It rains so often in Seattle that some residents like to say that they don’t tan in the summer, they rust. But when the sun inevitably does come out, many locals, as well as the visiting camera-clicking curious, flock to one of the city’s best kept secrets- Alki beach. Known as `The Birthplace of the city of Seattle,’ this scenic two and a half mile stretch of waterfront park – from the Duwamish Head to the Coast Guard light house at Alki Point- offers spectacular unobstructed views of the city on Elliott Bay and of the far blue Olympic Mountains beyond.
Long. flat, paved paths make it ideal for bicycling, skating, jogging or walking while a popular sandy beach area provides a venue for those sun worshippers who prefer their lazy summer days to be…well, lazy.
During the summer months the beach area also plays host to professional volleyball tournaments, Pirate landings kicking off the city’s Seafair celebration, Bar-B-Que cook offs, and a three day music fest featuring local and regional new talent. The beach area proper is lined with expensive condos, occasional beach homes, open air restaurants, and eateries, and, of course, the ever-present coffee shop. Make that ‘coffee shops’ plural because Seattle is the home base for two of the giants in the industry: Starbucks and Tully’s- both of which have shops on Alki as well.
For those who don’t wish to make the drive over to the West Seattle peninsula, a Water Taxi provides easy and convenient rides from Seattle’s Pier 55 across the broad bay to Seacrest Dock. There, and leading up to Alki proper, you’ll find several more miles of promenade with spacious grassy areas for sunbathing, picnics. If you’re so inclined, there are several small but interesting beaches from which to launch rented kayaks or to watch the intrepid scuba divers take to the always chilly waters of Puget Sound.
Adjacent to the Water Taxi Dock is a public fishing pier usually lined with patient anglers hoping to catch a migrating Salmon. “Any luck?” is a commonly asked question while a smile or shrug is the common lie but every so often a happy angler reels one in to the applause or envy of a gathering crowd.
On the 4th of July visitors in the thousands line the grassy areas and promenade for the huge and always loud fireworks display. During the rest of the year the expanse serves as a backdrop for wedding photos, Frisbee throwers, hacky sackers, or happy slackers who are content with watching the green and white commuter ferries or Alaskan Cruise ships as they glide across the Puget Sound waters.
Alki, quite literally, has something for every body. And oh, just in case you’re wondering, the name `Alki’ is derived from the Native American Chinook Trade talk of the 1800s and means `eventually.’ It became part of the local lexicon on November 13, 1851 when David Denny and his party of settlers first gave it the name ‘New York Alki,’ hoping for it to become as prosperous as its namesake with time.
To the actual Native inhabitants of `Alki’, who, by the way, were not of the Chinook tribe but were the Duwamish, the place already had a name which meant `Prairie Point.’ For well over a thousand years the area had been used by the Duwamish for crop cultivation and supported a busy fish camp.
Later, when Denny moved the settlement across Elliott Bay to the location that would become the city, the Founding Fathers named it to honor the Duwamish-Suquamish tribal leader, Sealth, who was instrumental in helping the newcomers survive and prosper. The pre-caffeinated settlers pronounced the name as Seattle.