Celebrate 100 Years with a Westport Weekend

westport marina
The Westport Marina is the permanent home for local fishermen. It also offers a launch and a short term, three-month mooring special.

 

By Douglas Scott

grays harbor community hospitalIf the city of Westport was on the East Coast, it would be one of the most popular coastal communities outside of Virginia Beach. Small beach communities on the East Coast seem to pride themselves on their short walks through grassy dunes that eventually lead to sandy beaches along the Ocean. Westport, Washington offers exactly the same, though instead of watching the sunrise, Westport is lucky enough to catch the sunset.

westport lighthouse
You can explore a 116-year-old lighthouse in Westport, Washington.

The weather may not be as warm outside or in the water as it is on the East Coast, but Westport deserves to be respected as a gem of a coastal community. With a population of around 2,000 people, this small coastal town in Grays Harbor is home to amazing fishing, great clamming and a fantastic history; the perfect combination for a weekend getaway.

On June 26, 2014, the City of Westport will officially turn 100 years old. What better way to wish the city a happy birthday than by strolling along the docks, exploring a 116-year-old lighthouse, walking the beach and experiencing a fantastic museum documenting the lighthouses of the Washington Coast.

With every visit to the coast, a walk along the beach, to look for shells, agates and those elusive glass balls, is needed. Stretching your legs along the beach at Westport, it is easy to see why this location has been the spot of a town for nearly 100 years. High dunes and grass might initially block your view of the turbulent Pacific Ocean, but once you work your way down to the beach, you will see the vastness of the Pacific to the west, the mouth of Grays Harbor to the north and, on a clear enough day, the majestic Olympic Mountains to the northeast.

With the possibility of finding rocks, petrified wood, rare Japanese floats or even a washed up sea creature, walking along the beach at Westport is great fun for the family. To make this an even better trip for those with kids, brings buckets and pails to build sand sculptures or think of bringing along a kite. Don’t worry if you don’t bring anything with you; the stores in town will be able to help you out.

While beachcombing can be great fun, a trip to this coastal community isn’t complete until you get to experience the history of the region. The best places to do that are the Westport Maritime Museum and the Westport Lighthouse.

westport lighthouse
A spiral staircase twirls upwards inside the Westport Lighthouse.

The Westport Maritime Museum is located in a five-building complex near the marina and is styled after the classic Nantucket architecture that is standard for Coast Guard buildings. While no longer a Coast Guard atation, the watchtower of the museum stands tall above the other buildings in town. While the buildings, which are on the Washington State Historic registry are nice to look at, the main draw is what is inside.

The main museum building is home to a fantastic collection of maritime memorabilia, pictures and stories from the varied history of Westport. Stepping into this building, one steps back in time to rediscover how the region used to be. This alone would warrant a stop for most, but the true eye-candy of the museum is the Whale House and the Destruction Island Lens Exhibit Hall.

The Whale House holds a marine mammal exhibit that gives an up-close and personal look at minke and gray whales. It is a great, little museum and the staff is incredibly friendly and will answer any of your burning questions.  Before you leave the museum, be sure to stop at the Destruction Island lens Exhibit Hall to see one of the rarest lighthouses lenses in existence. Once sitting atop the Destruction Island lighthouse off Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, this lens has 24 panes of glass that many consider to be the best in the world.

If you would rather climb to the top of a 170 foot lighthouse along the beach, visiting the Westport Lighthouse should be added to your list. This lighthouse, built in 1898 use to sit just 300 feet from the ocean, but now is over 3,000 feet from the high tide mark.

westport weekend
A walk on the beach at Westport is a highlight of any weekend adventure to the coastal town.

As the tallest lighthouse in Washington State, the lighthouse still has a lens from Paris, France that was made in 1895, which you can climb to. With a spiral staircase that may give some vertigo, the journey to the top of this lighthouse isn’t for everyone. Those that do make it to the top are rewarded with a panoramic view unlike any other on the coast. Standing at the top, one can gaze into the Ocean to the west, or look at the snow-capped summits of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains to the east.

Westport is also home to fantastic clamming and some of the best charter fishing in the state. With numerous charter boats available and a multi-month long fishing derby even new anglers have a chance to win awesome prizes, with a $5 entry fee. The fishing derby is over 50 years old and now gives out daily prizes. The main prize, for those after big fish and big money, is for the largest chinook of the season, where the winner will receive $2,500. Even if you don’t have the catch of the day, you still get to have an amazing fishing experience in the Pacific Ocean. For more information on fishing charters out of the Westport Marina, contact Westport Charters or the Westport Charter Boat Association.

With upcoming festivals, ranging from the arrival of the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain Tall Ships to the Westport Centennial Celebration on June 26, there is no better time than this summer to have a Westport weekend.

 

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