Guest Blog by Amanda Calnan Vowels
Right now, it’s not just where you travel; it’s HOW you travel. My family has the “safe with distance” and “self-contained” road trip routine down. So, earlier this month, I snuck away with my mom and 12-year-old daughter for a girls’ spooky weekend at the Shelburne Hotel on the Long Beach Peninsula. The Shelburne shines in autumn with all things Halloween. As the oldest continuously operating hotel in Washington State, the vintage Victorian scene is enhanced with fabulous haunted decor in October. Any talk of ghosts was perfect for my adventurous mom and daughter. They practically begged the staff to tell them about suspected spirit sightings. (One employee did confess a ghost cat was thought to live in our guestroom. It was enough for them.)
At check-in, my mom and I were handed glasses of champagne as part of our package — the better to see ghosts, I say. Our room was at the very top of the building, and we practically squealed at the charm in our 4th-floor room with its sloped ceilings and vintage lighting. I had requested the room with a twin-bed built in the wall, making it feel like we were sleeping on a ship. Still, the best feature is the updated period bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and local bath salts. I took the opportunity for a long, leisurely soak.
Distanced Beachfront Dining – No Reservations
One of the best perks of visiting the Long Beach Peninsula is carefully driving on the beach (see restrictions here). After settling into our room, we drove onto the sand and parked in front of the Adrift Hotel, away from people, with our blanket, appetizers, sparkling waters, and wine for a Pacific Ocean sunset. The next morning, we picked up drive-through breakfast sandwiches for more beachside dining. This is my favorite waterfront restaurant spot.
Exploring New Outdoor Spaces, Close to Home
As a native Washingtonian now living in Portland, I grew up visiting and camping near Long Beach. On this trip, I wanted to explore beyond the beach. The Willapa Bay side of the peninsula is stunning with salty air and vistas across one of the top U.S.’s top oyster harvest bays, encompassing over 260 square miles. Driving north into Oysterville feels like you’ve just arrived on-set to a period movie in Cape Cod. The hamlet is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to 1854 when harvesting oysters created a small boomtown. It’s perfect for strolling through what is essentially an outdoor living history museum. A walking tour features over a dozen darling homes, as well as a quaint cemetery, church, and schoolhouse. We parked at Oysterville Sea Farms and slurped bowls of steaming clam chowder overlooking the bay.
October = Ripe Washington Cranberries
October is harvest season for local cranberries. Sometimes called the Cranberry Coast, Washington state grows a portion of the U.S. cranberry supply. My mom wanted to go home with fresh berries, so we purchased a gallon-size bag from a local farmer at a roadside stand. It’s not hard to find these seasonal berries in local food, baked goods, and drinks on the peninsula —and be sure to take home some local cranberry liquor from Adrift Distillers.
Before You Depart the Peninsula
Before leaving the peninsula, we made one last stop at the picturesque St. Mary McGowan Church on the Columbia River banks. I’d driven by this historical marker my whole life and never stopped. This significant Chinook fishing and trade village site – and later Lewis & Clark’s Middle Village campsite – focuses on the Chinook Indian Nation history and early settlements.
Tips for Self-Contained, Local Travel:
Think of your car as your own pod. Pack a cooler with all your favorite drinks and foods for snacking, appetizers, and on-the-go lunches. Bring breakfast items if you want; local bagels and cream cheese taste even better on the beach.
Choose to eat outdoors and get takeout for your hotel room as much as possible. The Adrift and Shelburne Hotel both have food service from the onsite Pickled Fish restaurant.
Staying-in at night can mean games and movies in fall and winter. Pack a tablet or computer with downloaded classic films for the whole family.
Avoid overly touristy areas and look for out-of-the-way and outdoor stops like the itinerary we took on the Long Beach Peninsula below.
Wear masks everywhere when indoors or within 6-feet of others.
One-Night Long Beach Peninsula Autumn Itinerary:
12:30 p.m. — Depart from Portland and drive towards Astoria, Oregon.
2 p.m. — Make a coffee stop in Astoria at The Coffee Girl on Pier 39, home of the historic Bumble Bee tuna operations. This free museum and public space has outdoor pier seating with a vista of the Columbia River ships and Astoria-Megler Bridge.
4 p.m. — Drive across the bridge from Oregon to Washington and check-into the Shelburne Hotel in Seaview.
5 p.m. — Drive to public beach parking in front of the Adrift Hotel with a cooler with a blanket, appetizers, sparkling waters, and to-go wine onto the beach for a Pacific Ocean sunset.
6:30 p.m. — Head back to the car and order gourmet takeout pizza from the Pickled Fish. (You can even order for contactless car-side delivery.) We eat in our hotel room’s darling sitting area with our own drinks.
8 p.m. — Girls-night movie on our laptop. We fittingly chose “Practical Magic” (which happens to be filmed nearby on Washington state’s Puget Sound.)
9 a.m. — We make it a lazy morning and walk down for the Shelburne Hotel’s lobby’s coffee bar. After weighing our breakfast options, we decide on drive-thru egg sandwiches on the beach. What a breakfast spot — a view with plenty of space!
11 a.m. — Back from the beach, we pack up and head north to Oysterville to peruse the historic town. We eat clam chowder on the docks of Willapa Bay at Oysterville Sea Farms.
2 p.m. — Drive home via the inside of the peninsula along Willapa Bay.
3:30 p.m. — Park for one last beach walk at the Seaview beach access.
5 p.m. — Head home but stop at the historic St. Mary’s church and Middle Camp at the peninsula’s southern tip.
6 p.m. — Distanced dinner stop at Astoria Co+op grocery deli. We eat our delicious takeout on the store’s sunny patio.