Low tide happens when the moon’s gravity yanks enough water toward it that we can see creatures on the beach that would never normally be visible to us. It comes for a few days every month. To figure out the very best time to go, use an online tide-table to find low tide, and then aim to arrive half an hour before then.
[ More low-tide tips: Tide pools around Seattle: where to go, what to look for || Guide to exploring Seattle-area beaches at low tide ]
Here are eight great places to go exploring at low tide, listed from north to south.
Getting there: The path over the train tracks and down the hill to the beach, is broad, paved and without stairs.
What’s there: Sand at the upper levels, mixed with pebble and larger rocks lower down. There are some old pilings that are worth investigating. Bonus for hot days: this is one of Puget Sound’s windy places, so if there’s a breeze anywhere, it’ll be here.
Getting there: From the parking area near the playground, take the footbridge over the train tracks (a freaky crossing for those afraid of heights) and down many stairs to the beach.
What’s there: A mix of sand, pebbles and rocks that are fist-sized, or larger. Some eelgrass. Also, Piper’s creek empties into Puget Sound here.
Getting there: The most interesting things to find are at the north end of the beach, which is a short, flattish, stair-free walk from the parking lot.
What’s there: Rocks, sand, pebbles, and eelgrass. Bonus: the path to the beach goes over a pond where you can see a beaver dam and a beaver lodge.
Getting there: There are three ways to get to Discovery Park Beach.
You can hike there and get a look at the forests and meadows that make up Seattle’s largest park as you go down there. The trip is at least a mile and a half, and there is a bit of steep climbing on the way back.
What’s there: A lot! Discovery Park Beach at low tide is huge, with broad stretches of mud flat, sea-life encrusted boulder, pools, eel grass and abundant bird life. Plus: it has terrible cellphone reception, so your family can be out of touch for a little while.
Getting there: Also known as South Alki Beach, this beach is around a rocky point from the big, sandy, social part of Alki Beach. There are three ramps leading from the sidewalk to the beach. The number 37 bus stops nearby.
What’s there: Arguably Seattle’s best beach for exploring intertidal life. Along with the pebbles, loose rocks and sand, and some eelgrass, there’s a rare stretch of bedrock, full of pools and crevices where creatures can hide.
Getting there: Of the beaches that don’t require a long walk, this is probably the least accessible for mobility impaired people. The stairways leading from the sidewalk to the beach don’t go all the way, so you have to jump or scramble to the bottom. The number 37 bus stops nearby.
What’s there: A broad stretch of beach including mud, loose rocks, and strips of bedrock.
Getting there: There are four disabled parking spaces by the south end of the beach. Those who can’t park there need to get there by taking a trail from the Lincoln Park’s south parking lot. (No stairs, but it is unpaved for a stretch.) The C bus stops nearby.
What’s there: A wide stretch of rocks and pebbles, and a great view of the Vashon Island ferry.
Getting there: If you’re lucky enough to get a space in the lot by the beach, then you’re there. If not, there’s plenty of parking up the hill, and you can walk a quarter mile to the beach through the trees.
What’s there: This beach was restored about six years ago, so much of the animal life there arrived relatively recently. It is sandy, with two streams flowing into it, named North Creek and South Creek.
More beaches in Seattle’s Child