Upon arrival, photographer Luna Azul and I, along with Scout, Ziggy and Oliver, explore our two-bedroom, two-bath condominium to find a large living and dining room area, well-stocked kitchen and a third-floor balcony overlooking the ocean. I claim the bedroom with a king size bed (two dogs after all), with an en suite bathroom and spa tub. Luna takes the bedroom with a queen size bed, perfect for her and her pint-sized pooch. There is also a washer and dryer in the unit, DVD player, cable TV and free wireless Internet, but with the beach nearby and a plethora of activities to enjoy, we won't be spending much time indoors.
After we get ourselves unpacked, it's first things first: the beach. We take advantage of the sunny weather and with dogs in tow, walk the short path to the Pacific. There really is nothing like staring out at a seemingly endless expanse of ocean, listening to the waves crashing on the shore. As we stroll along the beach, the dogs are in full tilt, running at top speed with total abandon. Did I mention doggy bliss?
As the sun starts to set and the dogs tucker out, we head back to the condo to prepare dinner. The kitchen is fully stocked with pots and pans, utensils, dishes, glassware—essentially, everything you need to eat in, plus there is a small grocery store located a few blocks away in case you forget anything. We brought everything for dinner, but did make an ice cream run for dessert! Cookies and cream anyone?
The next morning, we decide to explore the surrounding property. There are 192 condominium homes in the complex spread among 12 buildings with a centrally located spacious clubhouse. The clubhouse features a large hot tub and heated seasonal swimming pool (so bring your swimsuit), plus barbecue grills and a well equipped exercise center. There is also a large grassy play-field perfect for kids (two- and four-legged alike), a basketball court, horseshoe pits, playground and even a putting green. And, don't worry about packing all of your sports gear. You can check out equipment such as basketballs, volleyballs, putters and golf balls at the clubhouse. Also, located around the property are pet waste baggy stations and a wash station for sandy feet and paws. It seems the folks at Vacations by the Sea have thought of everything.
After exploring the property, we take a five-minute walk to check out the must-see "tallest lighthouse in Washington," officially named Grays Harbor Light Station. Constructed in 1898, the lighthouse is worth a visit. Climb the 135 steps to the top (sorry, no dogs), and take in the stunning views that await you. There's a $4 entry fee, which goes to the Westport/South Beach Historical Society, a not-for-profit organization that maintains the lighthouse as well as the Maritime Museum in Westport. Money well spent.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that the folks at Vacations by the Sea have thought of everything? Well, Luna and I decide to test this theory by asking if they have a bicycle with a basket so we can take Oliver on a bike ride. And, guess what...they do! Even better, their bikes are of the laid-back beach cruiser kind. These brightly colored cruisers are built for comfort, not speed, so you can enjoy the spectacular ocean views as you cruise along the two-mile paved trail. Luna picks a pink cruiser with a basket for Oliver, and I hop on the bright orange one and we're off! I have to admit, it'd been years since I'd ridden a bike and boy, was it fun with the wind in my face and smell of saltwater in the air. Never having been on a bike in his life, Oliver seemed to enjoy it too!
Once back from our ride, Luna and I have worked up an appetite, so we hop in the car and head to Westport. Our destination is Half Moon Bay Bar and Grill, where we hear they make Washington's best Bloody Mary. It's a delicious combination of their own special Bloody Mary mix, peppered vodka and a garnish that could be a meal in itself: jumbo prawn, pickled green beans, celery, green olive, pearl onion and cherry tomato. I have to say, it was the best Bloody Mary I've ever had in Washington or otherwise. To complement our cocktail, we order the signature crab cakes, made with local Dungeness crab and topped with frizzled sweet onions and Creole aioli. And, as a guest of Vacations by the Sea, we receive 10% off our bill (there is a coupon in the condo upon check-in). Bonus!
The Half Moon Bay Bar and Grill is located on the Wesport Marina, so after lunch Luna and I take a stroll down to the docks. Westport is a working fishing town and the surrounding waters and shorelines are filled with delicious treats. From September through May, you can try your hand at razor clam digging. From April through August, enjoy a fishing charter and get hands-on instruction from some of the most experienced skippers in the world. Come September, you can catch salmon right off the Marina docks.
Another popular activity in Westport is surfing. What? Surfing in Washington? Brrr, right? No worries, there are surf shops in town that offer friendly service and wetsuit rentals plus lessons are available if you're new to the board. Stand up paddle boarding is also popular and Vacations by the Sea has a fleet of Yolo Yak boards, which are the most stable on the market. Take your board out to Elk River Estuary or John's River, which are both great locations for wildlife viewing and bird watching.
If visiting Westport in the spring or fall, whale watching is another must-do. The majestic gray whale passes along the Washington coast as it migrates to and from its feeding grounds in the frigid Bering Sea. The beaches off Westport are an ideal place to sit and watch the whales or tours are offered by a select number of fishing charter operators, so ask the front desk staff at Vacations by the Sea for more information.
Back at the condo, it's time to start thinking about dinner and under consideration is barbecuing versus cooking in. There are two large grills outside the pool area and one on each of the rooftop decks for guests staying in buildings 9, 10 and 12 (Luna and I are in building 9). We opt for the rooftop grill, so we can enjoy our last evening at Vacations by the Sea taking in the breathtaking ocean views.
The next day, as we head out of town, we swing by Westport Winery, Washington's newest, and only, coastal winery. As a guest of Vacations by the Sea, a complimentary wine tasting is included and better yet, on Sundays during the summer, you and your pooch are welcome to Yappy Hour from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Luna and I are there on a Saturday, but the dogs are still warmly welcomed as we sample a few wines in the lovely outdoor seating area and garden. We aptly start with the merlot True North, which features a dog on the label and benefits North Beach PAWS and then finish with the cabernet Jetty Cat Red, which benefits the Harbor Association of Volunteers for Animals.
Many places tout their pet friendliness, but Vacations by the Sea delivers. Of the 44 available rentals, over half of them are dog friendly. That, combined with its close proximity to the beach and countless amenities for both pets and people, Vacations by the Sea is the perfect summer getaway for you and your travel hound.
Gear up for Westport at the CityDog Shop.
Vacations by the Sea
1600 W Ocean Avenue
Westport, Wash. 98595
There is a $30 pet fee per stay and a few common sense rules. Basically, you are responsible for your dog at all times and they are required to be on leash while on property. The leash rules on the beach are seldom enforced, but do keep your dog under control/voice command at all times.
Bike rentals through Vacations by the Sea are available for a period of four hours ($15), daily ($20) or the entire duration of your stay ($15/day). Each bike rental includes a helmet and bike lock and they can be secured outside your condo in the designated bike parking area of your building.