My family was in town recently and when my brother suggested that we might go see some tide pools, I started envisioning a caravan of cars driving 2-3 hours each way to the Peninsula and my skin crawled. Then, I looked up tide pools near Seattle and found this awesome list (not all of which are as close to Seattle).
It turns out that Constellation Park (also known as Charles Richey Sr. Viewpoint) is only a 15 minute drive to West Seattle, which is much more my speed with a large crew and a toddler who hadn’t been sleeping well with all the grandparent excitement in town.
We picked up my brother from his early morning flight and stopped by Bakery Nouveau for croissants while my dad and husband biked to West Seattle. Julia loved their mushroom quiche and while I still like the bakeries in North Seattle better, this was a good spot to grab a coffee and snacks while we waited.
After a stop at Target to pick up water shoes for the travelers, we headed to the beach. I liked the spot immediately – it was in a residential area away from shops and restaurants, so parking was easy. I didn’t see bathrooms nearby, however, so you might make a pit stop beforehand and time your visit well.
We were the only people in the area for awhile and Julia loved walking over the rocks with her bucket and shovel, filling them with water and dumping it out.
Having multiple sets of adult hands around meant that we could take turns supervising Julia and hunting for sea life to show her.
My mom has a natural eye for this sort of thing, so following behind her was the best. We picked up rocks to check out the crabs underneath (making sure to set them back down very gently), and found different kinds of sea anemones and sea snails. Julia wasn’t very interested in touching, but we all showed her how to gently use one or two fingers to touch the animals, just like at the aquarium.
We got better at spotting new things as we walked through the water. One of my favorites, which I couldn’t get a good picture of, was the Northern Feather Duster Worm. This little creature has an unassuming tube-shaped body that looks quite benign out of the water, but it spreads feelers out that look like beautiful red and black plumes and retract very quickly if you touch them. There was a whole “shelf” of them at the sea edge of the tide pools that were just beautiful to see. We also saw two purple starfish on our visit – those definitely topped Julia’s list.
We spent a little over an hour here and I can’t wait to go back. I loved that the ground offered Julia a walking challenge with its uneven and rocky surfaces, but wasn’t as steep as some other tide pools I’ve been to. There weren’t significant waves (it was low tide, which also helped with viewing) and the area wasn’t crowded with people or cars, so it felt very safe. Julia could definitely have spent more time scooping sand and water into her bucket, which is the highest praise I can give, but this was also a great spot for adults since there were lots of things to see and beautiful views.
If you’re looking for a spot to fill up afterwards, we strongly recommend Circa for brunch. It was very family friendly, but still had high quality food with interesting touches. 3 of us had the Eggs Sardou (artichoke bottoms topped with spinach in parmesan sauce and poached eggs), and Julia ate the giant kids plate of cheesy eggs like we’d been starving her.
Things to bring on your visit:
- Water shoes or rain boots: I was really happy in some inexpensive Target rain boots, Julia had water sandals, and my brother wore more traditional water shoes. Everyone else just had regular shoes that could withstand some water, but you’ll feel more adventurous if you have comfortable footwear that you don’t mind getting wet.
- Sand toys: we probably could have gotten along without these, but we keep a little bucket and shovel in the back of the car and I think they kept Julia interested significantly longer than she otherwise would have been.
- Change of clothes: You’ll definitely want a spare pair of pants for anyone who might be apt to sit on the kelp covered rocks (so, anyone under 15), as well as spare socks and shoes.
- Warm clothes: this will depend on your preference, but Julia was pretty comfortable in a little fleece. I had a denim shirt and a scarf, but my Southern California parents were in lightweight down jackets. Safe to say it’s a good idea to keep some extra layers in the car.
- Sand removal method: baby powder works wonders, but if you’re wearing shoes, you’ll probably just want a towel to wipe off with and/or a plastic bag to stick your dirty shoes in if you don’t want them flopping about the car.
Have you visited Constellation Park or other local tide pool spots? What are your favorites?