Day trip: I’ve probably said this about many of the parks that we’ve visited, but Picnic Point Park is truly a special place. If your little ones are into building sand castles, throwing rocks into the water, and sailing boats, then you will love this park just as much as we do!
Bonus: A train runs through this park, right along the shoreline!
Where? What to bring? When to go?
Picnic Point Park is located in Edmonds. When you enter the park, you pull into a small parking lot with less than 30 spaces of parking. For a day trip, come here early in the day on weekends or during weekdays to avoid crowds. Bring your boots and sand toys and dress for the weather. A pair of binoculars will help you spot the resident eagles, cranes swooping in for the catch of the day, sea gulls and plenty of ducks dunking their heads with their bottoms in the air (a giggle-worthy event for kids).
Binoculars will also help you view nearby Whidbey Island, the Olympic Mountains and the numerous ships out at sea.
Picnic Point in the winter and early spring
Our excursion has us dressed in heavy clothes, towing shovels, sand buckets and plenty of snacks for some late-afternoon playtime. My sons, Nikhil, 9, and Simon, 7, march up a long ramp to a pedestrian overpass. Fences on either side make it easy to watch trains pass underneath. The boys watch while I take in the amazing island views on the other side. We head down the next ramp to a picnic area and then hop down and across a few logs to the beach.
“Which side do you boys want to go on? Rocky or sandy?”
“Sandy!” both yelled.
Crossing through a river that divides the two (rain boots came in handy here!), we feel the cold water rush over. We walk on the sand, finding a secluded spot to settle down, not too far from the rocks in the river and close enough to Puget Sound to collect water for sand castle and moat building.
Digging holes and setting up the foundation for what they call “the mega-castle,” my kids scoop the wet sand and place it in molds. “Wait, I see a train!” said Nikhil. Running by the shore, a two-engine freight train comes barreling down, carrying loads of coal and other supplies, hauling them down and out, along the line. Both kids run along pumping their arms, begging to hear the train’s whistle. This won’t be the only train we see this afternoon, and they try again later to encourage the train engineer to blow the horn.
Discovering nature and exploring the rocky shore
We leave our castle, decorated with nearby rocks (of all different shades), clam and oyster shells … even a Dungeness crab arm that had washed up from the sound.
“I wanna see what’s under those rocks,” Simon says.
We walk along the shoreline lifting barnacled rocks (gloves come in handy here!) and discover empty hiding places. In the summer months, we’ve done this very activity on a day trip, excited to find crabs scurrying away, grabbing the smaller ones to take a closer look. This time, our efforts don’t leave us completely disheartened. We discover a lone crab and a sea snail in an orange shell. We place the shell on a wet rock in hopes that high tide will take it away and back to its home.
We explore the rocky side of the beach and cross the river, stepping on barnacles, shells and rocks covered in dried seaweed. We throw smaller rocks into the sound, practicing our skipping skills. We climb over logs that have been washed ashore and marvel at one particular log that balances on its roots and a single branch. We’re sure the old tree has many stories to tell.
Later, the kids check out a small lagoon, kick rocks down to the water and make plans to build a dam on the river.
Lifting logs and rocks, engineering and rethinking their design, Nikhil and Simon build a semi-functioning dam. They sail their toy boat down the river and follow it, grabbing it right before it floats off into the sound.
The sun begins to set and we settle back at our sand castle, share snacks and watch the sky change colors. We pack our things just in time to see one of the last trains passing through. This time, we cover our ears and walk back to the ramp and to our car.
Tired and feeling accomplished with all their creations on this day trip, the children chatter about what they’ll do the next time they are at Picnic Point Park. Hearing that definitely sounds like a win to me — and an affirmation that we’ll be back again to enjoy this beautiful park.
• Restrooms (Honey Buckets) are located at the entrance to the pedestrian ramp and near the picnic tables at the park.
• Picnic tables and charcoal grills are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
• Bring: sand toys, towels, sunglasses, binoculars, proper footwear to walk through cold water and over rocks.
• Dress for the weather. It can get chilly.
• It is very possible to bring a stroller or a wagon, but it’s difficult to take it over the rocky shore.
• Pets are welcome.
• Keep the park clean: Pack up and take out all trash, recycling and compost.
• Hours: Sunrise to sunset.
Originally published in 2021