Best Washington Tide Pools

James Smith
• Sunday, 20 December, 2020
• 7 min read

It’s an ageless motion wherein the Earth and moon share a sort of dance around the sun, a celestial waltz that tugs at the edges of the sea, leaving saltwater pools that glisten on the rocks and teem with extraordinary life. Twice each month, when the moon is in its full and new phases, it lines up with the Earth and sun, enhancing the gravitational attractions that govern the tidal force.

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Further, there’s a sweet spot every summer when the elliptical paths of these heavenly orbits all angle in a way to inspire the highest highs and lowest lows of the tidal range, a veritable limbo game between land and water that always reveals something incredible. Part of Aquinas Head Outstanding Natural Area, the ancient basalt lava flows that make up these splendid pools fan out under the watchful eye of Oregon’s tallest lighthouse.

Take the 115 steps down the rugged cliff side (with landings and benches along the way) to explore the briny baths where anemones, urchins and sea stars bask in summer splendor. Deep low tides offer an unparalleled density of life at the edge of the continent, with rangers on hand to answer questions and point out extra special tidbits that take a trained eye.

Eventually, the tide will nudge you back to the beach, where its namesake rock cobbles roll in the waves, writing music millions of years in the making. The other side hosts a gorgeous beach where you can follow the headland seaward to explore a shallow cave only accessible at extreme low tide.

Beach wheelchairs are now available to borrow, making the treasures of this unique spot even more accessible (find them at Bahama Boards on Hemlock Street; call (503) 436-4317 to reserve). This dramatic beach in the ancestral homeland of the Quilpué People are now part of Olympic National Park, and the 1.4-mile round-trip hike to experience it is a small investment with big returns.

Head north toward the Crying Lady, a rock island approachable during minus tides, where you can see the stark lines between tidal zones like writing on a wall. You might have to find your way over massive driftwood logs or seek out the high-water passage when you encounter a washout, but journey’s end will leave you satisfied as you pass through an ancient rock threshold carved out by the Pacific, traversable only at the lowest tides.

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Allow 90 minutes of walking each way, plan for snap changes in weather and be sure to arrive at the Hole well before low tide, leaving time to explore its many tide pools and hike back before the sea’s return. This spectacular North Olympic Peninsula site on the Strait of Juan de Fuca has saltwater colonies covering Tongue Point in every direction.

Cement stairs lead down to the water’s edge and drop visitors directly onto the rocks, where urchins, anemones, sea cucumbers and chi tons intermingle in one of the most dynamic ecosystems on Earth. When the tide starts coming back in, you may notice water spurting up from a blowhole in the tidelands east of the stairs, but keep a safe distance and get ready to head up.

Located on the western shores of Vancouver Island, a 4.5-hour drive from Victoria, British Columbia, the beaches surrounding the coastal community of Torino are all magnificent, but South Chester man stands apart, especially during the deep, low tides of early summer. At the main outcropping, walk through a narrow, rarely exposed crevice to find dozens of sea stars stuck to the rock like colorful wallpaper.

View Gallery There are few things more fun than heading out to find the besttidepools and discovering all PNW sea life in their natural habitat. Grab your bucket, shovel, pull on some rain boots and head out to some of our favorite locations for the besttidepools in the PNW region.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite areas to explore tide pools along with tips to make the most of your sea adventures. Head out on low tide toward the north end of the beach for the best opportunity to spot marine wildlife.

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This quieter beach in West Seattle also offers great opportunities to look for sea anemones, marine worms and more in the pools. This stretch of shoreline just south of the Lighthouse at Ali Point provides plenty of watery shallows on the rocky beach.

Tongue Point Marine Sanctuary at Salt Creek is one long continuous tidal pool area which creates an ideal environment when rocky bluffs and rocks meet sand. Visitors will be able to spot starfish, sea anemones, mussels, crabs, barnacles and more in this protected intertidal marine area at low tide.

The beach near Fort Casey on the west side of the island has great tide pools featuring baby fish, kelp, mollusks and arthropods. The tide pools at Saltwater State Park are enhanced with an artificial underwater reef and a creek that runs out to the sea.

Abbey Island sits at the mouth of Cedar Creek and provide a hospitable environment for tide pools among the rocks and sea stacks. Visitors will be excited to see mussels, barnacles, green sea anemones and starfish and the lucky ones will catch glimpses of otters.

Snag a quick ferry ride to Fashion Island to explore the tide pools at Point Robinson Beach. Expect to find unique orange and purple sea stars, whelks, Nudibranchia, chi tons, limpets, and so much more.

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Beach 4, Keillor The inter-tidal zone here is considered spectacular by those who love to explore Washington tidal pools, and the region is easy to access from US 101. Sea stars are plentiful and the rocks are often covered with all sorts of barnacles including gooseneck and acorn.

If you live near the coast or Puget Sound, you don't need to travel far; city parks offer some bestride pooling around. Bring a marine field guide to help you identify what you find and a camera to carry your memories back home again.

Because the tide pool environment is so fragile, kids should be old enough to follow directions and be careful about the sea creatures under their feet. While beach combing and collecting may have been one of your treasured childhood memories, the culture has changed as biologists have witnessed the effect of these actions on the intertidal marine environment.

Rosario Head at Deception Pass State Park offers an ideal tide pool hike for families. Because this area is so popular, park officials ask that you follow this route, sticking close to it, to prevent further damage to the tide pools.

A short loop hike to rock cliffs, with fantastic views out towards the Olympic Peninsula, and back toward other parts of Lopez. Highlights include gnarled, contorted trees for climbing, a warning light for ships on the rocks, views from the cliffs out to the Olympics, and some history.

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The natural spit features low sand dunes that are protected as a wildlife refuge bordered by Conner Creek on one side and the Coals River on the other. Look for bald eagles and other shorebirds here and enjoy the views of Coals Beach and the ocean from various perches on the dunes.

It's an ideal tide pool environment where rocky bluffs and rocks meet sand. Stay for the weekend by camping in one of the 90 sites and spending time exploring the other beaches, the WWII military remains and take a trip over to Olympic National Park's Lake Crescent.

At low tide, children and adults flock to the rocky shoreline of the Olympic Peninsula to see starfish, crabs, sea anemones and more. As the water recedes, visitors to the region have an opportunity to see a world normally covered by the choppy, constantly churning Pacific Ocean.

With 3,026 miles of tidal coastline to explore in Washington State, finding the best beaches with the besttidepools can be quite a tough job. With Abbey Island looming large at the mouth of the Cedar Creek, the tide pools around the rocks and sea stacks around Ruby Beach are quite impressive.

With mussels and barnacles nearly covered by high tide, the tide pools are quite sharp for those thinking they should walk them barefoot. Besides these soft shelled creatures, green sea anemones and starfish of every color sit in pools of salt water.

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Once you are done looking at the lines of history on land, head to the rocky areas to explore more fantastic tide pools full of the same types of life as Ruby Beach. These pools are more spread out and unlike Ruby Beach, walking here during a really low tide only exposes more tide pools and ocean wonders.

The beaches of APUSH are iconic not just for their tide pools, but also their rugged beauty, amazing sunsets and frequent whale sightings. While it might be hard for some to tear their eyes off the stunningly gorgeous panorama, the tide pools at your feet are a hotbed of activity.

From crabs darting to sea anemones closing themselves around pieces of food that drift into their openings, these tide pools are great to watch, touch and study. All around, clams squirt along the sand and the mussels and barnacles sit stoically, waiting for the tide to rise, so they can eat.

Hours can be spent at the beaches of APUSH that seem like mere minutes, as it is easy to get swept up in the beauty and activity of the amazing region. Salt Creek may be on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but that shouldn’t take away its draw as a tide pool attraction.

Jutting out from Crescent Bay, just west of Port Angeles, Tongue Point appropriately to its name, sticks out into the Strait from Salt Creek Recreation Area. Where the other beaches had sections of tide pools, Tongue Point at Salt Creek is one continuous tidal pool area.

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With starfish, sea anemones, mussels, crabs, barnacles and more, exploring tide pools at Salt Creek Recreation Area might be the bestride pool experience in the state.

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