The Tokeland Hotel

I ventured to Tokeland expecting to see the oldest hotel in Washington state.
It’s on the national historic register, playfully rumored to be haunted, and totally feels suspended in time. Why wouldn’t this adventurer go there? My nose followed the online images of food and the lake house atmosphere. Verily the edge of the world, this 134-year-old hotel sits on the Tokeland spit at the northwest edge of Willapa Bay and ever so near the Pacific Ocean. What I experienced was far more than I expected.

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Willapa Bay in winter

When that sun rose over Willapa Bay, the coffee was brewing in the kitchen, the pigs were grazing in the yard, and someone had a guitar strumming; it felt homey. Waking up in the Tokeland Hotel is like waking up at a grandparent’s house. But, I’m getting ahead of myself; let me start with the prior evening.

It was the First Annual Crawfish Festival, out on the sprawling yard that trailed off into the bay. Massive pots held boiling crawfish, red potatoes, corn cobs, and andouille sausage. A Cajun band sang and played on the back porch with a violin, a guitar, accordions, and a washboard. It was a good time for all. People mingled, dogs played, children circled.

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Eventually, I retired to my room, but the evening festivities continued, which I could happily hear through the very thin walls. A loud “YEEEEEHAAAWWW!” rose up from the backyard Cajun crawfish crowd, and I could hear every hotel guest walk down the creaky hall, key in their doors (they issue you a real key), murmurs of conversations. (I decided this must have been the same experience for anyone in any hotel in the old west. Walls so thin you could hear cards being dealt at the poker table in the saloon below.) It gave that feeling of being in a house with others… at home. The big living rooms downstairs were lined with couchfuls of people reading books, playing chess, staking claims in front of the late night fire in the fireplace.

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Before the house came alive, when that low light of early morning lingered, the place was silent except for the birds and snorts of rooting pigs outside. I tried to tip-toe down the wooden staircase, a hopeless feat. Upon entering the living room, the smell of the now cold fireplace and its recent fire smell hung in the air. I sat for a moment in the quiet and let my eyes wander among the décor. A canoe hung from the ceiling by the front window, no less than four pianos around the parlor perimeter, and some


parakeets in a cage that sat under an old photograph of and American Gothic looking couple… each with a bird on their heads and shaded sunglasses on their eyes. Curious.
Tankards, bird statues, antlers, bookshelves, more photographs, a log book of the hotel’s paranormal activity, and elegant chandeliers all contribute to the eclectic theme. There is simply too much to report. And that’s just it; the Tokeland Hotel must be experienced. Stopping by on a road trip for a quick glimpse of the main lobby misses the mark by leagues. One must be there to sit, eat, sleep, listen, and absorb life on the bay.

We were all cozily packed into this old house, in our small single rooms, sharing the bathroom at the end of the hall, like a big home. In a big hotel you don’t hear the hall shower running or a groggy morning baby crying as you are on your way down to see if the coffee is ready.

Sit in the living room and read the history of the bay, of Chief Toke, and the previous owners of the hotel; read about the area’s history while you sip coffee and watch


the pigs out the window. You’ll be comfortable if you enjoy nostalgia, and you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by others who do as well. Someone may ask you to pass the ketchup, a baby may toddle by, and everyone seems to understand that the big yellow dog at the door is not allowed to come in, no matter how happy he looks.

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Willapa Bay Area

One thought on “The Tokeland Hotel

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  1. You described this place perfectly. We have been there twice and it’s starting to feel like we’re part of the Tokeland family.


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