Tide Pooling with Kids
Plan your trip by consulting NOAA's Tide Predictor online or by carrying a tide table (especially when exploring the Pacific Coast where you could become trapped by a returning tide). For maximum viewing, time your visit for an hour before low tide.
- Step carefully, avoiding sea creatures
- Touch gently or simply look
- Do not collect shells or animals
- Know Your Tides
- Watch for the returning tide
Tide pooling offers an excellent way to get the kids outside and turn them into budding marine biologists. If you live near Puget Sound, you don't need to travel far. City parks offer some of the best tide pooling around. But if you live elsewhere or crave a little more adventure, there are a number of places farther afield to visit.
Because the tide pool environment is so fragile, kids should be old enough to follow directions and be careful about the sea creatures under their feet. Set clear expectations and be a good role model. While beachcombing and collecting may have been one of your treasured childhood memories, the culture has changed as biologists have witnessed the effect of these actions on the intertidal marine environment. Please do not take home shells or animals; they are all integral components of the ecosystem.
Do outfit your kids with waterproof boots and consider gardening gloves if you are exploring an area with barnacles. Bring a marine field guide to help you identify what you find and a camera to carry your memories back home again. And don't forget the sunscreen!
Tide Pool Hikes
Puget Sound: Deception Pass State Park
Rosario Head at Deception Pass State Park offers an ideal tide pool hike for families. The tide pools are a short walk across the picnic grounds from the parking lot. They are full of a variety of sea life - sea stars, urchins, anemones, small fish and crabs and more - and will delight children. Note the blue rope strung across the rocks. Because this area is so popular, park officials ask that you follow this route, sticking close to it, to prevent further damage to the tide pools.
When you're through with the pools, hike in a clockwise circuit around Rosario Head. The short hike will reveal views across Sharpe Cove and Bowman Bay to Whidbey Island and out to the Rosario Strait and beyond. You'll end up on a high bluff above the water - a perfect place to sit and have a snack before returning. Learn more.
Pacific Coast: Rialto Beach
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary within Olympic National Park offers some of the best intertidal marine environments on the entire Pacific Coast. Because the coast is so rocky, most of the beaches offer excellent tide pooling. Rialto Beach is consider by many to be the finest.
Hike north on the beach about two miles to the far side of Hole-in-the-Wall, the area's most iconic rock formation. On minus tide days, walk though the arch and explore the numerous tidepools on the other side. When the rainbow colored sea stars become too numerous to count, start looking for the smaller creatures: limpets, chitons, snails. Always keep your eye on the tide and the waves, or you may be unpleasantly drenched or trapped until the next low tide. Park officials stress not to cross through Hole-in-the-Wall when the tide begins to cover the floor of the arch. Learn more.
Strait of Juan de Fuca: Salt Creek Recreation Area
Because it is within a county park, the Salt Creek Recreation Area on the Strait of Juan de Fuca may be one of the state's most overlooked gems for both camping and exploring. It's an ideal tide pool environment where rocky bluffs and rocks meet sand. Visit the Tongue Point Marine Sanctuary, a protected intertidal marine area, at low tide (at high tide this area is under water). Here you'll see sea stars, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, crabs, and much more.
Stay for the weekend by camping in one of the 90 sites and spending time exploring the other beaches, the WWII military remains and take a trip over to Olympic National Park's Lake Crescent. Learn more.
In & Around Town:
Can't get out of town? Many of the area's finest tide pooling is found in the backyard of Washington's most populous cities. The following beaches are fine places to introduce kids (and adults) to the rich, intertidal environment around Puget Sound.
- Double Bluff Beach, Whidbey Island
- Mukilteo Lighthouse Park Beach, Mukilteo
- Olympic Beach, Edmonds
- Richmond Beach, Shoreline
- Carkeek Park, Seattle
- Golden Gardens Park, Seattle
- Constellation Park on Alki Point, West Seattle
- Discovery Park, West Seattle
- Seahurst Park, Burien
- Des Moines Beach Park, Des Moines
- Titlow Beach Park, Tacoma
- Owens Beach at Defiance Park, Tacoma
- Priest Point Park, Olympia