Misty sea stacks and river
Coast & seascapes,  Sunday Stills,  Travel galleries,  Washington State

Gallery: misty weather on the Olympic Peninsula coast

As one of the rainiest places in the US, the Olympic Peninsula coast is notorious for bad weather. A national park leaflet explains:

Severe currents, rocks and infamous weather doomed many ships along this wild coast. Shipwrecked mariners told of hardships endured on the rugged and desolate shoreline, and of dramatic rescues, some involving heroic assistance from local tribes. Memorials north of Rialto Beach commemorate 36 people who died in wrecks of Chilean and Norwegian vessels in 1920 and 1903β€”testament to a perilous, remorseless sea that has taken many lives.

Rialto Beach

So we counted ourselves fortunate to experience slightly damp but by no means unpleasant conditions. At Rialto Beach the offshore sea stacks loomed mysteriously through the fog and a light sea fret hung in the air. The conditions rather suited the landscape and made for some interesting if challenging photography.

Misty sea stacks and river
River estuary near Rialto Beach
Misty sea stacks
Sea stacks, Rialto Beach

[For another view of Rialto Beach, see the image I posted for the Around the world in ten photos challenge]

Shadowy figures could be seen in the distance, walking the shoreline.

Walking on Rialto Beach

The sea and wind had scoured the bark from the fallen tree trunks that line the beach, leaving bizarre and sometimes haunting shapes, best photographed in black and white.

Black and white photo of weathered tree trunk
Black and white photo of weathered tree trunk
Black and white photo of weathered tree trunks
Weathered tree trunks, Rialto Beach

First Beach

At the uninspiringly named First Beach (guess what the next two beaches along the coast are called? You got it – Second and Third Beaches!) we found yet more photographic inspiration in the misty conditions, and fewer people.

Misty sea stacks and beach with tree trunks
First Beach
Remains of old wooden jetty with green lichen
At First Beach – destroyed by sea and weather

Although one small boy was enjoying himself, despite the weather!

Black and white photo of child running by the sea
Fun on First Beach

Ruby Beach

The next day, after a morning exploring the surprisingly dry Hoh Rainforest, we travelled further down the coast to Ruby Beach. This beach lies some distance below the parking lot, reached by a fairly steep path and a scramble over large tree trunks. I decided to stop at the first viewpoint on the descent, while Chris continued to the beach alone. Even from there, it was a magnificent spot for photos, with the clouds a little higher than they had been at Rialto and First Beaches.

View of beach with sea stacks and tree trunks
View of beach with sea stacks and tree trunks
View of beach with sea stacks
View of beach with sea stacks
Looking down on Ruby Beach

By the time we reached Beach Four (are you keeping count?!) there was a little blue in the sky, and we found more still at Kalaloch Beach.

Looking down at a beach
Beach Four
View of beach with timber and small stream
Kalaloch Beach

But by this point the photogenic sea stacks we had found further north had petered out, so we didn’t linger long but turned inland away from the coast, happy with the photos we had taken in this atmospheric weather.

For this week’s Sunday Stills challenge Terri asks, what is our favourite weather? When travelling, I am happy with any weather in which I can get out and take photos. And if the weather enhances the shots, as the mist did here on the Olympic Peninsula, so much the better!

I visited the Olympic Peninsula in 2017


  • Kirstin

    I live in SW Washington and I still haven’t made it to the Olympic peninsula or the rain forest, but it’s on my list to see

  • Susanne Swanson

    The Olympic Peninsula is one of my favorite places! Since I live in Washington we visit a couple times a year and it never gets old. You captured its beauty and moodiness very well!

  • SandyL

    I recognise these seascapes πŸ™‚ Cloudy and misty beaches make fabulous photos. Providing of course, you have enough light to actually focus on something πŸ™‚

  • Graham

    Lovely atmospheric photos. It’s a wonderful stretch of coast. The first time I went to the Hoh rainforest it was 90Β° and bone dry. Normal service was resumed the following day!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you – yes, we loved it here! We had very pleasant weather in the Hoh – mild, dry, and some sunshine towards the end of the morning πŸ™‚

  • wetanddustyroads

    I love your beach photo’s – and it’s amazing how the ocean basically changed colours after each shot you took!
    And your pictures of those ‘haunted’ tree trunks – lovely – but don’t show it to me in the dark, it really looks scary 😬.

  • margaret21

    We’ve only experienced this from on board ship, when we travelled from Vancouver Island to Seattle (on a glorious midsummer day). It remains probably the most beautiful boat journey of our lives, though your shots are much more reminiscent for me of the coastline we enjoyed on Vancouver Island. I loved those beaches, with their ancient fallen tree trunks, and their moody rocky vastness.

  • Anonymous

    I liked your black and white photos of the trees, Sarah. It emphasizes their shape and texture. Also liked your last shot of Kalaloch. We saw sea otters at Ruby Beach once, an experience I’ll always remember. πŸ˜€

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you for that lovely comment about the tree photos πŸ™‚ Seeing sea otters in the wild must have been amazing! I remember seeing them at Monterey Aquarium – they were gorgeous but that’s not quite the same as a wild sighting! Not sure who you are? But thanks for stopping by!

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    How cool to take a tour along the Olympic peninsula, Sarah! Practically my new backyard and easily attainable as a road trip in the future. Your photos of the beaches are exquisite and show the dramatic mist and beach textures so well! Never heard of sea stacks but had seen pics of them, second cool thing I learned today reading others’ blog posts. When did you take this trip? Hopefully you can get back to the US some day.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Terri! We toured WA in July 2017, the most recent of a series of road trips we’ve enjoyed in the US πŸ™‚ We did a loop from Seattle over to the peninsula by ferry, several days driving around there, then over to Mt Rainier, up via Lake Chelan to the Cascades, down to the coast at Anacortes and finishing with a few days in Friday Harbor before driving back to Seattle – three weeks in total πŸ™‚

      As for coming back to the US, I’m planning to be in Chicago with VT friends next September (i.e. 2022) and my husband may join me at the end of that visit so we can do another road trip – possibly even Rte 66!!

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