a trip to the olympic peninsula, part two: eagles, sea lions and starfish

Have you ever had the chance to watch more than 40 bald eagles in their natural habitat less than 50 feet away? Neither had I, until we visited Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula.

We got up early to drive from Lake Crescent to Cape Flattery, the most northwest point of the U.S. This turned out to take three hours — the Peninsula isn’t huge, but because most of it is covered in national parks and forests, there isn’t an incredibly direct route. Cape Flattery, part of the Makah Nation, is home to water an astounding shade of blue and sea caves that echo the bellows of sea lions. After walking the trails along the tops of the rocks, we decided to find a walkable beach.

We ended up a few minutes away on Hobuck Beach. Though guidebooks tell us that Hobuck is popular with surfers, around 3 in the afternoon the beach was utterly deserted. It was low tide, so we spent a good hour wandering about exploring the tide pools. Never had we seen so many fat, colorful starfish, mint-green sea anemones, and enormous rocks literally jammed with mussels. Click to the link to see where we watched dozens of eagles have their evening meal!

With a long drive ahead, we started back toward Lake Crescent by way of Neah Bay, also part of Makah Nation. We spotted a bald eagle in the sky and pointed it out to our guests. Then we spotted another. And another.

We pulled the car over to the bay, and were stunned at what we saw — literally dozens of adult and juvenile eagles were descending to the beach, exchanging eerie, high-pitched calls, and more were heading in from the nearby hills. A local filled us in: the fishermen put out parts of their catch in the morning and afternoon (We arrived between 4 and 4:30 p.m.) and the birds descend to feast. Whether this is environmentally correct is debatable, but it was undeniably amazing to watch — and hear — 40+ eagles tear at fish on the bay and dive into nearby waters to grab more.

After watching this for a long time, we made our way over to the docks where two sea lions were thrashing about in the water. A fisherman encouraged us to walk further down one of the docks “if you really want to sea something!” So we did, and watched for awhile as fishermen cleaned out the days’ catch and would occasionally hold out a large chunk of fish for the sea lions to grab.

We finally tore ourselves away from this scene, knowing we had a bit of a drive to get home. That three hours each way? Worth every minute. –Mary T.

From our partners

So jealous! Not something I ever get to see in Ohio!

Mary T.

Put it on your to-do list if you’re ever out here, J! I am a native Cincinnatian myself, so I am still in awe that I can actually drive to all this stuff as a day trip.


beautiful pictures!

Mary T

Thanks, Chad! That’s a huge compliment coming from you. Photographing duties were divided up between me, my husband, and my father-in-law — he took those last three. Love that flayed fish!


OK, we’re going to copy you and make the drive. What is the name of the marina with the sea lions? I’m going to plot everything on a map so we won’t miss a thing. Did you stay at Crescent Lake? Or did you start from Seattle? Thanks for the tip!

Mary T

Hi, Diana! From Seattle to the peninsula takes about 2 1/2 to three hours, and it takes about three hours to get from Lake Crescent to Cape Flattery. so you’ll want to stay somewhere in-between unless you want a VERY long day! : ) There are a lot of places to stay around Lake Crescent; at this point it’s very likely you won’t get lodging at the Lodge itself — it tends to fill up far in advance. But do a seplace; we are going back eventually and there are many private places to rent.

The name of the marina is Neah Bay — it’s simply the main marina of the little fishing town. If you go in the afternoon, you’ll see the fishermen in for the day from the day’s catch. Check the links I provided — we found that people were extremely friendly and nice. Hope it’s as wonderful as our trip!