Dogs and kids are definitely different. Still, a whole lot of them have at least one thing in common: they love running wild and free on a beach. Particularly a sandy one.
But despite more than a million homes in the greater Seattle region reporting at least one canine family member, dogs are not allowed on Seattle-run public beaches. And, while 18 parks in King County officially allow them to roam leash-free, most beaches in our region do not.
What’s a dog-loving, beach-loving family to do?
The boon of Double Bluff
I can’t understate my family’s — and my dog Poppet’s — joy when we stepped onto the sand at Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island on a cool Saturday afternoon in March. Stretched out before us were two miles of wide-open, fresh-aired freedom. Two miles of nose-down exploration along the sand, among driftwood piles and around tiny tide pools.
As we combed for shells along the water, Poppet ran crazy dog donuts in the sand, sometimes chased by other playful pups, sometimes all on her own because, well, sand. Clumps of families strolled the wide expanse or nestled down in the sand to dig and build, their dogs circling them in wet-coated glee.
Although it wasn’t marked, we assumed the dog’s welcome mat ended where the beach turns from sand into a wide bed of barnacle and anemone-covered rocks, 2 miles from the parking lot. Even if dogs were allowed in that area, we decided to turn around so as not to disturb marine life. By the time we got back to our car, Poppet dropped into her kennel with a happy, sandy sigh. Then, like a well-exercised toddler in a car seat, she was asleep about two minutes later.
Make it a twofer!
It takes a minute to get to Whidbey. From Seattle, head north to Mukilteo and catch the short (15-minute) ferry to the island. From there it’s an 8-mile drive and a straight shot to Double Bluff.
But if you are going all that way to let your dog run free, consider driving the 20 miles up the island after the kids and dog have rested. That’s where you’ll find Ebey Landing National Historical Reserve, which not only invites dogs to its beaches but on larger park trails.
Getting roam closer to home
If hopping a ferry doesn’t float your boat, but your little ones (including Fido) are itching to roll in the sand, Richmond Beach Saltwater Park welcomes dogs off-leash between November 1 and March 15. Dogs must be on-leash in all areas of the park between March 16 and October 31. And they must be on a leash while entering and exiting the beach even if it’s the off-leash season. Saltwater Park is rockier than Double Bluff, but it is sure to excite your furry friends’ keen sense of smell. Rocks, sand, seagulls, and driftwood are all part of the scene here.
And not that far north of Saltwater Park, the name of the sandy, rocky, woody beach at the south end of Edmonds says it all: Off Leash Area Edmonds, or OLAE for short. At dusk, this stretch of beach is often hopping with untethered dogs, kids, and families. It’s a great place to socialize your pup and also connect with other dog lovers. In fact, OLAE has its own website and FaceBook page and each October runs one of the city’s most beloved and family-oriented pet events. The Halloween Howl event helps raise funds to keep the beach maintained.
And in Everett, dogs are free to roam sans leash on the north beach at Howarth Park. Dog lovers say Howard is a “gem” of a beach and it’s kept that way by owners being meticulous about cleaning up after their pooches.
Off-leash further afield
If you got the time and the inclination for a little family travel, one Washington Coast beaches stands out for my family, especially Poppet.
Ocean Shores’ Dog Beach offers a big beautiful open space to dogs (and kids) running from Taurus Beach Approach to Butter Clam. The only rules: clean up after your dog and keep them under voice control. Beyond that, this beach is a dog paradise, what with all the gulls chasing, the waves to romp, and the sand your kids will try to bury them in.
The last time we took that trip, Poppet stuck her four paws solidly in the ground when I indicated it was time to go. I could almost see the thought bubble above her head:
Thankfully I had her favorite treat in my pocket and we were saved from pitching our tent on that blustery fall evening or prying her out of her rigid “no go” stance. She got in the car after those four hours on the beach and curled into spent ball, her spirit fulled unleashed.