Seattle sits on Puget Sound in the ice-blue waters of the Pacific Northwest, while the Olympic mountains loom in the distance and evergreen trees cover the area.
The Emerald City is the largest in Washington state and home to over 790,000 residents living in a unique blend of smaller neighborhoods, each with its own culture and flavor. What most people might not associate with Seattle though is their beaches. Believe it or not, we have a long and impressive coastline with plenty of great beaches for you to choose from.
Puget Sound has 1,400 miles of rustic shoreline covered in rocks and driftwood. There are also some 300 islands throughout the area. Seattle proper is blessed with 200 miles of urban shoreline and some of the best beaches and the coastal regions in the Northwest USA.
Alki Beach Park
Alki Beach Park is the summer park destination and the Pacific West Coast’s answer to The Shore. Seattle’s Coney Island is the perfect place to eat, play, and people-watch. This beach is located in West Seattle, just southwest of the downtown city center.
A 2.5-mile paved promenade parallels the beach and stretches from Duwamish Head to the Alki Point Lighthouse. Alki Beach is a magnet for rollerbladers, cyclists, and skateboarders.
An Alki Beach is one of the city’s best places for volleyball, with eight courts. The central part of Alki Beach is covered in soft sand – ideal for curling your toes or building castles. The tidal pools emerge further west at low tide, towards the lighthouse.
Locals reach Alki Beach through the West Seattle Water Taxi from its dock near the Seattle Ferry Terminal downtown. But if you must drive – there is a parking lot near the promenade.
Myrtle Edwards Park
Myrtle Edwards Park is on the Elliot Bay waterfront. It’s a five-acre park with a 1.25-mile multi-use pedestrian path that connects the coastline to the Magnolia neighborhood. Urban art lines the trails and pathways throughout the green space, including Centennial Park to the north and the inland Olympic Sculpture Park to the east.
Small, rocky beach areas punctuate the park with beautiful vistas of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound. The park is easily accessed by rail or foot.
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park is officially in the city of Shoreline, 15 miles north of downtown Seattle. The mile-long rustic beach provides a quiet place to enjoy Puget Sound. This dog-friendly beach is littered with driftwood and is a popular place for family picnics and quick respites from the city. Getting to the beach is a trek consisting of a long downhill walk. But the mountain-framed sea views make it worth the effort.
One of the unique benefits of Richmond Beach Saltwater Park is Urban art. The city of Shoreline supports the Shoreline Public Art Program. Each year, artists in residency create works to be installed and exhibited in the park. Pop-up art events, open houses, and workshops collaborate with the Art Cottage at Saltwater Park.
Golden Gardens Park
Golden Gardens Park is a 95-acre dog-friendly beach park located in the Ballard neighborhood, north of Shilshole Bay Marina. A place of activity, Golden Gardens Park offers panoramic sea views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Everyone is welcome for a pickup game at the basketball courts and volleyball nets – there is also plenty of open space for picnics and people watching.
There is plenty of parking throughout the park, and a roving gang of Canadian geese provides security. Hikers enjoy the miles of paths while beachcombers sit by open fire pits. Further down the 300 feet of shoreline at the south end of the park sits a fishing pier and boat launch.
Discovery Park is Seattle’s largest community green space, located five miles northwest of downtown Seattle in the Magnolia neighborhood. This former military fort extends over 534 acres offering a serene sanctuary of green meadows, coastal dunes, lively beaches, and a quaint lighthouse.
Wildlife fills Discovery Park, including over 270 bird species. On land, coyotes are common, and sea lions and seals can be seen offshore.
Discovery Park boasts a play area, tennis courts, and several miles of hiking trails. For beachcombers, the sandy shore offers excellent shell hunting opportunities.
Getting to Discovery Park is easy. Just grab bus 33 from 3rd Ave and Union St downtown. A weekend-only free shuttle runs from downtown to the park’s environmental center.
Green Lake Park
Green Lake Park is a small natural lake created by a glacier during the last ice age. The area serves as a natural preserve for hundreds of plants, birds, and waterfowl species.
It is at the center of a dense urban neighborhood, drawing thousands of people daily.
Two paths extend for almost 3 miles around the Lake, accommodating joggers, power walkers, and cyclists. In fact, competition for space has forced the city government to regulate traffic on the paths.
Green Lake is also a mecca for many athletic activities, including soccer, lawn bowling, baseball, basketball, and tennis. Boat and paddle boarding rentals take advantage of the multiple lake access points along the cove’s 50′ shoreline sandwiched between two sandy beaches.
Madison Park Beach
Madison Park Beach is a peaceful green space that melds into the shores of Lake Washington, south of the Evergreen Point Bridge. The park is easily reached on bus 11 along E Madison St. One can follow the old trolley route down E Madison St to Seattle’s original seaside resort.
Madison Park Beach is, unsurprisingly, located in the quaint Seattle neighborhood of Madison Park.
The park is a swimming beach, complete with a free-floating raft, and lifeguards patrol the 400-foot beach from late June to Labor Day. There are some quaint shopping and outdoor cafes right across the street and a playground for younger children.
Denny Blaine Park
South of Madison Park sits Denny Blaine Park. The small unguarded beach is surrounded by an old stone wall that marked the shoreline before the lake level dropped 9 ft during the construction of the shipping canal in 1917. Denny Blaine Park is a sought-after location for wedding photoshoots and family gatherings.
A quiet hideaway on Lake Washington Blvd, the park is large enough for a volleyball net, quiet picnics, and sunbathing – clothing optional.
Renton is not a park or a beach but a small city in King County, Washington, and sits about 11 miles southeast of downtown Seattle. The small community straddles Lake Washington’s southeast shore at the mouth of the Cedar River.
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park includes a 57-acre along Lake Washington’s southeastern shore in Renton. The communal space contains numerous land and water activities.
There are floating picnic and fishing piers, and the marina boasts an eight-lane boat launch. While not a dog-friendly space, Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park has volleyball and tennis courts and several waterside restaurants.
Warren G. Magnuson Park
Magnuson Park is located in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood occupying most of a small peninsula. A former military base, the 350-acre expanse is Seattle’s second-largest park after Discovery Park.
Magnuson Park is a favorite of hikers and dog walkers who appreciate the off-leash zones and provides walking trails, waterfront picnic areas, swimming beaches, and boat access points.
In addition to 4 miles of hiking trails, the park’s “historic district” features over 20 unique Art Deco structures that tell the tale of life in the Seattle area in the early 20th-Century.
Fay Bainbridge Park
Bainbridge Island is a sleepy forested community across the Sound from Seattle and a perfect weekend getaway. To get to the park, you will need to board one of Seattle’s iconic ferries at the downtown terminal for a 40 minutes trip to Bainbridge Island.
Not only can you picnic on the sandy beach, but Fay Bainbridge Park is also part of the Cascadia Marine Trail, which links various waterfront campgrounds in the region. Once at Fay Bainbridge Park, you can stroll through the small shops and waterfront taverns. And on sunny days, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker.
Madrona Park sits at the bottom of a steep hill in the Madrona Business district. It’s located on the east side of Seattle’s Central District, along with Lake Washington, three miles from downtown in Madrona.
A small sandy beach at Madrona Park loosely marks the boundaries for the designated swimming with a lifeguard on duty. A large grassy expanse with equally picturesque views of Bellevue across the water.
Reservable picnic cabanas are popular, and the paths along the Lake Washington shoreline are well-used. The park is ideal for fishing and freshwater lake swimming, although the water is icy cold most of the year.
Lincoln Park has to be one of West Seattle’s most underrated multi-use parks. Set on a nose-shaped cliff overlooking Puget Sound, the park features 3.9 miles of cycling trails, picnic pavilions, and a bathhouse. Lincoln also includes 4.6 miles of walking paths, an outdoor heated swimming pool, and scenic beaches, making this the perfect find.
Rarely crowded, the playground is a perfect place for families.
Canoes, kayaks, and hand-carry boats will find launch points along the 300-foot shoreline at the park’s south end.
Seward Park occupies 300 acres of Bailey Peninsula, shooting out into Lake Washington.
Here you will have clear views of Mercer Island and downtown as you soak in the waters. If you prefer a more active afternoon, traverse the 2.4-mile bike and walking path or look for the natural plant garden.
There are many boat launch options in Seward Park for both marina-based sailboats and hand-carried craft.
The tranquil park also includes some of Seattle’s last old-growth Redwood forests. Old-growth forests are primary forests. These first forests can be several thousand years old, with some trees reaching 400 feet. Old Growth areas exhibit unique ecological features such as making their own weather patterns, including fog and rain. Old-growth trees also support unique plant and animal species.
Matthews Beach Park
Matthews Beach Park is the largest of Seattle’s freshwater beaches.
During the summer, lifeguards patrol the area protecting swimmers. Outdoor enthusiasts can sunbathe, play volleyball, and hike.
Matthews Beach is also a great pit-stop for cyclists on the Burke-Gilman Trail following the old Northern Pacific Railroad. The Burke-Gilman is a 27-mile urban pedestrian and bicycling trail that connects many sites in Northern Seattle. It starts at Golden Gardens Park in northwest Seattle and continues to Redmond in northeast Seattle. Because of its popularity, like many other Seattle beaches, parking is at a premium.
Carkeek Park covers over 200 acres across Seattle’s northwest neighborhoods. The area combines different micro-climates such as forests, wetlands, creeks, and rocky Puget Sound shorelines.
Thousands of visitors are attracted to the 3.5-mile Pipers Creek Trail within Carkeek each year. This unique trail system connects the various ecosystems, encouraging a culture of conservation and protection. As a result, Carkeek Park is one of the few places pristine enough to support a salmon run in Seattle.
Howell Park is a highly secluded park. It is reached by a short walk down a tiny, residential access road and has no parking. The park has no amenities or facilities but does offer shoreline access, benches, and solitude. Howell Park is also an unofficial clothing-optional park.
Like so many Washington beaches, this San Juan Island park is filled with driftwood, creating a barricade between dense sand and the grassy dunes. The protected North Bay just south of Friday Harbor is a shining jewel of Puget Sound. It is home to fascinating bioluminescent dinoflagellates, which illuminate the water when brushed.
Olympic National Park
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is home to Olympic National Park. The park contains several ecosystems, from the dramatic peaks of the Olympic Mountains to old-growth forests. The summit of glacier-clad Mt. Olympus is popular with climbers. And hiking and backpacking trails meander through the park’s rainforests emerging on the adjacent Pacific coastline.
Home to the iconic Mount Olympic, the Olympic National Park supports some of the most extensive fish runs in the Pacific Northwest, including wild salmon, trout, and char.
There you have it, 20 fantastic Seattle beaches you need to visit when the weather is warm. Any of these beaches are accessible from your Seattle vacation home, some by foot, others by car or public transportation.
Featured Image Credit: Gary Ives