Let’s head out on an oyster shaped loop to find some succulents delicacies of the shallows of Hood Canal to either eat, photograph or just enjoy a day in your parks. This 78-mile trip will take you past some prime oyster gathering beaches plus a few farms and stores to buy these tasty bivalves-if you happen to show up in the wrong season or are unlucky in your harvest. And with any of these road-trips, there’s plenty of opportunity to photograph the beauty the state has to offer.
Just a note here that if you plan on harvesting oysters, check the WFWD for licensing, requirements, and seasons.
This is a road trip where the beaches are filled with the empty oyster shells of previous harvests for both human consumption and animal – racoons and gulls love slurping a raw oyster on the half-shell. When I come to these beaches for photographs, I look for scenics of hood canal as well as details of the beaches and textures of the oyster shells themselves – I use my shorter lens for these types of images. Because these beaches offer an abundance of food for other critters as well, be prepared with a long lens in your bag, just in case you can catch a gull lifting off to drop its find on the rocks below. Low tide is better for harvesting, but anytime is a great time for photography.
Our first stop along the way is Kitsap Memorial State Park, just north of Poulsbo on the eastern shore of Hood Canal. In the summer months, this park is popular with the wedding crowd and for good reason, the park is tucked into grand douglas-firs with views of Hood Canal and the Olympics beyond. Sunrise can be wonderful from here as the early morning sunlight reflects off the mountains. And sunsets aren’t too bad either. At high tide, the beach is almost non-existent but low tide exposes the treasures the waves conceal.
Next, we’ll cross the Hood Canal floating bridge to the little oft-forgotten Shine Tidelands State Park. Some think of this park as a little wayside, someplace with an outhouse for a quick bathroom break. And most might poo-poo the idea of this little beach of being photogenic, but I challenge you to look closer. To watch the eagles fly overhead. To watch the ducks swim in the marsh. To watch sunset and moonrise over Hood Canal. It is a small respite close to highway 104 yet peaceful.
We’ll head back out to highway 104 west to catch highway 101 south and our first stop along the way is Dosewallips State Park. With over 1000 acres to explore and 5 miles of beach front, this park is a destination for all adventurers. Oyster gathering is done on the beaches east of highway 101 – those beaches also hold sweeping views of Hood Canal and the Kitsap Peninsula. The shoreline here can be muddy and the marsh grasses evolved for the harsh conditions of saltwater habitat and show it by being coarse to the touch. The shoreline ripples along water’s edge to add rhythm to your images.
Once you tear yourself away from the flats of Dosewallips, travel south for 10 miles to little Triton Cove. The views aren’t expansive in this little boat put-in, but the beach is littered with oyster shells ready for a macro lens to work with textures and patterns. I can often get lost in these little details, but we have more parks to visit so let’s hop back into the car and continue south 29 miles to Potlatch State Park near the southern “hook” of Hood Canal and the Skokomish Indian Reservation. The term Potlatch comes from the of the indigenous people of the coastal Pacific Northwest and means a ceremonial feast where gifts are given and exchanged. And the gift of this park is the delicious oysters we are looking for.
If you are not into harvesting your own oysters, stop in Hamma Hamma along the way at the oyster beds and restaurant. Or go a little further to Union to a few of the shops there.
The views from Potlatch are not as expansive as Dosewallips closer to the mouth of Hood Canal, but you will still find beauty in the landscape. The beach here is again muddy with rocks and oyster shells, perfect for beach details.
One last park to visit as we drive around the hook of Hood Canal and through the town of Union. Just north of Union on highway 106 is Twanoh State Park. Because of it’s relative closeness to Bremerton, the oyster gatherers are often found along its shores. A few old CCC building s and long high docks add interest to your landscapes here and because we are now facing west, we have views of the southern Olympics across the water.
These parks have so much more to explore than just the shoreline and oyster beds. There is beauty here in all that the park holds. It’s easy to spend a day or a weekend along the beaches of Hood Canal.
Directions from Bainbridge Island: (Mileages are approximate)
To Kitsap Memorial State Park: From the ferry terminal, follow highway 305 through Bainbridge Island for 13 miles to merge onto highway 3 north just beyond Poulsbo. Drive highway 3 for 4 miles to turn left on NE Park St.
To Shine Tidelands State Park: Head back to highway 3 and turn north towards Hood Canal Bridge and cross the bridge in 3 miles – this gets you onto highway 104. As you get to the other side of the bridge, turn right to the park.
To Dosewallips State Park: Continue on highway 14 west. Take the exit (right exit) to Center Rd in 9.5 miles and head south to Quilcene and the junction with highway 101 in 8 miles. Follow highway 101 for 12 miles to the park. There are 2 entrances to the park. On the west side of the highway is the camp area and trails through the forest. On the east side of the highway is access to the shoreline and oyster gathering.
To Triton Cove State Park: Continue south on highway 101 for 8 miles. The entrance to the park is on the east side of the highway.
To Potlatch State Park. Back on highway 101 south, drive 20.5 miles to the park. The day use area is on the east side of the highway and camping is on the west side of the highway. As you are driving, you will go through the towns of Hamma Hamma and Hoodsport. Pick up oysters in Hamma Hamma and stop for ice cream and coffee in Hoodsport.
To Twanoh State Park: Continue south on highway 101 to the junction with highway 106 at Skokomish and head east towards the town of Union. There are a few additional places along this route to pick up oysters. Once on highway 106, it is 12 miles to the park. The campground is on the east side of the highway and the day use with oyster gathering is on the west side of the highway.