Last week, some friends and I decided that we were going to go to spend an afternoon at the beach. The only problem was that we couldn’t decide where to go because there are so many beaches on or near Puget Sound.
After a few minutes of spirited debate, one of my friends said, “What about Bella Bella Beach? It probably won’t be too crowded and I haven’t been to Fox Island in a bit.”
Well, since nobody else had heard about this cool little spot, I figured it was about time to get the information out there and share the place that was a significant spot for my friends and me when we were in high school.
Welcome to our in-depth exploration of Bella Bella Beach, a picturesque and secluded haven located on Fox Island in Washington State.
Known officially as the Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve, Bella Bella Beach is an enchanting destination hidden within the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area. In this article, we will guide you through all you need to know about Bella Bella Beach, including its unique history, location, recreational activities, and nearby attractions, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this cool little spot. Emphasis on the “little”.
What is Bella Bella Beach?
Bella Bella Beach is the local name for the Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve on Fox Island, approximately 50 miles southwest of Seattle and eight miles south of Gig Harbor. The common name is derived from its location on Bella Bella Drive.
It has a total area of 3.68 acres and is administered by PenMet Parks in Gig Harbor. The area is not widely used by non-locals, which is often attributed to its location on one of the less popular islands in Puget Sound.
For that reason, it is considered one of the few remaining hidden gems in the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area.
How to Get to Bella Bella Beach
The easiest way to get to Fox Island is over the cleverly-named “Fox Island Bridge” from Gig Harbor. Once you’re there, head south on Pioneer Way, also known as Wollochet Drive, which will turn into 40th Street NW.
From 40th, take a left on 70th Avenue SW, followed by a right onto 32nd/Warren Drive. Then, continue along the road until you see the bridge on your left. You’ll see Bella Bella Drive on the other side of the bridge. The beach is at the very end.
Once you arrive, you’ll see a sign with a list of park rules. There are about four or five parking spots near the big fence and a larger dirt lot just up the street. Parking is not allowed along Bella Bella Drive.
Things to Do at Bella Bella Beach
The most popular activity, of course, is relaxing in the sand. There are sandy beaches and rocky portions of the beach. Whether it’s all classified as one beach in the park or several, I’m not sure, we just referred to it all as Bella Bella Beach as the locals did.
It is also a popular spot for kayakers, as there is a walk-in boat launch. Motorized watercraft are not permitted but anything non-motorized is completely fine. It is part of a water trail that runs through Puget Sound, which I’ll explain in the next section.
As it is a nature preserve, fishing, and hunting are not permitted anywhere within the park. However, there is a fishing pier about six miles away on the other side of the island.
There are also a number of old buildings in the park to look at, although most of them are used as storage by PenMet. The area was originally used as an organizational camp for decades until it was bought by PenMet in 2010.
There are also several picnic tables here if you’d like to bring out a lunch. If you forgot to pack one or unexpectedly find yourself hungry, the Fox Island Grocery and Deli is about two miles away. There’s a pizza place called Zog’s inside the store as well.
Another common pastime here is watching the orcas, also known as killer whales, swim about in the water. There are several orcas that are believed to live within the Tacoma Mornay Sandspit Nature Preserve.
The park is open from 7 AM to dusk every day and there are no hotels or RV parks on the island, at least on the day I’m writing this. There are several Airbnbs and a traditional bed and breakfast on the island, however.
If you would like to stay close to the beach, there is a large grassy area for tent camping which is also administered by PenMet and charges $10 a night.
Reservations can be set up by calling 253-313-5090.
The Cascadia Marine Trail
Bella Bella Beach, as part of the larger nature preserve, is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail, a collection of day-use areas and campsites that have become popular with boaters.
The basic route was established in 1993 by area residents Tom Steinburn and Tom Deschner. In 1999, then-President Bill Clinton designated it as one of the 16 “National Millennium Trails“, a group of trails that were chosen to highlight American history and culture.
The idea behind the trail is to have safe landing places for watercraft less than three hours apart, either for day trips or for longer journeys.
Many people you see here will be boaters stopping by to get supplies or taking a break from paddling.
If you’d like more information on the sites or are considering taking the trail yourself, check out the website for the Washington Water Trail Association.
Things to Keep in Mind
The most important thing to keep in mind while you’re here is that it is a nature preserve and, accordingly, most of the park rules are designed around preserving nature.
It is illegal to remove animals and to take or damage any plant life that you find. As far as I’m aware, shells and rocks aren’t strictly forbidden since they aren’t exactly living but I imagine that would be up to the park rangers.
It’s also one of the reasons why alcohol and fireworks are banned. The other, of course, is that there are many local residents who live nearby. You’ll also want to avoid trespassing on their property, as the internet indicates that they don’t take too kindly to it.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure your dog stays on its leash during your trip. PenMet has extra enforcement during the summer months and they’ll definitely have some words for you if they see your dog running free.
Other Activities Nearby
Although it’s rather unlikely that the beach will be packed when you get there due to its relative lack of popularity caused by its location, it’s still possible. There are also events held here on occasion, so you may need a backup plan.
If you’re looking to enjoy the water or sit in the sand, Forest Beach near Horsehead Bay is close and a great choice, although it is a bit more crowded than Bella Bella most of the time. If you’d prefer some shade, Kopachuck State Park is just a few miles north.
On a particularly hot day when you might prefer a break from the heat, the Fox Island Historical Society operates a museum towards the center of the island that has over 3,000 artifacts, displays, and exhibits. There is no set fee and only a small donation is required.
Bella Bella Beach, or Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve as it is properly known, is one of the most beautiful and secluded hidden gems in the Puget Sound area.
As long as you’re respectful of nature, area residents, and others around you, you’ll be sure to have an amazing time. Just remember and abide by the “Leave No Trace” policy and you shouldn’t run into any problems.
You won’t want to miss this awesome beach on your next thrill-packed adventure to the Seattle Metropolitan Area. Book your trip today!