I promise that there will be a French fry review in here somewhere. That being said, the intent of the post is to provide a recap of my family’s recent trip to the Washington coastal town of Ocean Shores. It’s a very common weekend getaway for people in the area. I’ve lived in the Seattle area for about 30 years and somehow had never visited. We decided on this as a vacation spot mostly due to it being within an easy road trip range (about 2.5 hours from home). Pretty convenient trip to bring the dog along as well. The main draw for Ocean Shores is…the ocean. That’s about all we knew before going, so I’m hoping to provide others with some insight into what to expect if you make the journey as well.
We planned the trip along the following parameters:
Time: 4 days, 3 nights
Location: Close to the beach, private home, allows dogs
Meals: Eat out once per day
Activities: Mostly beach, but some indoor fallback activities as well
Total Budget: $2,500
We left the house at about 10:30am with the intent of arriving early afternoon. After doing a bit of map searching for a lunch spot near Olympia with outdoor seating we discovered one of the most interestingly themed restaurants I’ve ever seen. Eastside Big Tom’s is part old-school drive-in burger joint, part Red Robin pop culture meme, and part Jurassic Park immersive dining experience. The plywood caricature stuff was definitely fun, but hardly memorable after spending 2 seconds in the dinosaur dining room.
The restaurant has been around for a long time. In fact, it opened the same year as In-N-Out Burger. Coincidentally, it was named “In and Out Hamburgers”. There were some name changes along the years, but the concept felt very nostalgic. The menu hasn’t deviated from what I’d expect from a drive-in burger joint, but I have absolutely no explanation for the expansive dinosaur display. I was in awe. There were over a dozen dinosaur statues, jungle-esque landscaping, a Jurassic Park SUV, sound effects, etc. etc. I don’t care if it’s not a consistent theme, it was a kick in the pants. My kids loved it, we were able to take the dog with us, and the food was very enjoyable.
I ordered the Big Tom, my wife got a Bacon Cheeseburger, and we ordered some onion rings, fries, and shakes for the table. The burgers were enhanced with a special sauce lovingly referred to as “Goop”. Big Tom’s goes through in an inordinate amount of good on a weekly basis, and this combo of mayonnaise, chopped pickles (or maybe sweet relish), mustard, and probably one other ingredient. They had the components listed on a placard at our table but I failed to take a photo. It actually reminded me of somewhat of a cross between Dutch mayonnaise (fry sauce) and tartar sauce. It was terrific on the burgers, a perfect condiment for the onion rings, and helped the fries go down easy. I don’t have anything interesting to say about the crinkle cut fries. They weren’t bad, they weren’t good…they were just there. The onion rings were tasty, though. The stayed nice and crispy the whole time, didn’t have too much batter, and they broke away when you took a bite. Other onion rings I’ve had will pull out of the breading once you take a bite. These didn’t have that problem at all. This place might end up being on my must-stop list when I’m driving south through Olympia.
The 4 of us ate for about $50.
From here we drove through the town of Aberdeen and made our way to Ocean Shores. Aberdeen is famous locally as being the childhood home of Kurt Cobain (Nirvana). In fact, several years ago Aberdeen changed the town motto to “Come As You Are”. We just drove through. Once we arrived in Ocean Shores we had a bit of time to kill before checking into the rental house so we headed down to the jetty. It was windy, overcast, and pretty cold. We made the best of it and got the dog acquainted with the sand and smells of the beach. It only took another 30 minutes or so before the house was ready for us so we headed back towards town, unloaded our stuff, and got familiar with the space.
Airbnb’s have been hit or miss for me in the past. This one had a very professional host overseeing the rental management, and everything was in good-to-great shape. The home décor leaned heavily towards upscale (but not fancy) beach cabin. The main bathroom was an exception to that. I’d call it fancy due to the heated floors, double-headed walk-in shower, and custom tile work. It was located in a spot that is technically beachfront, but there’s about a half mile of forested sand dunes between the house and the actual beach. We can hear the waves but not see them. After one family walk to the shore along the trail connected to the backyard we realized that driving to the beach would be a better use of our time over the next couple of days.
Dinner on night one was low-key. We had prepacked supplies to make bean and roasted potato burritos, so dinner prep was very quick and we were able to play a few rounds of Yahtzee together before settling in for the night.
Day 2 started out looking very similar to Day 1. It was overcast and expected to be in the mid 60’s. The plan for the day was to play at the beach, eat a picnic lunch, check out the gift shops, and then get dinner somewhere in town.
While cold, the beach was great. The tide was out and we had plenty of room to frolic in the shallow surf. To say that the beach wasn’t crowded is an understatement. It was wiiiiiiiiiiiide open. We drove the car to a random spot and didn’t have anyone come within 100 yards the entire time we were there. I took advantage of the quiet and caught up on emails while the kids built sandcastles and played in the waves. After a picnic lunch we packed up and drove into town to see if there was anything worth buying.
The first store you’re going to notice, and remember, is Sharky’s. The reason for this is because it has a massive shark head built around the entrance to the shop. It’s really damn impressive. The store is full of shark memorabilia and had a steady flow of traffic the 15 minutes that we were wandering around inside. Ultimately, we didn’t buy anything. We convinced the kids that they’d be happier with a trip to the candy and ice cream store rather than spending their money on some plastic chomping shark heads.
Murphy’s Candy & Ice Cream was great. I bought several pounds of bulk salt water taffy (I’m indecisive and just kept adding more to the bag), and the kids picked out some ice cream cones. My daughter selected “Unicorn Poop”, and my son bought “Moose Tracks”. Are those both poop themed? Unicorn Poop had cotton candy, bubble gum, and some other majestic flavor. Moose Tracks had a lot of chocolate and peanut butter, I think. I didn’t get any ice cream but the kids said it was awesome. The salt water taffy was so-so. The taffy cost about $30 (I bought way too much), and the ice cream added another $20 or so. There was a game store a few doors down so we checked that out next.
Breezy Beach Toys had a really good selection of board games and other toys. The kids kept us in there for much longer than I had intended and wore us down into purchasing a few nonessentials (a stuffed animal and some decorative rocks). I insisted that all we needed was a toy glider that we could throw around on the beach. When we emerged from the store, the sun had broken through the clouds and we hauled ourselves back to the beach to take advantage of some good weather. Turns out that the glider was an awesome purchase, and we spent a long time throwing it back and forth to each other with tiny bit of wind assistance. The toy store put us back another $50, but the second beach trip was free.
Dinner for the night was planned for Bennett’s Fish Shack. We weren’t positive, but some reviews online led us to believe that we’d be able to take the dog with us if we ate on the patio. That proved true. I’m so glad that we visited Bennett’s because it rose above the level of “tourist food” and provided us with an impressive meal. My wife got the fish and chips (cod), I ordered a crab melt with avocado and grilled jalapenos. My daughter got a cheese quesadilla, and my son stuck with his tried and true…a cheeseburger. There were a couple of things that stood out at Bennett’s, and it’s also why I’m justifying putting the trip report on sodafry.
First, they have deep fried cheese curds. These are relatively hard to find in the Northwest, but if you’re willing to invest in a bit of grease then they’re an awesome appetizer. Bennett’s had a really unique interpretation of this, though. They sell a few different flavors of the fried cheese curds, but I believe they all use the same base curds. What’s different is that they’re mixed in a flavored sauce, layered into a pan, frozen, cut into cubes, and then fried. It feels almost like a cheese curd casserole…but fried. I got the garlic ones and I thought they were spectacular. You still get the trademark squeak from a cheese curd, but you also get some rich creamy sauciness mixed in. The batter was light and crispy, and the marinara dipping sauce paired really well. This is something I would absolutely order again if we come back to Ocean Shores, and it’s also something I’d suggest as a must-have for anyone else in the area.
The other on-topic offering that caught my eye was their Stubborn Soda drink fountain. I’ve reviewed some Stubborn Soda stuff in the past, but it’s still pretty rare that I see these machines out in the wild. The Pineapple Cream is delicious and very refreshing when you’re eating a bunch of greasy fried food. The root beer is also good, and I tried the Citrus Hibiscus Orange as well. I suggest sticking with the Pineapple Cream. It’s unique, and crisp, and is such a fun find.
As far as the other food goes, the fish and chips were great. Pretty much what you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean they’re underwhelming. My crab melt was tasty, but it would have been better to leave off the jalapenos. Maybe even the avocado. In hindsight I think I should have also ordered the fish and chips, or maybe the crab cakes. My son’s burger looked good, but unremarkable. I have no comment about the cheese quesadilla. That’s a survival meal. We had about a half-mountain of fries between the four of us we were all really happy with them. They’re the kind of fries that have some sort of a very light batter that helps a thin crust form. They maintained a pleasant texture throughout the duration of the meal, and they were delicious dipped in ketchup, tartar sauce, or even the horseradish spiked cocktail sauce.
We spent about $110 at Bennett’s, but I highly recommend it.
After that big meal we headed back to the house for a quick bonfire with s’mores. After that, we got a few things ready and then drove to the beach for our third trip of the day. The goal this time was to take in a sunset while the clouds were away. What a highlight this turned out to be! The sky radiated with oranges and reds as the sun fell to the ocean, and we soaked it in while dipping our toes in the Pacific.
Today was different. Rather than head directly to the beach, we decided to eat a leisurely breakfast at the rental and then head to Pacific Paradise for a bit of Mini Golf and arcade games. The dog stayed home for this one, but we tried to keep it quick. They have two full 18 hole courses for you to choose from. We picked the one that was themed around local folklore, but both of the courses looked great.
The holes had a lot of variety and were very well maintained. I’m competitive and refuse to give my children a false sense of confidence in these sorts of games, so I crushed everyone. No regrets. The package that we bought provided the kids with about $10 of arcade credits each, so after the mini golf they picked a few games to play. My son took about 30 minutes of careful consideration to finally settle on the perfect game. Honestly, I don’t remember what it was, but despite my frustration with his indecision we managed to hit a pretty significant jackpot and won a boatload of tickets. After a few other more moderate successes, the kids pooled their tickets together to see what sort of a prize they qualified for. To the shock of no one but them, the prizes were all awful. After another 15 minutes of painful decision paralysis they walked away with another toy glider. We decided to be generous and buy them some additional credits so that they could take a few runs through the laser maze. My daughter thought it was too stressful. My son had a great time.
On the way back to the house I stopped by Ocean Shores Kites and picked up a skimboard ($40). I had never tried skimboarding before, but I assumed that the shallow surf here would be an ideal place for a first-timer. We went back to the house, ate some lunch (mostly leftovers and sandwiches), and then headed to the beach again.
Skimboarding was hard. Very hard. I’m not a skateboarder, snowboarder, or surfer, so some of the mechanics felt incredibly unnatural. However, I was able to get some of the basics down. The skimboard is basically just a rounded and waxed piece of plywood that you “skim” across the water as you take a running start and lightly spring onto it to continue the slide. Right as I was starting to get the feel of it my daughter launched the board straight into my ankle on a failed run and I decided that I had had enough for one day. I honestly thought that I had broken something, but was really happy to see the swelling go down later that day and settle into a colorful bruise. Nothing more. We had a really hard time getting our kites to fly, so we mostly just hung out on the beach again before heading back to the house for dinner.
I picked up some takeout from Fat Marty’s. I’d love to go into more detail about how good it was (it was pretty good!), but I just checked on Google and saw that they had permanently closed. I hope that that’s not true. If you see them open, please stop by. It was affordable and a solid Mexican food option right in town. I had a burrito, my wife ordered some tacos, and the kids had bean burritos. I think dinner was about $50.
This was the last day, so we packed up our stuff and headed home. We drove on the beach one more time so that we could take another family photo and grab a handful of sand for our collection. We plotted out our trip so that we’d pass through the Olympia area during lunch and decided that Red Wagon Burgers would be a good stop.
The electronic ordering system was broken and they were only able to accept cash, but none of those issues were a blocker for us. I ordered a BLT (wasn’t feeling up to a burger), and I decided to go wild and try their jalapeno peppers (poppers). The BLT was exactly what I needed (light, fresh, and salty), and the jalapeno poppers were really creamy and satisfying. Their french fries were also some of my favorite style of frozen fries. They’re about 8mm thick (I’d call it a medium), and whatever coating they put on the fries creates a delicate crust. My guess is that it’s a very thin dusting of potato or corn starch, but it fries up to a crispy golden color with a perfect crunch. They’re simple, but they’re great. Food for the four of us came out to about $60 with drinks.
From here, we drove home and called an end to our Ocean Shores adventure.
Overall, I had a good time. It didn’t stack up to our previous trips to Maui, but it was nice to get away from home and play in the water and sand. I don’t regret it, but I doubt that this will be a recurring trip for us. All in, I believe these were the expenses:
Lodging: $1,700 (3 nights)
Food (dining out): $300
Food (groceries): $100
Entertainment: $100 (mini golf, arcade, etc.)
Souvenirs: $100 (skimboard, junk)