Hunting for Sand Dollars on Bainbridge Island, WA

Having visited on a day trip by ferry from Seattle last year, we were very excited to return to Bainbridge Island to camp this year. Staying at the lovely Fay Bainbridge State Park right on the Puget Sound, we were able to take daily walks up the beach with hard to beat views of Mt. Rainier (and sometimes Mt. Baker) and even the tops of Seattle’s skyscrapers in the distance.

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The two above images were taken from a tiny park called Rockaway Beach on the island, not Fay Bainbridge, but a close drive!

One evening, we passed a woman sitting on the beach in front of her property making pretty things out of rocks she had found on the beach. We stopped to talk to her and she not only pointed out the bald eagle nest right near her property, but told us that if we went out at low tide the next morning, that we would be able to find thousands of sand dollars in a particular part of the beach! We had been so amazed when we were lucky enough to find one in tact sand dollar the previous Christmas on the Jersey shore, we were very excited to check this out.

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The next morning, we walked down the beach around 9am, a little before low tide was to end, as suggested. We were told to walk down the beach from the campground towards the direction of Rainier and past this wrecked ship sitting on the shore, until the shore started to curve.

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A little ways down, we ran into the same lady, who told us to look amidst the barnacle covered rocks and little pools of water to get to where they were. We were glad we ran into her, otherwise, we may have gone right past them! We surely saw others walking in the distance who didn’t seem to notice them and when we returned to the campground, no one had known they were there, either.

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When we came upon where they were most dense, we were simply amazed. There really were thousands upon thousands of them above and beneath the sand and amongst the rocks. You could literally reach down and pick up handfuls of sand dollars!

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We were very careful traversing through this area because there were still a fair number of live sand dollars that we didn’t want to step on, not to mention the precious shells of the no longer living ones as well as a number of other fascinating sea creatures. They were pitch black and looked furry, wiggling their tiny tentacles to show that they were indeed very alive..

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One of my favorite things about the island…the wild blackberries!
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These green squishy things were all over and shot up water from time to time. Still have not figured out what they are!

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The rest were mainly varying shades of tan and brown, the darker of which may not have been totally dead. There were a few whiter ones, but the majority that we picked up were light tan or almost white in color. They varied in size, too, from adorable quarter sized ones to four or five inches wide!

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We chose our favorites, which were many, and lugged them back down the beach with us, excited to share our treasures with everyone back home and at the campground. We treated them with bleach to keep them from smelling and attempt to get the color lighter. It worked for most of them and they looked beautiful even with more natural colors of light tan and white/black stripes. At the suggestion of the camp host, I painted them with a mixture of Elmer’s glue and water to harden them and hope to be able to make some things out of them when we find a craft store!

Our biggest lesson learned that day though is that the best recommendations really do come from talking to locals or other campers. We have had our most interesting experiences or best campsites at the suggestion of others so we never try to pass up an opportunity to talk to people on the road and are excited for what else we may discover in the coming months!

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