Cape Disappointment State Park: Is it really that depressing?

What a weird and misleading name it is: Cape Disappointment State Park. Would you actually consider visiting this Southern coastal tip of Washington State when just hearing its name? I can definitely encourage you to do so! The allegedly world’s longest beach, the picturesque Cape Disappointment Lighthouse sitting on the edge of steep cliffs, impressive waves crashing at the rough coastline with „King Tide“ as a highlight of stormy season during wintertime and lots of driftwood create a scenery that can be considered anything but disappointing.

Cape Disappointment

And if you find the right place to sleep, you can definitely spend a couple of days or a long weekend at cape Disappointment – biking along Discovery Trail, hiking to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, feasting and relaxing.

Photographing Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach

#1 Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Related to a very disappointing experience the British fur trader John Meares had in 1788, the Southernmost stretch of the Washington Coast was named „Cape Disappointment“. Meares was simply unable to locate the mouth of Columbia River where it merges into the Pacific Ocean. That´s already the whole story behind this kind of irritating name. Nowadays Cape Disappointment Lighthouse guides sailors safely into the mouth of the Columbia River, where the actual boarder between Oregon and Washington State is located. After some struggles at the beginning of the construction, the lighthouse was eventually completed in 1856 and is now the oldest functioning lighthouse at the US Westcoast. In my opinion it is a must-see when at Cape Disappointment and there are various options to do so.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse drone shot

#2 Cape Disappointment State Park hiking trails

Cape Disappointment State Parks holds many trailheads through old-growth forest. The hike from Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is one of the most popular ones throughout the year. The only 1.1 miles (1,8 km) long hike offers quite a few vistas and takes you to the grounds of the lighthouse. It’s an easy in and out hike. Just make sure to bring some proper shoes as the path can get muddy at some points.

Walking towards Cape Disappointment Lighthouse during sunset
pink skies at Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from above

There is also a 4.3 miles (6,8 km) long loop trail that takes you a bit deeper into Cape Disappointment State Park, offers more viewpoints and beach access, including Waikiki Beach. If you don’t feel like walking, but still want to get a glimpse of the lighhouse, turn right at the parking lot of Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and follow the short path uphill. From there you can spot the lighthouse on the other side of the bay in little distance. If you are lucky you can even spot bald eagles hovering in the air or landing in the trees, looking out for prey. The trail leading to the lighthouse starts left of the parking lot. But you could also combine both trails into a little loop.

View of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Unfortunately one of the most iconic sights, Deadman’s Cove, is closed for public access since summer 2019 due to soil erosion. There are several prominent signs indicating that you shouldn’t walk further down to the beach. Respectful of the environment and due to the fact that the Coast Guard Station is located just a couple of feet away, I would encourage everyone to obide the rules and not try to sneak in somehow.

View of Deadman's Cove at Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington
View of Deadman's Cove Cape Disappointment State Park
Deadman's Cove, Washington, from a bird's eye view

#3 Storm watching & King Tide at Waikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment

For anonther impressive view of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse without any need of hiking first, head over to Waikiki Beach. There is a small parking lot from where you have a pretty lovely view of the lighthouse sitting on top of the steep cliffs. The driftwood makes the scenery even more picturesque. This is also a great spot for winter storm-watching, when meter-high waves crash at the rocky shoreline. If your timing is right, you can experience extraordinary huge waves due to the natural phenomenon „King Tide“ (December /January).

drift wood at Waikiki Beach Cape Disappointment State Park
Capturing Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach, Washington Coast
Waikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park from a bird's eye view

To enter and legally park your car at Cape Disappointment State Park the Discover Pass is required. Daypasses and annual passes can be purchased at the machines at the parking lots or the small office at the entrance to the campground.

#4 Long Beach Peninsula & Discovery Trail, Washington

Well known for its continuous sandy beaches that extent to almost 30 miles (45 km), Long Beach Peninsula is claimed to be the longest beach in the United States and the world’s largest drivable beach. Whether these superlatives are really accurate, I cannot really tell, but what’s for sure: There are countless beach activities Long Beach Peninsula offers to its visitors: Running, walking, biking, skating, horseback riding, kyte flying, picnicking, sunbathing, sand castle building, razor clamming are only a few activities you can think of at Long Beach. No matter what you decide for the beach itself and the 8.5 miles (13,7 km) long Discovery Trail that winds through the dunes are great places to get outdoors and enjoy the coastal breeze.

endless sand dunes of Long Beach, Washington
Wandering along Long Beach on the Washington Coast
sunset at Long Beach Peninsula, Washington

#5 Barrel sauna, Gin tasting & seafood feasting at Adrift Hotel

Long days spent outdoors while breathing fresh air are ideally wrapped up with some soaking, relaxing and feasting. For all these needs Adrift Hotel got you covered. Located just off the beach it is one of the few hotels that provide a barrel sauna in addition to a heated saline pool as well as spa facilities, where you can unwind by enjoying a massage. The hotel’s interior spreads a nordic, modern marine flair that totally suits the location. The tiny barrel sauna is definitely a good place to stretch your muscles after a long day of hiking or biking along the beach.

Adrift Hotel, Long Beach Washington
Barrel sauna at Adrift Hotel & Spa Long Beach
Barrel sauna, Adrift Hotel & Spa Long Beach, Washington
Inside the barrel sauna of Adrift Hotel & Spa Long Beach, Washington

And if you fancy a delicious meal with an ocean view, their on-site restaurant „Pickled Fish“ can also be highly recommended for breakfast and dinners alike. They serve savory and sweet delights with a twist. So we actually ended up eating there three times. On weekends there is live music.

Lobby and Pickled Fish Restaurant at Long Beach, Washington
View of Long Beach through the window of Pickled Fish Restaurant, Washington Coast
Menu Pickled Fish Restaurant Long Beach, Washington
Breakfast at Pickled Fish Restaurant Long Beach, Washington
Cinnamon Roll at Pickled Fish Restaurant Long Beach, Washington
Oysters at Pickled Fish Restaurant Long Beach, Washington Coast

Adrift Hotel is also home to Adrift Distillers, where home-crafted spirits like gin, whisky or vodka can be tasted. And shhhh, telling you a little secret: On Sundays during specific hours it is even for free, just ask at the reception!

Whisky, Gin and Vodka tasting at Adrift Distillery, Long Beach, Washington
Adrift Distillery Long Beach Washington

#6 Whale Skeleton & Long Beach Boardwalk

From Adrift Hotel there is access to the Long Beach Boardwalk that drifts above the sand dunes. By strolling along this almost half a mile long wooden path you can enjoy panoramic views of the Washington Coast and if lucky even spot a whale passing by. If you don’t get the chance for a real whale in the waters, the skeleton of a gray whale that beached and died in 2000 and the dedicated sculpture are worth stopping by.

Whale sculpture, Long Beach Washington
Whale skeleton at Long Beach, Washington

Adrift Hotels even offers the opportunity to rent beach cruiser bikes for up to 2 hours on a first-come first-served basis. The costs for this are included in the daily 9$ amenities fee which you need to pay as a guest anyways in order to use the poolhouse and onsite facilities like parking lots. So there is definitely no excuse not to get active and explore Long Beach Peninsula.

Cycling the Discovery Trail, Washington Coast

Good to know: Under Adrift Hotel’s ownership are a couple of more hotels like the Inn at Discovery Coast, which is a bit more exclusive, still located on the same site. Shelburne Hotel is located in Seaview, only 1 mile (1,6 km) away. As guest of theirs you are allowed to use the poolhouse facilities etc.. Shelburne Hotel has a comfortably decorated pub that serves decent food and cocktails. So if you don’t feel like spending every dinner at Pickled Fish, this is definitely a good alternative. The Ashore Hotel in Seaside (Oregon) is also part of the Adrift hospitality family.

Cocktails at Shelburne Hotel Seaview, Washington

Are you still in doubt about Cape Disappointment’s name having something to do with a disappointing experience? Convince yourself it has not! Long Beach Peninsula and Cape Disappointment can be reached from Portland and Seattle in about 2.5 to 3 hours, which makes it an ideal trip for a long weekend or a well worth stop on any roadtrip along Highway101.

Panorama view of Cape Disappointment State Park from Waikiki Beach, Washington

Another small town worth stopping by is the port city Astoria. Not only because it is the oldest town of Oregon State and was the very first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Astoria is located right where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. The 4.1 miles (6,6 km) long Astoria-Megler-Bridge spans over the mouth of Columbia River and connects the states of Oregon and Washington. So no matter which direction you are driving, make a stop at Astoria, even if it’s only to admire the steel bridge or to enjoy a coffee without paying state tax! 😉

Astoria-Megler-Bridge connecting Oregon and Washington State
harvor of Astoria, Oregon, from a bird's eye view

For more coastal vibes read my article:
Why the Oregon Coast is your perfect winter travel destination


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DISCLOSURE

Our stay at Long Beach was a collaboration with Adrift Hotel who supported our stay with a complimentary night, we covered all other costs ourselves.
As all articles on this blog, it reflects my personal impressions and honest opinion.

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QUESTIONS & COMMENTS?

Have you ever been to the Washington Coast and have reccommendations for accommodation or general travel tipps? Leave me a comment! Do you like the article, have suggestions, feedback or recommendations? Feel free to share this article with your friends!

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Cape Disappointment & Long Beach Pinterest

Cape Disappointment State Park Travel Guide

King Tide Cape Disappointment Washington Coast


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20 comments
  1. Wow! Cape Disappointment looks absolutely breathtaking. You just made me add this place to my bucket list. Great guide! 🙂

  2. You are so right, Cape Disappointment will absolutely never disappoint even on stormy days! After Cape Flattery, Cape Disappointment used to be my favourite sea hiking area near Seattle! Loved the post!!

    1. Thank you Vaisakhi! I haven’t been to Cape Flattery yet, but the Olympic Peninsula is high up on my bucketlist for this summer. Looking forward to explore more of Washington State soon.

  3. Definitely not a name with which you think about a beautiful place to visit. Your pictures do the place justive. :ove the storm watching.

    1. Thanks so much Cosette! Fun fact: There are even more places in Washington with depressing names. But as far as I know all of them are worth visiting. 😉

    1. It indeed is! I am looking forward to explore more of Washington State this year. How long have you been living in the PNW? Always open for recommendations by locals!

    1. Oh yea, King Tide is really impressive. Honestly, I haven’t heard of it until we moved to the Pacific Northwest but it’s a local’s favorite winter activity: Storm watching at the Pacific Coast.

    1. Thank you Ummi! Yeah, right? There are actually more places with misleading names up here in the Pacific Northwest. maybe one reason why the area isn’t overcrowded yet… 😉

    1. I know…. Thank you! Hopefully you’ll get the chance to travel the PNW some time soon. make sure to save this location to your bucketlist!

    1. Washington in summer is a great choice! You’ll need to visit Cape Disappointment then, that’s for sure. I am also hoping to explore more Washington State this year.

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