Abigail Lynn via Unsplash

As most public pools and spray parks remain closed at this time, and changes continue to occur due to COVID-19, it’s difficult to know where to go to cool off when summer heats up.

Lucky for us, here in the beautiful PNW region we’re more than a little spoiled when it comes to both fresh and saltwater options. While this list isn’t all-inclusive, it does cover a wide range of alternatives from creek, to lake, to coastal spots in the South Sound area that are open, fun for all ages, and provide parking and restroom facilities.

American Lake Park is located on the lake’s north shore in Lakewood. The 5-acre span offers a swimming beach with breathtaking views of Mount Rainier. Guests are cautioned to exercise care around the water, as beaches will go unguarded this summer. A new playground area was opened in 2019, presently allowing five or fewer children at a time. Restrooms are open, as are picnic tables and a picnic shelter. Park hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Check with the City of Lakewood for all updates, rules, and regulations.

Chambers Creek Regional Park has more than two miles of beautiful saltwater shoreline within its 930-acre University Place site. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, and you can cross over the walking bridge for amazing views of Puget Sound, and down to the beach to dip your toes in the cool water or jump in for a soak. As there are no lifeguards, Pierce County Parks Specialist Brett Burgess reminds guests that “It is permissible to use the water at your own risk. I would just advise anyone to pay attention to the signage before entering the water, knowing that we do close it on rare occasions.” Part of the beach is designated for off leash use for dogs. Restrooms are open at the North and Central Meadows, and there’s plenty of free parking. Check here for Pierce County Parks updates.

Dash Point State Park provides an amazing seaside escape for families, including shallow swimming and many other fun water activities — think skim boarding on its low tide sand flats. It’s a great spot for finding sea stars and crabs, and it’s a birder’s paradise. The park is presently open for day-use and camping, but at half of its capacity. Restrooms are available. A Discover Pass is needed, and automated pay stations are available within. Check here for park status.

DeMoley Sandspit Nature Preserve — better known as the Fox Island Sand Spit — is part of PenMet Parks of Gig Harbor. The 3.56-acres, located on the Northeast tip of Fox Island, is a superb place for swimming and kayaking, as well as bird watching and beach and trail explorations. Picnic areas, free parking, and portable restroom facilities are available. Open from 7 a.m. until dusk.

Kobayashi Park lies within the 5.5 acres where the Leach and Chambers Creeks meet. A part of the University Place Parks system, this hidden gem is perfect for smaller children to wade and play in the shade-covered creeks and trails with adult supervision. Open between dawn and dusk, limited free parking spots are available at the bottom of the narrow roadway directly adjacent to the park. Picnic shelter and tables are available, but according to University Place Director of Public Works, Parks, and Facilities, Gary Cooper, “Restrooms will remain closed at this location until phase 4.”

Lowell Johnson Park, known as the old swimming hole, is just a ferry ride away on the edge of Florence Lake on Anderson Island. Spend the day swimming free of charge in this freshwater oasis, complete with two floating platforms and a slide. There’s plenty of parking and sandy or grassy spots to spread a towel or blanket for a picnic. Park and restrooms are open from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. No canine friends allowed. Check here for COVID-19 updates or changes.

Sunnyside Beach Park offers more than 1,400 feet of perfect shoreline for wading, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and exploring. Located in Steilacoom, the unguarded beach and park is open a half an hour before sunrise and closes a half an hour after sunset daily. There are plenty of benches, tables, grills, a picnic shelter, play areas, and an accessible restroom. Parking is available for a daily fee of $5 for non-resident guests. Check here for more information.

Titlow Park, a Tacoma Metro Park, provides a sweeping beach expanse with great views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It’s great for taking in gentle salt breezes, getting your feet wet, or taking a dip on hot days. Ther also is accessibility to several trails and picnic areas. Although the spray ground remains closed at this time, there is a portable restroom near it. Abundant ‘free’ parking is available in designated parking areas. Check here for further updates.

Owen Beach, located at Point Defiance Park, is a wonderful place to cool off and enjoy the views of Vashon Island, or take a stroll along the waterfront promenade near Boathouse Marina. There is plenty of free parking and a restroom. Having recently reopened the park gates, Nancy Johnson, public information officer for Metro Parks Tacoma, reiterated that “Phase 2 of reopening still limits group sizes to no more than 5 people using amenities like picnic shelters, playgrounds, and sports courts. Additionally, face coverings are now required wherever our guests are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The outer loop of 5 Mile Drive will remain closed to vehicles this summer.” Check here for more information about Owen Beach.

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