Home Features Seas the Day

Seas the Day

by Kate Calamusa
Seas the Day Feature

Nestled among the shores, coves and inlets of the Salish Sea lies a hidden treasure trove for adventurers, nature lovers, and marine enthusiasts—the state’s diverse array of marine parks. From secluded bays to windswept beaches and thriving underwater ecosystems, these protected areas offer a captivating blend of natural wonders and recreational opportunities that beckon explorers to immerse themselves in the Northwest’s coastal paradise. Washington’s marine parks are more than just destinations—they are gateways to a world where land and sea intertwine, and where memories have been etched in the hearts of many boaters. And our state marine parks system has many crowning glories: The well-known and well-traversed Deception Pass State Park that spans both Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands; the tranquil Sucia Island State Park, an idyllic, boaters-only retreat; and Blake Island, which offers stunning city skyline views. But perhaps it’s time to go beyond the likes of the beloved Blake and find a new retreat, as myriad other marine playgrounds lie just south and within easy reach of the city. Pack up a picnic, snag a change of clothes, grab the dog’s leash, and cast off to one of these dreamy day trip destinations.


Cutts Island beckons boating enthusiasts and adventurers alike to explore its rugged shores, lush forests, and hidden coves. Located due north of McNeil Island and the Carr Inlet, and just a half-mile ride from Kopachuck State Park on the mainland, this charming island offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor activities, and serene seclusion.

Depart from nearby marinas such as Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard or Jerisich Dock in Gig Harbor, or Narrows Marina in Tacoma, to begin your journey. As you approach the isle, marvel at the sea-carved cliffs, pristine beaches, and lush greenery adorning its shores. Slow down to soak in the panoramic views and capture memorable photos of this coastal gem. Seek out sheltered anchorages such as the calm waters near the southern tip or the eastern side facing Carr Inlet. Drop anchor and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, perhaps indulging in a refreshing swim or beachcombing adventure.

Launch your kayak or paddleboard from your boat and explore the island’s shoreline up close. Glide through narrow passages, venture into secluded coves, and observe marine life such as seals, seabirds, and maybe even playful dolphins. Disembark onto Cutts Island’s shores and follow hiking trails that wind through dense forests and meadows. The island offers opportunities for birdwatching, with sightings of bald eagles, herons, and other coastal avian species. Picnic spots with scenic views can be found near the beaches or atop rocky outcrops offering panoramic vistas of Puget Sound.

Kopachuck State Park boasts two miles of easy hiking trails, great for walking your dog or to enjoy a walk among the beautiful trees. Unsheltered picnic tables and picnic shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and often offer stunning views at sunset. The beach is a great place for summer swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding or snorkeling at the underwater park. Should you wish to stay overnight, mooring fees for buoys can be paid at Kopachuck for both Cutts Island and the beach buoy at Kopachuck.


Tucked in between McNeil and Anderson Islands due west of Steilacoom, Eagle Island is a great place to moor or anchor your boat for a few hours. Gaze at the splendor of Mount Rainier, relax on the beach, and watch harbor seals close to the shore, especially during pup season as the seals will often rest on the beach during low tide. (A gentle reminder: Bring your binoculars and be sure to keep your distance!)

Those binoculars will be well used as sea otters, sea birds, and, naturally, bald eagles all call the island and surrounding waters home. Launch kayaks or paddleboards from your boat and explore the coastline and nearby islets. Glide through calm waters, explore hidden coves, and observe the marine life up close in their natural habitat. Or, you could hop aboard the tender and head ashore to explore the scenic beauty on foot. The park features hiking trails winding through lush forests, offering opportunities for birdwatching, photography, and enjoying panoramic views of Puget Sound.

Nearby Anderson Island beckons boating enthusiasts and nature lovers alike to discover its serene beauty and maritime charm. The southernmost island in the Puget Sound, it offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The island features scenic hiking trails, including the popular Jacob’s Point Trail, offering panoramic views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and surrounding islands. Or you could learn about the island’s rich history and maritime heritage at the Anderson Island Historical Society Museum. Discover exhibits showcasing the island’s early settlers, logging industry, and maritime traditions. Should you be in need of a nibble, the Riviera Lakeshore Restaurant offers delicious seafood, Pacific Northwest cuisine, and scenic views of Puget Sound all from its waterfront deck. Stock up on provisions, snacks, and boating essentials at the Island General Store, conveniently located near the marinas and ferry terminal.

Both Anderson and Eagle islands are easily reached from nearby marinas such as Tacoma’s Foss Harbor Marina or Steilacoom Marina. On Anderson, the Oro Bay Marina provides transient moorage options with amenities such as fuel, pump-out stations, and provisions nearby.


Set on the Key Peninsula, but on opposing sides, Penrose Point and Joemma Beach state parks are both worthy destinations, and together provide a full day of fun. You can access Penrose via the city of Home, which is located three miles from the park. (It’s also right next door to Lakebay Marina & Resort, which is set to become a destination soon in its own right again as the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW) is currently hard at work on its restoration.) This richly forested, 237-acre marine park features nearly two miles of saltwater shoreline, shady campsites, and plentiful crabbing and shellfishing during the appropriate seasons.

Launch kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards from the beach area and explore the calm waters of Mayo Cove. Paddle along the shoreline, venture into hidden coves, or try your hand at fishing for local marine species. Spend a leisurely afternoon beachcombing along Penrose Point’s sandy shores, collecting shells, driftwood, and marine treasures that have washed ashore. Enjoy your lunch with stunning waterfront views, or simply unwind and soak in the natural beauty surrounding you. The picnic area located near the dock boasts tables, braziers, and a fire ring with benches.

Then, after a southerly cruise around the tip of the Key—in which you’d pass the sweet Taylor Bay Park and its serene cove fit for kayaking, just as a hint—you’ll find salty bliss on the bobbing waters of Joemma Beach, which offers a boat ramp and 500 feet of dock space. The dock is available from mid-May through mid-October, offering 30 feet of moorage at low tide. (The park also opens for camping starting May 15th.) A cadre of Douglas firs mix with a canopy of Pacific madrones near the beach and salal, evergreen huckleberry, and ocean spray also abound in this outdoor paradise. Pack up dinner and head to the beach to secure yourself one of the fire pits so that you can enjoy a BBQ as the sun goes down in a blaze of glory.

>> More information on these marine parks can be found via: parks.wa.gov.

Seas the Day
Photo by John Murphey

You may also like

Leave a Comment