Bird Watching in Westport
To really get a good feel for what birds show up on a regular basis in Westport, and where they tend to be, it is really necessary to spend an entire year there and just see what comes in. Gray's Harbor in general is one of the last remaining places in the Pacific Northwest that has good tideflats for the huge shore bird migration, and thus certain times of the spring and fall can be good in the area. However, Westport itself has only a few small beaches, and those are popular tourist areas even in the winter months. The areas near town have mostly been dredged to allow boats to enter the marina in downtown. Thus, Westport itself doesn't see too much of the shorebird activity - for that you need to head all the way around Gray's Harbor to the Gray's Harbor National Wildlife Refuge - and even there shorebird activity is only visible in the several hours surrounding high tide.
That being said, it is possible to find a few rare tolerant shore birds that search for grubs in the sand along the water line. Surf scoters are fairly common in the rough waters near the breakwater at the entrance to the harbor, but it is not easy to get to some of these locations as the rock wall along the water edge isn't designed to be accessible by people of any sort for any purpose.
Wintering birds are relatively few, but include some that are not always found elsewhere in the region. For example, long-tailed ducks do sometimes make a showing in the high waves that run parallel to the rocks along the area where the breakwater and natural sand beach join. Grebes and a few other ocean water birds also find occasional interest in this area.
In the winter, when there isn't a huge amount of activity in the marina, you will find that there are some select birds that winter there as well. Their numbers are not huge by any means (a scattering one or two of each at best, in fact) but the variety is nice. For example, there are usually a loon or two, plus a variety of grebes (horned grebes, western grebes, red-necked grebes, etc.).
There is a pond near the parking lot of Westhaven State Park, and this pond sometimes has a few freshwater birds, especially in winter. Bufflehead, shovelers, and a few others that are certainly not rare make an appearance here.
The area around Westport also seems to be a place that is sometimes favored by Snowy Owls, especially during one of their irruptive years.
Unfortunately, there isn't that much here that is extremely rare, or difficult to see in locations that are not so time consuming to get to. Much of the habitat is pretty well used by people, and thus less attractive for wildlife. You may have better fortune in finding birds here, however, during weekdays when there are fewer tourists around.
Westport Arts Festival
Not to be confused with similar named festivals in several cities of the same name in other parts of the USA, the Westport Arts Festival happens every year in downtown Westport, mostly along the waterfront. The show is juried, so that it isn't just anyone that shows up to do this show. The event varies from year to year, but it is generally held in mid-August and has performance art as well as vendor booths.
- Arts and Culture
Westport Windrider's Annual Kite Festival
Further south, the Long Beach Kite Festival is very well known. However, Westport also has an annual kite festival which has been going for over 20 years (it has slowly become a bit more organized so that the early events were not well documented, apparently). It isn't quite as crowded as the one at Long Beach (at least not yet), doesn't seem to have the money behind it that the Long Beach festival does, and doesn't seem to take over the entire community just yet.
However, it is still a very good show, and the fact that it isn't quite as commercialized as the August event 100 miles south of here gives it a much different atmosphere.
The event runs Friday through Sunday, typically the second weekend in July. Typically a mass ascension is held at 1 in the afternoon on all days. There is usually a kids kite making workshop, fighting kites, and an event featuring hand-crafted kites. Some of these hand-make flying works of art are pretty impressive.
To really make things interesting for the children, there is usually a teddy bear drop in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday.
- Arts and Culture
Westport Light Trail
Starting at the far north end of town, at the base of the Viewing Tower, the Westport Light Trail is a paved trail that follows the beach west, and then slightly south of town to the Westport lighthouse. The trail connects Westhaven State Park with downtown Westport as well.
Along the way, there are a number of benches along the trail, and virtually all of these are memorials of some sort or another to various people.
The trail does not get very close to the beach, though it is possible to see the waves of the Pacific Ocean from some of the locations along the trail as it climbs small rises in the beach frontage area. This is seen in Photo 3. You can see the Ocean and the Beach in the distance, but there are not many access points between the trail and the beach. Most of the landscape along the trail is beach front scrub lands, but much of it is covered in scotch broom and a few other invasive species so that the ecosystem here is not genuine native plant life. This means there are a few bird species you will find here, but for the most part wildlife has moved out of this area as it doesn't have the right plants for native wildlife to live in.
For the most part, the trail is reasonably smooth and probably navigable by wheelchairs and others with mobility limitations. However, the trail crosses the entrance road to Westhaven State Park. In this area the road is gravel, and there are other places where the trail crosses gravel areas, so in those places, while short in distance, would make it difficult if there has been a lot of gravel spread across the areas where the paved trail crosses these areas.
The trail construction was funded by the city of Westport, even though much of the trail mileage is located on State Parks land. The official opening was on November 1, 1993. As the city of Westport is the driving force behind the trail, I have provided their web site, below. They have a recreational map of the area on their web site, but it does take some searching to find it.
- Hiking and Walking
Various Boat Trips, including Very Rugged Ones
It takes a special breed to survive on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, and naturally it takes a special breed to survive the tourist boat industry here. Generally, it also takes a special type of tourist to enjoy some of the trips that are going to be on offer out of Westport.
Quite a variety of different types of tours are available in Westport, and as you walk down the streets in Westport (all both of them) you will notice that there are a fair number of offices that offer charter boat services of various types.
Our first picture, shown above, was taken in the evening hours of December 31, 2011. Yes, these people are going out on a New Year's Eve cruise - on an open deck fishing boat charter, with wild waves (which those who boat the North Pacific are pretty much used to, but tourists may not be) that two centuries ago earned this region the name "Graveyard of the Pacific" due to the sheer number of ship wrecks caused by rough serf and rocky coastlines. The photo above was taken when the "Huntress" was still in the protected waters just inside the marina breakwater. The rough-looking waves you see are the calmest water she and her passengers will have until she returns to the marina.
Like I said, it takes a special breed to survive the tourist industry here, and it takes a special tourist to enjoy some of the trips that may be on offer here. The vast cruise ships with fully staffed bars and evening gowns and where one barely feels the motion of the water are a far cry from the crew shown here.
At the other end of the spectrum, the little craft shown in photo 2 is the Westport local tour boat. It offers excursions into Gray's Harbor for $13 a passenger during the winter season. It may be humble looking and small, but it does have seats in it.
In photo 3 we see the offices of Catchalot Charters - one of the many offices you will find for charter boat companies operating here. Many of them offer fishing expeditions, but other types of trips are offered as well. I offer this photo only as an example of how easy it is to simply walk down the streets of Ocean Shores and find a charter company - similar to window shopping for clothes or food.
Photo 4: part of the window shopping for boat charter experience is that the offices are usually right across the street from the marina, and you can take a look at the boats on offer right there from the sidewalk. Both of these are charter boats with the names of the charter companies painted right on the side.
While a number of the charter trips offered out of Westport are fishing expeditions of some sort or other, you will find various other types of trips. For example, Westport Pelagic Birding offers trips specifically for searching for the bird life that exists only in the deep ocean, for example. Whale watching trips shouldn't be difficult to find in the right season either.
I have never taken a trip out of Westport (at least not yet) but to get the impression of someone that has taken a fishing charter trip here, take at look at Jutsuka's Westport Page as he has taken such a trip, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Sailing and Boating
- Adventure Travel
The Observation Tower: An Invader from Mars
So, after snidely implying that Ocean Shores, across Gray's Harbor from Westport, really looks like it belongs in another state, or maybe another planet, I write about the Observation Tower. This is a Westport creation that really does look like it belongs on another planet, or another galaxy, or at the least a cartoon about the future (Maybe "Duck Dodgers and the 24 1/2 Centrury" ?) .
However it may appear, the Observation Tower is definitely a popular spot for people to climb up - even though it is only a few weeks old. It isn't the tallest structure in Westport (that honor belongs to the coast guard observation tower slightly further west) but it is certainly one of the tallest in the area. As the peninsula is flat, and the water is at least usually somewhat lower than the top of the tower, the top observation deck offers a nice view of downtown Westport, the marina, the Olympic Mountainsto the state park, where the shape of the land and the trees somewhat obscure a view of the actual Ocean.
Compass points on the top level of the structure are inlaid in the floor so that you have an impression of what direction is what.
Unfortunately, only the lower deck is accessible to those who can not climb stairs. Adding an elevator to the structure would have been so expensive that there was no way the city could afford to do it, and thus it fell outside the requirements of making structures accessible.
The tower was officially dedicated on December 12, 2011.
See the KXRO news report at
As seen in the photographs, the structure is lit up at night, though much of the surrounding beach, mountain and forest lands are not. So, viewing the area from the top of the tower at night might not give you too much of a good impression of the surrounding area it will at least give you some impression of where the populated areas are.
As you may be able to tell from the shape of the structure, it is designed to be a stylized impression of a lighthouse.
The viewing tower is considered part of the marina, which is part of the Port of Gray's Harbor. There isn't too much mention of the tower just yet on various web sites, but it is mentioned once on the Port of Gray's Harbor web site in the "Things to Do" page, below. One day, perhaps, the port will be moved to put up a bit more information on its wonderful new viewing tower.
There is no fee to visit the tower or climb its staircase.
Also, an additional note: these are dangerous waters, and when the local Coat Guard post looses one of its people it is already not unusual to see them memorializing their loss from the area around the tower. Already, the top deck of the tower has become the selected post of the bugler. Photo 3 shows a Coast Guard bugler posted here for such a ceremony.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Westport Maritine Museum
Destruction Island Lens
Destruction Island is located forty miles north of Grays Harbor on the Washington Coast. Its lighthouse, first lit in 1891, has been an important aid to navigation for mariners transiting the Pacific coastline for over one hundred years. The crews of early sailing vessels, tug boats, log ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft have all used lighthouse, both by day and night, to mark their location and warn them of rocky dangers near shore.
Lighthouse and Museum
April - September
10 am to 4 pm daily
October - March
Friday - Monday
12 pm to 4 pm
- Historical Travel
Grays Harbor Lighthouse
Take advantage of your visit with us to see the 109 year old Grays Harbor Lighthouse from the viewing platform. This is the tallest lighthouse on the Washington Coast. We participate in the U.S. Lighthouse Society's Passport program and visitors can get their passport stamped at the Lighthouse.
October - November
February - March
Friday - Monday
12 pm to 4 pm
- Historical Travel
Westport town fun to explore
The town of Westport is fun to explore. We walked along the main street facing the harbour. Little shops to explore. Lots of places to stop for a bite or ice cream. Great souvenir shop on the pier. Went to a place for fish and chips, but I cannot remember the name of it. It was good.
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
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