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Relocating to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway – What you Need to Know

Hidden Coast Scenic Byway wayfinding sign

After relocating to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, two years ago (from Tacoma) we’ve learned a lot about the area, and especially what it’s like to live and run a business here. As we grind through our first Covid-19 summer on the Washington Coast, it’s abundantly clear that lots of folks are purchasing property out here; whether it’s buying for recreation or permanent relocation, remains to be seen. Of course when you come out for a visit it seems all dreamy and wonderful to live at the beach but before you jump ship, you might want to consider some nuances you’ll likely have to adjust to.

Things to Know about Relocating to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway:

1. It’s a small town vibe

hidden coast scenic byway quietest square inch

Even though we’re only three hours from both Portland and Seattle, if you’re relocating to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, in some ways, you might as well be moving to Timbuktu. Yes, we have lots of perks, especially the natural variety; ocean, lakes, rivers, and a bounty of nature trails, paths, and adventures to be had. Plus you’re just a stone’s throw to the abundance of beauty in the rainforest as well as the quietest square inch on earth (or at least the quietest square inch in North America).

That said, there’s a definite point of view that many locals (not all) have towards transplants and tons and tons of gossip, speculation, and assumption which people share openly on social media (predominantly on Facebook groups). While Ocean Shores has several FB groups, there are only a select few pleasant ones, like Ocean Shores Garden Buddies where people are genuinely helpful and nice. Pacific Beach and Moclips also have groups that tend to be more neutral, supportive. and helpful and their admins monitor and ensure compliance with posting requirements.

2. local news

Living on the I-5, it’s easy to forget that you’re spoiled with regular, relevant news updates. Relocating to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, not so much. Unless something catastrophic happens, the news is either non-existent or delayed. 

Yes, we have local radio stations in Ocean Shores and Pacific Beach but they’re usually not keyed up to deliver the nightly news. For example, I left for a pick this morning at 8:00, unaware of an accident on Hwy 12 blocking the highway. It’s the second time that’s happened in the past year. I’ve also been delayed by trains and once by the lift bridge. Luckily I wasn’t in a time crunch.

Other times you’ll hear coast guard helicopters cruising the shoreline or a stampede of sirens that set off the local coyotes a’howlin’ – which are generally not signs of good news but rarely do you find out through typical channels what happened unless, like I said, it was catastrophic.

3. Gourmet or Gore-met?

Yes, there are a couple fine dining establishments and/or decent options but if you’re looking for big city quality goooooooooood food; for the most part, it’s not out here – yet. There’s definitely a demand for great food but most restaurants depend on Sysco or Food Service of America trucks to roll in weekly. And there’s really not many choices out here that can compete with the gourmet capabilities of Seattle or even Tacoma. 

Things are looking up for fresh, organic locally grown options but it’s still a budding concept. Seabrook has a Saturday Market but there’s no other high quality, locally grown farmer’s markets on the 44-mile stretch of the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway.  Aberdeen has a Sunday Market (not on the byway) but that’s 60 minutes round trip which can take longer in the summer when tourism is at its peak. Last I checked, Ocean Shores’ new pharmacy (by the IGA) has a bevy of organic snacks and drinks but there’s no co-op or Whole Foods type stores as far as the eye can see. Closest thing is the Marketplace in Aberdeen. So, the key to high quality food out here, if it’s important to you, is good planning… or buy a greenhouse and grow your own.

4. The drive gets old

Caveat: I drive a lot to pick up stuff for the store. So, this might be a me-problem but… it’s an hour to the I-5 from Aberdeen which isn’t bad. It’s the 30-minutes from the beach to Aberdeen that’ll drive you nuts. One lane all the way and chances are it’ll be a loooooooooong time (if ever) before the traffic situation coming and going is pleasant. This is true in both directions, but going north from Ocean Shores to Pacific Beach or beyond is a special kind of torture. Once you stop at the intersection of WA-115 and WA-109, turning left towards Ocean City, especially in summer traffic the wait can be hefty. Perhaps one of these days they put in a three way stop to make it easier! 

Sure when you come for the weekend, it is what it is and you’re excited to get away from the hustle and bustle so, if you get stuck behind slow-joe-mo-joe or it takes 15-minutes before you can turn left; not that big of a deal. But when you live here it becomes something you have to account for and it really doesn’t matter if you’re going along the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway on WA-109 from Hoquiam to the beach or circumventing it by going up 101 and catching the byway off Ocean Beach Rd near my shop at Pacific Beach. Moral of the story is: if you’re a speed racer who weaves in-and-out of traffic, you’re gonna lose composure out here – guaranteed.

5. Internet and cellular issues

Accessing the Internet can be sketchy which is a big consideration for people who work remote. Video calls can be difficult at times with lots of lag and it’s impossible to know exactly when it’s going to happen. It’s probably much better in Hoquiam but out at the beach it’s sometimes awful. Cellular is pretty much Verizon-only if you want optimal coverage and there are pockets along the North Beach between Copalis Beach and Seabrook where there’s nada.

And cellular can be particularly sketchy on weekends when everyone is out here trying to upload sunset beach pics to the interwebs. Supposedly they (whoever “they” is) are talking about adding a cell-tower and laying fiber. We’ll see, the more people who move this way, the more likely that will have to happen. Fingers crossed!

I’m not saying don’t relocate to the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway, I’m saying that there are a few things about this spot that might be nice to know before you invest and move to the beach. If you like the slow life, small town vibe, and a vocal community, you’ll be at home here and I’ll be happy to welcome you!