Beach access is surprisingly rare in the Puget Sound region. No doubt that is why the 1785 feet of shoreline at Illahee State Park is so well loved by the regulars and locals. This 82 acre park is near Bremerton on Port Orchard Bay and combines water access, and large day use areas with a small campground nestled into ancient old growth trees.
It's no surprise that it rains a LOT here in the winter. But the trade off is some of the healthiest plants and animals that could be found. The enormous trees are well over 100 feet, covered in moss above, and lush green plants below. This healthy life on land also feeds the teeming sea life of birds, seals, fish, and shellfish. All of these are seen at Illahee in abundance, and with a boat launch, fishing pier, and oyster beds, some of this abundance can also become dinner.
Although everyone gives it a try once, the beach here isn't really for walking since it is mostly underwater at least twice a day at high tide. It is also rocky and covered in oyster and clam shells, a hint at the abundant shellfish just underfoot. Kids and families will still be found swimming here and floating on tubes or paddleboards when the summer gets going.
The campground is small and mostly planned for car campers without the need of power or sewer hook-ups. But it is also lightly trafficked, even in summer, and can provide a great camping vacation without traveling far away from home. Some creative parking and blocking still makes trailers and smaller motorhomes fit in here as well. There is a dump station and drinking water by the restrooms with showers.
A Discovery Pass is required for access (even day use) to all WA State Parks and can be purchased online with camping reservations or in person at an automated kiosk.
RV Rentals in Illahee State Park
Transportation in Illahee State Park
The park and campground is VERY hilly and uneven. Any RVs will need more blocking than usual to level out, in spite of the paved pads. Clearance is not an issue since the trees are old and tall, but don't expect much sun exposure or satellite dish signal. Note that trailers and motorhomes are very expensive to take on the WA State Ferries. The Tacoma Narrows and Hood Canal bridge provide good road access in and out of the Bremerton area.
Campgrounds and parking in Illahee State Park
Campsites in Illahee State Park
Illahee State Park Campground
*CLOSED FOR REPAIRS* The small campground has 23 sites which are open year round, and reservable May 15 through Sept. 15. Technically there are two sites with electricity, but they are monopolized by long-term residents. Even without hook ups, RVs up to 40 feet in length will find room here and there is drinking water and a central dump station. The sites are under giant old cedar and fir trees and the campground is very scenic. There are extra large picnic tables, and fire rings at each site. Modern restrooms and coin showers are in the camping loop and an old-school metal playground slide and ball field are a short walk away.
Seasonal activities in Illahee State Park
It may not be your first choice for getting wet, but when summer temps around 90 degrees hit this area - anywhere to cool off looks wonderful. There are picnic tables and a nice grassy area to lay around and dry off after braving the Puget Sound. Coin showers are also available in the restrooms. The shore has a lot of rocks and sharp oyster shells so you'll need some foot protection if you're getting in.
Over a dozen species of trees make up this rare section of Pacific Northwest old growth forest. Walking through the campground and the short hiking trails in the park is a great way to see trees over 400 years old. Be sure to look for the Chief of the Forest, named by Native Americans of the region, the oldest Pacific yew in America. This is not the sort of beach for walking, so don't expect open stretches of sand. But the woods more than make up for it.
Day Use Area Picnics & Parties
Though the park is popular and regularly visited by locals, there is lots of room and it rarely feels busy. This is a great place to plan a picnic. Extra-large picnic tables are scattered all around the park from deep woodsy spots to shore view grassy areas. Several of the day use spots have fire rings and BBQ grills. The four sheltered picnic areas with electricity are reservable for groups and parties. There is also a kitchen shelter for even bigger festivities.
Washington State has the greatest diversity of mushrooms found in the whole world. With a unique habitat that has been relatively undisturbed for hundreds of years, and one of the rainiest winter climates in the region Illahee State Park is the perfect place to walk around with a northwest mushroom field guide. Many different varieties of showy Amanitas thrive around the edges of the campground.
Oysters, Clams and Crabs - Oh My!
Something of a local's secret, at low tide significant oyster beds are revealed right on the shore of the State Park. Imagine the smokey taste of oysters cooked over a campfire! Clams and Oysters are usually open to harvest April through July and Dungeness, Red Rock, and Tanner crabs open in summer. The Oysters are easy to find right on the surface. Clams require a bit of quick digging with a small shovel, and crabs can be caught with a ring off the pier. Check with WDFW for more info.
Illahee State Park is a great place to bring a fishing pole even if you don't have a boat to launch. The 360 foot dock puts you deep enough to catch passing Chinook salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. The shallow waters throughout the Puget Sound provide ideal feeding grounds for large healthy fish and you'll be surprised to find trout over 20 inches and salmon over 15 pounds looking for food. Check with the WDFW for regulations and licenses.