When it comes to hunting for sea glass on Puget Sound beaches, the most well know location is easily Sea Glass Beach just outside of Port Townsend. While it takes a little planning and a good hike to get to, it can be very productive for finding colorful sea glass.
Why is there so much sea glass here?
Sea glass is the result of humans dumping their trash in the days before plastic, recycling, and landfills. The glass found at Sea Glass beach is a result of Port Townsend’s trash being dumped over the bluff at McCurdy Point, to be claimed by the sea. Because of that, on the right day, you can find a wide variety of colored glass, and even pottery shards on the beaches here.
This is also why you can see the remnants of a few vehicles buried in the sand as well.
How to Get to Glass Beach
The drive to Glass Beach can be a bit daunting. Either you need to make your way up the west side of Puget Sound, either up State Route 3 or Highway 101 or else across the water via the Seattle-Bainbridge or Edmonds-Kinston ferries. Keep in mind that the ferries often have a wait at peak times and that the Tacoma Narrows bridge is tolled if you are headed south. The only toll-free option is to take Hwy 101 all the way around, but it makes for a long, but scenic drive.
The parking for Glass Beach is at the North Beach Parking Lot (5787 Kuhn St, Port Townsend, WA 98368). The last time I was there, there were a couple of porta-potties for your use, and that is about it. The parking lot drops right down onto the beach and from there you go left and just keep walking.
Your destination is McCurdy Point about three miles down the beach. Plan on at least 90 minutes to get out there, and that is if you don’t stop to beachcomb along the way. Be sure to wear the appropriate footwear as you will be crossing sand, cobble, or washes of seaweed.
Important Warning: Getting to and from Glass Beach, you will be between 80-100 foot high bluffs and the ocean. You should time your hike out with the falling tide so you have time to hunt glass and get back to the parking lot before the tide comes in. Any tide higher than a +6 will leave you scrambling to get back without getting wet.
Use your favorite tide chart or the link below to make sure you won’t get stranded on the beach!
A Post-Typhoon Sea Glass Hunting Adventure
Why not go sea glass hunting on a beach as a typhoon is barely headed out of town? With the remnants of Typhoon Songda having just passed over the coast of Washington, my daughter and I decided to give sea glass hunting on Glass Beach at Port Townsend in Washington state a try.
The theory is that if we could get there and if the beach was not covered in waves, the storm may have churned up some treasures. That or buried everything.
Immediate Problems With The Plan
My initial concern with this adventure was that the overnight winds would cut power, drop trees on the road, and generally make getting to Port Townsend and Glass Beach impossible. The truth was a far more mundane problem.
Glass Beach sits roughly 3.5 miles from the parking area, requiring a reasonable hike down the beach. Not a big problem in most areas, but in this location, the beach is wedged between a clay and sandstone bluff and the ocean. Timing your walk wrong means a difficult walk back or at worst, getting stuck out there until the next tide change.
Consulting the tide charts, I had found that low tide was at ~10:30 in the morning, which seemed perfect. My plan was to leave early, take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry across the bay, and have an easy drive to Port Townsend. There was one problem though. Our trip was set for Sunday morning and the earliest ferry didn’t leave Edmonds until 7 am. This meant that we wouldn’t arrive in Port Townsend until almost 9 and be at the beach until slack tide, with not a lot of time to do any hunting.
The Long Drive Option
The debate began between Morgan who was going with me, and myself over what to do began. We both wanted to go, but with the ferry option out, our only other option was the long way around to Port Townsend. This meant driving south to Tacoma, then turning around and heading all the way back north across the Tacoma Narrows bridge. For us that meant at least a two and a half-hour drive, providing there were no obstacles.
After some deliberation, the decision was made to go. I must admit, I was a bit hesitant as I had no clue as to the extent of the storm damage that we might encounter.
Determined to go, we got up and headed out by 4:30, and drove off into the dark. My initial concerns that power would be out or that we would encounter massive destruction turned out to be unfounded. The storm had, by and large, missed the greater Seattle region and the drive was dark, wet, and uneventful. Morgan missed the bulk of it as she was asleep again shortly after hitting the highway.
Despite the beach being covered a foot deep in seaweed in places, we managed to get to McCurdy point and start picking glass. We had found some along the way, but it is definitely more abundant once you get to the point. The best sea glass hunting from what we hear is from that point south.
My hiking partner was a bit pooped by that point, so we didn’t venture much farther south, and concentrated our efforts in that location. Of course, one local had to let us know “it is pretty disappointing today”. She apparently comes here regularly and had to let us know it is usually much better picking.
Lollygagging Our Way Back To The Car
Part of the fun isn’t the destination but the travel they say and in this case, it was definitely true. Not worried about the tides and with a couple of bags of glass, we picked our way back to the parking lot, stopping to check out sea life, the impressive clay, and sand bluffs, and the things along the way.
I personally like finding all the critters in the tide pools and among the rocks. The picture above is from itty-bitty crabs scuttling along as well as some snails doing their thing.
Final Thoughts On Glass Beach
This is a trip we will definitely do again, providing we can find the right combination of tides and free time. Glass Beach at Port Townsend is not an easy hike by any stretch of the imagination, but it is flat. Just be ready to hike in the sand and over rocks/seaweed.
Our final haul was not as impressive as I’d hoped, but we didn’t pick as long as I’d have liked either. Still, it was a decent haul and a nice bonus to the adventure.
Morgan has even said she would be up for doing it again, but we will see, as she was one worn-out kiddo by the time we got back to the Leif the Adventure Van.