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Seattle’s Secret Beaches and Waterfront Parks

Bring a picnic and enjoy the view on one of these lesser-known shores

Published on: June 21, 2024

Little girl playing at a secret beach in Seattle
Meredith Charaba

During one of my first summers in Seattle, I begged my friends for a beach day. We were so close to the water. The sun, after months of hiding, was out in full force. The water couldn’t be that cold, right? (Wrong.)

While the brisk water still catches me off guard, there is nothing I love more than a Seattle beach day. I know I’m not alone in that, judging by the summer crowds at Golden Gardens and Alki.

The lesser-known beaches and waterfront parks of Seattle offer all the fun of a beach day — gentle waves, small stretches of sand, passing boats — without the crowds. In fact, some of them are so small, they’re easy to miss if you’re not in on the secret. Inspired by the Seattle Department of Transportation’s interactive Shoreline Street Ends map, my family and I set out to uncover these hidden beaches and other waterfront parks.

So pack a picnic, a swimsuit (if you’re feeling brave), sunscreen and beach toys, and discover your new favorite spot for that long-awaited summer sun.

Road End Beach, Yarrow Point

Aptly named “Road End Beach,” this small waterfront park is tucked away in a residential area at the end of a quiet street. Plan to park on the shoulder of the street perpendicular to the park and walk down to the beach. As we headed down the tree-lined steps, the park surprised us with gorgeous Lake Washington views and a grassy knoll perfect for picnicking.

We had the park to ourselves on a sunny Saturday morning. Waves gently crashed on the pebble beach, and the water was clear enough to look for fish. A long dock stretches out into the water, with a couple of benches at its end for watching the boats (and birds) go by.

Find it: Road End Beach is located at N.E. 47th Street in Yarrow Point.

S. Norman Street End, Seattle

This tiny spot is one of the street-end beaches designated by the City Council as a public shore. While there is a bench under the shade of trees, there is no sand or beachfront. You do, however, get a serene view of mountains, passing boats and Lake Washington.

It’s also less than a mile from Leschi shops and restaurants. There are quite a few street-end beaches along this stretch of the shoreline, so you can get your steps in on a summer afternoon as you stroll down Lakeside Avenue S. to discover them.

Find it: S. Norman Street End is located at S. Norman Street and Lakeside Avenue S. in Seattle.

Lowman Beach Park, West Seattle

Head to this beach in West Seattle to keep your kids occupied for the afternoon. Along the path down to the beach, you’ll find grassy areas where you can set up a picnic, or, as we saw on our visit, a themed birthday party. There’s also a swing set with options for big kids and toddlers alike.

The rocky shore gave us plenty of opportunity to see crabs and other creatures, and when it was time for a rest, we sat on the driftwood and watched boats sail by. The only mistake we made was not picking up lunch on the way there, as the beach is in a residential area, and there aren’t any restaurants or vendors within walking distance. Also, there are no restrooms available.

Find it: Lowman Beach Park is located at 7017 Beach Dr. S.W. in West Seattle.

"Lowman Beach secret beach in Seattle"
Lowman Beach Park. Photo: Meredith Charaba

N.E. 130th Street Public Shore, Seattle

This shoreline street end easily became our favorite. It feels private, tucked between gorgeous homes on the waterfront. Quiet, gentle waves lapped on the beach while my toddler squealed with delight that her beach toys could finally be put to use in the sand. We saw not one but two seaplanes, in addition to sailboats out on the water. It’s also close to the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Lake Washington Loop Trail. A bonus: Keep your eyes peeled for a life-size giraffe statue as you drive down Riviera Place N.E.

Find it: N.E. 130th Public Shore is located at Riviera Place N.E. and N.E. 130th Street in Seattle.

Clyde Beach Park, Bellevue

Just 2 miles south of Road End Beach is Clyde Beach Park. While the small parking lot was nearly full, we still felt as though we had the place to ourselves. Picnic tables near the dock gave us a nice spot for a snack as we watched the boats go by on the water.

Sunbathers will appreciate the grassy hillside, while those who come to swim can take the stairs right down into the water. There is no sand at this beach park, but my daughter was more than pleased to see the nautical playground, complete with a large boat, slides and stairs to climb. Restrooms are located at the park entrance.

Find it: Clyde Beach Park is located at 2 92nd Ave. N.E. in Bellevue.

Fritz Hedges Waterway Park, Seattle

Bright yellow chairs dotting the park immediately caught my eye when we arrived at Fritz Hedges Waterway Park. This 3.5-acre waterfront park is adjacent to the University of Washington’s campus and gives park users plenty of opportunities to get in or sit by the water. You can rent kayaks nearby, and we saw plenty of them out on the water during our visit.

Even though the park was busier than I had expected, there was still plenty of room for us to sit and relax while the breeze coming off the water cooled us down in the sun. There’s also a charming path with benches and a pollinator garden that was buzzing with life. The nearby SeaFab Cafe offered a caffeine boost before we went on our way. Just keep in mind this is a busy stretch, so street parking may be hard to come by.

Find it: Fritz Hedges Waterway Park is located at 1117 N.E. Boat St. in Seattle.

"Fritz Hedges secret beach in Seattle"
Fritz Hedges Waterway Park. Photo: Meredith Charaba

E. Hamlin St. Shoreline Street End (West End), Seattle

Pack a lunch and head to E. Hamlin Street to spend an afternoon at this charming street-end park, which has two picnic tables. The landscaping includes seasonal blooms to admire. Timber steps lead down to the shoreline, where you can watch the boats or just look out on the water.

Find it: E. Hamlin St. Shoreline Street End is located at Boyer Avenue E. and E. Hamlin Street in Seattle.

W. McGraw St. Public Shore, Seattle

If you’re looking for views of Puget Sound, head down the gravel path at McGraw Street and take a seat at the picnic table or bench. Or walk down the parallel asphalt ramp to the water’s edge and search the rocky beach for treasures. This is also a magical spot for watching the sunset.

Find it: W. McGraw St. Public Shore is located at W. McGraw Street and Perkins Lane W. in Seattle.

51st Ave. N.E. Public Shore, Seattle

This small street-end park has just a picnic table and steps that go right into the water. While there is no access to the nearby dock or beach, park users will be rewarded with a stunning view of Mount Rainier. It was also fun to watch boats speeding by on the water. Lush green foliage gives this park the atmosphere of a secret garden.

Find it: The 51st Ave. N.E. Street End is located at 51st Avenue. N.E. and N.E. Laurelcrest Lane in Seattle.

"51st Ave NE Street End beach Seattle"
51st Ave. N.E. Public Shore. Photo: Meredith Charaba

Jack Block Park, West Seattle

If you have friends or family visiting from out of town, this is the spot for showing them the city from afar. Just south of Alki Beach, Jack Block Park is a hidden gem that offers incredible views of the Seattle skyline, passing ferries and Mount Rainier (on a clear day). The 15-acre park has a walking path and 45-foot-tall observation tower. While the rocky beach is open to the public, the park’s lesser-known status means you won’t see big crowds. There is also a small play area for kids, along with restrooms near the parking lot.

Find it: Jack Block Park is located at 2130 Harbor Ave. S.W. in West Seattle.

Pioneer Square Habitat Beach

Watch the ferries cross Elliott Bay on this quiet stretch of shoreline in downtown Seattle. Sit on the large boulders, admire the local artwork installations or just enjoy the waterfront views. Keep in mind that since this is a marine habitat, there’s no swimming or personal watercraft allowed.

Find it: Pioneer Square Habitat Beach is located at 199 Alaskan Way, between Colman Dock and Pier 48 in Seattle.

More Seattle-area beach family fun:

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