Boy splashing in water.
Exploring tidepools.
Beach exploration.
Woman paddleboarding

Water & Beach Activities

Parks offer a wide variety of beach and water-related activities for the whole family. Explore the tidepools at Deception Pass, discover the reefs at Saltwater and let the wind catch your sails at Columbia Hills.

Rules & safety

There's a few general tips to know when spending time on the beach or in the water.

  • Always wear a life jacket while out on the water.
  • Bring plenty of drinking water. It's easy to be surrounded by water but forget to hydrate.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat.
  • Bring water shoes to protect your feet.
  • Remember that even when the weather is hot, the water can be cold. Even the strongest swimmers should protect themselves from cold water shock by wearing a life jacket.

Getting started with Water & Beach Activities

Beach exploration

Washington's beaches have so much to explore! From tidepools to shells, you're sure to find something to peak your interest. Some of the best times to explore the shore at parks like Cape Disappointment, Grayland Beach, Griffiths-Priday and other Pacific beaches are after winter storms and during low tide. Other favorite places to explore beaches in Washington include Joseph Whidbey and serene Sequim Bay.

Standup paddle boarding (SUP)

Get your board, your paddle, your life vest and head out! Check out Lincoln Rock on the Columbia River where the current is calm and easier for beginners.

Millersylvania's Deep Lake swimming area gets crowded, but the water is is typically still. There's a small boat launch and while the wind can pick up, but it’s generally easy to get around. The park only allows electric motorboats, so you don’t need to worry about fast boats. 

Ike Kinswa sits on Mayfield Lake, it's clear and shallow with several places you can visit by paddleboard, including a little waterfall near the boat launch. Some campsites sit right off the water, so you can launch your paddleboard right from your campsite.

Sequim Bay is a fun place to float, with plenty of sea life to see while cruising up and down the saltwater bay. This is the Salish Sea, so be prepared for cold water!

Scuba diving

Good scuba diving can be found at more than 20 state parks, including boat-access-only Blake Island. There’s an artificial reef to explore at Saltwater, just minutes away from both Seattle and Tacoma. Divers especially like Potlatch for its accessible location and its easy diving descent.


Our parks have many places to swim and beat the summer heat. Remember: Much of our river and shore water can be very cold due to glacial runoff and colder ocean temperatures. Some fun places to swim include Lake Sammamish, Deception Pass, Millersylvania and Lake Easton.

Wind-powered land vehicles

Wind-powered vehicles, such as kite buggies, blo-karts, kite boards and other wind/sand sailing recreational vehicles, are allowed in designated areas on Long Beach (PDF, 404KB), South Beach (PDF, 400KB) and North Beach (PDF, 462KB) in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties. Check the park's web page for maps before you head out.  Find out what you need to know before you go to be safe and have fun—download the guidelines for using wind-powered vehicles on Washington’s ocean beaches (PDF, 124KB).


Some of the world’s best windsurfing is found in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where more than a half-dozen state parks boast ideal sailboarding conditions. Doug’s Beach is rated for advanced windsurfers, but nearby Columbia Hills (with the same high winds but no barge traffic or swift river currents) is perfect for beginners. Other popular windsurfing parks include Maryhill, Lincoln Rock, and Lake Wenatchee. Saltwater sailboarders catch the wind at Dash Point near Tacoma and Shine Tidelands on Hood Canal.

Map & visitor guide

Use the Find a Park Page to see maps and visitor guides for a specific park.