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South Sound beach guide

South Sound beaches offer swimming, hiking and more

Owen Beach inside Pt. Defiance Park offers a scenic escape from the summer heat. Photo credit: Metro Parks Tacoma

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The Puget Sound area is rightly named for a body of water because to live here is to be always moments from a cold jump into saltwater. But because the area was also once covered in Ice Age glaciers, we have a lot of freshwater lakes, too. The following is a comprehensive list for getting cool this summer.


Pierce County

  • Owen Beach, sunrise to sunset daily, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma, Free, 253.305.1088.

Located off Five Mile Drive at Pt. Defiance, Owen Beach boasts breathtaking views of Vashon Island and regular glimpses of seals and sea lions. Picnic shelters, kayak rentals and a food concession stand make this a great place to spend a lazy summer afternoon.

  • Titlow Park, sunrise to sunset daily, 8425 6th Ave., Tacoma, Free, 253.305.1000.

Boasting a sprayground, playground and picnic areas, Titlow Park offers swimming, boating, fishing, playing and occasional Harbor Seal and sea lion sightings. Historic Titlow Lodge is available for events, and Arnold's Happy Day Food Truck offers up summertime treats.

  • Dash Point Park, sunrise to sunset daily, 1500 Beach Dr. NE, Tacoma, Free, 253.305.1000.

A favorite with locals, this park offers swimming, boating, fishing and hiking. If that's not enough, there's also a basketball court, a playground and picnic facilities.

  • Ruston Way Parks, sunrise to sunset daily, Ruston Way, Tacoma, Free, 253.305.1000.

Tacoma's Ruston Way is a two-mile long boulevard that meanders along Commencement Bay. It boasts more than a half-dozen parks and beaches, interspersed with some of the city's best restaurants.  With an assortment of art, historic monuments and plaques, picnic tables, and running and biking trails, Ruston Way is the perfect destination for swimming, boating, fishing, biking and hiking.

  • Sunnyside Beach Park, sunrise to sunset daily, 2509 Chambers Creek Rd., Steilacoom, $5 non-resident parking fee, 253.983.7887.

Located on the sound in the town of Steilacoom, this park offers gorgeous views, sandy beaches, picnic areas, barbecue grills, a playground, a volleyball court ... even showers. It's the perfect place for beginning underwater divers to perfect their skills and for kids to hunt for jellyfish and seashells. Lucky visitors may even spot an orca pod playing in the sound.

Kitsap County

  • Scenic Beach State Park, Summer hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, Winter hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, 9565 Scenic Beach Rd. NW, Seabeck, Discover Pass required, 360.830.5079.

Located on the Hood Canal, this park is famous for its wild rhododendrons and views of the Olympic Mountains and the canal. The park features country gardens, a gazebo, a rustic bridge, a kitchen shelter, picnic facilities, barbecue grills, fire circles and horseshoe pits. It's the perfect spot for boating, crabbing, diving, fishing, sailboarding, volleyball, swimming, waterskiing - even camping.

  • Point No Point, dawn to dusk daily, 9009 Point No Point Rd. NE, Hansville, Free, 360.337.5350.

This oddly named park features sandy beaches, picnic areas and an historic lighthouse.  From April through September, the lighthouse is open weekends from noon until 4 p.m. During those months, docents are on-hand every Saturday from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. to give guided tours. The lighthouse duplex is also a vacation rental. Interested visitors can learn more about renting it at 415.362.7255.

Thurston County

  • Tolmie State Park, Summer hours: 8 a.m. to dusk daily, Winter hours: 9 a.m. to dusk daily, 7730 61st Ave. NE, Olympia, Discover Pass required, 360.456.6464.

Located on Nisqually Beach, this park offers a unique underwater park for scuba divers, a saltwater marsh, a forest and hiking trails. Kitchen shelters, picnic areas, fire circles and educational interpretive displays, make it a perfect place for a day of fishing, swimming, crabbing, clamming, diving and hiking.

  • Burfoot County Park, sunrise to sunset daily, 6927 Boston Harbor Rd. NE, Olympia, Free, 360.786.5595.

This park sits on the shore of Budd Inlet and features a playground as well as picnic facilities. It offers shellfish harvesting in season, hiking, beach combing and swimming. Eagles and blue herons can often be seen, making this a favorite spot for bird watching.


Pierce County

  • American Lake Park, sunrise to sunset daily, 9222 Veterans Dr. SW, Lakewood, Free, 253.589.2489.

Located along the north shore of beautiful American Lake, this park offers picnic facilities, a swimming beach, a playground and a public boat launch. While the park is free, there is a $15 fee to use the boat launch.

  • Spanaway Lake Park, 7:30 a.m. to dusk, 14905 Bresemann Blvd. S., Spanaway, $3 parking, 253.798.4177.

With a boat launch, picnic facilities, playground, basketball court, and canoe and paddleboat rentals, this park is the perfect place for a day of boating, swimming, hiking and playing.

Thurston County

  • Millersylvania State Park, Summer hours: 6:30 a.m. to dusk daily, Winter hours: 8 a.m. to dusk daily, 12245 Tilley Rd. S., Olympia, Discover Pass required, 360.753.1519.

Located on Deep Lake, this park is the perfect spot for boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, picnicking, biking and even camping, including a group camping sight with its own kitchen shelter. All summer long, Lakeside Grills & Boats provides tasty treats as well as kayak, paddleboard and pedal boat rentals.

  • Kennydell County Park, dawn to dusk daily, 6745 SW Fairview Rd., Olympia, Free, 360.786.5595.

This park, on the shores of Black Lake, offers hiking, swimming and picnicking. Amenities include a playground and barbecue grills. There's even a lodge for special events.

  • Long Lake Park, 7 a.m. to dusk daily, 2790 Carpenter Rd., Lacey, Free, 360.491.0857.

Dubbed "one of the finest swimming beaches in Thurston County," this park offers swimming, volleyball, picnicking, barbecue grills and hiking trails. 

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