sea glass, starting with Port Townsend.
Glass Beach, Port Townsend
This is the lesser known "Glass Beach" (the other in California) but perhaps my preferred of the two. There's not as much sea glass here, but still a lot more than most beaches.
Port Townsend itself is a wonderful, historic town and well worth exploring. It's become a bohemian paradise full of coffee shops, art galleries, thrift stores and restaurants.
There's so much to talk about Glass Beach and Port Townsend that I've decided to write a separate post.
Coupeville, Whidbey Island
Having taken the ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville, we stopped off to find some coffee. We were not expecting to find a hidden beach here though and left with a pocket full of sea glass and pottery shards!
Coupeville has been settled for well over 150 years and Front Street itself has changed very little. Once I saw water and old buildings, my mind instantly screamed, "SEA GLASS!"
This little town is as picturesque as they come. In fact, it was chosen as the filming location for the movie 'Practical Magic' starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Hollywood rolled into town, painted all the buildings white and then back into their original colors again afterwards. Nothing like a free paint job, eh?
The real magic for me though was down some wooden stairs and onto the beach.
After enjoying the best pumpkin latté with slice of apple pie at Knead & Feed (which closed in 2019) I headed down the wooden stairs next door.
Heading over towards the wharf, I found large, thick pieces of very old crockery. It had been worn smooth over time by the gentle waves in the cove and I was delighted to collect as much as I could!
The large plate pieces had a pretty 'crackle' finish but I don't think they're old. They most likely came from the restaurant above!
The beach itself is fairly narrow, even at low tide. In fact, it's almost impassable without getting your feet wet a couple of times as the establishments are built right at the waters edge. Thankfully, I had my wellies!
It's sandy with very small patches of pebbles and large patches of seashells, mostly mussels. There are some large rocks which might be submerged at high tide, so check the tide schedule as there may not even be much of a beach to explore at times.
Much of the sea glass is new-ish and had to be tossed far out into the water like a frisbee. I consider this to be a skill and I have become quite good at it!
However, I did find this gorgeous thick, light lavender and perfect heart shaped piece of sea glass which was not going anyhere but safely in my pocket. It could have originally been any bottle, jar or glass product made with manganese.
There are a couple of ladies on Front Street who make and sell sea glass jewelry. I met with the one who owns Whidbey Isle Yarns next to the wharf and she told me that one morning, an entire antique ceramic insert from a crock washed up right at her feet! Wouldn't that be awesome?
While you're exploring, make sure to visit Aqua Gifts, the gorgeous little shop pictured next door to Knead & Feed. It's a darling cottage full of beautiful beachy gifts and seaside mermaid mementos which was used for the inside shots for Practical Magic.
If you haven't guessed already, I loved Coupeville! The possibility of finding an historic piece of glass or pottery was really exciting and I thoroughly recommend a visit.
Deception Pass State Park
Deception Pass State Park is the most visited state park in Washington. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with breath-taking views, old-growth forests miles of hiking trails and abundant wildlife.
For us sea glass hunters, there's also 14 miles of saltwater shoreline.
The park straddles both Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, offering great beaches for exploring. Deception Pass West Beach is a long, gravelly shoreline with excellent views of the Olympic Mountains, the San Juan Islands, and even Victoria, BC on a clear day.
The beach has plenty of picnic tables, though you may prefer to perch on some of the ample driftwood which provides a natural spot to eat or relax. West Beach also has a concession stand that is open seasonally.
We did a lot of walking and sifting through the rocks. Though this was a stunning beach for fun and photo ops, unfortunately we didn't find much sea glass.
However, there's so much driftwood here!
I brought back an entire backpack loaded with it, but be sure to take it out of the car and let it dry. Our Ford Explorer started to smell pretty funky after leaving the wet driftwood in the back! In the end, I took it into our hotel room hoping it might dry out.
The bridge at Deception Pass was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It sits gracefully between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, dramatically linking the islands together.
Deception Pass Bridge offers a gorgeous and impressive view from the beaches below, and the appearance can be one of mood and mystery. It is truly breathtaking.
Rosario Beach, Fidalgo Island
Rosario Beach is located on the south side of Fidalgo Island. It's a picturesque cove complete with tidal pools, Native American mermaid legend and, of course, sea glass.
It's the perfect place for stroll on the beach, walk cool rain forest trails or to simply sit on the shore and enjoy the quiet beauty. It is a little rocky, but still smooth enough to lay down a towel and relax by the sea.
If you visit on any non-summer day like I did, you will likely have the beach all to yourself.
This is an excellent spot for sea glass hunting. The waves are very small at low tide, so no real worry of getting too wet and that means you can keep scanning for beach treasure.
There's also a LOT of driftwood. I brought home what amounted to an entire carry-on suit case of Washington driftwood!
Back to the sea glass... and I found several pieces which were frosty, smooth and wave-tumbled.
In fact, I found all of this sea glass within the first thirty minutes!
The largest piece is three inches long and most are quite thick. As you can see in the photo below, there was a selection of colors but nothing too rare on this visit. The blues are beautiful though (as always).
While you're at Rosario Beach, be sure to check out the beautiful wooden statue of the Maiden of Deception Pass. One side of the carving is the maiden as a human, while the other side is when she was a mermaid.
The story pole tells the Samish tale of Ko-Kwahl-alwoot, who lived in a village at this site and risked her life to save the Samish people from starvation. According to Samish legend, she will live in the water forever.
It is said that you may glimpse Ko-kwal-alwoot's long, black kelp-filled hair streaming in the current just below the surface.
P.S. Movie fans might want to know that a significant scene from the movie Captain Fantastic starring Viggo Mortenson was filmed at Rosario Head in September of 2014.
Bush Point, Whidbey Island
Many of Washington's beaches are privately owned and fenced off, or studded with "keep off" signs.
One road led to a really nice looking beach, but didn't allow for any stopping except at their parking lot where they charge ten bucks per person just to walk on the beach... NO thanks!
Heading back south towards the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry, we decided to check out Bush Point beach. I'd heard that there was plenty of sea glass to be found here and it turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for. In fact, of all the beaches on Whidbey Island, Bush Point had the most sea glass by far.
The views of Olympic National Park's snow-capped mountains are spectacular, but I spent most of my time looking down at the beach - of course!
As we set off, I saw a sign which read "private beach and tidelands". Thankfully, it went on to say "ok to walk thru quietly" and so we did!
The beach itself is fairly wide at low tide, with small patches of pebbles and seashells on the sandy shore. There are no big slippery rocks and not much driftwood on this beach which made for a nice relaxing walk. It was low tide and the waves were really small.
All of our sea glass was found by sight, so no digging required today! You wouldn't think there would be too much sea glass to find, but it washes up with each little wave. I found all of mine up along the high tide and mid-tide wrack lines, while the Mr. found his at the waters' edge.
The sea glass was mostly thin and common colors (white, green and brown) but very nicely frosted which meant it had been in the water for some time. I did find some Coke bottle glass and a piece of cobalt blue though too.
Although much of the sea glass we gathered at Bush Point would be considered craft glass, there were several nice jewelry quality pieces including some hearts.
It was a little tricky to find this beach, but put "Bush Point Wharf B&B" or "231 Spyglass Drive, Freeland, Whidbey Island" into your satellite navigation and it will take you right to where you need to be.
At Bush Point, there was plenty of free parking, restrooms that were actually open in November - definitely a plus! - lots of sea glass and a majestic view of the Olympic Mountains. What more could you possibly ask for?
Alki Beach Park, Seattle
We finished our trip by spending a couple of days in Seattle. I had a day for sea glass hunting, then my other half had his day watching his beloved Philadelphia Eagles at Seahawks. That was fun... but first the sea glass!
Alki Beach Park is a nice long strip of beach that runs from Alki Point to Duwamish Head on Elliott Bay. It was quite popular in 1902 and used to be called Luna Park after its Coney Island, New York namesake. It boasted an elaborate amusement park on pilings that are still visable at low tide at Duwamish Head.
The park was completed in 1907, and included the Alki Bathhouse, it was the first of its kind, with several heated saltwater pools, a huge German carousel, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a restaurant, and a boat chute into a "tub" of water. The beach was so popular that it became the destination of the new electric street railway line, all the way from Seattle.
With a past history of dumping garbage off Alki Point in West Seattle, plus the currents of Puget Sound, Alki Beach is a great and very easily accessible beach to find sea glass.
Although many of Seattle's beaches are protected from ocean waves and have limited wave action, we still managed to find several small pieces of nicely frosted craft quality sea glass and one piece of blue sea pottery in less than an hour.
Alki Beach has soft sand and piles of small pebbles, perfect for catching the many dime-sized and frosted pieces of sea glass washing up with each wave.
As always, the best time to find sea glass is early in the morning about an hour before and during low tide.
There was plenty of parking along Alki Avenue, though we visited in November and I imagine that the summer months are much busier. I did notice regular bus stops, so that might be a good option.
There are picnic tables and modern, clean restrooms - which is always a relief! - and the whole stretch offers spectacular views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and various ferry boats.
You won't go hungry either with so many restaurants, catering for every taste and budget. We had a yummy seafood dinner at Duke's Chowder House during our visit.
Having heard many times that it does nothing but rain in Seattle, we didn't see any of it ourselves. Perhaps we were lucky, but it was fairly mild for November.
Strolling along Alki Beach and picking up sea glass while ferries steamed back and forth was a really nice way to spend an afternoon.