Explore Magical Pacific Northwest Tidepools

Pacific Northwest tidepools are a treasure trove of marine biodiversity, a rainbow of colors, and full of incredible life under the sea!

We love visiting the tidepools on our Washington coastlines and learning learning about the the diversity of organisms that live there. There are many different species of plants and animals to explore and learn about.

Come along with us on a homeschool field trip!

Washington's Rocky Coast

Tidepools are best visited during low tide, when the water level is low. Almost every nook and cranny in the rocks is home to an amazing array of creatures! Make sure to consult a tide chart or app before heading out to explore tidepools. The day we visited was an exceptionally low tide, which was perfect for our adventure.

Exploring pacific northwest tidepools also takes patience. You need to sit and watch a while as the marine life will go into hiding as your shadow falls across the tidepool!

Rocks and seaweed in the fog along the Washington coast at low tide.
Misty, beautiful low-tide morning.
A foggy morning on the Washington coast, with rocks covered in mussel shells.
It's amazing to see rocks completely covered in mussels.
Pacific northwest tidepools have a rainbow of colors when you look closely - like these purple sea urchins and iridescent mussel shell.
Rocks, mussels and purple sea urchins. Barnacles, too.
A tiny pacific northwest tidepool that has 7 green sea anemonies, snails, and a variety of kelp.
Kelp, barnacles, anemones! I also see a snail.

Exploring Pacific Northwest Tidepools Safely

Tidepools of the pacific are home to an array of marine life. Some are as strong as the rocks they attach to, and some are more fragile. Keep this in mind as you explore these aquatic habitats. Look where you walk and disturb as little as you can.

Some of the best times to visit tidepools in Washington are during June, July and August. Our summer months are beautiful here! These pictures were all taken at Salt Creek Recreation Area in Joyce, WA – we think they are among the best tidepools in Washington state.

But there are lots of Washington tidepools to explore!

Blue sky, crashing waves, rocks covered in mussels on the Washington coast.
Blue sky came out as the day warmed up.

These mussels were grouped so tightly that I could walk on them without hurting the shells. I still tried to find footsteps on rocks! It felt like mussels as far as the eye could see. I was surrounded by the sound of the ocean waves with the cries of seagulls checking in on me. We also saw an eagle flying overhead on this spring morning – they nest in the trees on the cliff banks at the shore.

My daughter and I walked slowly and carefully, kept close to each other, and stopped often to notice our surroundings and check the time. Tides can come in very quickly, so stay aware!

Pacific Northwest Tidepool Marine Life

Tidepools are a great place to explore marine life. There's so much to learn about these creatures and their adaptations to their harsh habitats! Take the chitons in the picture below. They can form such a strong seal on the rocks that even huge waves can't budge them! The purple urchins have a strong bond too!

Chitons, mussels, and barnacles in a pacific northwest tide pool.
See the chitons? They have been around for more than 500 million years!

Mussels, barnacles, chitons and other tide pool creatures need to survive whether the tide is low or high! Many can store water for when the tide is low, and feed again when the water brings fresh nutrients flowing in.

Many tidepool creatures can blend effortlessly into the rocks and plant life and become almost invisible. Small fish like sculpin can remain motionless on the bottom of the tidepool to evade being seen by predators! Snails blend in with the rocks and mussels.

Be careful…

Sea urchins and anemones can sting! And urchin spines are no fun to remove from your feet and can cause infection. We always wear sturdy hiking-type shoes when exploring tide pools, which also gives us better footing.

It's also very easy to slip on damp seaweed or mossy rocks. I've taken a tumble on those rocks – and gotten pretty bruised up! So I always recommend having a buddy with you.

Take a deep dive into tidepools with my virtual field trip!

I grew up in the midwest, so an ocean tidepool was something I never experienced until I was an adult. After our trip to the tidepools, I created a virtual field trip to share our amazing coast and creatures with others who don't live near the ocean!

A virtual field trip visiting pacific northwest tidepools for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.

This fun Pacific Northwest Tidepools virtual field trip is full of pictures and videos along the pacific northwest coast at Tongue Point, near Salt Creek Recreation Area in Joyce, Washington. You'll feel like you're exploring right along with us!

You'll see a barnacle feeding, play spot-the-sculpins, and hear the ocean waves! The field trip is created in Google Slides so you can access it from any computer or tablet, or even cast it to your TV.

To go along with the field trip, I've created unit studies on different sea creatures! These studies are perfect for early elementary ages and have non-fiction reading, art projects, puzzles, coloring, journal pages and more!

Check out my printable packets on these amazing sea creatures:

Field trips are SO fun!

Remember: field trips don't have to involve lots of travel or lots of money! There are opportunities all around you – from parks and natural spaces to businesses, museums, and historical sites!

What field trip adventures have you been on in your homeschool? Share in the comments below!

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