Corner of Dayton Street and Admiral Way
Olympic Beach Park is right in the middle of the waterfront and is the first of three public beach areas in close proximity to each other. It’s the most urban of the waterfront parks in its design. The park boasts a large pier, sea-themed public art, and a sand beach below a cement bulkhead which carries the Edmonds Marine Walkway. If sand castle building is on the day’s agenda this is the park you want. It’s a small but very attractive park.
The view from Olympic Beach is the most obstructed of the waterfront parks because of the marina and pier on the south side and the ferry terminal to the north. However, if you walk out on the long pier you will be treated to the best view in downtown Edmonds. From out on the pier you get a sweeping view of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, Mt. Baker, and the ferry terminal.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach because it’s a marine sanctuary. (There is a dog park at Marina Beach.)
Olympic Beach Park is easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there because it’s mostly hidden from the street behind buildings. See the parking info and driving directions in the Things to Know section below for details on finding the park. For this preview I’ll start at the south end of the park and move north.
At the Dayton Street entrance is a mini plaza with several benches. They are all memorial benches and it’s interesting to read the custom messages on the dedication plaques.
Straight ahead on the left is a small brick building which houses the public restrooms and a tiny visitor center. I’ve never been in the center so I’m not sure what it offers. It’s apparently only open on weekends.
Past the restrooms is the Edmonds Marina to the left and the entrance to the pier straight ahead. Two picnic tables are located to the right and left of the pier entrance.
When standing near the pier entrance, if you look back over your left shoulder you will spy the Eatery & Ice Cream in the bottom floor of the building that is home to Arnies restaurant. This sandwich and ice cream shop may not officially be part of the park but I would be remiss in not mentioning it. Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone at the seaside?
The walk out onto the pier is a bit long because it extends beyond the marina breakwater, so may look slightly daunting for those with serious mobility issues who can’t walk far without resting, but it’s worth the effort. Along the way look down into the water to see if you can spy any crabs or starfish lurking among the rocks.
Once out on the pier’s cross-section there are benches aplenty. Many of them are in small shelters, so it’s a great spot even if it’s rainy or windy. The views from the pier are fantastic.
If you’re interested in sea birds the pier is the best place to go of all the Edmonds beach parks. You never know what you’ll see. Joe Sweeny is a Seattle birder and often posts photos of interesting sightings from the Edmonds pier on his blog. Quite a few species swim and fly right around the pier, but to make the most if it you’ll want a long lens or binoculars.
Back on shore, across from the restrooms, is the start of the narrow park lawn and beach. There are two picnic tables on the lawn and several benches along the walkway. These are great spots for watching seagulls, cormorants, ferries, and people.
All throughout the park are pieces of art ranging from life-size statues to more subtle bits tucked in here and there. Even the top surface of the cement bulkhead is worked in a way that is reminiscent of how waves make rippled patterns in sand.
In the corner near the bathrooms is a curved staircase down to the sand that is more a functional art installation than easy beach access, as the stairs are a bit steep with a high step height.
When the tide is in the water comes right up to the cement bulkhead, making most or all of the beach disappear. But the small section of sand at the base of the art steps is often still uncovered.
Near the north end of the park are normal steps that lead down to the beach from the walkway and they are much easier to navigate for anyone not spry, especially since they have railings.
The Beach Place entrance to the park brings you out near these steps, so is the most convenient entrance for those with mobility issues, especially if you won’t be going out on the pier.
Beyond the north end of the park is a short stretch of private property. The Edmonds Marine Walkway breaks off here, and in order to continue on to the next public area you have to use the beach crossover. At high tides there may be no beach to use for this, in which case you need to go out to Railroad Avenue and use the sidewalk there to continue walking north.
The beach in front of the private property is also private, with the public only being allowed a 10′ crossing zone. You’ll see people ignoring this all the time, but be a good citizen and don’t play or linger on the private beach.
The public beach starts again near the wood bulkhead of the Senior Center parking lot. You can use stairs to get up to the lot to get back to the Marine Walkway, or stay on the sand if the tide is low enough. (I’ll cover that beach area in the next preview.)
Olympic Beach is the best of the Edmonds waterfront parks for barefoot walks on sand, public art, and for those who prefer a slightly more urban ambience. Like all the waterfront parks it’s a great spot to visit any time of year in almost any kind of weather.
Things to Know
6 am – 10 pm
Two picnic tables near the entrance to the pier.
Two picnic tables on the lawn.
Numerous benches in the mini plaza, out on the pier, and along the walkway.
Located in the small brick building at the plaza.
Parking is free and limited to 3 hours.
There is a parking lot in front of the Edmonds Bay Building between Dayton Street and Beach Place. At first glance it looks like a private lot for the building, but only the row of spaces closest to the building are reserved spots. The rest of the lot is public pier and beach parking, with a few handicap spaces provided.
There are also three public parking spots right in front of the park at the end of Beach Place, one of which is a handicap slot. These are the most convenient parking spaces for those with serious mobility issues.
Street parking is available on Railroad Avenue (which runs north from Dayton Street to the ferry terminal) and Admiral Way. The Admiral Way street parking nearest the park’s mini plaza entrance is frequently full, regardless of day or season.
If you’re going to the pier it’s easiest to park at the south end of the lot and head through the plaza at the end of Dayton Street. If you’re going directly down to the beach it’s easiest to park at the north end of the lot and enter the park from Beach Place, as that will bring you out right near the beach steps.
The ease of finding parking is difficult to predict as the park is popular year-round. On weekdays it’s not usually a problem. On weekends you just have to take your chances. When I was there on a very sunny and very busy mid-January Sunday there were quite a few parking spots still available. On a mid-July weekend it’s not unusual to get lucky, but all nearby spots could be taken.
The parking situation is helped by the fact that a lot of people walk here from other downtown locations.
Olympic Beach Park is popular year-round and heavily used by both locals and people from outside the area. But since this park is in the middle of the waterfront, a lot of people just pass through on the walkway or beach, rather than staying in the park for long periods, especially in winter. In warmer months you can expect more people setting up for picnics and longer stays.
This isn’t a park to visit if you’re looking to get away from it all due to the heavy foot traffic and lack of room to spread out. But it is a great park for people watching.
Olympic Beach is the best of the Edmonds beach parks for bird watching because of the pier where a wide variety of species can be seen, especially in winter and during migrations.
I’ve seen: Bewick’s wren (in the plaza), surf scoter, eared grebe, rock pigeon, Bonapart’s gull, Thayer’s gull, double-crested cormorant. (I’ve only been on the pier once, so a limited list.)
From shore: marina boats, ferries, birds, public art.
From pier: Olympic Mountains, Mt. Baker, birds, boats, ferries, sunsets.
Best light: morning for Olympics, morning or afternoon for the rest, sunset.
Brackett’s Landing, Marina Beach, Edmonds Marsh, Arnies restaurant, ferry ride.
Eatery & Ice Cream – this blog post is from 2013 so prices will have changed, the Eatery doesn’t have its own website.
If you’re coming from outside the surrounding area there is a best way to get to Olympic Beach Park. If you’re arriving from the north it looks out-of-the-way to use this route, but trust me, this is much easier than driving through congested Lynnwood traffic with all the stop lights. The speed limit is 40 mph for at least half the distance using this route.
From I-5 take the Highway 104 exit for the Edmonds ferry and head west.
Follow the highway, pass under Hwy 99, and keep going for quite a distance. Once you pass straight through a major intersection with shopping centers stay in the right lane and look for the ferry signs.
As you start to head down the hill the highway will split in two and you want the right branch as if you’re taking the ferry.
After the road curves around and flattens out you will come to a traffic light. Turn left at the light onto Dayton Street.
Cross over the train tracks and turn right into the parking lot.
Part 3: Brackett’s Landing South