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Visit Oysterville on the Long Beach (Wash.) Peninsula for fresh oysters and a slice of history

Brian J. Cantwell, The Seattle Times on

Published in Travel News

OYSTERVILLE, Wash. -- Usually, razor clams get all the publicity.

Last spring's razor clam-digging opening on the 28-mile-long Long Beach Peninsula's ocean beach was a big deal because state fisheries honchos temporarily upped the daily limit after a long closure assured a good harvest. Fanatical diggers descended in droves.

But cross the 13/4-mile-wide peninsula to where the Pacific surf doesn't pound and you're in the land of the oyster. No digging required.

It's a much quieter kind of delicious.

Here, foggy mists hang like lace curtains over sprawling Willapa Bay, where the palette is all soft greens, dusty blues and sea-grass tan. After you've had your fun beach-town fill of Long Beach's go-karts, arcade games, flashy kites and Jake the Alligator Man (the star attraction of Marsh's Free Museum), and grumped about whatever new development has caught your eye (because the beach towns of your childhood aren't supposed to change), it's time to head 15 miles north and visit the quiet village of Oysterville.

Aah. Even the old-school name of the place is kind of soothing.

Near the far end of the peninsula, time seems to have paused as if the community was clamped away in its own shell. The whole 80-acre village is a national historic district, with development limits and design standards overseen by the National Park Service. Meaning: Nothing changes much.

Founded in 1854, in its heyday Oysterville was a little boomtown, and the county seat. In those days, Willapa Bay shipped boatloads of oysters to San Francisco to feed the increasingly sophisticated tastes of gold-rush-rich Californians.

Now, Oysterville is just a quiet, mostly residential community, a perfect place to be a hermit.

Strolling recently along a row of 19th-century homes, each with a placard erected by the Daughters of the Pioneers to tell when it was built and by whom ("R.H. Espy House, co-founder of Oysterville, 1871"), I chuckled to myself when a big SUV pulled up and a sunglasses-clad tourist, perhaps in search of taffy stands and Dodgem cars, asked with some dismay, "So, where is Oysterville?"

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