During warm summers in the early 1900s, folks would mark their calendars and look forward to spending some lazy days on the beach reading a book while the kids built sandcastles.
They would catch the train from Seattle to Aberdeen and then travel by sternwheeler to a dock at the end of Main Street (today the east end of Pacific Avenue) in Westport. Carriages awaited passengers and transported them over corduroy roads (sand covered log roads) to fancy summer homes at Cohasset Beach and to beachfront hotels. It took two days to get from Seattle to the coast back in those days.
Westport became the first incorporated town on the Washington coast in 1914 and is celebrating its centennial June 26-29 with a series of fun events and a look back at its rich history.
“You may expect the timber or fishing industries to be the primary employer at that time, but besides commercial clamming, it was tourism that kept the town thriving economically,” said Mike Coverdale, a South Beach real estate agent and Westport native. “These days more visitors ride surf boards than carriages, but you can still see many signs of the Westport of 1914.”
As Westport celebrates 100 years, clamming and tourism are still a big part of the economy, but so is commercial fishing (and they build yachts, too). The old hotels are no longer there, but the town is full of quaint motels and oceanfront condominiums. Its original, down-to-earth character is unapologetic, a little bit gritty and simply real. This is, indeed, Washington’s original beach town. And a breath of fresh air.
Where To Get Coffee: Tinderbox Coffee Roasters is a cute little coffee shop that opened in Westport on Montesano Street where you can get your freshly roasted and brewed coffee from around the world (and great loose teas).
Where to Stay: There are great vacation rentals (condos, beach cottages and more) at Westport Beach Escapes, westportbeachescapes.com. There are also charming places to stay such as Chateau Wesport near the lighthouse or Westport Inn at the marina that are both comfortable and affordable.
What to Buy: Fresh fish, crab, oysters and canned tuna. Head to the fishing piers and buy whatever’s fresh, and if you have a kitchen where you are staying, make a great dinner. High-quality canned Albacore tuna from Seafood Connection or Merino’s Seafood Market is a must to take home.
Where to Eat + Drink: Fish and Chips at Bennett’s Fish Shack, Dungeness crab omelet at the Blue Buoy Restaurant, order a cocktail at Half Moon Bay Bar & Grill or buy a bottle at Cranberry Road Winery. The Westport Brewing Co. offers delicious craft beers in central Westport.
What to Do: Book a charter fishing trip, buy saltwater taffy at one of the shops, take long walks on the boardwalk through the dunes, fly a kite, build a sandcastle, visit the lighthouse, read a book and watch the storms, crab and clam and enjoy chilling out.
What to Learn: Make sure to visit the Westport Maritime Museum to see old photos, relics from days gone by, a whale-bone display and the first-order Fresnel lens from the Destruction Island lighthouse — it is quite beautiful.
At 107 feet, the Grays Harbor Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the state. When it was first lighted in 1898, it stood near the water’s edge. Now it is about 3,000 feet from the ocean’s high tide, thanks to the jetty that caused the land to accrete. You can tour the lighthouse.
Thousands of people flock to the beach to dig razor clams. Get more information about digs, and how to get a license at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
Brave surfers head to Westport to catch waves. There are three main areas — Westhaven State Park, Half Moon Bay and the Finger Jetties. Rentals and group or private lessons are available at Steepwater Surfshop, steepwatersurfshop.com. Gear rentals and private lessons also are available at The Surf Shop.
The Tokeland Hotel: The Tokeland Hotel overlooks Willapa Bay and the ocean and is the oldest resort hotel in the state, dating back to 1885. The dining room is open Wednesday-Sunday and is known for its fresh seafood and, on Sundays, cranberry pot roast. Like most old places, some people believe it’s haunted.
Westport Winery: It’s not actually in Westport, but it’s on the way. Make sure to stop by for a wine tasting and to tour the grounds, full of art. There is a full-service dining room that serves fresh and local dishes. We like the fruity and award-winning wine selections — the Little Wild Blackberry, Duckleberry and Peaches on Beaches wines are delicious.
Bay City Sausage Co.: If you love jerky, pepperoni (cranberry pepperoni, yum), and anything smoky and salty, bring an empty cooler and stock up with delicious options at Bay City Sausage and Co. at 2249 State Route 105, also on your way to Westport.
Celebrate the Centennial
June 26-29 is Westport Founders’ Day Weekend. Highlights include $1 admission to the lighthouse, $100 charter trips, dockside tours of The Lady Washington, a community dance and fireworks, a pancake breakfast, live entertainment and more. Go to Experience Westport for updates and details.