The Most Beautiful Beaches on the Olympic Peninsula
Olympic National Park in Washington State is home to some of the most beautiful classic and wild PNW beaches. Some of the beaches have short walks from the carparks and some you can drive right up to.
It is a great place to spend the weekend from Seattle, just like Mount Rainier National Park which is further inland and has loads of awesome hikes!
We spent a long weekend in Olympic National Park and visited most of the beaches along the Olympic Peninsula while we were there. We found it a little confusing to figure out which ones to add to our itinerary but now that we are much more familiar with the area, we are here to help you plan your own trip there!
This guide will tell everything you need to know about each of the beaches in Olympic National Park including which are the best to spend sunset at and the best for photography.
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Where is the Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula is a large area of land which contains Olympic National Park on the West Coast in Washington State, USA. Seattle is the closest major city, making Olympic National Park the perfect weekend getaway.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to get to the Olympic National Park Beaches
From Seattle, the drive to Olympic National Park’s coastline is around 4 hours. There are two different routes that you can take.
Route 1 – Take one of the Washington State Ferries
The shortest route from Seattle to Olympic National Park is to take one of the Washington State Ferries but not necessarily the fastest. It will depend on the ferry timings which you can check out on the Washington State Ferries website. Take the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry, the Seattle-Bremerton ferry or the Edmonds-Kingston ferry. It will depend where exactly you are coming from in Seattle.
Seattle to Bainbridge Island – crossing time 35 minutes
This ferry leaves from the Port of Seattle and take you to Bainbridge Island. From there, it’s about 2 hours 40 minutes drive to Forks which is the nearest town to the West coastline and the Olympic National Park beaches.
Seattle to Bremerton – crossing time 60 minutes
This ferry leaves from the Port of Seattle and take you to Bremerton which is about a 2 hours 40 minutes drive to Forks.
Edmonds to Kingston – crossing time 30 minutes
This ferry departs from Edmonds which is around 17 miles north of Seattle on the I-5 and arrives in Kingston. From Kingston, the drive to Forks is around 2 hours 25 minutes drive.
Route 2 – Drive all of the way through Tacoma.
This route will take you around 3 hours and 10 minutes to reach your first stop which, if you choose to travel in direction will be Kalaloch Beach.
Do I need a National Parks Pass to visit the beaches in Olympic National Park?
As the beaches are located within Olympic National Park, you will need to show an America the Beautiful Pass on your dashboard. You can choose to get an annual pass for $80 or alternatively you can get a 7 day pass for $30 or an annual pass just for Olympic National Park for $55. If you are planning on visiting more than one national park in a year, I would say that the full annual pass is 100% worth it!
Which beaches to visit on the Olympic Peninsula
You will find loads of gorgeous beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. We were able to visit nearly all of them in just a couple of days but as some of them require a bit of a hike to reach from the parking lots, we couldn’t see them all.
Our favourite beach was Ruby Beach. The awesome rock formations and driftwood along the beach is a photographers dream, especially at sunset!
Hiking Distance to Beach: 0 miles
Time to Hike to Beach: 2 minutes from parking lot
Kalaloch Beach is home to the infamous Tree of Life! This beach is worth visiting purely to see this amazing tree. The beach itself is sandy and quite long. The Tree of Life is an old tree that is hanging onto the cliffs on the side of the beach, by its roots. The cliffs below the tree have been washed away over time by a little stream behind the tree, exposing the trees roots. To find the Tree of Life, park in the day parking lot of Kalaloch campground and walk down the stairs to the beach. Then, facing the ocean, turn right and walk along for about 5 minutes.
Camping at Kalaloch Beach
There are a few campsites just down the road from the beach’s parking lot which toilet facilities. These are located at the Kalaloch campground which you can reserve during peak times. The Kalaloch Beach campsites are located in the forest with a few of the sites having views of the beach.
Hiking Distance to Beach: 0.25 miles
Time to Hike to Beach: 5 minutes
All of the beaches along the Olympic Peninsula are absolutely gorgeous but personally both Dave and I thought Ruby Beach was the most beautiful. To reach the beach from the parking lot, it is a really short walk down a sloped path. At various points along the path leading down to the beach, you can get some really great views of the beach.
The beach is sandy and quite long with huge rocks called sea stacks sticking out of the sand which are usually surrounded by water at any time except for low tide. Ruby Beach is a great spot for photos, especially during sunset!
Camping on Ruby Beach
There is no beach camping on Ruby Beach but you can camp at the nearby Kalaloch campground or South Beach campground.
TIP: Lookout for seals! We spotted one frolicking in the water during sunset.
Hiking Distance to Beach: 0 miles/ 0km
First Beach is one of the many La Push beaches to check out while you are in the area! It is a perfect choice if you are not wanting to hike to reach your destination and would rather have a relaxing day chilling out on the beach.
Camping on First Beach
There is no camping allowed on First Beach, however there is an RV park nearby called James Island RV & campsite.
Hiking Distance to Beach: 1.4 miles / 2.3km return
Time to Hike to Beach: 30 minutes one way
Second Beach is quite a small beach and you will need to hike through the forest to get there from the parking lot. It is not a difficult hike but it does take a bit of extra time if you are trying to see as many beaches as possible.
Camping on Second Beach
You can camp on Second Beach, however you need to reserve a Wilderness permit. Camping is right on the sand on Second Beach, but please make sure you camp above the high tide line otherwise you will be in for a wet wake up call! Campfires are allowed on Second beach, however these must be kept below the high tide line and at least ten feet away from driftwood.
Hiking Distance to Beach: 3.6 miles / 5.7km return
Time to Hike to Beach: 1 hour one way
We didn’t have time to visit Third Beach as our car broke down halfway through our trip and we ended up getting completely stuck… LONG STORY. Anyway, Third Beach is much less popular than the other beaches, probably because the hike to the beach is that much longer, but it is just as beautiful and wild.
Camping on Third Beach
There are a few inland campsites on Third beach, but not many. You can also camp on Third Beach on the sand. Wilderness permits are required for camping on Third Beach. There are also pit toilets located where the trail meets the beach. Campfire are allowed, however make sure you keep these below the high tide line and at least ten feet away from driftwood.
Hiking Distance to Beach: 650ft / 200m
Time to Hike to Beach: 3 minutes
Rialto Beach is my second favourite beach in Olympic National Park. It is extremely photogenic, however it is quite the hike to get to the famous Rialto Beach Rock jutting out from the water. Once you access the beach, you will have to turn right and walk all the way down to the end of the beach, almost all of the way to the Hole in the Wall.
Hole in the Wall Hike (access form Rialto Beach)
Distance: 5.3km / 3.4 miles return Time: 1-2 hours
The walk along Rialto beach to the Hole in the Wall is one of the best beach hikes in Olympic National Park. For the entirety of the walk, you will be walking along the beach. There is a section with a creek crossing which had pretty high water when we were there.
We wore hiking boots and were too lazy to take them off and put them back on again so we used the driftwood logs as a bridge to get to the other side. You could also just take off your shoes and walk through the water.
Once you reach the end of Rialto Beach, you will need to climb up the steep dirt path. You will see some stairs to your right. From the top, you can get some great photos straight down Rialto Beach. At the top, keep to your right and you will see a path that takes you down the other side onto the Hole in the Wall Beach. As you reach the bottom, look to your left and you will see the famous Hole in the Wall.
Camping on Rialto Beach
Wilderness permits are required for the campsites on Rialto Beach. You can only camp on Rialto Beach between Ellen Creek and the Hole in the Wall, which means you cannot camp with your dog.
Packing List for Olympic National Park
When you are packing for Olympic National Park, you mustn’t forget that you are in the Pacific Northwest where it rains, A LOT.
- Snacks for the whole day.
- Hiking Boots and or shoes
- Merino t-shirt for hiking
- Hiking Pants, shorts or leggings.
- Puffer Jacket
- Bug Spray
- Bear Spray
- Swim Suit! Be prepared for cold water though!
- Camera! There will be plenty of photography opportunities! We have a guide on camera gear here.
Where to Stay on the Olympic Peninsula
The closest town to the beaches in Olympic National Park is Forks. If you have read the Stephanie Meyer novel, Twilight, you will have heard of it. Some great places to stay in Forks are:
There are campsites available on some of the beaches which I talk about above, but there are also RV Parks and other drive in campsites nearby.
- 3 Rivers Resort & Guide Service – We actually stayed here for a couple of nights when our car broke down and the owners were so so lovely and helpful. We cannot recommend this place more! You can camp and they also have some cabins and caravans that you can book.
- James Island Rv & campsite – This RV Park is located near Rialto Beach and First Beach
- Prior Homestead camping and rv – not too far from the La Push Beaches
Wildlife on the Olympic Peninsula
There is so much wildlife in Olympic National Park. On the coastline you will see marine life such as seals and whales but there are also bald eagles, deer, bears and more. When visiting Olympic National Park, make sure you are up to date on bear safety, especially when hiking and camping. Always carry bear spray with you and if you are camping, use a bear cannister to store your food in well away from your tent.
Leave No Trace
Whenever you are enjoying the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make our world beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.
Are dogs allowed on the Olympic National Park beaches?
Dogs are not allowed on all of the beaches. They are allowed on leash on the following beaches:
Rialto Beach but only up to Ellen Creek – They cannot go all the way up to the Hole in the Wall
Dogs are not allowed on Second Beach, Third Beach or Rialto Beach past Ellen Creek.
Are fires allowed on the beaches?
Campfires are allowed on the Olympic National Park beaches but must be kept below the high tide line and at least ten feet away from driftwood.
Can you camp on any of the beaches in Olympic National Park?
You can camp on Second Beach, Third Beach and Rialto Beach, however you Wilderness permits are required. When camping on the beach always ensure that you pitch your tent above the high tide line so that you don’t get wet in the middle of the night. You can check the tides here to ensure that you are well prepared.
There is also a campground located next to Kalaloch Beach.
Other Must See Spots in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is an absolutely beautiful part of the world, and home to some stunning scenery! Not only are there beautiful beaches, but there are a lot of other things to do and see so if you are spending some time on the coast, you may as well add some of the following places to your itinerary.
The Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is a must-see in Olympic National Park! It is not too far away from Kalaloch Beach so you could add on a visit before or after. The Hoh is an extremely green and mossy unusual looking forest that looks like it has come out of the Upside Down from Stranger Things! There are a couple of different short trails that you can do to get the most out of visiting the forest.
Hall of Mosses – 1.2km loop 25 metres elevation 30 minutes
Spruce Nature Trail – 1.9km 5 metres elevation 30 minutes
Hurricane Ridge is a gorgeous mountainous area in Olympic National park with lots of hiking trails and viewpoints. You can head over to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Centre for incredible views of the surrounding mountains and from their pick out a hiking trail to do. The Visitors Centre is also the starting point for the Cirque Rim, High Ridge meadow trail and the Klahhane Ridge trail.
We absolutely loved our long weekend in Olympic National Park (except for our car breaking down of course) – we really need to plan another trip back there! Dave and I are from Australia, and we were super impressed by how wild and stunning and just completely different the beaches are on the Olympic Coast. They are so different to the beaches back in Australia and very beautiful in a darker, more moody way.
If you like photography, you should definitely visit the PNW coastline and the beautiful beaches during both golden hour and on a gloomy day.
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