Traveling in nature, no matter where you are in the world, is a privilege that must be respected. Whether you’re camping on the beach or visiting for a few hours, it’s important to protect ourselves as well as work to leave the planet a better place for the next generation. When planning your next Southwest Washington beach getaway, practice responsible tourism at Grays Harbor beaches.

Pack Out What You Pack In

One of the age-old rules for any time spent in nature is to pack out what you pack in. Trash left behind is not only unsightly but poses a massive threat to native wildlife. At many beach approaches in Grays Harbor trash cans are available while recycling is encouraged in all Washington State Parks. It’s also important to be cognizant of the dangers some of your trash may pose. For example, glass bottles or metal cans are not allowed on swimmable beaches and can be incredibly dangerous when hidden in the sand. Also consider the food and the packaging it comes in and what may be harmful to wildlife.

While keeping the beaches clean is important in many facets, there continues to be a problem with litter year-round. To help combat this problem in Ocean Shores, a sixth-grade boy named Leo used his science project to help better his community. In 2020 when thousands of visitors taking social distance-friendly vacations to the beach, Leo put together a brilliant way to safely gather while cleaning up trash.

Entitled, Jeeps Go Topless For Clean Shores, the now annual, weekend event has room for 2,500 jeep participants and offers many fun activities including the Too Cool Sportswear Summer Party with special Pizza Factory food and, oversized chess, music, games, volleyball and much more. The following day jeeps from across the Pacific Northwest pick up the trash using bags provided by the City of Ocean Shores. Set a good example for those around you and continue this mission by packing up all your trash and others’ around you as you leave.

Grays Harbor Fires on the Beach

Take a note from Smokey the Bear and understand the dangers of fires, even somewhere as seemingly as safe as the beach. While the waters of the Pacific Ocean may roar a few feet away, setting up a fire on the sandy shores can still present many threats.

A few rules to keep in mind are to ensure campfires are smaller than three feet on each side and three feet in height. Additionally, fires, as well as barbecues, are not allowed in the flammable dune grass and must be set up at least 100 feet west of the dune line. Fires should also not be built on shellfish beds or in overly windy conditions.

While there’s fun to be had around a fire for everyone, be sure to supervise children closely and when you’re finished, douse and bury your fire to fully extinguish the embers before you leave.  

beach fire at near dark
Beach fires must be built at least 100 feet west of the dune line to ensure fire stay contained. Photo courtesy: Discover Grays Harbor

Responsible Beach Driving in Grays Harbor

Beach driving is not commonly allowed on most beaches around the world, which makes the activity both a thrilling and unique opportunity in Grays Harbor. While the excitement can quickly take hold, remember some safety tips to ensure you protect other drivers, pedestrians around you, yourself, wildlife and your vehicle.

While not required, four-wheel drive is strongly recommended. The sand is unforgiving and getting stuck can really throw a wrench in your plans as you await a tow truck, usually costing around $100. It is recommended to cruise on the hard, compact sand. As you enjoy your day on the beach, also take note of the day’s tides. If you wander too far from your vehicle, you may come back to a sight you don’t want to see as the tides creep in. Tide tables can be picked up at many local stores such as Dennis Company Ace or viewed online.

Keep in mind that regular rules of the road apply even on the somewhat carefree-feeling beach, so refrain from donuts and reckless driving. Stay under 25 miles per hour. As you drive along the beach, helmeted moped drivers are a common sight, however ATVs are prohibited. Many of Grays Harbor’s beaches are open for beach driving, but not all. Learn more before planning your trip on the drivable beaches in the South Beach and North Beach areas of Grays Harbor.

camper heading towards a beach to drive on it
Beach driving is a fun and unique activity of the Washington coast, but be sure to drive on the compact sand. Photo courtesy: Grays Harbor Tourism

Be Responsible to Wildlife on Grays Harbor Beaches

One of the best parts of visiting the beach, especially for visitors experiencing the Washington coast for the first time, is getting a first-hand glimpse at native wildlife. Grays Harbor is home to an incredible amount of wildlife including bald eagles, deer, snowy white owls, and shorebirds in the spring in addition to migrating whales, seals, starfish, and many other marine animals. As tempting as it may be to approach them, it’s important to respect their boundaries for the safety of everyone.

When it comes to federal laws, touching feeding and disturbing marine mammals is prohibited. This is especially important for seal pups as once humans get within 100 yards, it’s likely their mother will not return. Another marine mammal that attracts attention are whales, especially ones that have washed ashore. Whether dead or alive, whales are protected and should also be viewed from a distance.

Responsible tourism includes reporting something you see. If an injured animal is spotted, contact the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife at 360.249.4628.

Additional beach safety rules can be found on the City of Ocean Shores website. Plan your visit and check out more information on visiting and staying on Washington’s coast on the Visit Grays Harbor website.

Practicing these simple responsible tourism tips sets a good example for the younger generation and will help keep beaches in Grays Harbor and around the world a safe and healthy place for everyone.


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