The rugged, isolated Washington Coast is a diamond in the rough along the mighty Pacific Ocean. Known more for huge waves, serious storms and tide pools than for sun tanning, swimming, and little swimsuits, the beaches of Olympic National Park are not your typical beach destination. Over 73 miles of undisturbed natural coastline, designated as wilderness, are ready to be explored by day hikers, weekend adventurers and serious backpackers alike. Like most of Olympic National Park, the beaches are a return to pure, unfiltered wilderness. Cool, wet, breezy and beautiful, the Pacific Coast is waiting for you to explore her shores.
Every few miles, the mood of the coast in Olympic National Park changes; just a few minutes’ walk can transform a flat section along the grayish sands to a landscape filled with sea stacks, tide pools and whale sightings. Because of this unpredictable variation, a few beaches have become favorites for locals and tourists alike. The problem with so many beach choices spread over such a distance is finding the perfect beach for you, but there is one section of coast that seems to have something for everyone. Sitting a stone’s throw away from Highway 101, one Olympic National Park's favorite beaches is waiting for you to discover, explore and fall in love.
Ruby Beach, a 3 hour and 20 minute drive from downtown Seattle, is one of the most beautiful and accessible beaches in Olympic. Complete with a parking area, a restroom and a well-maintained trail, visitors of all ages and abilities are able to take the short trail down the bluff to the serene and often breathtaking view of the mighty Pacific Ocean. For those interested in history, Ruby Beach is the location of not one, but two armed confrontations between the local Quinault Tribe and both the Spanish and British explorers in the late 1700s. The beaches, now filled with tidepools, driftwood and agates once were covered in blood from fierce battles. So much death and destruction came from this beach that a small island (now home to a lighthouse) located off the shore was named Destruction Island to remember those who perished in battle. But the historical importance of the region isn’t what draws people to the shore; instead, it is the breathtaking sea stacks, wildlife and hiking available.
Destruction Island may sit just a few miles off shore at Ruby Beach, but it isn’t even the most viewed island or sea stack on this beach. A few hundred feet to the north, Abbey Island looms tall over the crashing waves. Home to sea otters, migratory birds, and flanked with starfish and mussels; this tree covered sea stack is one of the most photographed rock formations in Olympic National Park. Near Abbey Island, another small sea stack stands 20 feet in the air next to Cedar Creek. This sea stack, while lacking in the wildlife or grandeur of Abbey Island, is yet another perfect photography spot. With a hole in the middle of the rock, numerous visitors stand, sit or gaze at a sunset through this porthole sized gap in the stone.
Sea stacks aside, wandering either direction up and down the beach from Ruby Beach is an adventure. Heading north along the coast, with the tide low, one can walk to the mouth of the Hoh River in just two short miles. Hiking to the south, one can walk for nearly 15 miles until they reach the mouth of the Quinault River. These two river mouths play an important significance to the region, as they are both fed by the heavy, sometimes oppressive rainforest downpours that occur year round. These hikes may be long, but even a short jaunt down the coast in either direction will help you gain a better appreciation for the area.
If you aren’t looking to hike, Ruby Beach offers some of the best, easiest-to- get- to tide pools in Olympic National Park. During low tide, the rocky beach becomes alive with tiny crabs, squirting clams buried in sand, sea anemones and of course, multiple colors of starfish. Ruby Beach is also home to one of the greatest sunset locations in the Pacific Northwest, as the crowds gathered along the driftwood an hour before sunset help illustrate. Year round, sunsets at Ruby beach are amazing and awe- inspiring, the sky erupting in a tapestry impossible to replicate.
Even in the rain, Ruby Beach is a must-see destination. With huge waves crashing against the sea stacks, enormous pieces of driftwood getting tossed around like toothpicks and winds blasting the bluffs, the coastal region where Ruby Beach is located is constantly voted the best place to storm watch in the state of Washington. If you are up for an adventure, pick up some great rainproof gear from Outdoor Research and head to the coast. You won’t regret it!
Ruby Beach is where you go when you want to have the perfect day at the beach along the Washington Coast. You don’t go here to swim, or sunbathe or even surf. You go here to hike, explore tide pools, watch for birds, seals and otters or catch a glimpse at whales swimming by. You go to Ruby Beach for the same reason you visit Olympic National Park: for the wilderness, the isolation, and the incomparable beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Directions to Ruby Beach
Explore the Coast and Rainforests