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Scenic Drive: Point Defiance to Steilacoom

Length: 16 miles
Drive time: 50 minutes (one way)
Season: Any season
Tacoma is known for its glass art and classic cars, but something visitors often find out once they’ve arrived is that there are small beaches everywhere. These sometimes-hidden beaches give the opportunity and the reason to get out of the car, stretch your legs, take some pictures and enjoy a walk along the sandy (or sometimes pebbly) waterfront.

In addition to the beaches, this drive will take you past some of the best viewpoints to get a glimpse of Sturdy Gertie – a.k.a. the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – and Gig Harbor from across the water. Not bad for an afternoon adventure!

Point Defiance Park and Five-Mile Drive
In addition to a gorgeous rose garden, a native-plant garden, a Japanese pagoda, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Point Defiance Park is also home to both Five-Mile Drive and Owen Beach. Five-Mile Drive is an aptly-named roadway that takes a circuitous tour around the park, with signage and parking spaces at places where you can view Gig Harbor, Vashon Island, Dalco Passage and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from a distance.
Owen Beach
Owen Beach is a photogenic and accessible waterfront within Point Defiance Park, looking out over Commencement Bay and Vashon Island on the opposite side. Here, adventurous explorers can rent a kayak and take to the water to get spectacular views of Tacoma and Mount Rainier while dodging the regular Point Defiance-to-Vashon Island ferry.


North 10th Ave. & Juniper Street
This viewpoint of the magnificent Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a little-known hidden gem in the city, allowing a photogenic angle that puts the architecture on full display. If you have time, you can also visit the nearby War Memorial Park, with meandering pathways that provide additional views of the bridge.


As you head south along Sixth Avenue, make sure to take in the peek-a-boo views of the water and the gorgeous homes on either side.

Titlow Park
As you approach Titlow Park and Titlow Beach, the trees, tennis courts and park amenities will obscure your view of the water, so make sure and take the time to park and walk down to the water. If you wait until you’re just about at the southern point of the park (just across the railroad tracks near Steamer’s Seafood Café), you’ll find a boardwalk with some picnic seating and access to the beach.


Chambers Bay Golf Course
As you drive past Chambers Bay Golf Course, home of the 2015 U.S. Open Golf Championship, you’ll again be treated to occasional water views when the tree line breaks. If you’re up for a stroll, just on the other side of the trees, there’s a trail with views that directly overlook the golf course near the road, and then meander through the course further on.


The road will also take you winding directly alongside Chambers Creek, for some pleasant views.


Sunnyside Beach Park
Just a strip of land between the railroad and the water, Sunnyside Beach is a tucked-away spot to grab some beach time without fighting the crowds.


Next you’ll drive directly through the center of the tiny town of Steilacoom, the first incorporated city in the state of Washington. It has retained much of its historic flair, visible in the City Hall building and other surrounding structures, including Bair Drug and Hardware Store. Opened as a pharmacy, hardware store and soda fountain in 1895 and now home to the Bair Bistro with many relics from its previous incarnation, Bair is the place to grab a bite to eat or a coffee to keep you driving.


Saltar’s Point Beach
Finally you’ll arrive (and have to find parking) to enjoy Saltars Point Park, with 500 feet of saltwater shoreline and two historic stone buildings built in the 1930s. The view from the road doesn’t do this quaint park justice, so make sure and take the opportunity to put your feet in the sand and enjoy the end of your afternoon excursion.