Initially inhabited by the Quinault Indians, the first permanent settlers in Grays Harbor County were farmers in the 1850s. But with rich natural resources, it was only a matter of a few decades before large lumber mills, boat-building businesses, canneries, and machine shops sprung up. Timber, though it has declined since the 1980s, is still one of the area’s main economic drivers.
Grays Harbor is a special place to live. The climate is mild and wet, there is nature – beach or mountains, forest or lake – at your doorstep, and the cost of living is exceptionably reasonable. But there are a lot of intangibles that make living here a delight. Primarily, Grays Harbor has a strong sense of community. When times are tough – and the Harbor has seen its share of tough times – people pull together.
Every year, without fail, the Grays Harbor and East Grays Harbor Relays for Life raise more money per capita for the American Cancer Society than any other Relay in the state. When Aberdeen and Hoquiam high schools face off for “Foodball,” a weeklong fundraiser for local food banks, they are able to raise about $100,000.
People get to know each other, and are supportive of our local institutions, whether they are voting for school levies or buying raffle tickets for the Polson Museum. And they’re supportive of each other, whether they’re neighbors they know or if it means going to a concert to raise money to help a 33-year-old new mother with stage 4 breast cancer.
Pick what fits your way of life:
Do you like the beach? - Ocean Shores & Westport
On the north side of the entrance to Grays Harbor Bay from the Pacific Ocean is Ocean Shores. Ocean Shores has been voted Washington's top family vacation spot for several years, with over 4 million visitors each year. Further north are the communities of Moclips and Pacific Beach. A new seaside community, Seabrook, has established itself as a tourism destination and as a community with its own main street businesses.
On the Bay entrance's south side is Westport, which harbors much of the County's fishing fleet. With a working marina and a charming downtown, Westport is a tourism destination with a lot of authenticity.
Do you like the city? - Aberdeen, Hoquiam & Cosmopolis
Twenty miles inland at the confluence of the Chehalis and Grays Harbor Bay, lie the contiguous cities of Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis. This triad of cities forms the commercial and industrial core of the county and almost half of Grays Harbor residents live here. While Olympia is less than an hour away, and Seattle is less than two hours away, most necessary services are right here in the Harbor. The towns have compact, walkable downtowns that are not far from gracious turn of the century homes in good neighborhoods.
Do you like the country? - Montesano, Elma & McCleary
Montesano, Elma, McCleary and a number of small farming communities, sit on excellent agricultural land and are near the 400-acre Satsop Business Park. Montesano is the county seat, and it has a thriving small downtown and several historic homes. Elma and McCleary are smaller, but they offer country living and excellent gardening.
Things To Do
Grays Harbor has a colorful, vibrant, industrial history. We celebrate it every year at Hoquiam’s Loggers Playday, a September weekend chockablock with food, parade, fun, activities and a timber sports competition.
We celebrate our heritage every day at the Aberdeen Museum and at the Polson Museum, which features a newly-constructed logging camp exhibit.
We celebrate our heritage through the official ship of Washington State, the Lady Washington, a gorgeous tall ship that was built locally and is constructing a new interpretive center and museum along the banks of the Chehalis River. The Historical Seaport also owns the Hawaiian Chieftain, and their mock battles in the Harbor are a highlight of local celebrations.
There are quieter celebrations, too. The Jones Photo Collection, our area’s Bettmann Archive, was purchased and preserved with full access to the photos online by the Middletons, a local family who helped build the Harbor with their company Anderson Middleton.
Tom Quigg, a member of another venerable local family, has made it his mission to document outstanding Harborites, like Robert Motherwell and Douglas Osheroff. Quigg’s work can be read at www.cultureofsuccess.com.