Updated: Feb 6, 2019
This post is a series installment of unofficial guides I wrote for those who want to visit the Pacific Northwest, but not necessarily Seattle. If you want more ideas check out the "Not Seattle" tag.
Everyone told me about Deception Pass shortly after we moved to Washington. You have to go. It has real sand and waves. Not like these rocky Sound beaches. they said.
Ok. Cool. Now, while I will defend pebble beaches until my dying breath (hello! No mess!) and if you are lucky enough to live by the water, you lucky enough... I will admit that Deception Pass is pretty awesome. Sandy mess excluded.
Deception Pass State Park. It is in the Whidbey Island-ish Anacortes-ish part of Washington state. Like Friday Harbor, it is quite a haul from anywhere south of Everett so prepare for an entire day trip to be made of it. Like most of coastal Washington the park features sand, surf, scenic vistas, dramatic bridges, and dense forest.
It is part of the Washington State Park system. To get there take the I-5 North to SR 20 and follow the signs to Deception Pass. (Or just follow your phone's GPS. Honestly, it feels a little redundant to give directions here.) There are park rangers at the gate and entry is $10. You can pay cash, check, or credit card. There are also automatic pay stations within the park, which is super awesome. Or, if you plan to explore more of the Washington State parks, I highly recommend purchasing the Discover Pass. The cost is $30 for a year of unlimited entry into the Washington parks within the Discover Pass network.
Summer, early fall, and spring are all good times to visit. The bonus is that all the roadside produce stands will be in full force- so be prepared for a little stop here and there for fresh berries. Winter will probably be rainy and gloomy, but the crowds will be minimal. Pick your poison, I guess. If you go in the summer prepare to get there by mid-morning for better parking as well as a more "isolated" experience. Week days are also a solid bet for fewer people.
What to do:
If the sandy-surfy beach is what you are after then head to the West Beach/Cranberry Lake area located within the park. Follow the signs for said beach/lake and... well... you'll know it when you see it. Along the beach you can explore the giant craggy rocks that line the coast, walk on nature trails, and pretend you are in California and lay on the beach. Beware that the currents are pretty strong so swimming is not suggested. If you really want to get in the water, then walk over to the Cranberry Lake for more tame water play. On your drive into the park you will cross a bridge that dramatically spans the water. Near the bridge are parking areas if you would like to get out and walk across the bridge and take in the views.
Things to note:
Bring plenty of food and water. There isn't much in the way of nearby eateries and grocery stores.
If you wan an escape from the cider houses and hipster scene of Seattle, then buckle up and enjoy an awesome day of breathtaking sights and sand (if you're into that kind of thing) at Deception Pass State Park.