Sunday, September 19, 2010

Around Ilwaco

I enjoyed spending time in Ilwaco, Wash., with long-time friend, Skyler, whom I've known since we were 12 years old and who is an enthusiastic resident of the town, a real thinks-of-everything tour guide. She should turn pro.

My time on the Long Beach Peninsula (Ilwaco is at the southern tip) was pretty much divided into three parts, as follows.

Friday -- raining

I got to see the "real" Ilwaco, the one the locals all enjoy while tourists flee for dry cover in motels and Marsh's Free Museum in Long Beach.

The first stop was the Old Towne Trading Post on Lake Street, where Lucky patiently sits waiting for a dog biscuit (hint: there are some complimentary ones on the counter inside). The people food is good, too. In case you're wondering, Lucky was so named when now-owner Chester rescued him as he was heading for the animal shelter.

Across the street is the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum (be sure to look at this website: very nicely done!), filled with interesting displays of the area's history. Skyler rushed me past Indian artifacts and Coast Guard items to show me the display that represents an old coastal town. I love peeking in the windows of old towns!

Afterward we looked at the spiffy narrow gauge railroad car built in 1885 that once hauled passengers along the peninsula on what was called the Clamshell Railroad. You can also watch a miniature train run through a diorama depicting the peninsula in 1925. It costs a quarter to make the train go. Do not be upset if the train derails; apparently, this happens frequently. Consider it a bonus thrill.

My apologies for blurry photos (I guess the derailed train did upset me after all; my hands were shaking), but I thought you'd like to see parts of the diorama, including the wreck.

After the excitement of the museum, Skyler led me along the port, where rows of boats, many of them fishing vessels, are docked. There are also plenty of art galleries and places to eat (we enjoyed fish at OleBob's) and of course a book store, Time Enough Books, with its own dog. Look carefully at the sign and see if you recognize how the store got its name (hint: Twilight Zone).

Saturday -- not raining . . . until afternoon

After a soggy grey Friday, Saturday dawned bright and sunny, to the joy and relief of the vendors at the Ilwaco Saturday Market.

I'll show you just a few of the photos I took. I heartily recommend a visit when it opens again the first weekend in May. Its location next to the docks is spectacular, and the variety of items for sale will thrill shoppers. Unfortunately, there's not much produce or even baked goods, so you can't honestly call it a farmers market. Still, it's a fun place to hang out on a Saturday morning.

In the afternoon, I stopped at the lavender farm just south of town, which was an adventure all its own and which I wrote about in my September 18 blog.

Then it started raining. Well, what do you expect?


Woven into the days of my visit were extraordinary meals. Here are some I remember well.

A tight squeeze in this tiny cafe, but wonderful food, great atmosphere. I enjoyed lunch with my friend Carolyn, who lives in Astoria -- across the Columbia River from the peninsula-- and so it was good company as well as delicious food. I stuffed myself with a savory crepe and then peanut butter pie for dessert. On the menu was hot milk with honey -- soothing! Just be sure to stir occasionally; I found most of my honey at the bottom of the cup after I drank the milk.

I was too busy eating to remember to take photos, so here's what was left.

The Depot, Seaview

Charming, friendly, great food. Also crowded, but that's to be expected since they have so much to offer.

I also ate sea beans, grown wild on the beach, for the first time (see first photo below). It's delicious, a rare treat. I've since found out that it is also called sea asparagus, which gives you an idea of how it tastes.

Good food, attractively presented, but you feel like you're dining in a deli. They should make up their minds: lower the prices or spiff up the atmosphere.

Enjoy your own visit

To learn more about what's happening on the Long Beach peninsula, is the go-to website. For more about Ilwaco, including plenty of great photos, the Facebook page Discover Ilwaco is tops.


  1. Uriah (at the Columbian Cafe): I have not tasted your oyster shooters in far too long!

  2. Colleen, I must thank you for telling me about this cafe a few years ago. I ate there then and afterward craved the atmosphere so much I had to return!