The Pacific Northwest abounds in natural beauty and amazing places for kids nature exploration. Very little equipment is needed other than containers for collecting treasures, a magnifying glass, and a nature journal. Helpful books to identify birds and tide pool life can add to the experience. For those who love equipment and tools and want to go deeper once you return home from your nature adventure, bring along a camera for recording discoveries, binoculars, butterfly net and plaster for making casts of prints, leaves, etc.
Always teach your young naturalists to leave tide pool creatures in their natural habitat. Remind them not to gather wildlife or plants to take home. Learn ahead of time the native plant species in Washington that are protected and talk about these with your young ones.
Local tide pool destinations: Although a trip to the coast or the San Juan’s will provide you and your young ones with unlimited tide pool exploration, the following is a list of great locations closer in the Seattle area that you can do in a half day if that is all the time you have. Keep in mind that the tide pool habitat is a very delicate one and your mini marine biologists need to follow direction and be gentle with the sea creatures you encounter. Check out WTA’s guideline for exploring tide pools with little ones.
- Double Bluff Beach, Whidbey Island
- Mukilteo Lighthouse Park Beach, Mukilteo
- Olympic Beach, Edmonds
- Richmond Beach, Shoreline
- Carkeek Park, Seattle
- Golden Gardens Park, Seattle
- Constellation Park on Alki Point, West Seattle
- Discovery Park, West Seattle
- Seahurst Park, Burien
- Des Moines Beach Park, Des Moines
- Titlow Beach Park, Tacoma
- Owens Beach at Defiance Park, Tacoma
- Priest Point Park, Olympia
If you have the time to go further afield, the following offer some of the most exquisite tide pool opportunities in the country:
- Deception Pass State Park has over 4000 acres and 40 miles of trails to explore to your hearts’ content. Enjoy coastline, old growth forests and mountain views.
- Rialto Beach hosts the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and a fabulous hike to enjoy it all.
- Straight of Juan de Fuca Salt Creek Recreation Area is an often overlooked gem that offers campsites, rocky tide pools and sandy beaches.
Magnuson Park: Although there are wonderful organized camps and classes to take advantage of year round, Magnuson Park offers endless opportunities for free nature exploration. Visitors can enjoy two demonstration gardens, explore miles of trails through a wide variety of habitats that include forest lakeshore, grassland, and a 20 acre wetlands complex.
Carkeek Park Nine miles from downtown Seattle can be found 220 acres of forest, wetlands, beaches, meadows and creeks, and tide pools at Carkeek Park. Volunteers have restored the forest, built miles of trails and created sustainable gardens for investigation and learning.
Discovery Park offers wonderful low tide nature walks, a hike through Camp Long to enjoy animal habitats in forests, field, and ponds at Discovery Park. Don’t forget to check out the Loop trial along the South Bluff for perfect sunset views at the end of your day of adventures.
Seward Park: Over 300 acres of beautiful forests that are home to eagles and old growth timber right within Seattle city limits. Productions take place in the amphitheater; explore a native plant garden, an art studio, lake beaches, and plenty of forest trails to enjoy wildlife at Seward Park. There are 5.75 miles of trails, may are easy in terms of difficulty, others are rugged, providing more challenge, not to mention the feeling of really being in the wilderness even though you are almost in the heart of the city. You can experience nature in Seward Park at your own pace and direction or check out their website for detailed information on camps and nature exploration programs.
Now that you know where to go, before you leave, check out the wealth of ideas on this Pinterest board to incorporate in your adventures. But keep in mind, the best adventures and exploration doesn’t require a special curriculum or cool tools Just get out there with your explorers and go for it!
Featured photo credit Flickr user eedrummer.