Think Seattle, and you might think gray skies and rainy days. Yet the city’s beautiful summers don’t get nearly enough love.
In the longest, warmest months, rainy days are few and far between. You can look forward to clear blue skies and long days that conclude with stunning sunsets as late as 9pm.
Many of Seattle’s multitude of parks are located on the city’s 200 miles (!) of shoreline, and are home to beaches of all kinds. Those looking for a swim, an easy hike or simply a day of relaxation and scenery won’t have any trouble finding a stretch of shoreline that appeals.
From Puget Sound to Lake Washington to Elliott Bay, these are our 12 favorite Seattle beaches.
1. Golden Gardens Park
Best beach for families
Established in 1904 by Harry W Treat, Golden Gardens Park is a lovely 95-acre beach park with sandy beaches north of Shilshole Bay Marina. Here, you’ll find 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, not far from the Ballard neighborhood’s Scandi-cool vibe and plentiful restaurants. Grab a bite, then head up to neighboring Sunset Hill Park, a prime perch for dramatic sunsets and long views over the bay and out toward Bainbridge Island.
2. Discovery Park
Best beach for outdoor adventures
A former military installation ingeniously transformed into a wild coastal green space, 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, it offers a compact cornucopia of cliffs, meadows, dunes, forest and beaches: a healthy microcosm of surrounding Pacific Northwest ecosystems.
Discovery Park boasts a kids’ play area, wonderful beachcombing 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 the route to reach the pretty old lighthouse.
Planning tip: To get there, catch bus 33 from 3rd Ave and Union St downtown.
3. Pocket Beach, Myrtle Edwards Park
Best beach to avoid the crowds
After a stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle, head to 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 skyline.
Local tip: Pocket Beach is also a prime spot to see native plants and marine life, including salmon and sea urchins.
4. Alki Beach Park
Best beach to relax with locals
Slow down a couple of notches on a weekend summer’s afternoon on Alki Beach. 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. You can enjoy a view of the water from plenty of nearby eateries and breweries.
The main part of West Seattle’s favorite beach is sandy – ideal for sandcastle building and 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 for the West Seattle Water Taxi from its dock near the Seattle Ferry Terminal downtown – and skip the hassle of parking.
5. Madison Park
Best beach for sunbathing
Follow the old trolley route down E Madison St to Seattle’s original seaside resort. Today, Madison Park Beach beckons 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 get to 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. Denny Blaine Park
Best beach for nude sunbathing
South of Madison Park, toward the tail of Lake Washington Blvd, is Denny Blaine Park. 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.)
It was once well-known as a lesbian hangout, but these days it draws more of a mixed crowd. It’s also a top-free and clothing-optional beach, so there will be nude sunbathers. The beach doesn’t have a lifeguard.
7. 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 takes about 40 minutes to reach Bainbridge from downtown, after which 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. If you want to do more than just picnic or spread out your beach blanket here, Fay Bainbridge Park is on the Cascadia Marine Trail, which links a number of waterfront campsites in the region – perfect for an overnight trip.
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. Set on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the park features nearly 4 miles of cycling trails, numerous picnic pavilions and a bathhouse. A canoe and kayak launch gives you access to the expansive shoreline, and a playground makes this a winning park for families.
10. Green Lake Park
Best beach for a workout
A favorite hunting ground for runners with strollers, 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 – turning Green Lake stagnant and filling it with stinky green algae. Massive dredging efforts to keep Green Lake navigable continue, although the lake does remain prone to algae blooms.
Two paths wind around the lake, yet 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.
Planning tip: West Green Lake Beach, a sandy swimming area 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.
11. Warren G Magnuson Park
Best beach for swimming
Home to one of the best swimming beaches in Seattle, historic Warren G Magnuson Park is on the shore of Lake Washington. The park 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, built in the 1930s and 1940s, are in distinct art deco and Colonial Revival styles. Public art installations are also scattered throughout the park.
12. 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.