Seattle has waterfront galore so when the sun comes out, it might only seem natural to go for a swim. While you could technically hop into our ample Puget Sound shoreline anywhere you wish, not all spots are ideal. For instance, just avoid that urge to jump in the water of the Seattle Waterfront… there are just too many boats and people and it’s probably not legal to jump in there anyway!
But never fear — plenty of Seattle parks have beaches on lakes or Sound shorelines as well as fabulous public pools, so you can cool off on a hot day. Although, don’t count on Puget Sound beaches being warm. Even on the sunniest of days, they typically feature chilly water. For swimming in open water without a wetsuit, you’ll be better off at a lake beach, but sometimes the allure of wading into the water with views of the mountains in the distance is just too great.
While many parks have small beach areas, if your priority is safety, only a select number of beaches have lifeguards on duty, and only during the summer swimming season. The lifeguarded beaches in Seattle also have water quality monitoring throughout the summer.
Tacoma to the south also has plenty to do on hot summer days.
If what you seek is a sandy beach, Golden Gardens Park is among the best. The park has both sandy and grassy areas where you can spread out a towel and bask in the sun. This is a Puget Sound beach so the water is cool all year round. Along with swimming and sand, Golden Gardens has plenty of hiking trails, grills and picnic areas, and spots to play volleyball. Be warned that this is a popular spot on summer days. Get there early and count on some competition for parking spots.
Like Golden Gardens, Alki Beach is a strong option if you want a more traditional feeling beach. Sure, you won’t see a lot of waves (unless a boat goes by), but there’s sand, volleyball courts and fire pits for that beachy atmosphere. This is a Puget Sound beach as well so expect pretty chilly water in the high 40s/low 50s so bring your wet suit if you really want to delve in.
Lake Washington Beaches
Lake Washington has several parks with sandy beach areas worth checking out. Bonus, since this is a lake instead of the Sound, the water temperature is much more approachable!
Madrona Park Beach has a modest sandy and grassy beach area that has lifeguards during swimming hours and a dock you can jump off of. Matthews Beach Park is Seattle’s biggest freshwater beach (but still not a ton of sand) and also has lifeguards on duty during swimming season and a dock for lounging or jumping. While kids wade near the shore, swimmers can go out a little farther and get in some strokes. Also on Lake Washington, Magnuson Park has a pebble shore and a grassy area where you can spread out a towel. The water is pretty shallow and great for kids, but swim out a little farther and adults will find a drop off with more than 10 feet of depth – great for an actual swim. Finally, another Lake Washington beach is the popular Madison Park Beach where you’ll find a diving board and some lovely views to go with your swim.
Green Lake has the advantage of relatively warm water and is a fairly popular swimming spot for kids and adults alike. It's even the location of an annual swimming event you can join in. You don’t have to worry about larger boats like you do on larger lakes like Lake Union (which you can swim in, but it's filled with boats and other water craft so it's not the best spot) or on the Sound, but you might see paddle boarders or kayakers here and there. There can be seaweed in the lake and you should check to be sure bacteria and algae levels in the lake are safe for swimming. Look for signs at the park and check online before you go. It’s also a good idea to shower after you get out of the lake.
If lake or Puget Sound swimming is just not your thing, no worries – Seattle has a number of great public pools as well, including a couple outdoor pools. Arguably chief among them is the 50-meter Colman Pool in West Seattle. First there’s the water. It’s pumped in from the Puget Sound, filtered and heated, making this a salt water pool. Then there’s the amazing view – the pool is just steps away from the Puget Sound so not only can you swim the day away, but you can enjoy some pretty stellar views while you do it. There are also both a high and a low dive as well as a water slide. There is a fee to get in and be sure to check the schedule before you go as some times are set up for lap swimming, lessons or even pool parties and events.
Smaller than Colman Pool, Pop Mounger Pool in the Magnolia neighborhood is 25 yards long, but also heated to 85 degrees. Bonus, it has a second even warmer pool at 94 degrees for lounging or swimming with younger children. The main pool has a water slide as well.
It’s an unfortunate fact that not all summer days in Seattle are sunny. Sometimes an indoor pool is just what you need. Seattle has several public indoor pools that should fit the bill – and often have some perks over the outdoor pools. Ballard Pool, Evers Pool and Meadowbrook Pool, for instance, all have rope swings that allow kids to swing out over the water and drop in. The Rainier Beach Pool has the obligatory large standard pool, as well as a giant slide complete with a lazy river. All of Seattle’s indoor pools include ADA lifts, changing rooms and lifeguards.
Also watch for fun pool party events, like movies projected on a wall during an open swim time with the lights down low.
If you have small children, an alternative to swimming is heading to one of the city’s spray parks. These are filled with water features and plenty of splash zones, but don’t involve getting fully submerged in a pool, cold water or worrying about your kids having swimming skills. Simply don the bathing suits and get ready to get splashed. Spray parks and wading pools are located throughout Seattle, pretty evenly spaced in most neighborhoods, so you don’t have to go far either.