If we had a county crest, Willapa Bay oysters would be the crown jewel. Our region produces oyster royalty. We grow some of the world’s sweetest, plumpest ocean morsels. And if you spend any time in our towns, it will be clear how important the oyster industry is to us as a community.
As we shellabrate National Oyster Day on August 5th, let’s dive into what makes Willapa Bay oysters so unique.
What’s the Big Deal About Willapa Bay Oysters?
Willapa Bay oysters are unparalleled. They are the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Their texture is juicy, tender, and silky. They are the decadent treat you’ll still taste on your tongue long after you swallow. That is because these succulent delicacies are grown in the pristine waters of Willapa Bay, which makes all the difference.
Our slice of heaven sits at the gateway of Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean. We are at the intersection of bays, rivers, and the ocean. The Pacific Ocean feeds the bay, which provides a constant flow of nutrient-rich water that nourishes our sweet oysters. The saltwater churns into the freshwater, which is fed by the myriad of veins of nearby rivers. Two full high and low tides happen daily in the bay, so the water constantly replenishes itself.
Meanwhile, the surrounding lush forests of the bay protect it from harmful pollutants and other environmental dangers. The oysters bathe in these purifying waters for years, growing fat and luscious. The result is a vibrant and healthy estuary full of the most delicious oysters you’ve ever shucked.
Where Can You Sample Willapa Bay Oysters
Our community is ripe with oyster farms. There are multiple active oyster farms in the bay. Many companies, like Pacific Seafood and Taylor Shellfish Farms, focus on harvesting and processing to get the goods to market. But there are a few farms where you can sample the goods!
Goose Point Family Farm & Oystery
In 1975, the Nisbet family sold their 10-acre Nisbet Oyster Co. oysters out of iced totes from the back of a pickup truck. Today the operation is Goose Point Family Farm & Oystery, a 1,900-acre farm and processing plant that sells its oysters worldwide. You’ll see their oysters in most of the restaurants and bars you visit. But you can also sample their oysters at their oystery. They have a small gift shop on the dock where you can buy fresh or smoked oysters by the dozen. We like to grab an oyster shooter (or two) for the road before we go.
Oysterville Sea Farms
Oysterville Sea Farms is in picture-perfect Oysterville. They harvest their oysters by hand, pulling them from the nearby fattening beds. You can enjoy their delicious harvest while sitting on their deck, overlooking their tidal flats. The freshly shucked half-shells are simple, tucked into beds of ice alongside lemon slices and cocktail sauce. In summer months, they grill them deck-side for a smokey barbequed treat. You can also book a tour, which takes you through their oyster beds and production facility. You’ll even get a hands-on shucking class with the experts!
Willapa Artisan Kitchen
Willapa Artisan Kitchen is off a windy driveway that leads into the forest. This small artisan kitchen serves fresh Willapa Bay oysters, clam chowder, crab mac-and-cheese, and Willapa steamer clams. If you’re a spice fan, try their Korean Spicy smoked oysters.
In Most of Our Restaurants, Taverns, and Pubs in Town
And, of course, you’ll find these treats all around town. As the Oyster Capital of the World, you will find our delicious Willapa Bay oysters on most menus. Fresh, fried, baked, barbequed, and even brewed, our tender, tidal treats make a cameo in most taverns in town.
Shuck ‘Em Yourself
Fun Facts About Willapa Bay Oysters
Willapa Bay produces 25% of the Nation’s oysters. That means 1-in-every-4-oysters that you eat will come from our water.
It’s a family affair. Most of the oyster farms are privately- or family-owned. When eating one of our Willapa Bay oysters, you take in the care and love of generations of oyster farmers.
It’s farming, not fishing. Local and state governments recognize the oyster industry in Willapa Bay as farming. It is known as aquaculture and has all the same mechanics we’re familiar with in traditional crop farming.
Willapa Bay oysters recycle. That’s right – oysters recycle their homes! Oyster shells are washed, cured, and reused for next-generation habitats.
Willapa Bay oysters are often served naked. If you see our oysters in restaurants, many of them are shell-less. We’ve read that their shells don’t develop the preferred shape for restaurant service. We like to think that means our mollusks are non-conforming.
Willapa Bay oysters require a commitment. The lifecycle of a Willapa Bay oyster can take more than three years from planting to harvest.
Our Favorite Way to Shellabrate Oysters
When the world is your oyster, you need to celebrate in more ways than one. And we love celebrating our monumental mollusk. Our annual Jazz & Oyster festival happens at the Port of Peninsula, where shellfish and music unite. Enjoy Willapa Bay oysters off the grill or fresh off the shell.
We also have an entire property dedicated to the wonderful world of oystering. Visit the Willapa Bay Interpretive Center for a peek into the history of our special crustacean.
So, bring your appetite to Pacific County and enjoy a dozen Willapa Bay oysters today. We’re the pearl of the oyster industry and ready to shellabrate with you.
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.