Editors note: This article was written by Barry Zander and is used by permission.
With the help of the Military Campground website instructions [which we have updated], our GPS, two locals, a visiting surfer dude and a map provided at the Coast Guard station, it only took us 1½ hours to find the campground once we arrived in this remote, small, quaint, seaside community of Westport on Grays Harbor.
Should be easy to find, since we are looking for the observation platform and/or the tallest lighthouse in Washington State. It wasn’t because we were looking for the Coast Guard Station first, and the signage to the station and the lighthouse is on 105 Spur, not SR 105/Montesano St. The USCG map spells the name of the street we needed “Forest.” The GPS, local map and street signs spell it “Forrest.” But, the trick is that “W. Wilson” becomes Forrest, and our GPS directed us to “East Wilson,” which ends in a parking lot by the ocean. The GPS told us to “turn left off-road,” which would have put us in a grassy marsh.
Once we got past those hurdles, we drove by the lane we needed. Not finding anything that looked suitable for an RV else except a state park, we made a U-turn and found a path, which I walked before driving in. We had arrived.
The campground entrance is up a very narrow gravel road leading to the Grays Harbor Lighthouse. A chain guards the roadway during the day allowing lighthouse visitors to walk up the road, and at night there is a locked gate blocking entrance. Campers need to pick up keys to the lock and to bathrooms from the Officer of the Day at the C.G. station, about two miles away. It may sound amusing now, but it wasn’t when we were passing the same Chevron station back and forth, time and again.
Back to the campground -- Volunteer RVers man the lighthouse, one at the base to collect $5 per person for non-military; the other, 135 steps up the circular tower. For manning their posts six hours a day Friday through Monday, they get a free camping space (48 hours a week total). The campground and lighthouse are closed from November 1 through April 30. Cost to climb to the top is $5, waived for active and retired military.
The lighthouse tenders park their RV at the camp but have no other information about the campground. There is no camp host, but the affable jack-of-all-trades Greg Barnes, head of the Westport street department plus other jobs, takes care of the facility, usual coming by every other day to clean up and empty trash.
The campground, a short hike from the Pacific, has five RV sites (maximum size – 36’) plus an overflow and six tent sites. Well maintained, it is a very comfortable place to camp. While we were here, we did see a big Cardinal 5th wheel make it out the narrow road without a problem.
Immediately upon arriving, we called Seattle to let them know we wanted to extend four more days. The campground is comfortable, with water and 30 amp hook-ups, plus a small dump. The men’s and women’s bathrooms each have a shower with plenty of hot water.
We found the people in Westport on Grays Harbor to be very friendly, and everything we needed was available, including plenty of fresh fish and crabs. (Pick up your oysters at Brady’s outside of Aberdeen on the way over.) You might expect that because there are fishing charters and sightseeing available, plus several motels and RV campgrounds that this would be a tourist town. It’s not. It’s just a village by the sea, thriving on the commercial fishing industry, cranberry production, forestry and the small Coast Guard contingent.
It’s a long way off the beaten trail, but worth the effort as a great place to get away. We decided that it doesn’t get snowbirds going up or down the coast because Canadians don’t stay at U.S. military installations and Washington residents most likely just scoot down I-5 to reach their winter quarters.
One more note: we arrived in time to attend the Dock of the Bay Blues Festival. We’ve been to many, but this was one of the best we’ve been to and it benefits wounded Army troops at Ft. Lewis in Tacoma.