Visit Oysterville for Storybook Charm

May 22, 2023 | Farms, Food & Drink

Visit Oysterville for the charm but stay for the oysters.

The town of Oysterville is a storybook dreamland where colorful, sea-weathered houses gaze out over the tidal flats of Willapa Bay. White picket fences surround historical landmarks and encompass fairytale gardens. It’s a place where tiny roads crackle with shards of oyster shells underfoot. The air is fragrant with blossoms and the soft underlying brine of the ocean breeze. And it is home to some of the best oysters you’ll ever taste.

This sleepy town with a storied past is one of our favorite places to spend time.

How to Visit Oysterville

Take a peaceful drive down the tree-lined SR 103, and you’ll find yourself arriving in a beautiful, bayside village that seems frozen in time. Oysterville is just 25 minutes from the center of Long Beach Peninsula. You’ll know you’re there when you hit the flowers. When you visit Oysterville in spring and summer, it feels like everything is in bloom. Journeying through town is entering an enchanted garden. This quaint offshoot on Territory Road is postcard perfection. But its delightful past makes it even more intriguing.

Oysterville sign

Oysterville’s Storied Past

The history of Oysterville is fascinating. One of a rapid rise and hard fall, it is peppered with incredible stories. When held against the quiet quaintness of the town today, these stories are as juicy as its oysters. Hearing them is like finding out your tidy great-aunt had her wild days.

Once called “tsako-te-hahsh-eetl” by the indigenous Chinook people, a fated introduction of its rich oyster beds changed its course. At the hands of the pioneers introduced to those shell beds, R.H. Espy and I.A. Clark, the town boomed.

Oysters rolled out, and the money rolled in. Some tall tales claim that Oysterville residents had more gold than almost any other town on the west coast. With no town bank, town folk would bury gold in their yards and mattresses.

Even with no bank, it did boast a newspaper, two hotels, and a college. It was so popular that it was also the first county seat. With a population that split between sinners and saints, Oysterville enjoyed a rowdy, boisterous 40 years.

It thrived until it didn’t. The oyster beds dried up. The railroad stopped short. And the final insult came when a mob of South Bend marauders kidnapped the county seat after drinks at a local saloon.

When you visit Oysterville now, it’s fun to try and imagine those moments set against the peaceful backdrop of its charm today.

Photograph Oysterville Church

Oysterville churchWhen you visit Oysterville, make this one of your first stops. It’s one of the most photographed structures in town. This lovely, gable-roofed building has stood since 1892. The picturesque red-and-white church welcomes hundreds of visitors annually and is still used today for special events. Sitting on the hard wooden pews in the nave, you can imagine the weekly Sunday worship. You can almost hear the hymns from the old pump organ beside the pulpit.

Sign the guest book and grab a provided map for the walking tour. The map will help guide you through one of the dreamiest reasons for the town’s magic.

Walking Tour of Historical Homes of Oysterville

The historic homes are the foundation of the fairy tale charm when you visit Oysterville. The entire community is on the National Register of Historic Places. With more than 41 points of interest on the walking tour, it’s a neighborhood that will bewitch you. Homes from the 19th century still stand, lovingly restored by dedicated hands.

Oysterville home

Remember to be respectful and kind as you drive through town or stop to take pictures. Though it feels like a picture book, it is a community of privately owned properties. A descendant of the town’s founders, local historian Sydney Stevens, lives in the Tom Crellin House across from the church.

Pay Respects at Oysterville Cemetery

To see more of the town’s past, visit Oysterville Cemetery. Peaceful and silent, aside from the surrounding forest birds, this is one of the oldest cemeteries in Washington State. The headstones found here tell the story of the people of the town.

Oysterville cemetery

You’ll see descendants of the Espy and Clark families. And though potentially not buried here, the grave of Chief Nahcati stands proudly at the entrance. Gifts from past visitors blanket the plot. Chief Nahcati is credited with introducing Espy and Clark to the oysters on that fateful day in the 1850s. (Another fascinating twist of Oysterville’s history is learning that it was “Old Klickeas” instead!)

One of the most haunting plots is the marker for two unknown sailors who washed ashore in the town’s early years. A simple wooden sign honors them with the inscription, “And the Sea Gave up the Dead.”

Visit Oysterville Sea Farms

When you’ve gotten full on the history, it’s time to get full on the reason for the town. If you visit Oysterville for only one thing, make it a dozen oysters at Oysterville Sea Farms. On the banks of the village, set against the low-slung shores of the bay, sits this small shop and food stand. It is the last remaining bastion of the “oyster” in Oysterville. The adjacent Cannery is on the National Registry, and this is the only remaining structure from the oyster heyday. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the mountains of white, empty oyster shells framing the parking lot.

Oysterville Sea Farms

Something about tipping their sweet, perfect oysters into your mouth, steps from the tidal flats, hits differently. We love to relax in their Adirondacks on their deck, a cold can of North Jetty Brewing Leadbetter Red in hand. If you come in the summer, you can enjoy the on-deck barbeques. And it only counts if you remember to take a picture with Bigfoot. (If you know, you know.)

Complete your journey to the Pacific Coast with a visit to Oysterville. A snapshot of a time gone by, this charming town serves up the magical flavor of the historical Willapa Bay.


Visit Oysterville for Storybook Charm

By: Danelle Dodds

Danelle is an international traveler, road tripper, writer, and artist. She firmly believes in testing the limits of word count, mileage, and AYCE sushi.




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