My Summer as a Tourist in My Home State: Exploring Westport, WA
Summer of 2019 has come and gone, and I’m feeling nostalgic already. Perhaps it’s the rain showers, cooler temperatures, and the snow in the mountains that came on with a vengeance that has me reminiscing of my summer adventures. Except for a short getaway with my bestie to Vancouver, Canada; most of my excursions were in and around Seattle, and solo.
On occasion, my jaunts took me places a couple of hours away. I discovered new-to-me state parks and hiking trails, arboretums I didn’t know existed, visited lavender farms in Sequim, and hiked the foothills in Wenatchee and wandered the waterfront and public market as well.
Westport, a 2-hour drive from my home to the coast was my chosen destination the last Friday of summer. It’s located on the southernmost peninsula at the mouth of Grays Harbor. My first stop was Westport Light State Park. A Discover Pass is required. If you don’t have one, a parking pass can be purchased at the trailhead.
From the small parking lot, I hit the paved, wide pathway that winds its way along sand dunes, peppered with sea oats. The walk out to the Westhaven Jetty was short at about 1.5 miles round trip, but spectacular. The sun shone brightly, birds flew overhead, and sometimes walked a few steps ahead of me on the trail as I watched the waves lapping gently upon the shore and a welcome breeze blew to keep me cool. There is no shade to speak of, but plenty of benches, scattered throughout, in case a break is needed.
Grays Harbor Lighthouse
I then took a 3-minute car ride to the tallest lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest; Grays Harbor Lighthouse also known as the Westport Light. I parked on the side of the road, took the obligatory picture of me in front of the 107-foot-tall attraction, and walked the short trail to the small gift shop where I paid $5.00 to climb the 135 steps to the top.
It was just me and two others; a couple, who were met at the bottom of the stairs by a lighthouse host who shared construction stories, talked about the first light keeper, invited us to view old photographs, and answered questions. He then sent us up a few flights where his colleague greeted us and dispensed detailed and interesting information about the lighthouse equipment, advising that the lighthouse remains active today.
It was time for our final ascent to the tower. The gentleman who was one half of the couple that I was touring with insisted that I go ahead of him while his partner took the lead up the final set of stairs. I thought I heard him say to the docent that he was going to propose at the top. It was warm up there, so with my makeshift fan made from a brochure in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I took some photos of the views and then got out of the way as I whispered to the docent, “Did I hear him say he was going to propose?” The docent nodded affirmatively.
I stood fanning away waiting for the big moment. I stood next to the guide and it happened. I was able to capture the touching, albeit it somewhat lengthy love letter read prior to the gentleman getting down on one knee and popping the question. She said yes!
I learned my tour companion’s names were Lisa and Jake. I was happy to seize the exchange on my phone and sent them the video and pictures as a memento of their engagement day. I didn’t know I would be a part of strangers’ special moment, but it was cool. Love is a beautiful thing.
Westport’s Boardwalk/Marina area was my next. I took in the sights of boats coming and going, fisherman casting lines from the docks, and checked out the quaint tourist shops that offer ice cream, kites, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Soon it was time for lunch, and I had read some reviews about Bennett’s Fish Shack.
It boasts several regional awards and rumor has it that they buy fish fresh off the boats coming in from across the street. The staff was friendly, and I can’t be mad at a place that played music from artists ranging from The Shirelles, Human League, Kenny Rogers, and the Dancehall Jamaican guy who sang the mid-90s hit, ‘Here Comes the Hotstepper.’
After reviewing the varied seafood menu, I kept it simple and ordered the cod and fish at the counter and went to find a seat outside. In no time a waitress brought my meal to me and it was so tasty. The fish was fresh, lightly battered, seasoned well and fried to perfection. It was downright delicious. Can’t wait to get back there to try some other menu items.
My final stop of the day was the viewing tower located at the end of the marina. On the way there I stopped in Jeanene’s Gift Shoppe. Ms. Carolyn Calhoun, one of the clerk’s welcomed me warmly. What was supposed to be a quick trip around the store tuned into a 30-minute conversation. I had the best time discussing Westport, life, and music with this former singer who is still an artist at heart.
She now takes photographs and you can purchase one of her postcards highlighting Westport life in the Shoppe. We also shared photos of the beloved dogs in our lives. Ms. Carolyn and I hugged goodbye and off I went to the tower where the expansive view of the harbor offered me glimpses of surfers, fishing boats, and sea touching sky as far as the eye could see. Being a tourist in my home state is such a joy. So much to see, and experience. The best part are the nice people I meet along the way. I wonder where my next adventure will take me.