Beaches may not be the first things that come to mind when you think of Tacoma or things to do in a town situated along the Puget Sound—the water is cold, the shores are usually rocky, and the weather is rarely warm enough to bask in the sun.
Nevertheless, there are beaches in Tacoma—sandy beaches, rocky beaches, beaches with water you can get into, and others where you might just want to hang out by the shore. During the summer, the local beaches are popular places for walks, kayaking, picnics and lounging. But don't count the area waterfronts down for the count in the winter. Take a stroll on a chilly day and you'll be one of few people out, which adds a whole new level of beauty.
Perhaps the best-known Tacoma beach is Owen Beach, located in Point Defiance Park in North Tacoma. This beach features a rare stretch of sand, as well as some rocky shore and some nearby grassy areas too. On nice days, there are often many people here lounging on the sand. Some people (mostly young kids and dogs) splash in the water, but the Puget Sound is cold and not great for swimming unless you put on a wetsuit.
Owen Beach is also a great spot for paddlers. You can rent kayaks right on the beach during warmer weather, or take a short walk up the boardwalk to the Point Defiance Marina where you can rent small boats. Facilities include picnic tables, a snack bar and restrooms. To get here, you can follow signs from Five Mile Drive in the park or park at the marina and walk over on the boardwalk.
Titlow Beach is a rocky beach, but is still a lovely place to lounge about on a nice day. The park is located on the western shore of Tacoma at the very end of 6th Avenue. There is a boardwalk along the water and a long stretch of beach (or at least it's long if the tide is out) that is great for beachcombing or hiking. Scuba divers frequent this area, as do kayakers and boaters. When there are extremely low tides, this is one of the best places in the Tacoma area to peek into tide pools as you'll spot all kinds of sea life!
Facilities along the beach include a few picnic tables, a shower and picnic tables. There are also two restaurants located nearby—Steamers and the Beach Tavern, which has a pretty good happy hour. In the adjacent park, you'll also find bathrooms, a playground and trails.
The Waterfront is one of the best areas for recreational pursuits in Tacoma—there is ample room to stroll, benches to sit and people watch, restaurants, and there are beaches here as well. The beaches here do sometimes disappear when the tide is in, but you can still hang out by the water anyway. The Waterfront's beaches are both rocky and sandy, and often have logs and driftwood along them. They are fun for beachcombing and can be found all along Ruston Way, but one of the largest (and sandiest) is near the intersection with McCarver.
American Lake is largely known as a cool place to go boating, but just near the boat launch at 9222 Veterans Drive SW is also a small sandy beach. This is a small beach, but nonetheless can be a big draw for residents who live close by on warm days—so it can be crowded. Unlike the beaches on the Puget Sound, visitors can actually go in the water, but cannot swim too far out due to the boats. This park and beach are ideal for families as the water is warm and there's a nearby playground, too.
Spanaway Lake Park has two small swimming areas along this pretty lake. It's calmer than American Lake as it is not quite as popular with boaters, and can be a quiet spot to take the kids. You can go in the water, but swimming areas are marked and don’t extend too far out into the lake, making them most ideal for families. The park also has playground equipment, picnic facilities and hiking trails.
Sunnyside Beach is a little outside of Tacoma, but not too far away in nearby Steilacoom. Sunnyside Beach has a sandy shore and proves to be a popular spot on sunny days, but it's not impossible to find it quiet and serene early in the morning or just before sunset. Spread out on a blanket or towel and enjoy spectacular views of the Sound and Narrows Bridge in the distance. Amenities include picnic tables, barbecue grills, a playground and bathrooms. There is a small parking fee for people who don't live in Steilacoom.
Dash Point, just north of Tacoma, is known for its sandy beach. Yes, visitors must have a Discovery Pass to use the park, but there are regular free days throughout the year too (check the website for upcoming free days). The beach is not exceedingly long, but is a tucked-away place to look for beach treasures, and you'll find starfish when the tide goes out. It's also a popular beach for skim boarding (kind of like surfing, but without the waves). The park also has campsites if you want to stay the night.
Other beaches are located at lakes in the surrounding areas. Aside from American Lake, Lakewood also has Harry Todd Park at 8928 North Thorne Lane SW. Bonney Lake Park at 7625 West Tapps Highway in Bonney Lake also has swimming areas.