Nestled on Willapa Bay and filled with historic homes from the mid to late 1800s, a quaint turn of the century church, and the oldest continually functioning Post Office in the State of Washington, Oysterville is the perfect day trip destination. You’ll feel like you’re taking a walk back in time. Plus, the view is incredible! So, pack yourself a picnic, charge your camera or phone batteries, and head to Oysterville for a romantic day you’ll never forget.
Long before the original pioneers arrived on the northern part of the Long Beach Peninsula, the Chinook Indian tribe gathered oysters and lived on the shores of the area we now know as Oysterville. The first non-indigenous pioneers to settle in the area were Robert Hamilton Espy and Isaac Alonzo Clark. On what just happened to be Earth Day of 1854 (long before we called it Earth Day), they were paddling north on Sholewater Bay when their watercraft was wholly engulfed with fog. Chief Klickeas had been watching them from shore and began to pound loudly on a hollow log to guide them safely into shore.
Once ashore, the chief showed Robert and Isaac where to find oysters and how to gather them. Soon they were harvesting trucks full and distributing them to San Francisco where a basket of fresh oysters sold for an astounding $10. Sometimes they were able to get a silver-dollar for just one small oyster!
It wasn’t long before Oysterville became known as a boomtown. By 1855 it became the county seat, and within a few decades, the locals built a post office, schoolhouse, and church, all of which are still standing today. Around 1880 the town was hit with some hard times when the railroad decided to end in Nahcotta. It may have only been four miles away, but it isolated them from the rest of the Peninsula. About the same time, the oysters became harder to find, and many residents left for more lucrative places. The final blow happened in 1883 when a group of raiders from South Bend broke into the courthouse and stole all of the records. South Bend then became the County seat, and Oysterville’s fame and fortune faded into the fog.
Today you can take a self-guided walking tour through the charming town or drive slowly through by car to take in the sites. Drive down Territory Road, and you’ll see about a dozen beautiful restored homes built in the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Most of the historic houses are lined with stunning gardens. You’ll probably see a few locals relaxing on the porch enjoying the view from what we now know as Willapa Bay.
You can still see the R.H. Espy House that was constructed in 1871, or the oldest home in the area that is still standing, the Captain Munson House, built in 1863. Captain Munson was the official keeper at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from 1865 to 1877. While Captain Munson worked at the lighthouse the home was rented to the county and served as the courthouse.
The Oysterville Church is a quaint building constructed for only $1500. R.H. Espy had the church built and then gifted it to the Baptists. We’re lucky that it is still open for public viewing. As you walk through the old wooden doors and see the long hardwood pews and old wood stove, you’ll find it hard to believe that regular services haven’t been held in the church since the mid-1930s. However, from June to September, ministers from a variety of local churches often hold a Sunday service that is open to everyone, regardless of beliefs or denomination.
During your road trip, you should also check out the old schoolhouse and historic post office before heading over to Oysterville Sea Farms for some fresh oysters and an incredible view of the bay. The place was initially known as The Cannery and opened in the 1930s. Aside from fresh oysters, you can enjoy a nice glass of local wine or a beer on tap. They also have hot and delicious clam chowder, artisan cereal, local dried cranberries, scone mix, postcards, t-shirts, hoodies, and a host of other great local products.
Oysterville is now a designated National Historic District, and they rely on grants and donations to preserve the community buildings. Walking tour maps are available at the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau in Seaview. Make sure you wave a friendly hello to the neighbors and take your time to enjoy all that the village has to offer.