A Trip to Ocean Shores during Phase Two of the COVID-19 Washington State Lockdown

Sun setting on the beach at Ocean Shores
Sun setting on Ocean Shores at the end of my first trip since COVID-19 broke.

On May 24th, Washington State Secretary of Health Jonn Wiesman placed Grays Harbor in Phase Two of the COVID-19 lockdown. That placement means that Ocean Shores’ hotels, restaurants, and even beaches were open (with stipulations).

Last Thursday, very first chance I got to go out that way, I made a murder-hornet-line (sort of like a beeline) for the coast.

Today, I’m grateful that I did.

Ocean Shores Beaches in the Midst of COVID-19

I’m actually not a big beach person. I greatly prefer the mountains and the forest. Still, Ocean Shores has always held a place in my heart. I’ve even written about it once before but, this time, my motivations were different than the usual.

I’ve been able (thank God) to get outdoors since the state parks opened back up a couple of weeks ago, so what I really wanted with my trip to the coast was to enjoy the simple fruits of civilization again. I wasn’t disappointed.

The beach didn’t have nearly as many people as usual for a day with beautiful weather. This was a positive for introvert me, but also good to see that people were being responsible in their enjoyment of the beach and not simply bucking all of the COVID-19 health guidelines out here.

It was very peaceful (though windy as all hell) out there in the sand and sun. After more than three months of the COVID-19 lockdown, that simple peace and open air felt downright profound.

Breaking my Fast at the Galway Bay Irish Pub

For the first time in four months I sat down in a restaurant and enjoyed a meal. This would have been thrilling enough on its own, but it also just happened to be at my favorite restaurant in Ocean Shores: Galway Bay Irish Pub.

To make it even better than THAT, I was at the tail end of a twenty-four fast, which means I was voraciously hungry. The sum of all these variables was one of the most unforgettable, delicious eating experiences of my life.

The Galway Bay menu calls what I ordered the Tipperary Steak, but I consider to be “colcannon with Tipperary steak on the side.” Then again, I consider ALL Galway entrees to revolve around the colcannon.

That stuff is just mindbogglingly delicious.

I thought it would feel strange to eat in a restaurant with people spaced several feet apart and servers wearing face masks and the shadow of COVID-19 looming over everything, but it ended up feeling nothing but “great.”

The food was delicious. It was a pleasure to crack jokes with strangers again and to chat with a server. Such simple little things seem so precious after being penned up with End-of-the-World fears for so long.

It’s funny, as I think about it. Before COVID-19, my idea of getting away was always getting to the most secluded natural areas I could find and finagling ways to avoid people.

Now, after months of COVID-19 lockdown, I appreciate most of all the simple pleasure of human contact, a seat in a good restaurant, and the sound of laughter.

And colcannon. Definitely colcannon.

Where to Stay in Ocean Shores, Washington: The Sands

Note: I went to the Sands independently and received nothing from them for my stay or for this article. I didn’t tell them I run a travel blog, and they don’t know I’m writing this. I receive no payment from them or any other place that I endorse.

The Sands is a Great Budget Stay in Ocean Shores, Washington

Well, I’ve tried nearly every hotel in Ocean Shores now, and I do believe I’ve found my favorite budget stay.

Going by cost-to-quality ratio, the Sands was my favorite lodging experience in town, and I’ve visited Ocean Shores more times than I can count. For just $89 dollars a night (95 after tax), in the middle of June, I got a room with a killer view and bird songs filling the air (more on the birds in just a bit).

Their rates are even lower in the off season, making this a terrific destination for an impromptu weekend getaway or overnight trip. This will definitely be my go-to place for future quick-trips.

There for the Beach, Not the Room

I’ve seen one reviewer online call the Sands’ rooms “dated,” but I didn’t get that impression. They have few frills, I guess, but I go to the beach for the beach, not to sit in my room, so that didn’t matter much to me. The room was clean and the bed was comfortable, the bathroom tidy and the shower nice with good hot water.

On this particular trip (ironically enough, considering the generalized statement I made about myself above), I actually did spend quite a bit of time in my room watching the birds in the bushes and the waves rolling over the beach beyond. The accommodations suited me perfectly for that.

This was my view as I contemplated the mysteries of life…and enjoyed a beer.

There are two beach access points within short walking distance from the hotel, so you can make a circular trip of the beach without retracing your steps at all. Ocean Shores, by the way, has a sandy beach, which is not always easy to find in Washington, where the coasts are usually rugged and rocky.

Some other hotels in Ocean Shores sit right on the sand. This seems appealing, but the drawback to this is that the beach goers are always within earshot. The Sands has a buffer of grasses and bushes that makes the hotel itself feel like an isolated little oasis. I liked having that stretch of greenery there more than I’ve enjoyed being right on the sands.

Many Amenities: My Favorites are the Birds

My favorite part about the Sands is the birds. Handmade bird houses are located all over the grounds, so there are birds everywhere. Their singing creates a supremely peaceful setting.

The hotel also has a volleyball pit in the back and a sun deck with chairs called the Dolphin Cove. There’s an indoor pool and a recreation room above the office, a couple Jacuzzi tubs and a dry sauna. I didn’t partake of any of these amenities, but I gave them a gander and they looked nice to me. Personally, I didn’t need any of those things. I was happy with the bird songs and the ocean so close by.

When I travel, I usually spend very little time in my room except to sleep. If I do sit in the room, it’s just to read or enjoy the silence. So, for me, the basic accommodations were terrific.

There is No Wi-Fi Except in the Recreation Room

I’m making this its own section because it’s a point that is bound to bother some people. The rooms do not have wi-fi. To access wi-fi, you have to go to the recreation area above the office.

Personally, for me, this was a good thing. I like unplugging now and then. Honestly, I wish they didn’t even have a television. Disconnecting, far as I’m concerned, is relaxing and good for the mental health.

I understand this is a position that not everyone will take, of course, so I’m making certain to make this fact known loud and clear in my blog. I don’t want to influence you on anything that you won’t enjoy.

In that light, I should also add that the service at the Sands is perfectly good, but maybe not as warm or eager-to-please as you’ll find at some higher-end hotels. This, too, is something I frankly don’t care about, but am mentioning because I’ve seen some reviewers elsewhere criticize the Sands in this regard.

The gentleman at the front desk on the day I arrived was professional and polite. He made sure to get me the best view he could get at the best price.

The woman who was there on the day I checked out, meanwhile, was very helpful. We had a good chat and she filled me in some upcoming events and the likelihood of vacancies in late August. She introduced herself as Stacy. She was friendly, informative, and pleasant to deal with.

It usually doesn’t even occur to me to remark on the front desk reception, because it’s a non-issue to me. I just don’t really care. Since I’m trying to be as helpful to you folks as I can, however, I ought to mention it. I only stayed there once, so I can’t debunk the negative receptions I’ve seen in some reviews. But, I can say, that in my experience everyone was friendly and efficient.

They weren’t gushing with hospitality as I’ve seen in some hotels, I guess, but were friendly and good at their jobs, which is all I would ask for.

Location, Location, Location

Ocean Shores has plenty of good hotels, both high-end, budget, and in-between. If you’re looking for a high-end place, then the Sands might not be for you (I’ll be writing about the high-end places I think would be for you later).

What the Sands does offer is a terrific location at a very fair rate. To get an ocean view for less than a hundred bucks in June is not easy. I’d say it’s damn near impossible, really. Their prices, far as I can tell, are even lower in the off season.

Ocean Shores is a pretty small town, so the restaurant strip is never too far from you, no matter where you stay. Neither is the grocery store or gas station.

I’m not being endorsed in any way by the Sands. I’m just relating my honest, personal experience, which can be summed up thusly: The Sands is a nice little hotel with a killer location and bird songs filling the air, and I will be going back there, regularly, for sure.

I’ve not found a hotel so close to the beach for such a low price anywhere in Washington state.