We may not be able to compete with Hawaiian tropics or even warmer East Coast waters, but Seattle has no shortage of gorgeous beaches. Nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, the city has about 200 miles of fresh and saltwater shoreline.
But which beach do you flock to when the sun comes out? The Seattle Times asked readers to vote for their favorite and make its case. Some cited recreational activities, gauged the overall vibe or shared cherished memories from their go-to spot. From a list of 13 beaches in the city of Seattle, here are readers’ top seven spots and what they love about them.
No. 1: Alki Beach — ‘This IS Seattle, baby!’
Readers had a lot to say about why this 2.5-mile-long strip of beach on Elliott Bay was their top choice.
Shore-side activities came pouring in: Frolicking in the sand, playing volleyball, kayaking, walking, biking — the list goes on. But folks also lauded the variety of restaurants, bars and coffee shops along Alki Avenue Southwest, the seaside townesque atmosphere and the ultimate Seattle view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, plus the Space Needle and downtown skyline.
“Alki is quintessential Seattle!” said a reader named Meghan. Plus, it comes with “a hopping neighborhood, complete with a bike/walking path, plenty of bathrooms and rinse-off showers and an increasingly quality array of restaurants.”
Readers’ favorite beachside eateries include Alki Spud Fish and Chips, Harry’s Beach House, Il Nido and Driftwood.
Alki fans also enjoy what Chris Barnes called “the most traditional beach atmosphere in the city.” For Bree Coven, “Alki Beach is like a mini vacation here at home.”
“When I was younger and couldn’t afford an actual vacation, I would bring my toddler on an adventure I called ‘the bus to the boat to the jitney to the beach,’ ” Coven said. “We’d spend the day playing in the sand, splashing in the ocean and making a picnic of fish ‘n’ chips from Spuds. As the sun set, my young son would say, ‘Is it time to go back to Seattle, mama?’ And I’d say, ‘This IS Seattle, baby!’ “
Alki Beach Park: 2665 Alki Ave. S.W., Seattle. Open 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The beach closes at 10:30 p.m. this summer, until Sept. 4.
No. 2: Golden Gardens Beach — ‘A day of fun’
Let’s start with the sand at this Seattle favorite in Ballard.
“Golden Gardens has the softest sand,” said Mark Price. “Golden Gardens has a deep and long sandy beach where you can walk barefoot,” said Debra Ching. “Love the sand,” echoed another, anonymous reader.
You get the point. Besides heavenly sand, Golden Gardens Park features two wetlands and a short loop trail.
Readers hailed the beach’s proximity to the Ballard Locks and the neighborhood’s bars and restaurants, as well as the feeling of escaping into nature. It makes for “a day of fun with spectacular views of the Olympics, then a great meal in Ballard,” one said.
“It feels as if you are a million miles away from the city due to its location, and it does not have an urban feel with restaurants and street traffic at your back,” Ching said.
What’s there to do at this beach? Survey respondents mentioned picnicking, playing volleyball and soccer, exploring tide pools, paddle boarding, sailing and fishing (from the boat launch and pier), flying a kite and treating your dog to some time in the park’s off-leash area. The park has a boat, a pier and several volleyball courts; two free courts for drop-in play and four courts that can be reserved online for $8/hour at seattle.gov/parks/allparks/golden-gardens-park.
No. 3: Discovery Park Beach — ‘A surprising pocket of peace’
A trip to this beach also means visiting Seattle’s largest city park. Discovery Park in Magnolia contains 12 miles of walking trails across its 534 acres, from forests and meadows to sand dunes and rocky shoreline.
Readers who voted for the park’s beach emphasized its tranquility and natural beauty.
There are “beautiful views in all directions, a surprising pocket of peace and wildlife viewing,” making it a perfect spot to “sit and think, walk, watch boats and birds and the occasional otter,” said one reader.
“I love the expanse of the beach and the different water views from each beach portion,” said another. “The bolus of boats in and out of the locks is a delight, as is listening to the sea lions.”
Plus, two readers described the beach as “never too crowded” and “very private.”
No. 4: Carkeek Park Beach — ‘The most beautiful views’
When a reader named Elizabeth moved to the Seattle area, Carkeek was the first beach she went to with her kids. For them, the highlights are the pedestrian bridge taking visitors over the train tracks to the beach, the trains that frequently pass by and the views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
The Broadview neighborhood park also includes a playground for the little ones, hiking trails and more than 200 acres of forest, meadows, wetlands, creeks, fruit orchard and, of course, beach. Pipers Creek, which runs the length of the park, is known as one of the best places in Seattle to watch salmon as they head home to spawn.
“We love to go for hikes, especially on the less frequented side trails. The low tide is amazing and watching the salmon struggle up (Pipers) Creek can’t be missed,” said one reader.
“This beach has the most beautiful views, especially for watching the sunset,” added another.
Carkeek Park: 950 N.W. Carkeek Park Road, Seattle. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
No. 5: Madison Park Beach — ‘The vibe is always on’
While you’re welcome to take an icy plunge into one of the Sound’s saltwater beaches, this spot off Lake Washington may be the better choice for swimming.
Grassy Madison Park slopes downward, giving way to this approximately 400-foot beach with a swimming section, a floating dock you can swim out to and jump off its two diving boards, and lifeguards on duty for set summer hours.
Travis Mayfield said the beach boasts great areas for kids and adults, and good restaurants and coffee shops nearby. The best part: “You can always find a spot” even when it’s busy, he said.
“The floaty game at this beach is legendary,” another reader said. “The vibe is always on.”
Madison Park: 4201 E. Madison St., Seattle. Open 4 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
No. 6: Lincoln Park — ‘Year-round relaxation’
A reader named Brandon feels strongly about this West Seattle bluff, just north of the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal: “There is no comparison, period.”
Jesse Colman elaborated: “The Olympics put on a show, the sunsets are unparalleled, you get to watch the ferry come in and out with otters playing. It’s a great place to have a picnic and it’s the best place to go for a run.”
Aside from the beach, Lincoln Park features 4.6 miles of walking paths, 3.9 miles of bike trails, five picnic shelters, playfields and an outdoor heated saltwater pool (admission is $6.50 for adults, $4.50 for kids one to 17 years and seniors 65 years and older, and free for children younger than age one).
Daniel Dumovich acknowledged that the park’s beach “may not have the sand and swimming features of other big beaches” or be the best site for “volleyball tournaments or rowdy bonfires.” However, it still “sports the best beachside stroll, wonderful low tide exploration, a stellar view, iconic ferries (that sometimes make a bang!), frequent whale sightings and a chill vibe that is perfect for year-round relaxation and appreciation,” Dumovich said.
No. 7: Green Lake Park
In the middle of the dense, urban Green Lake neighborhood, a half-hour walk from the bustling University District, sits Green Lake Park. A 2.8-mile running, walking and biking path wraps around the lake, and playfields and a play structure lie right next to it.
On opposite sides of the lake, you’ll find East Green Lake Beach and West Green Lake Beach, both with concrete steps leading down to the water. The western beach will have lifeguards on duty for set hours this summer, but the eastern beach is closed for swimming. On the east side, you can still get out on the water: Bring your own handheld boat or rent a paddle board, kayak or pedal boats from Green Lake Boathouse and Coffee Shop.
Readers described plenty of shade and space to roam and people-watch at the park. Around the lake, you can find eateries like Duke’s Seafood and Chocolati.
Editor’s picks: Beaches outside the city
If you live or are venturing outside the city of Seattle, here are some other nearby beaches to consider:
- Juanita Beach Park: This approximately 20-acre park includes about 1,000 feet of Lake Washington shoreline, plus beach volleyball and tennis courts, ballfields, a walking path, picnic shelters and a seasonal swimming area. 9703 Juanita Drive N.E. Kirkland. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Richmond Beach Saltwater Park: You can hike through about 40 acres of land at this semi-urban park with trails, picnic shelters, beaches and an off-leash dog area. The park is also known as a place to see orcas in the winter. 2021 N.W. 190th St., Shoreline. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Luther Burbank Park: Much of this 73-acre Mercer Island park has been left undeveloped to let wildlife thrive, but you’ll also find a large children’s play area, tennis courts and a public boat dock, fishing pier and swimming beach. 2040 84th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island. Open 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
- Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park: Besides getting in the water at this poplar swimming destination, you can find boat launch lanes, tennis and volleyball courts, a playground and paved walking trails. 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N., Renton. Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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