Seattle's weather is most often associated with gray skies and rainy days, but the Emerald City’s beautiful summers don’t get nearly enough love.
Rainy days are few and far between in the summer months that are characterized by clear blue skies and long days that conclude with stunning sunsets as late as 9pm.
Seattle has a multitude of parks, many of which are located on the city’s 200 miles of shoreline and are home to a wide variety of beaches. Whether you’re looking to swim, hike or simply relax and take in the scenery, you’re bound to find the perfect beach to suit your tastes.
From Puget Sound to Lake Washington to Elliott Bay, these are our 12 favorite Seattle beaches.
1. Alki Beach Park: best beach to relax with locals
Slow down a couple of notches on a weekend summer's afternoon on Alki Beach. For a certain type of Seattleite, West Seattle beckons like a proverbial Coney Island, and Alki Beach is the fair.
Stretching from Duwamish Head to the Alki Point Lighthouse, a 2.5-mile paved span parallel to the beach is a magnet for rollerbladers, cyclists and skateboarders. When the sun's out, Alki Beach and its adjacent promenade become Seattle's communal backyard and a fabulous spot to hunker down with a beer and enjoy people watching. There are plenty of nearby breweries and eateries with views of the water.
The main part of West Seattle's favorite beach is sandy – ideal for sandcastle building and all of those other age-old seaside pleasures. There are good tide pools further west around the lighthouse, too.
Planning Tip: To streamline your day out, make like a local and opt to catch the West Seattle Water Taxi from its dock near the Seattle Ferry Terminal in downtown, so you don't have to fuss with parking.
2. Golden Gardens: best beach for families
Golden Gardens Park, established in 1904 by Harry W Treat, is a lovely 95-acre beach park with sandy beaches north of Shilshole Bay Marina. There are picnic facilities, restrooms, basketball hoops, volleyball nets, gangs of Canadian geese, lots of parking and plenty of space to get away from all the activity.
The Burke-Gilman Trail effectively ends here amongst the Ballard neighborhood's Scandi-cool and plentiful restaurants. Grab a bite and then head up to neighboring Sunset Hill Park, a prime perch for dramatic sunsets and long views over the bay and out towards Bainbridge Island.
3. Discovery Park: best beach for outdoor adventures
A former military installation ingeniously transformed into a wild coastal park, Discovery Park is a relatively recent addition to the city landscape; it wasn’t officially inaugurated until 1973.
The largest green space in Seattle at 534 acres, its compact cornucopia of cliffs, meadows, dunes, forest and beaches stands as a healthy microcosm of the surrounding Pacific Northwest ecosystems.
Discovery Park boasts a kids' play area, wonderful beach-combing opportunities, and several miles of safe trails. You can find a complete map of the in-park network at the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center near the Government Way entrance, including how to reach the pretty old lighthouse.
Planning Tip: To get there, catch bus 33 from 3rd Ave and Union St downtown.
4. Green Lake Park: best beach for a workout
A favorite hunting ground for runners with pushchairs, freelance personal trainers and artistically tattooed sunbathers, scenic Green Lake Park surrounds Green Lake, a small natural lake created by a glacier during the last ice age.
In the early 1900s, city planners lowered the lake’s water level by 7ft, increasing the shoreline to preserve parkland around the lake. After the lowering, however, Ravenna Creek, which fed the lake, no longer flowed through.
Green Lake became stagnant and filled with stinky green algae. Massive dredging efforts to keep Green Lake a navigable lake continue, although the lake remains prone to algae blooms.
Two paths wind around the lake, but these aren’t enough to fill the needs of the hundreds of joggers, power-walkers, cyclists and in-line skaters who throng here daily. In fact, competition for space on the trails has led to altercations between speeding athletes; the city government now regulates traffic on the paths.
Green Lake also has a soccer field, bowling green, baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, plus boat, bike and in-line skate rentals.
Local Tip: West Green Lake Beach, a sandy swimming beach within the park, is open until 7pm daily from late June through Labor Day. The water temperature is warmer than the beaches on the ocean and Lake Washington, so it’s an ideal spot for getting in a good, long swim.
5. Madison Park: best beach for sunbathing
Following the old trolley route down E Madison St to original Seattle seaside resort Madison Park Beach for a game of frisbee, a brave dip in the lake and some wholesome food from a short strip of glass-fronted cafes.
This park is a riotously popular place in the summer with a grassy slope for lounging and sunbathing, two tennis courts, a swimming raft floating in the lake, and lifeguards on duty from late June to Labor Day (noon to 7pm Monday to Friday, from 11am Saturday and Sunday).
Planning Tip: It’s best reached on bus 11 along E Madison St. About a mile before you reach the beach it's worth stopping in tree-lined Madison Valley, aka “Little France,” for buttery croissants and a quiet stroll in the Washington Park Arboretum.
6. Fay Bainbridge Park: best beach for an overnight trip
To get away from the hustle and bustle, hop on one of Seattle's iconic ferries and head to Bainbridge Island, a chill, forested bedroom community across the Sound from Seattle.
It'll take about 40 minutes to reach Bainbridge from downtown, but you'll be rewarded with stunning views, quaint waterfront taverns and cafes, prime kayaking, and the pretty, sandy beach in Fay Bainbridge Park.
On a clear, sunny day you can score great views of Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains, Mt Rainier and Mt Baker. Not only can you picnic here or spread out your beach blanket, Fay Bainbridge Park is on the Cascadia Marine Trail, which links a number of waterfront campsites in the region – perfect for an overnight trip.
7. Denny Blaine Park: best beach for nude sunbathing
South of Madison Park toward the tail of Lake Washington Blvd is Denny Blaine Park. Found at the end of a looping tree-lined lane, the beach is surrounded by an old stone wall that marked the shoreline in the early 1900s.
The lake level dropped 9ft during the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The beach doesn’t have a lifeguard.
It was once well known as a lesbian hangout, but these days it's more of a mixed crowd. It’s also a top-free and clothing-optional beach, so there will be nude sunbathers.
8. Madrona Park: best beach for Mt Rainier views
Down a steep hill from the business district of the same name, Madrona Park is one of the nicest along Lake Washington.
In clear weather, the views of Mt Rainier are fantastic. Swimming is only for hardy souls, however, as the water is icy cold, even in summer. Further south, past the yacht moorage, is Leschi Park, a grassy green space with a children’s play area. There are lifeguards on duty from late June through late August.
9. Lincoln Park: best beach for kayaking
Forest trails, an outdoor heated swimming pool and scenic beaches make Lincoln Park one of Seattle's most underrated parks. Set on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the park features nearly four miles of cycling trails, numerous picnic pavilions and a bathhouse.
A canoe and kayak launch gives you access to the expansive shoreline, and a recently renovated playground makes this a winning park for families.
10. Warren G. Magnuson Park: best beach for swimming
Home to one of the best swimming beaches in Seattle, the historic Warren G. Magnuson Park is located on the shore of Lake Washington. The park also has a boat launch, playground, tennis courts and a butterfly garden. Lifeguards are on duty from late June through Labor Day (noon to 7pm Monday to Friday, from 11am Saturday and Sunday).
Planning Tip: After your swim, be sure to check out the park’s historic district. The brick and metal structures, which were built in the 1930s and 1940s, are in distinct Art Deco and Colonial Revival styles. Public art installations are also scattered throughout the park.
11. Carkeek Park: best beach for a hike
Located in northwest Seattle, Carkeek Park is treasured by locals. In fact, the community is directly responsible for ensuring the preservation of the park’s ecosystem which includes everything from wetlands to forest areas.
Take a hike on one of the many trails, then cool off by diving into the waters of Carkeek Park Beach. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, Kitsap Peninsula and Whidbey Island.
12. Myrtle Edwards Park: best beach to avoid the crowds
After a stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle, head to the neighboring Myrtle Edwards Park. Pocket Beach, one of the smaller and less crowded beaches in the city, is located in the park and it’s a peaceful spot to relax on the sand and take in views of the Olympic Mountains, the Space Needle and Seattle’s iconic cityscape.
Local Tip: Pocket Beach is also a prime spot to see native plants and marine life including salmon and sea urchins.