Winter Storm Watching In Westport
By Brandon Fralic | Video and Images courtesy of Capture.Share.Repeat.
A ghost ship anchors offshore at the mouth of Grays Harbor, barely visible through the fog. Winds roar as waves slam against the break wall below, sending sea spray up and over. I’m standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my partner and several strangers in the Westport observation tower. We are all decked out in our finest Pacific Northwest rain gear — soaked, but exhilarated to witness the power of the ocean.
We have come to Westport in search of storms. Each winter, King Tides (extremely high tides) and big winter storms draw flocks of visitors to the Pacific coast like seagulls to the shore. Westport’s observation tower is among the best places in Washington for storm watching due to its safety and close proximity to the ocean. Here, winter storms can send swells 20-30 feet into the air.
Safety, of course, is a real concern for storm-seekers. Always stay off the beach during a King Tide (which means checking local tides online before setting out) and never turn your back on the ocean! We synced our dates up with the Washington king tides calendar for the best show.
Another safe place to view storms is along the Westport Light Trail — a paved, 1.3-mile path through the grassy dunes of Westport Light State Park. Bring a raincoat and waterproof footwear for this adventure — you’re most likely going to get wet!
When the storm has passed, low tide beachcombing is another fun winter activity. Winter storms can wash up all kinds of interesting stuff on the shore, from rare sea glass to objects that have traveled all the way from Asia. It's customary to bring a bag along to pack out anything unnatural you may find. Beginning in January, the Westport South Beach Historical Society distributes hundreds of authentic Japanese glass floats up and down the beaches of Westport — a treasure hunt for all ages.
While walking the beaches of Westport Light State Park and Twin Harbors State Park, we watched sandpipers running from the surf, seals bobbing offshore, and murmurations of shorebirds in the sky. The weather changed dramatically each day.
There are so many ways to experience Westport during winter — from razor clam digging to surfing. But what if you don’t want to get wet? Head indoors, where you can visit a lighthouse, museum, or seafood market. Here are some of our favorite places to take shelter from the storm.
Grays Harbor Lighthouse
One of Westport’s top winter attractions is the historic Grays Harbor Lighthouse. Standing 107 feet high, it is the tallest lighthouse in Washington. We took a guided 135-step hike up its spiral staircase to the lantern room for sweeping views over the coastal forest and ocean.
But wait, why is the lighthouse in a forest? Originally located some 300 feet from the water’s edge, the lighthouse now sits about 3,000 feet from the high tide mark due to accretion (the gradual building-up of land). We have never seen another lighthouse like it.
Westport Maritime Museum
To learn more about the lighthouse and Westport’s maritime history, a visit to the museum is essential. Westport South Beach Historical Society houses their collection in a five-building complex near the Westport marina. We toured the main museum — a former Coast Guard Station — and the impressive Destruction Island Lens Hall. If you’re undecided about visiting, wait till you see this 17-foot tall, 6-ton lighthouse lens illuminated and rotating like an enormous disco ball. It is more than worth the price of admission.
There is a sign at Aloha Alabama that reads, “No Wi-Fi. Talk to each other. Pretend it is 1975. Grab a cold one. Cheers!” That's the vibe at this Hawaiian-meets-Southern BBQ joint, where surfboards line the walls. We happily tucked our phones away, digging into the ahi tuna poke bowl and slow-roasted Kalua pork. Aloha’s crispy fish tacos come highly recommended, too — you can never go wrong with seafood in Westport.
A casual lunch and dinner spot, Aloha Alabama is located at the Westport marina. They are family-friendly with indoor and outdoor seating. And of course, they serve beer and beach-themed cocktails!
Merino's Seafood Market is another can’t-miss Westport institution. Operating as a fresh fish market, cannery, and restaurant, Merino’s offers everything from dungeness crab to albacore tuna — all caught locally. Come for the fish n’ chips — you’ll have your choice of lingcod, rockfish, halibut, or salmon.
Not hungry? Grab something for later from Merino’s canned and fresh-frozen selection. After lunch at Aloha Alabama, we picked up a pack of frozen Merino’s clam chowder for dinner. Paired with a salad and sourdough rolls back at the condo, it was the perfect ready-made meal (and some of the best clam chowder we’ve tasted).
Located a few blocks from the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, Blackbeard’s Brewing is the place for beer and pizza in Westport. Settle in with a pint of Smokin Cannon Porter after hitting the beach or climbing the lighthouse steps. Families will find plenty to love here, from the pirate-themed pub to covered outdoor seating and even gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza.
At the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Vacations by the Sea was our home for the weekend. Our spacious 2-bedroom condo was so clean, quiet, and comfortable that we found it hard to leave. Why go anywhere when you have ocean views from the living room, bedroom, and balcony? We settled in with a glass of wine on an eventful afternoon, watching the symphony of wind, waves, sideways rain, and a double rainbow from the comfort of our couch.
Vacations by the Sea has a prime location between the lighthouse and the ocean. You can access the Westport Light Trail and sandy ocean beach right outside the property. Pro tip: book a 3rd-floor condo at Vacations by the Sea for vaulted ceilings and the best ocean views. We loved unit 934!
For more information on storm watching in Westport CLICK HERE.