Bring on the Beach! Best Beaches for Families Around Puget Sound
14 favorite beach spots for Seattle-area kids to wade, dig, explore and play
It’s tough to beat a summer’s day at a favorite beach: watching the kids sprint toward sand and water, followed by hours of wading, building sand creations and treasure hunting.
In honor of beach magic, we've spotlighted 14 local beaches that are all stars, for gloriously different reasons.
Note: We know we’ve only scratched the sandy surface here. We'd love to add your favorite local beach; email us at email@example.com with your beach tips.
Beaches north of Seattle
Brackett’s Landing/Marina Beach, Edmonds
Brackett’s Landing: Main Street and Railroad Avenue
Marina Beach: 650 Admiral Way S.
Just a short walk from charming downtown Edmonds is a waterfront area worthy of hours of exploration. Brackett's Landing, with north and south sections divided by the ferry dock, features a paved walkway that leads to a jetty. In addition to playing on the beach and cruising the path, kids can peer through a large telescope, watch the ferries come and go, and observe scuba divers at one of the busiest underwater dive parks on the West Coast. Walk (or ride a scooter) down the pedestrian path to Marina Beach Park, a great place to picnic and explore marine life. Hungry? Stop in at Anthony’s Beach Café, where the kids can play in a sandbox while you enjoy fish tacos, a glass of wine and the sunset.
Good to know: Parking (free for four hours) fills up quickly in the summer, so you may end up parking around the downtown shopping area and walking a few blocks. There are restrooms and an outdoor shower for rinsing off sand.
Jetty Island, Everett
The ferry leaves from the 10th Street Boat Launch and Marine Park on the Everett waterfront, seven days a week.
Puget Sound’s rocky shores teem with crawly critters and thriving tide pools, but when summer arrives, you want to sink your toes into some sand. Trade in your boots for flip-flops and head to Jetty Island, one of the region’s hidden gems. Located just five minutes by boat from the Everett waterfront, Jetty Island features over two miles of sandy beaches and warm, shallow water that appears to go on forever. The island is accessible only by boat, and from July 5 through Labor Day; the city of Everett partners with the Port of Everett to offer a free ferry; find the ferry schedule here. (Parking is $3 per car.)
Pick up boarding passes at the boat launch kiosk. Return passes are available on the island. While the ferry is free, a per-person donation is requested and helps keep the ferry and the island's programs running.
Good to know: This is not a stroller-friendly outing, and you need to bring all your food, water and shade with you. To make reservations, get a group of at least eight together, and book at least two days ahead at 425-257-8304. (If you're an Everett resident, you can also book ahead with a group of any size.) Jetty Island also hosts a range of programs throughout the season, from puppet shows to bonfires and sand castle contests.
Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland
9703 N.E. Juanita Drive
After a thorough renovation that was completed in 2011, Lake Washington’s Juanita Beach Park is at its best. A healthy strip of soft, white sand welcomes shovel-toting tots and sun-seeking parents alike. The water is very shallow, so kids can wade out a bit without parents worrying about hidden drop-offs, and the large wrap-around dock shelters the swimming area from the rest of the bay.
Take a stroll (or scooter ride) on the foot path through the small marsh section, with its wooden bridges and blue herons, or rent a stand-up paddleboard for an hour or two. Another plus is the big playground next to the beach.
Good to know: There are a few picnic tables, but if you’re planning lunch, pack a blanket, as most of the tables may be taken. Spud Fish & Chips is across the street, and a little popsicle stand often parks itself at the beach.
Idylwood Beach Park, Redmond
3650 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E.
A flat, sandy beach and crystal clear water make this Lake Sammamish location a winner for swimming and sand play. The roped-off swimming area is shallow with a very gradual slope so kiddos can wade and splash to their hearts' content. A wide lawn and an awesome playground with a smaller area for younger kids is great for after-beach play. Picnic shelters grant shade and there’s a full bathhouse, complete with restrooms and showers.
Good to know: Come early on sunny days (especially weekends); the fairly small parking lot fills up quickly, leaving an overflow lot about half block away, or side street parking. Lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer.
Meydenbauer Beach Park, Bellevue
419 98th Ave N.E.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bellevue is a little gem of a beach. Meydenbauer’s big grassy area, play structure and pint-sized beach prove perfect for little ones looking to cool off on hot days. The view of Meyedenbauer Bay is lovely, and the serene park is a nice place for a mid-morning picnic. The water is clear and relatively shallow, so toddlers are able to stand and splash around.
Good to know: Restrooms on site. There’s a relatively small parking lot halfway down the tree-lined drive to the beach, and the lot may fill up on weekends, so visitors might need need to find street parking. Shade is lacking, so be sure to bring a beach umbrella.
Waverly Beach Park, Kirkland
633 Waverly Way
Past Kirkland’s Heritage Park and down a steep little drive lies Waverly Beach, a neighborhood treasure. The small, 3-acre park just underwent a renovation. Improvements include a new playground, a new picnic shelter plus shoreline and beach enhancements. This park's small beach and good-sized, sheltered swimming area are perfect for little ones. On hot days it can seem a bit crowded with families taking full advantage of this pristine piece of waterfront. The surrounding trees are large enough to offer some shade.
Good to know: Restroom facilities on site. There are two small parking lots (one lower and one upper), that are rarely maxed out. Lifeguards are on duty at scheduled times, and there’s a shave ice and hot dog stand during summer.
O.O. Denny Park, Kirkland
12400 Holmes Point Drive N.E.
For a change of pace (and size), head to the northeastern shores of Lake Washington, where you’ll find the pocket-size beach at O.O. Denny Park. There’s no play structure at the pebbly beach area, so bring plenty of beach toys. Across the street, you’ll find the park’s wonderful hiking trails that will take you along Denny Creek, through patches of old-growth forest, past an old salmon ladder and across little footbridges.
Good to know: There are no lifeguards or roped-off swimming areas, and in some places the drop-off is steep, so keep young children within arm’s reach. The parking lot tends to fill up quickly on hot days.
Carkeek Park, Seattle
950 N.W. Carkeek Park Rd.
Venture down the curving, tree-canopied Carkeek Park Road in North Seattle and you’ll end up at one of the most magnificent beaches (and parks) in the city, with 220 acres of nature trails, wetlands, beach and panoramic views. There’s a salmon-themed playground, Piper’s Orchard (with fruit and nut trees) and Piper’s Creek, an urban stream where you can still see salmon fighting their way home in the fall.
To get to the beach from the park area, you’ll have to cross an overpass above the railroad tracks; terrific for photos, though it may induce vertigo. The beach is wide and sandy at parts, and when the tide goes out, the beachcombing is excellent.
Good to know: There are different parking lots, but only one lot is directly across from the beach, and it can fill up quickly. Continue to the lower meadow for additional parking.
Me-Kwa-Mooks Park, Seattle
4503 Beach Dr. S.W.
One mile south of the popular (and at times very crowded) Alki Beach and directly across from Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook in West Seattle, lies a smaller and lesser-known gem. Me-Kwa-Mooks (meaning “shaped like a bear’s head) is a rocky haven for crabs, starfish, sea slugs, sea cucumbers and anyone who takes an interest in these marine creatures.
The erosion of clay and sand has created a series of tide pools; currently a sea wall running the length of the beach protects the upper beach from further erosion. During low tide, kids can become mini marine biologists. Be sure to wear shoes or sandals!
Good to know: Picnic tables can be found on the lawn at the park entry on Beach Dr. S.W. between S.W. Genesee and S.W. Oregon St. Park on the street.
Seward Park, Seattle
5895 Lake Washington Blvd S.
This 300-acre park occupies all of Bailey Peninsula in south Seattle and is a mini escape from the city. The beach boasts a large lawn and full facilities, plus a swimming raft and on-duty lifeguards. The 2.4-mile paved path that loops the peninsula is a favorite among joggers, strollers and families on bikes.
The other side of the peninsula offers “beyond the beach” fun, from a huge, nature-themed playground to an art studio to hiking trails that meander through old-growth forests, perfect for kids just getting their hiking legs. Don’t miss the Audubon Center, which offers wonderful and affordable programs for kids (and adults), from beginning birding to popular nighttime “Owl Prowls.”
Good to know: There are several large parking lots near the beach and play areas. Full facilities.
South of Seattle beaches
Seahurst Park, Burien
1600 S.W. Seahurst Park Rd.
Burien’s 178-acre Seahurst Park, which reopened in August 2014 after an extensive project to restore the shoreline, as well as upgrade the picnic facilities and playground, may not be the best for sunbathing, but it’s perfect for discovering Puget Sound’s abundant sea life.
From starfish to sea cucumbers, this rocky, tide-pool-rich marine reserve grants little scientists an opportunity to explore more than a mile of shoreline — especially during low tide. Check out the park’s free naturalist program, too. When kids tire of searching for crabs and shells, wander the wooded trails above. Picnic shelters and tables are available, as well as barbecue grills and a playground.
Good to know: There are restrooms on site. Parking in the upper lot involves a long walk downhill to the beach. Visit cute downtown Burien after a beach trip — it boasts a fun Thursday farmers market, ethnic eateries, a fountain for water play in Town Square Park and more.
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, Renton
1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N.
At Lake Washington’s southern tip, you’ll find a huge, sandy beach with fun written all over it. The designated swimming area is bordered by a walkway; the large, grassy lawn is great for spreading picnic blankets; and there’s a large playground. Picnic shelters are available to rent, and Kidd Valley and Ivar’s concession stands are open throughout the summer. Need more? Check out the beach volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and the little fishing dock. Bring your binoculars; there’s a little walkway to the west of the beach that leads to Bird Island. The beach also hosts festivals and a summer concert series.
Good to know: Lifeguards are on duty at posted times in summer. Come early to find a parking spot.
Owen Beach, Tacoma
5605 N. Owen Beach Road
Point Defiance Park’s Owen Beach is a must-do in the South Sound. Along with gorgeous views of Vashon Island and incoming ferries, this beach features wonderful opportunities for exploring tide pools on low-tide days. Keep an eye out for “Explore the Shore” days, when naturalists with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium lead low-tide beach walks. Up for more adventure? Rent a kayak or look for seals or sea lions (just don’t disturb them). Or visit another treasure at Point Defiance Park, such as the Japanese Garden, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum or, of course, the excellent Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Good to know: Parking is ample, and there is handicapped parking available. A concession stand is open during the peak season.
Dash Point State Park, Federal Way
5700 S.W. Dash Point Road
When the tide goes out at Dash Point State Park, the beach seems to go on forever. With 3,301 feet of shoreline, kids can run, splash, swim and dig for hours. There are also 11 miles of hiking trails and a popular campground, so you might make a getaway out of it. Book campsites early, though, especially for a weekend.
Good to know: Restrooms are close to the beach. Since it’s a state park, you’ll need a Discover Pass to park ($30 annual, $10 for a day) to park. On weekend days, arrive early.
Saltwater State Park, Des Moines
25205 8th Place S.
Another camping park, Saltwater State Park offers 1,445 feet of sparkling saltwater shoreline on Puget Sound and is the only state park to feature an underwater, artificial reef. There’s a sandy swimming beach in the southwest corner, and a network of forested hiking trails as well as plenty of tide pools. Kids will enjoy the telescope (25 cents for a view), the beach playground and the logs for practicing balancing skills. Everyone will appreciate the Saltwater Cafe, a small store with all the necessities, from sandwiches to espresso to popsicles. Despite its proximity to Dash Point (Saltwater State Park is about 25 minutes north of Dash Point), Saltwater can be less crowded.
Good to know: Restrooms on site and the camp sites provide fire grills and picnic tables. As it's a state park, you'll need a Discover Pass to park.
Beach bag checklist
There’s nothing worse than getting set up at the perfect sandy spot for the day and realizing that you forgot an essential piece of gear. Here’s a starter checklist.
- Sunscreen (plus lip block)
- UVSunSense wristbands (when they turn pink, it’s time to reapply sunscreen)
- Towels and/or blanket
- Umbrella and chairs
- Sunglasses and hats
- Extra clothes/UV clothing
- Water shoes
- Diapers and wipes/disposable swim diapers
- Snacks, lots of water, lunch
- Baggies for diapers, wet clothes, garbage or found “treasures”
- Baby powder or other product to help brush sand off easily
- First aid kit and bottle of eye wash in case of sand in the eyes
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug repellent
- Small pop-up play tent (great for meltdowns brought on by too much sun or the need for a nap)
- Beach toys
- Cash for treats
- Field guides for tide pooling, and a book for you!
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated for 2016.