Storm Watching

Whether you park and watch coastal storms from a point high above the dramatic surf or venture forth on foot while the raging winds pound high tide surf against the dunes, storm watching is an invigorating experience you won’t soon forget.

Bundled up in front of a fire in a soft blanket or enjoying the sounds of friendly conversation in a local eatery, the post-storm cup of cocoa or sip of brandy will be the best you’ve ever experienced. The ever-changing ocean produces a show of power and drama as each weather pattern brings changes in the wind, the rain and the currents. Be watchful of large logs which can be tossed upon the shore as if they were toothpicks and watch out for sneaker waves, which can surprise even the most experienced of beachgoers.

“Our winter storms are thrilling and they’ve become a powerful draw to the Peninsula,” comments Una Boyle, Executive Director, Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. “People travel here from throughout the country just to watch them. Several locations along this 28 mile long spit of land provide excellent viewing sites, while famed restaurants, cozy bed and breakfast establishments and other inviting accommodations provide great places to stay warm and well fed.”

Here are a few of the area’s choice sites:

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco, is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and the mighty Pacific. From the Center’s panoramic windows viewers can watch the storms roll in off the Pacific Ocean, ships traveling up and down the Columbia River, and sea birds working the wind.

Waikiki Beach, in Cape Disappointment State Park, is particularly excellent when storms meet with the high tides — these coincide with the new and full moon. From a driftwood-strewn breakwater, storm watchers will be awed by huge waves crashing into the cliffs, which support the historic Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The rhythmic waves can throw sea spray nearly 100 feet in the air giving photographers signature opportunities. The site can be accessed through the main gate of Cape Disappointment State Park, a few short miles out of the fishing village of Ilwaco.

One particular location in the festive beachside town of Long Beach that is also excellent for watching winter storms (if you do not mind getting soaked by the storm’s fury) is the meandering boardwalk that stretches along the beach dunes from Sid Snyder Boulevard to Bolstad Street. The adventurous can brave the storm with a walk on the Discovery Trail, which winds below the boardwalk.

The best beachcombing can be found on the morning following a good storm and the rewards can be magical: a special shell, a barnacle covered bottle or even a Japanese float. Here, treasures are for the taking on a first come, first served basis. So bundle up and head to the beach when you hear the next squall report…and experience the storm in you being blown out to sea.

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