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This stunning Washington Coast Elopement completely took my breath away! During early October, I had the honor of photographing Katie and Marcus in a breathtaking location overlooking the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Salish Sea is a relatively new term referring to the saltwater inland waterways comprised of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, the Hood Canal, and all the various bodies of saltwater surrounding the Olympic Peninsula, Kitsap Peninsula, and Puget Sound Islands. The name reflects the primacy of the Coastal Salish people, the indigenous tribes that have inhabited the area since before European colonization. It’s a beautiful and melodic name, and it’s so helpful to have an umbrella under which to group all the various bays, inlets, straits, sounds, coves, and harbors.
The Salish Sea is a complex network of coastal waterways and inland marine waters located in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The term “Salish Sea” was officially recognized in 2009 as a way to describe the interconnected marine waters of Washington State, British Columbia, and southwestern Canada.
Named after the Coast Salish people who have inhabited the region for thousands of years, the Salish Sea is characterized by its rich biodiversity, including various fish, marine mammals, and seabirds. The creation of the term “Salish Sea” reflects a collaborative effort to recognize the ecological and cultural importance of this maritime region and promote conservation efforts across international borders.
Eloping on a beach in Washington State is an enchanting choice that weaves the magic of nature into the tapestry of your love story. With its rugged coastlines, mist-kissed shores, and the rhythmic symphony of crashing waves, Washington’s beaches offer a captivating and intimate setting for exchanging vows. Picture the Pacific Northwest’s iconic sea stacks standing as witnesses to your commitment, and the expansive ocean horizon stretching to infinity, mirroring the boundless possibilities of your shared journey.
Choosing a beach elopement in Washington means surrendering to the elemental charm of the Pacific. Whether it’s the windswept beauty of Ruby Beach, the tranquil expanses of Kalaloch, or the dramatic cliffs of Shi Shi Beach, each location offers a unique backdrop for a ceremony that echoes the untamed spirit of your love. The changing hues of a Washington sunset reflecting on the water create a romantic atmosphere, making your beach elopement a visual poem in the natural beauty of the Pacific coastline. It’s more than a ceremony; it’s an immersion into the raw, unspoiled beauty that mirrors the depth and timelessness of your commitment to one another.
This one is somewhat self-explanatory. The Washington coastline extends from the Canadian/US border south to Olympia at the southernmost point of the Puget Sound. It also includes the entire coastline of the Olympic & Kitsap Peninsulas, and the ocean coast south to the border of Oregon. Technically, the Washington Coast could also include the San Juan Islands, Whidbey, Camano, Vashon, & Bainbridge Islands, and all the smaller Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca Islands. But for the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on the Olympic Peninsula & the ocean coast of Western Washington. I’ll cover the Puget Sound Islands & San Juan Islands in a separate article!
So, why should you get married on the Washington Coast? The Washington Coast features some of the most breathtaking vistas, sea stacks, and coniferous evergreen forest in the world. Much of the ocean coastline is pristine, protected Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest land. This makes it incredibly picturesque and nearly untouched. Some of the coastal areas are more difficult to access, but that means there are fewer crowds than at the more popular and easily accessed coastal areas in the Pacific Northwest.
Eloping on the Washington coast offers a range of scenic and romantic options. Here are some picturesque locations along the Washington coast where you can consider exchanging vows:
Known for its sea stacks, driftwood-strewn shores, and breathtaking views, Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula is a popular choice for elopements. Due to the popularity and ease of getting to this spot, I highly recommend choosing a weekday for a sunset timeframe, or sunrise on weekends. Ruby Beach, an enchanting gem on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, captivates visitors with its natural splendor. Known for its iconic sea stacks rising from the shoreline and the weathered remnants of ancient trees, Ruby Beach is a photographer’s dream. The contrasting elements of polished stones, driftwood, and tidal pools against the Pacific’s relentless waves create a dynamic backdrop. Accessible by a short trail, this Pacific Northwest haven offers an intimate connection with nature. This makes Ruby Beach a beloved destination for those seeking the untamed beauty and tranquility of the Washington coast.
The beaches near the town of La Push, including First Beach with its sandy shores and sea stacks, offer diverse settings for intimate ceremonies. Second Beach on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula stands as a coastal gem, accessible through a scenic hike amidst lush coastal greenery. A hidden oasis along the Pacific shoreline, this pristine beach boasts dramatic sea stacks, expansive sandy shores, and captivating tide pools. Reached by traversing through the enchanting coastal forest, Second Beach offers an immersive experience in the untamed beauty of the Pacific Northwest. The rhythmic melody of crashing waves and the panoramic views of the vast ocean make Second Beach an alluring destination, inviting explorers and nature enthusiasts to discover its wild and captivating charm.
Accessible by a scenic hike, Shi Shi Beach boasts pristine sands, sea stacks, and a remote atmosphere, making it a unique and beautiful location for an elopement. Shi Shi Beach, situated along the Olympic Peninsula’s coastline in Washington State, invites adventurers on a scenic hike through vibrant forests and coastal trails. This remote gem captivates with its untamed beauty, showcasing expansive sandy shores, rugged sea stacks, and the hypnotic cadence of Pacific waves. Reached by trekking through the lush surroundings, Shi Shi offers a serene escape, where the coastal wilderness unveils its secrets. Known for its pristine landscapes, tide pools, and panoramic views, Shi Shi Beach stands as an unspoiled haven for those seeking the immersive allure of the Pacific Northwest’s captivating shores.
With its wide sandy shores and iconic sea stacks, Kalaloch Beach provides a stunning backdrop for a coastal ceremony. The views of the Pacific Ocean are breathtaking. Kalaloch Beach, situated within Olympic National Park along Washington State’s rugged coast, lures explorers with its raw and breathtaking beauty. Accessible by trails winding through coastal landscapes, this pristine stretch of shoreline unveils its treasures — from iconic sea stacks to driftwood-strewn sands. Kalaloch’s allure lies in its untamed nature, where the Pacific Ocean’s rhythmic waves create a symphony against the picturesque backdrop. Visitors find solace in the wild charm and panoramic views that define Kalaloch Beach, making it an unforgettable destination on the Pacific Northwest’s enchanting coastline.
Stretching for miles along the southwestern Washington coast, Long Beach Peninsula offers expansive sandy beaches and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, creating a romantic setting for elopements. Extending along the southwestern Washington coast, the Long Beach Peninsula unfolds as a coastal paradise with boundless charm. This expansive stretch of sandy shores invites visitors to explore the Pacific’s vast beauty. Adorned with iconic wooden arches and the world’s longest drivable beach, the peninsula captures the essence of coastal serenity. Lighthouses, charming towns, and the rhythm of crashing waves create an enchanting tableau. The Long Beach Peninsula stands as a cherished retreat, where the raw power of the Pacific meets the tranquil allure of a coastal haven, offering an idyllic escape on Washington’s coast.
Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, this state park features rugged cliffs, historic lighthouses, and panoramic views of the Pacific, providing a dramatic setting for an elopement. Cape Disappointment, situated at the southwestern tip of Washington State, stands as a captivating destination where dramatic cliffs meet the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. This historic headland, featuring two iconic lighthouses, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and panoramic views, reveals the untamed beauty of the region. Majestic sea stacks rise from the turbulent waters, creating a rugged coastal landscape that embodies both maritime history and natural grandeur. Cape Disappointment’s wild charm, enhanced by the haunting echoes of maritime stories, invites exploration and contemplation, making it a must-visit location on the Pacific Northwest’s diverse and dynamic coastline.
Rialto Beach, nestled within Olympic National Park on the Washington coast, is a mesmerizing tapestry of Pacific Northwest beauty. Known for its wild and untamed scenery, the beach features iconic sea stacks, polished stones, and driftwood scattered along its shores. A popular starting point for hikes to Hole-in-the-Wall and beyond, Rialto captivates with its expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and offshore islands. The rhythmic crash of waves against sea stacks, combined with the dramatic coastal landscape, creates an atmospheric setting that embodies the raw and rugged allure of Washington’s coastline.
Salt Creek Recreation Area, situated on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, is a coastal haven blending natural beauty with recreational opportunities. Overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this state park boasts sea cliffs, tide pools, and stunning views of Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains. Popular for camping, hiking, and wildlife observation, Salt Creek State Park also features the historic WWII-era bunkers of Camp Hayden. Its rugged shoreline and maritime ambiance make it a beloved destination, offering a serene escape with a rich blend of outdoor adventure and Pacific Northwest coastal charm.
Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States, is a coastal gem on the Olympic Peninsula. Accessible via a short trail, this rugged headland offers a mesmerizing panorama of the Pacific Ocean meeting the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The dramatic cliffs, sea stacks, and crashing waves create a wild and picturesque seascape. Home to the Makah Tribe, Cape Flattery is steeped in indigenous history and showcases the untamed beauty that defines the Pacific Northwest coastline, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the sublime allure of nature.
Agate Beach Lodge, perched along the picturesque coastline of Washington State, offers a seaside retreat where coastal charm meets modern comfort. With unobstructed views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this lodge provides a tranquil escape for those seeking the rhythmic melody of crashing waves and panoramic horizons. The thoughtfully designed accommodations reflect a harmonious blend of relaxation and sophistication, inviting guests to unwind in the embrace of the Pacific Northwest’s coastal allure. Agate Beach Lodge stands as a coastal haven, where the beauty of the natural surroundings converges with warm hospitality, creating a memorable retreat on the shores of Washington State.
Seabrook, gracing Washington State’s Pacific Coast, emerges as a charming coastal town where captivating architecture meets natural beauty. Perched along the scenic shoreline, Seabrook captivates with its coastal cottages, vibrant town center, and a picturesque landscape overlooking the Pacific. This thoughtfully designed community seamlessly blends with its surroundings, creating an inviting atmosphere for those seeking a coastal retreat. A stroll along Seabrook’s streets reveals a blend of coastal elegance and small-town charm, making it a cherished destination on the Washington coast where visitors can unwind amidst the serenity of the Pacific Northwest.
Fort Worden, nestled on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, is a historic gem with captivating coastal charm. Once a military base, its century-old structures and sweeping views of the Puget Sound beckon visitors. The fort’s historic buildings house museums, art centers, and accommodations, creating a unique blend of history and culture. Strolling along the sandy shores or exploring the bunkers, visitors experience the maritime legacy and natural beauty that define Fort Worden. Today, it serves as a state park, offering a serene retreat with scenic landscapes and a glimpse into the region’s rich maritime past.
When planning your elopement, be sure to check local regulations, obtain any necessary permits, and consider the specific ambiance and features of each location to find the one that best suits your preferences for a romantic and intimate celebration on the Washington coast. Also of importance is that you consider accessibility — if you’re bringing any guests, you may want to opt for a location with minimal walking or hiking, bathroom facilities, and paved trails. If you plan to bring a four-legged friend, consider any regulations regarding dogs for that specific location. In Olympic National Park, dogs are generally not allowed on trails, with the exceptions of Kalaloch beach, the Spruce Railroad trail, and parking lots and campgrounds. Service animals, dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability, are allowed wherever visitors are allowed within the park.
Here are general steps that are typically involved in obtaining a marriage license in Washington State:
It’s crucial to verify the current requirements and procedures with the local County Auditor’s Office or their official website.
You don’t need to pay an entrance fee to access the coastal areas of Olympic National Park. However, if you want to visit certain fee areas of the park during your trip like Hurricane Ridge, the Sol Duc area, or the Hoh Rainforest, you will need to pay an entrance fee. Keep your receipt, as the fee is good for entrance at any of the various fee areas of the park for 7 days.
If you’re planning to have your ceremony in Olympic National Park with an officiant, witnesses and any guests, you’ll need to apply for a Special Use Permit from Olympic National Park. I recommend doing this well before the date of your elopement!
Obtaining a Special Use Permit for Olympic National Park involves a specific process outlined by the National Park Service. Here are general steps to guide you, but it’s crucial to contact the park directly or visit their official website for the most current and detailed information:
There are hundreds of airbnb’s throughout the entire Washington Coast. AirBnB hosts generally take enormous pride in offering lodging in the beautiful, rural areas of western Washington. Many of them offer unique and scenic accomodations A few of my favorites are:
Some of the best options for traditional lodging are the lodges of Olympic National Park: Kalaloch Lodge, Lake Quinault Lodge, Lake Crescent Lodge, & the Log Cabin Resort. I also recommend Emerald Valley Inn, the George Washington Inn, Agate Beach Lodge, and the Resort at Port Ludlow.
There are a handful of National Park, National Forest, State Park, and private campgrounds located conveniently to the coastal areas of Washington State. I recommend Salt Creek State Park west of Port Angeles, Kalaloch, Mora, Fairholme, Hoh Rainforest, and Lake Quinault Campgrounds in Olympic National Park, and Sequim Bay State Park. Private campgrounds include Crescent Bay, Shadow Mountain at Lake Sutherland, and BLANK, among others.
Northwest Washington State, including areas around cities like Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, experiences a temperate marine climate. Here are some key characteristics of the climate in this region:
It’s important to note that there can be variations within the region, and microclimates exist due to the diverse geography. It can be raining in Port Angeles on the North Olympic Peninsula and sunny just 30 minutes east in Sequim! The Cascade Range, for example, creates a rain shadow effect, leading to drier conditions on the eastern side. When planning activities or travel in Northwest Washington, it’s advisable to check the specific weather conditions for the area you’ll be visiting.
The best time to elope on the Washington Coast often depends on personal preferences and the type of experience you will enjoy the most. However, many couples find that late spring through early fall tends to offer favorable conditions for a coastal elopement:
While these months are generally favorable, keep in mind that weather on the Washington Coast can be unpredictable, and rain is possible year-round. Always check local weather forecasts and consider your personal preferences when choosing the best time for your coastal elopement.
Since the Washington Coast is a pretty vast area, I will mention a few of my favorite places to eat throughout the region. If you choose to work with me for your Washington Coast elopement, I’m always happy to provide more specific recommendations based on the locations you choose and your preferences.
It’s important to select vendors who know the area and the challenges in sourcing materials and getting around! Here are some of my favorites:
Rentals: Rivers Edge Farmstead
Hair & Makeup: It’s Likely Makeup by Min
Hey there! Welcome to my blog—Make yourself comfy and look around! As an Olympic Peninsula, Olympic National Park, San Juan Islands, Seattle, Whidbey Island, and destination wedding photographer, I want to be a resource for you as you put together your own wedding day. Browse around, have a look, and let me know your questions! I'm so happy you're here, and I hope you want to get in touch so we can chat about your wedding day.