On the Washington coast, Seabrook aims to be the perfect beach town

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Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your ideal coastal town. Truly. I’ll wait. What do you see? A neat town square with kids playing hopscotch while grandparents sit smiling on park benches? A cozy bakery with pastries so fresh and delicious that people happily line up for them? Good friends waving from porches? A night sky blazing with stars? Trails for biking, hiking and seaside walks?

Keep going and you start to get a feel for Seabrook. Two and a half hours from Seattle on the Pine Coast west of Washington’s capital Olympia, Seabrook is a community that works hard to make life in a small town easier. With 450 houses of varying design, 17 parks, a town hall, a Montessori school, acres of mountain biking and hiking trails, ice cream parlors and general stores, pickleball fields and a community pea patch, Seabrook is the kind of place you usually only see in the movies, and not just The Truman Show, which the Seabrookers themselves like to joke about.

There’s even a director behind the scenes. Casey Roloff, a former house painter turned real estate developer, had the vision 20 years ago to design a city with all the elements of good life, and since 2004 has been tweaking the master plan for a community that now houses several of the hundreds of full-time residents, short-term vacationers and day trippers seeking a break from the burden of the big cities. Roloff’s interests go far beyond the motive of profit. He and his wife and four daughters live in Seabrook, which is almost unheard of for a real estate developer.

North West Getaway

I spent a few nights at Seabrook with my wife, son and sister-in-law in June as part of our family’s operation – back to the trip. We flew from Los Angeles to Seattle with a quick stopover at the Thompson Seattle hotel on what turned out to be the hottest day in Seattle history. We are talking about 108 degrees! We’ve never been happier to have a cool pied-à-terre – and I don’t mean just because the sleek all-glass boutique hotel has excellent air conditioning in a city that isn’t. not known for it. The Thompson is also three minutes from Pike Place Market and is home to Nest, one of Seattle’s premier rooftop lounges. With the city nearly closed by the heat wave, we felt like lucky rajas sipping cold drinks on the top floor perched over Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. There probably isn’t a better hotel view in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a straight shot down the coast from there to Seabrook, where the first thing you notice is how quickly you want to ditch your car. Spotting bald eagles on the road to town sets you up for the outdoors, but Seabrook’s setup itself dampens your impulse to drive. It’s all part of the plan. Pedestrians reign supreme there. Roundabouts and raised “tabletop” intersections calm traffic. Concrete sidewalks turn into oyster shell trails that turn into wood chip trails that lead to secret shortcuts through the woods. Even street lights are on a human scale rather than towering above your head so you don’t feel overshadowed by the built environment.

Go from here? It’s a five minute walk

Locals like to say you can walk to anything in Seabrook in about five minutes, but you end up walking all day because that’s what you do there: you walk to the pit community horseshoe, walk to Growler’s Alley Beer Garden, walk to Sweet Life Cream and Candy Shop for some afternoon scoops. Then, remove whatever you’ve eaten or go beach volleyball or see gray whales or orcas breaching along the Pacific coast.

I am skeptical by nature (and profession). An editor at a journalism school once urged the class to look at life with an arched eyebrow. So, entering the Seabrook experience, I admit I was looking for holes. Everything seemed too perfect. I imagined myself trying to navigate to the end of Heaven like Jim Carrey after finding out that Seahaven was not real.

A new look at new town planning

The good news is, Seabrook doesn’t fabricate reality, even though it takes inspiration from Seaside, Florida, the actual planned community the Truman Show was based on. Instead, Seabrook uses the principles of what planners call New Urbanism to give residents and guests as many opportunities as possible to enjoy the living spaces around them.

Here is one of the hundred examples: Roloff likes to say that the typical suburb is built like a hand. You step into the wrist and hide at home in one of the fingers. You might (or might not) get to know your neighbors on one of these other dead ends, but the layout prevents you from interacting with a larger community.

Seabrook, on the other hand, is all about connecting with people. In terms of development, this is done with “halfway passages” which serve as intersection routes throughout the city. Whichever direction you go, you will likely meet someone coming from another direction. This helps make every outdoor space both an outdoor living room and an entertainment space. Sitting on your front porch or porch, you see people walking the sidewalks close enough to you to say hello to you while still feeling like you have privacy. Then there are the ‘green streets’, grass lanes reserved for pedestrians, which take you through tree-lined sections with wooden boardwalks and hiding places built from old tree stumps and ancient caves. ‘bear. Watching children enter and exit the woods, laughing with joy as they discover a secret wood gnome or frog habitat, you think of all that has been lost in an age of addicting screens, social media and video games . Seabrook’s Mossy Trails are like portals to the endangered art of being a child.

Confidentiality within the community

It doesn’t mean you live in a fish bowl. Latitude Adjustment, our very private three bedroom rental home for the week, was located on a bluff above the beach with a view through Lodgepole Pines to the Pacific Ocean. We could see the neighbors happily scurrying towards the sea. But we had our own three-level gathering and entertainment areas, with a wonderful, well-equipped kitchen and a terrace with a Jacuzzi. From these bubbling waters, we felt we had the Washington coast to ourselves.

All of this to say that the emotional gain in Seabrook is real. Brain centers for dopamine and serotonin begin to activate when you receive a friendly hello from a family playing Whiffle Ball in Crescent Park. Or when you hear about how people have started a second life here, like chefs Grace Bryan and Kameron Kurashima, the young couple who run Vista Bakeshop. They worked for 10 years at Seattle’s top restaurants including Canlis, Sea Wolf Bakers and Temple Pastries, and Modern in New York City, before trying their luck on Seabrook with their own brick and mortar location this year. We were there on Friday Vista Bake Shop opened and a line was down the block at 8am for Vista’s delicious morning croissants and buns.

After a few days at Seabrook, you start to think about the shortcomings in the communities where most of us live. We have lived in Los Angeles for over 20 years and as much as we love our neighborhood, there isn’t a shopkeeper or restaurateur who greets us by name, other than the barista who calls “David H?” at Starbucks. At Seabrook, people asked about us and remembered Sebastian – his name and everyone – when he returned for a breakfast burrito at Front Street Market. It’s the kind of neighborly spirit a person can get used to.

Seabrook also avoids being a bubble. The company is one of the largest employers in Grays Harbor County, Wash., Among the poorest in the state, and has donated over $ 3 million through its foundation nonprofit Seabrook Foundation which focuses on education and opportunities for underprivileged children and members of the nearby Quinault community. Indian reservation.

Privileged access

One day, we joined the exuberant and fun team of Buck’s Northwest – an adventure and touring team from Seabrook – for an outing to a surf beach on the Quinault Indian Reservation, closed for decades to outsiders. Point Grenville, just north of Seabrook, is known as the best surfing destination on the Washington Coast. As Buck’s staff work with guides from the Quinault tribe, we were able to surf this pristine cove while learning about the traditions and history of the Quinault. With eagles above and ancient stories in our minds of how these beautiful shores were created, the journey has gone beyond the standard day with a GoPro. To be on this sacred land was a real privilege.

Our last morning at Seabrook, we got up early and walked the big beach and discussed ways we could bring some of the magic of Seabrook back to LA. We could start doing more rides and using our bikes instead of taking the car to places that really don’t need an extra Prius in the lot. Packed up and ready to head back to Seattle, we stopped for some groceries at the Front Street Market and all smiled as they walked over to the young woman behind the counter shouting, “Goodbye, Sebastian.”

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