How to Build a Sandcastle on a Grays Harbor Beach in WA State

How to Build a Sandcastle on a Grays Harbor Beach

Tips on Building a Great Sandcastle from a Grays Harbor Pro

For many, their earliest memory from a day at the beach includes building a sandcastle, moat and all. Even as adults, the novelty of creating a magical castle out of sand, seashells and driftwood is still an activity that never loses its appeal. Here is where and how to build a sandcastle on a Grays Harbor beach using these pro techniques.

Douglas Orr, Local Sandcastle Expert

Grays Harbor local Douglas Orr has entered numerous sandcastle building competitions from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach all the way up the west coast. Orr, a Grays Harbor local, master sand sculptor, and occasional sandcastle event instructor, offers some of his most helpful techniques that locals and visitors alike can implement when building sandcastles.

Douglas Orr finalizing the base of his "Wall-E" sandcastle sculpture
Douglas Orr finalizing the base of his “Wall-E” sculpture
"Don Perignon the Monk" enjoying libations on the beach. Sandcastle sculpture Douglas Orr
“Don Perignon the Monk” enjoying libations on the beach
Douglas Orr working on a sandcastle in Corona del Mar, California.
Douglas Orr working on a castle in Corona del Mar, California

Grays Harbor Beach’s Perfect Sand

Lucky for both Grays Harbor locals and visitors to the area, the sand that Orr builds with in the area stacks very easily and due to the area’s humid climate conditions, it doesn’t dry out like it can in other parts of the world. The sand on the Grays Harbor beaches is Columbia River sand. This means that it’s not grainy or rocky, but is instead soft and fine, making it ideal for packing and building.

Douglas Orr Sandcastle Grays Harbor Beach
Moist, packable sand sits waiting to be molded and shaped on Mocrocks Beach, near Moclips, Washington.

Sandcastle Building Tips

For those looking to build a showstopping sandcastle, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, before heading to one of the beaches in Grays Harbor to begin building, take a minute to plan out what you want your sandcastle to look like. Children can get involved and help with the planning process by looking up pictures online to get an idea of what structure you want to go for. Take this a step further and sketch out your design or even build it out with blocks or Legos to add to the excitement. Since sand doesn’t hold find details well, think to build out large, simple features.

Douglas Orr Sandcastle Grays Harbor Beach
Douglas Orr’s seal sculpture at San Pedro, California, is large yet simple for a clean appearance.

Upon arrival at the beach, set up your station near the water line, without being too close since the tide could quickly wash away your masterpiece. The firm, compact sand near the ocean line makes for a great foundation, while the nearby water source comes in handy and will lighten the burden of shuttling back and forth from a far distance.

Build a Sandcastle: Foundation

Your next step includes deciding which foundation method you want to build with. Orr’s first recommended technique is to create a volcano type of sand structure. Add water and sand into the volcano and as it begins to grow in size, carve it into the shape that you desire. The second method is to use a form. This can be anything that helps to hold the structure such as a bucket or PVC pipes.

Douglas Orr Sandcastle Grays Harbor Beach
Packing moist sand into a small “volcano” mound – perfect size for a beginner!

Build a Sandcastle: Sculpting

Once a solid foundation has been assembled, it’s time to begin the fun part, sculpting. Everyday tools from around your house will become useful and make the imaginative process of building your dream castle that much better. A few tools that you can bring along include a pen or pencil for the fine detail carving, a butter knife for its flat edges to make cuts, a fork to score lines, or even a feather to smooth out the final design. Kids can also use their imagination and grab easy to clean items from home that they’d like to use to bring their vision to life.

Douglas Orr Sandcastle Grays Harbor Beach
Sculpting using a butter knife, paint brushes, and other household tools

Build a Sandcastle: Decorating

Use tools from around your house to carve out fine details on a sandcastle such as facial expressions or words. Finally, don’t forget to decorate your final piece. Seashells, rocks, driftwood, seaweed, crab shells and various other beach finds are perfect. These all-natural details will make your sandcastle stand out from the rest.

Douglas Orr Sandcastle Grays Harbor Beach
Decorating completes a simple, fun sandcastle!

No matter your method, you’re sure to end up with a beautiful creation that will bring out the creativity from everyone in your family. So pack up your bucket and shovel and come out to build a sandcastle on a Grays Harbor beach. Snap a photo, share it on social media and lock the memory in to be reflected on for years to come.

Click here to learn more about other activities in the Grays Harbor area, and browse lodging options here.


Written by Kelsey Norvell, provided courtesy of Grays Harbor Talk and Grays Harbor County Tourism, Cover photo courtesy of Steve Lawson

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