Thrifty Thurston Goes Swimming Around Olympia

swimming olympia wa


By Kate Scriven

olympia pediatricsIt’s hot.  I’m melting.  Yes, I’m a wimp, but I suspect I am not unlike a lot of Western Washingtonians who really have a very small tolerance for temperature extremes.  My dad calls this the “Goldilock’s Syndrome.”  You know how it goes….” this porridge is too hot, this porridge is too cold, but this porridge is just right!”  Well he’s right.  I like it safely between 70 and 78 in the summer.  Just Right.

swimming olympia wa
The East Bay Public Plaza is located in front of the Hands On Children’s Museum.

But this last week has seen record high temperatures across the state and Olympia is no exception.  So, what’s a Oly Mama to do when temps climb into the uncomfortable range and the backyard sprinkler just isn’t cutting it anymore?  I search out a local swimming hole to soak my toes and find that “just right” temperature.  And we have a lot of choices for a town that has no public pools available for the general population.  With a little searching, I’ve found swimming venues that will fit for just about any family wanting to beat the heat this summer whether you have toddlers in tow, teenagers tagging along, or are just looking to cool yourself down at the end of the day.

Pools, Fountains, and “Streams”

There are a host of “chlorinated” options in the area even though we lack a true public pool.

  • East Bay Public Plaza – This gem is a new addition to the Olympia water-play scene and is a joint effort of the LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, and the Hands On Children’s Museum. The plaza is open every day from dawn to dusk and features a wetland pond on the LOTT Wet Center property and a flowing stream, complete with boulders to climb on, benches for those watching, and bronze salmon.  Read all about the educational and recreational goals of the stream here.
  • Heritage Park Fountain – The downtown fountain is a local favorite and not a surprise on this list of great places to cool off.  Although crowded, if you plan your visit when the fountain first turns on after one if it’s breaks, there is likely to be a bit more elbow room.  Located at 330 5th Ave SW in downtown Olympia, the Fountain is open daily, except Wednesdays when it is closed.  For full hours of operation click here.
  • Indoor Swimming Pools – While it’s not typically viewed as a summer activity to swim indoors, we have a wide variety of indoor pools in our area.  Maybe for one of our (hopefully) infrequent summer rainy days!  Check out the selections here.

Fresh Water Lakes

Access Black Lake, just a few minutes from downtown Olympia, via Columbus Park.
Access Black Lake, just a few minutes from downtown Olympia, via Columbus Park.

While we are surrounded by the Puget Sound and saltwater beaches abound, we are equally blessed with a host of lakes in the area with plenty of great swimming beaches.

  • Kennydell Park – A Thurston County Park, Kennydell used to be a Girl Scout Camp. This 40 acre park now boasts 2 playgrounds, hiking trails, numerous picnic shelters and 1000 feet of shore access, including a great swimming area, on Olympia’s Black Lake.
  • Long Lake – This City of Lacey public beach is a favorite on a hot day.  The well maintained swimming area is protected from busy Carpenter road by 10 acres of woods.  The site includes sand volleyball courts and BBQ areas. This is a popular spot, so arrive early to stake out your spot on the beach.
  • Tenino Quarry – Ok…it’s just cool to swim in a quarry.  Makes me feel like I’m in a movie set in the 50s – they always seem to swim in some old quarry in those movies.  The Tenino Quarry Pool is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 am – 7:00 pm beginning on July 5.  It costs $3.50 to swim for the full day.
  • Deep Lake at Millersylvania Park – Swimming in Deep Lake is a highlight for campers at this Washington State Park, but day use is also very popular.  The freshwater beach is easily accessed and has a great dock.  Hiking and picnicking facilities also available.  As this is a State Park, you will need a Discover Pass to park.
  • Columbus Park – Located at 5700 Black Lake Blvd SW, Columbus Park is a private campground and recreation area.  They have a great swimming area that is open to the public for just $6 a carload.  With a floating trampoline, dock and great grassy area, it’s a bargain – especially if you have a mini-van like me!

Salt Water Beaches

olympia beaches
Beach comb while dipping your toes in the cool water at Burfoot County Park.

Gorgeous Puget Sound beaches are everywhere you look in Thurston County, but not all are great for swimming.  Here are few that won’t disappoint.

  • Boston Harbor Marina – While the Marina beach is private, they welcome visitors to their day use area.  The sandy beach is perfect for sandcastles and the overhanging trees provide great shade for blankets and a picnic.  Watch the tides…when it’s a very low tide it becomes too muddy for beach play.  Cool drinks and popsicles are available in the Marina store for a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Tolmie State Park – One of my personal favorites on a hot day, Tolmie provides wide open beaches, safe and shallow salt water play areas, and a freshwater stream inlet perfect for splashing and exploring.  A short hike past the bathrooms, through the woods on a flat trail, brings you to the best beach in the park.  Plan to stay all day.  Discover Passes are needed here as well.
  • Burfoot County Park – For a rocky beach experience, Burfoot can’t be beat.  Swim in the shallow waters, search for sea creatures at low tide, and enjoy the gorgeous hike through the shady forest to get there.  The park includes a large playground and multiple picnic sites above the beach.  Trail to the beach is not stroller accessible…bring the backpack!

So, whether you choose a chlorinated, freshwater, or salt water option to chill out on a hot summer day, you are bound to cool off.  And hopefully, find that “just right” temperature, just like Goldilocks.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County.  The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.

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