Boy walks down beach with his arms up in the air. Grassy area to left, water to right. Puffy white clouds in the sky.

11 Tips for Visiting Hood Canal with Kids

Are you planning a family trip to Hood Canal? If so, take a peek at these tips for your visit.

I’m a mom of three, and I’ve been spending the time on Hood Canal for almost 40 years – since I was a kid! I love sharing this special place with my kids and I hope I can help you enjoy some family time here too.

Although it may sound great to head to Olympic National Park or Forest when it’s free, some sites (like Staircase) get extremely crowded. If you’re looking for a tranquil outing with your kids, avoid the free days. Check the free days for the National Parks and free days for the National Forests before you make plans.

Good To Know: If you have a fourth grader, your family can visit National Parks for free all year as part of the Every Kid Outdoors program!

If You Plan on Camping, Book Way in Advance

Hood Canal campgrounds are popular with Washingtonians and visitors and they’re not huge. So, if you’ve got your eye on a particular campground, try to book as soon as possible.

Good To Know: Not all campgrounds take reservations. Some, like Big Creek, are first-come-first-serve. But, if you’re traveling with kids, you probably don’t want to ‘fly by the seat of your pants.’

Pick Up the Washington Sport Fishing Rules Magazine

You can find this magazine in places like the Hoodsport Visitor Information Center or Hood Canal Outfitters (or other places you’d buy your fishing license).

At first glance, it doesn’t look like a kid-friendly publication, but my boys like it because it’s got photos and info on fish and shellfish found in the area.

Know the Rules for Fishing Licenses

If you’re planning on fishing, digging for clams, etc – make sure you know the rules and that you have a proper license. The fines can be huge and there are many types. You can see the chart here and you can buy your license online or at a physical location in Washington.

Get Out on the Water

Boys stand in shallow water of lake. Forest-covered hills in background.
My boys at Lake Cushman

You’ve got some great options for enjoying the water in the area. You can hang out at a Hood Canal Beach (like Potlatch State Park), go kayaking, or swim at Lake Cushman (enter the day-use area of Skokomish Park).

Have a Plan

When traveling with my kids, I always like to have a basic plan for what we’re doing, and the same applies to visiting Hood Canal.

Drives can be long (especially on some dirt or small roads), so you don’t want to do a lot of backtracking if you can help it.

Think About Purchasing the Discover Pass

With the Washington State Discover Pass, you get access to ‘millions of acres of state recreation lands.’ It’s currently only $30 per year for vehicle access to many state parks, beach areas, campgrounds, and picnic areas on the Hood Canal. Rather than paying day-use fees in these places, purchase the Discover Pass and move freely in the area.

We have a Discover Pass and use it often.

Know About the Wildlife

There are cougars and bears in the area (we’ve seen both where my parents live). Not only is it important to be prepared (What do you do if you see a cougar on the trail?) – it’s also fun for kids to learn about the animals.

You can pick up pamphlets at the Hoodsport Visitor Information Center, or read about them online.

Take the Chance to Introduce Kids to Seafood

Boy sitting in covered eating area eating a grilled cheese. Flowers and more food on the table. Chairs and water in the background. Low hills in distance.
My son having lunch at Hama Hama Oyster Saloon

If your kids haven’t been keen to eat seafood, your trip could be a good moment to try again. You’ll be able to eat fresh fish and shellfish, and your kids may be more apt to try food that they’ve had a part in catching (grill your own trout that you caught!).

My boys also like Hama Hama Oyster Saloon. They’re not big fans of oysters (yet), but they enjoy the other seafood options. And there are also non-seafood options like grilled cheese.

Think Outside the Box

You’ve probably got hiking and beach time on your Hood Canal itinerary. How about a visit to the salmon hatchery in Hoodsport? Or a drive out to the High Steel Bridge (best for older kids and those without a fear of heights)?

Get Ice Cream in Hoodsport

Colorful octopus eating ice cream on a mural on the side of the Hoodsport Coffee Co. in Hoodsport, Washington. Cars parked on left.
Hoodsport Coffee Co.

You can’t visit Hood Canal with kids without making a stop at Hoodsport Coffee Co. for some Olympic Mountain Ice Cream! The colorful side of the building also make a great photo backdrop!

I hope these tips help you as you plan your trip to Hood Canal with your kids!

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