Story by Doug Barker
Photos by Gabe Green
Rustic is one of those words you have to be careful with, especially when you’re talking about a vacation cabin. Rustic is good when you want a little of that roughing it feeling, not so good when you’re referring to the shower.
The Iron Springs Resort at Copalis Beach has found the sweet spot between comfort and camping. The pillowtop mattresses and Wi-Fi place it way on the comfort end of the spectrum, but the river rock fireplaces, homey cabin touches and floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific Ocean are pretty good reminders that you’re away from it all.
Not too many years ago it was rustic with a capital R. The resort, which is 20 minutes north of Ocean Shores on Highway 109, has been there since the 1940s, an affordable beach getaway for generations of families, but by the early 2000s, it was in serious decline. In 2010, Seattle-area brothers Doug and Bill True, who had been coming there since they were kids and later brought their own kids, purchased the property, closing it for a year to restore it completely.
They rebuilt or repaired every cabin. Jerry Lacey, the on-site maintenance man who was there through the remodeling, said the crew took pains to use as much of the wood from the old cabins as possible, in some cases repurposing it for a different uses. Only one of the original cabins couldn’t be salvaged and another was built in its place. The effect is a feeling that the structures have been there a while, but they aren’t showing their age. Wood from windfall trees on the property, milled into thick planks and finished with a natural look, provide some of the tables and benches in the cabins.
“We spent countless hours” thinking about how to give it some luxury amenities, without killing the rustic essence of the Iron Springs Resort the True family fell in love with, said Dustin True, Doug True’s son and the general manager. They also felt a responsibility to do right by the resort and employ materials and workmanship that will keep the place from declining again. Knowing the toll the ocean air takes, “we built everything with a 30-year plan in mind,” Dustin said.
The 25 cabins sit on the same footprints as they did before the remodel, perched on the brow of a low bluff, looking out over the beach, Copalis Rocks and a sort of natural amphitheater at the mouth of Boone Creek. Each cabin has a deck and the cabins are carefully placed and spaced so that even those with close by neighbors have a degree of privacy. Each cabin has a view ranging, as Dustin True says, from good to spectacular. And with one exception — the unit they call the honeymoon cabin — there’s a flat screen television and wi-fi in every room.
Each cabin comes with a fully stocked kitchen and outdoor barbecue. There’s no restaurant at the resort, but several good choices nearby. For pub food and comfortable local atmosphere, try the Green Lantern a few miles south on Highway 109. (See the separate story at the end of this piece). For something more upscale and a spectacular view, there’s the Ocean Crest, just six miles north and for an in between, bistro vibe, there’s Mill 109 at Seabrook, just four miles north.
The little general store at the resort has a surprisingly wide selection of food and an even better supply of everything your dog would ever want. This is a place that likes dogs. Every cabin has a hose outside to wash the beach off your pup and a special set of paw print towels to dry him off. And every cabin has a framed montage of photos of former dog guests. Also at the store, guests can check out free DVDs from a huge selection. If you’d rather just unplug, each cabin has puzzles, games and books.
Loyalty to the resort runs deep. Each cabin has a leather bound book of blank pages in which guests have written tributes and poems that go well beyond the usual comments cards. “Our aging golden retriever had never seen the ocean and sand … and we saw her regress to a puppy again. Did us all good,” one guest wrote.
Some cabins also display art pieces done by guests on their stays. In the corner of one cabin hangs a delicately balanced mobile made of found items from the beach and on a nearby wall is a water color inspired by a deer’s early morning stroll through the yard.
The resort is booked much of the year, even in winter when some guests come just for the prospects of a good storm. Copalis Beach is usually ground zero for some of the best razor clam digging on the Washington Coast, so those weekends are particularly popular. There’s even a covered area outdoors with stainless steel counters and sinks so you can clean your clam limit — and instructions on how to do it.
Cabins have a maximum occupancy ranging from two to 10, with prices changing seasonally. The lowest nightly rate is $169 and the highest is $359, depending on the unit and the time of year. Some cabins are plenty big enough to share between more than one family.
For the record, the showers are anything but rustic and thanks to the True family, it looks like they’ll stay that way for several more generations.