Ocean towns

Within three hours of JBLM

By Kristin Kendle on April 3, 2015

The Tacoma area has no shortage of water with Puget Sound shorelines left and right, and lakes (some with sandy beaches and boat launches) dotting Pierce County. But sometimes you need more. Sometimes you need the ocean! Fortunately, the ocean is a two- to three-hour drive away. Even better, there is more than one ocean city so you can choose your beachfront destination based on what kind of weekend getaway or vacation lights your fire.

Ocean Shores, Washington

The closest ocean town from Tacoma or Olympia is Ocean Shores. The town is small, but most coastal towns are (you won't find any Atlantic City kinds of places in Washington and Oregon). In warmer months, you'll find the quintessential kite stores, salt water taffy stores, stores selling seashells and sand toys, and seafood restaurants. There's plenty of family fun, from bike rentals to a fun center, but Ocean Shores is a bit quieter than Long Beach, Cannon Beach or Seaside. Depending on what you like to do on the beach, a pro or con is that cars are allowed on the beach in the hotel zone. Definite pros include the horseback rides available on the sand as well as the Ocean Shores North Jetty at the far southern end of the beach.

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook is by far Washington state's cutest beach town that aims to be a community rather than a town or city (if you need amenities or stores, you can head a few minutes south to Pacific Beach). Rather than hotels (you won't find any), Seabrook is a planned community where visitors can rent tiny cottages all the way up to lavish vacation rentals. The little town is very walker and bike friendly. There's a heated community pool for cottage renters to use, as well as a basketball court and retail center where visitors can peruse unique little shops.

Long Beach, Washington

Located on a peninsula that stretches for 28 miles, Long Beach's claim to fame is that it's the longest beach in the world. Its other claim to fame is the unique Boardwalk, which is a half-mile long and situated among grassy sand dunes overlooking the ocean. If the Boardwalk isn't enough, there are a number of hiking trails and - of course - 28 miles of beach. Long Beach is also a great family beach with kid-friendly amusements like Funland, a miniature golf course, bike rentals and more.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Under 10 minutes from Seaside, Cannon Beach is the best beach for couples' getaways. While it's also a fine family beach, this is the place you'll find microbreweries, distilleries, art galleries and more upscale hotels with stunning views of the surf and towering Haystack Rock. The town itself is very walkable and just blocks from the beach, which is also more unique than other area beach towns due to the giant rocks rising out of the surf. Haystack Rock towers at 235 feet tall. Bring your binoculars if you enjoy bird watching!

Seaside, Oregon

Seaside is one of the best all-around beaches. A 1.5-mile Boardwalk is a highlight of Seaside - stroll the hotel zone, peek into shops and admire the ocean views. Shops just off the Boardwalk range from kitschy beach souvenirs to cute coffee shops to the Carousel Mall, where you'll find a vintage carousel. Not too far off there's also a Tilt-a-Whirl and Funland, filled with games galore. Seaside is also a fine shopping destination, as there are a number of shops near the Boardwalk, but also the Seaside Factory Outlet Center just north on Highway 101 and Cannon Beach minutes south on 101, too.