Who needs California’s sandy beaches when you can explore Puget Sound’s rocky shores? If “hit the beach” tops your family’s sunny day activity list, we’ve got some new beaches for you try, south of the city. From secluded spots known only to locals, to state parks you need to discover, we’ve got the lay of the land…err… water. Dive in!

Saltwater State Park
The casual atmosphere at Saltwater State Park makes it a prime spot for lazy afternoon picnics with your crew. After you’ve had your fill, spend time climbing around on the playground and then hit this shore at low tide to spend some Q.T. with the abundance of wildlife that can be found here. Mini crabs, anemones and little fish dart around in the shallows, waiting for your Little to discover them. The hiking trails here are easy for the tot lot, and are a great spot to find shade when the sun is high in the sky. Plus, during the summer, you can catch the salmon running up McSorley Creek, which runs adjacent to the campground. Sounds like a picture perfect day!

25205 8th Place S.
Des Moines, Wa 98198
Online: parks.state.wa.us/578/Saltwater

Dash Point State Park
The sandy beach at Dash Point State Park is a prime spot for little athletes to try out their skim boarding skills, or watch others give it a try! There’s plenty of space to ride the shallows without getting hung up on rocks or running into driftwood in your path here. But this beach is more than just a skim boarder heaven. The sandy shallows are where all the cool diapered babes splash and play in the South Sound. And the spectacular view has “beachside meal” written all over it. If you’re feeling super adventurous, pack your fishing gear and see what you can catch at high tide from the fishing pier. Then, grill your catch while you’re there to cap off a memorable summer day.

5700 S.W. Dash Point Road
Federal Way, Wa 98023
Online: parks.state.wa.us/496/Dash-Point

Penrose Point State Park
Bring your shovels and rakes to Penrose Point State Park on the Key Peninsula and dig for your dinner. It’s not quite as easy as picking up clams at Pike Street Market, but almost. All season long, clams and oysters are planted along the beachfront so families can enjoy the fruits of their labor come spring. There are plenty of BBQ’s and picnic tables to grill up your finds, or bring your own food to enjoy while taking in the view of the Kitsap Peninsula on the opposite side. Make sure you save enough energy to search for the secret lagoon with your mini-me (hint: you’ll find it on well-marked offshoot of the Penrose Point Trail). Then keep hiking to the trail’s end. When you arrive, don’t be surprised if you’re the only ones on the beach. It’s usually a quiet place to explore with your crew!

321 158th Ave. KPS
Lakebay, Wa 98349
Online: parks.state.wa.us/564/Penrose-Point

Tolmie State Park
Sandy and swimmable are two words that sum up the vibe at Tolmie State Park. Once you get parked and make your way down to the beach, you’ll see why. The protected cove-like area means plenty of sandbar goodness for little swimmers to use. And the clean shoreline is hard to beat if your kidlet loves to dig and build. Add in parent visibility and you’ve got a relaxed day at the beach that’s easy to manage. And if you need a sun break, Tolmie’s three miles of shaded trails should do the trick. But Tolmie’s coolest feature is one you probably won’t even get to see… an underwater artificial reef set up especially for scuba divers. That’s what we call something to look forward to!

7730 61st Ave. N.E.
Olympia, Wa 98506
Online: parks.state.wa.us/297/Tolmie

photo: Celina R. via Yelp

Sunnyside Beach
If your little beachcomber loves trains almost as much as she loves building sandcastles, this quiet beach is Steilacoom is the place to take her. Tucked into a neighborhood, Sunnyside is a true local hangout. It’s a fave for picnics and playing on sunny afternoons, and you can’t find a better spot to watch the sunset over the Olympics in the South Sound. The only drawback is the small parking fee non-residents, but it’s a small price to pay for a quiet afternoon with your kidlet!

2509 Chambers Creek Rd.
Steilacoom, Wa 98388
Online: townofsteilacoom.org/264/Sunnyside-Beach

Owen Beach
We’re not sure what our favorite aspect of Owen Beach is. Watching the ferries cross from Tacoma to Vashon; hiking the miles of trails that lead to one beautiful water view after another; or catching sight of the elusive orcas that love to frequent this area. It’s easy to see why they all top our list! Plan to spend the day at this Tacoma-area fave. All you need is a stocked cooler, a sun tent (if you’ve got it) and beach toys a-plenty to make the most of a sunny day at Owen Beach. And if your Little still has energy to burn after beachin’ it all morning long, stop in and say hi to the animals at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, just up the road. Day planned!

photo: D.S. via Yelp

Redondo Beach
This popular Des Moines destination is the prefect half-day adventure for the tot lot. Hit it in the morning and they’ll be tuckered out just in time for their afternoon nap. Or head out post-nap for a late afternoon adventure that ends with dinner at Salty’s at Redondo Beach. Either way it’s a win! And the sandy beach is only half of it. Beyond the typical sundrenched shores that were made for digging and sandcastle building, there’s also a Marine Science and Technology Center at the north end of the beach. Schedule your beach trip around their limited summer hours (Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. & Thurs. 4 p.m.-7 p.m.) if you want to add some touch tank and educational talk time to your outing.

Kopachuck State Park
There’s plenty to do and see at this small state park on Gig Harbor’s western side. A rocky shore is all you’ll find at high tide, but once the waters recede, it’s time to explore! Tide pools and stacks of purple sand dollars will keep your budding marine biologist busy for hours along the beach. And natural clay deposits along the forested border are an added bonus for kiddos who are keen to find new building material for their sandcastle creations. This is also one spot on the peninsula where swimming or floating around in the shallows will help to keep everyone cool on a hot summer day. And when you’ve had your fill, find more adventures in town, no matter what the weather’s got in store.

10712 56th St. N.W.
Gig Harbor, Wa 98335
Online: parks.state.wa.us/530/Kopachuck

Good to Know:
1. Don’t forget your Discover Pass, if one of the beaches you’re eyeing from our list is in a state park. Or take advantage of the free Discover Pass days on June 13, Aug. 25 or Sept. 30.

2. If you plan to dig for clams or go fishing at any of these beaches, have your up-to-date license or permit at the ready.

3. Most of these beaches are best at low tide. Be sure to check the tide charts before you head out to make the most of your beach experience.

Which South Sound beach do you think you’ll try this summer? Tell us in the comments below! 

— Allison Sutcliffe (all photos courtesy of the writer unless otherwise noted)