Recipe for relaxation: Get up, make coffee, walk to the tide pools and look for treasures. Go exploring during the day in nearby Port Angeles or the northern side of Olympic National Park. Come happy hour, sit outdoors and enjoy the views over the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. Repeat daily for one week.
We first stayed at Salt Creek Recreation Area four years ago at the beginning of our full-time travels. It was just as good as we remembered—actually, even better this time, because our fellow full-time traveling buddies Pam and John were staying nearby and we met up for several fun adventures together.
Tide Pooling And More Tide Pooling
On the day we arrived, Pam and John joined us for an afternoon of exploring the tide pools at Tongue Point, a half-mile walk from our campsite. We had fun catching up after not having seen each other for far too long.
Walking down to the tide pools is always a small but delightful adventure—you never know what you’re going to find, and we never tire of looking. I always hope to find something unusual—an octopus, perhaps. No octopi, but we found all kinds of creatures, including some that we’ve never before seen. As a marine preserve, there’s no harvesting allowed at Tongue Point, which the mussels must be happy about. I’ve never seen so many mussels. They would have made a delicious dinner.
Exploring Port Angeles
Port Angeles, a pretty little seaport town, is 15 miles east. The views of San Juan de Fuca are outstanding, and the beautiful sculptures and murals scattered along the waterfront add to the ambience. We were intrigued to see that street signs are lettered in the native Klallam language as well as English.
The outstanding Olympic Discovery Trail runs along the waterfront. It’s mostly flat and has excellent views—in my opinion, the perfect bike trail. We first biked three miles to Ediz Hook, where we looked back across the bay toward Port Angeles.
After biking back to town for a delicious lunch at Jasmine Bistro, we headed out for a six-mile ride in the opposite direction along the waterfront toward Sequim. (A stop for lunch at a nice café adds a certain élan to a biking expedition. But we did forgo an IPA to accompany our grilled shrimp salad, lest the desire for biking fall by the wayside.)
Along the bike path we spotted a family of river otters, who entertained us for 20 minutes with their over-the-top cuteness and antics. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them, but they grew bored with us long before we lost interest in them.
Along with the wonderful art installations along the waterfront, Port Angeles has a small Fine Arts Center with frequently changing exhibits. The lovely mid-century modern home that houses the center is alone worth the visit.
An interesting building with a replica of a dugout canoe over the entrance caught our eye while driving through town. The Elwha Klallam Heritage Center is beautifully designed, and was inspired by the structure of traditional longhouses. Inside are small but well-done displays of ancient tribal artifacts and contemporary Native American artwork.
There’s also an excellent exhibit on the Elwha River, part of the ancestral lands of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. The river has recently been freed from a century of dams that wiped out the salmon runs and severely affected the tribal culture and economy. After the removal of the dams in 2012 and 2014, the salmon immediately started to return. It’s nothing short of miraculous; to have this opportunity to start over and to right something that was an environmental and cultural disaster.
Oh! And the farmers’ market. There’s a small, but very good farmers’ market on Saturday mornings in downtown Port Angeles. We came away with pastured eggs, smoked salmon, enormous bunches of organic kale and salad greens, grass fed local beef, and more. There’s a first-rate natural foods store in Port A as well (Country Aire Natural Foods) where we found everything we needed to restock after our previous week in the wilds of Olympic National Park.
About the campground: You will not be alone here. Locals love Salt Creek Recreation Area, and book far ahead for their favorite spots. But despite the popularity, it doesn’t feel crowded or crazy. The RV section is arranged in tiers, offering good views for everyone.
The front row is first-come, first-served, which is great if you don’t want to plan ahead. That’s where we stayed on our first visit to the park. This time I booked in advance, and we discovered that we prefer the upper tier. The sites seem to be further apart, and feel more private because they back up to a huge open field.
The RV sites have water and electric, there’s a nearby older but adequate bathhouse, and a dump station. Be prepared to do without internet and cell coverage, because it doesn’t exist. (The tide pools and views make up for the lack of coverage.) But you can get coverage as soon as you leave the park (seriously, right at the entrance) and there’s a very nice library in Port Angeles with internet.
It was a relaxing and fun-filled week. Next time, we might even return for two.
Next Up: A Wonderful Hike in the Sol Duc Rainforest