When it's hot enough to get wet, many families prefer the area's warmer lakes to the chilly waters of Puget Sound. For kids, the best lake...

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When it’s hot enough to get wet, many families prefer the area’s warmer lakes to the chilly waters of Puget Sound.

For kids, the best lake beaches share common features: plenty of sand, a wide shallow area, a nearby playground and maybe a swimming dock or diving board. (Parents would probably add showers and ample parking to their list.)

We hit local beaches to check out their family appeal.

Unless noted, lifeguards monitor listed beaches through late August or Labor Day. Beaches with lifeguards are safer — and they tend to be more pleasant because staff members rake sand and wash goose droppings off swim docks during less-busy times.

Here’s our list of top places to splash and play:

Top lake beaches

With warm water, a wide shallow area and a large groomed sandy beach, Maple Valley’s Lake Wilderness Park is a great place for families with young children. Roped areas mark the shallow (with a sand bottom) and deeper swimming areas, bordered by a pier. The bathhouse features showers and a large open changing area. In another area of the park, families will find a playground with a boat toy structure, paved trails and grassy lawns. 22500 S.E. 248th St., Maple Valley.

Lake Sammamish State Park‘s aptly named Swim Beach has a huge sand and gravel beach with a large roped swimming area. The wide shallow area has a rocky bottom, so bring water shoes. The park is a lot safer this summer, having recently reinstated its lifeguard program; it also loans out free life jackets. The bathhouse is one of the nicest in the area, with indoor showers and changing stalls with doors. It’s just a short walk to the beach from the ample parking lot. There are lots of picnic tables. The park’s other beach area, Sunset, has a better, bigger playground but only a narrow strip of sand and no lifeguards. Northwest Lake Sammamish Road and 17th Avenue Northwest, Issaquah.

For a more intimate beach on Lake Sammamish, Redmond’s Idylwood Beach Park features a long, shallow swimming area and groomed sandy beach surrounded by a lawn. The nearby playground offers a toddler play area and a play structure for older kids. The drawback is a fairly small parking lot (additional parking on side streets). 3650 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway N.E., Redmond.

There’s room to spread out at Silver Lake in South Everett’s Thornton A. Sullivan Park. Parents sit on the long sand-and-gravel beach while watching kids play in the wide shallow area. Older kids congregate on the long swim dock. The large, nearby playground features several connected play structures, ride-on toys and swings. The park also offers life jackets, outside showers and changing areas. 11405 Silver Lake Road, Everett.

Kent’s Lake Meridian Park features a sand-and-gravel beach overlooked by a grassy lawn for sunbathers. The large roped-off swimming area is surrounded by a pier. The park also offers a playground and shower. 14800 S.E. 272nd, Kent.

Houghton Beach Park‘s sandy beach, wide shallow area and nearby playground attract lots of families. There’s also a long pier and swim dock jutting into Lake Washington. 5811 Lake Washington Blvd., Kirkland.

Best playgrounds near beaches

Besides a large swimming area and sandy beach, the huge playground with a variety of play structures is a key attraction for Renton’s Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. (The beach was closed and then reopened to swimming in late July because of bacterial contamination; visit the King County Web site for current status.) 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N., Renton.

Steel Lake Park boasts a great wooden castle/fort playground. 2410 S. 312th St., Federal Way.

Newcastle Beach Park is popular with young children for its bright train toy and large sandy beach. 4400 Lake Washington Blvd. S.E., Bellevue.

Best for sand play

Sandy beaches, by definition, lend themselves to digging and building sand castles. Madrona Park adds a twist with a water faucet kids can turn on to make a long stream along the beach. Budding engineers can spend hours digging, building dams or moving rocks to alter the stream’s direction or speed. 853 Lake Washington Blvd., Seattle.


Mount Baker Park, 2301 Lake Washington Blvd., Seattle

Angle Lake Park, 19408 International Blvd., SeaTac.

Flowing Lake County Park, 17900 48th S.E., Snohomish (no lifeguards).

Best landscaped grounds

All the Bellevue beaches have lush green lawns and nice landscaping, but Chism Beach Park‘s blooming flower beds win for the loveliest surroundings. The park also boasts large swimming and sand areas, a cement swim platform and a toddler boat play structure right on the beach. 1175 96th Ave. S.E., Bellevue.

Best beaches to bring your bike

Seward Park offers a wide, paved 2.5-mile path in addition to its sandy beach and roped swim area. 5902 Lake Washington Blvd. S., Seattle.

Matthews Beach Park is an access point for the 28-mile Burke-Gilman Trail. For younger kids, there are new playground toys and a wide, roped-off shallow area but only a narrow strip of sand. The park also has diving boards, an inside shower and a changing area. 9300 51st Ave. N.E., Seattle.

Best for diving (with boards)

Green Lake Park‘s two beaches (East beach is near the community center and playground; West beach is near Bathhouse Theater) offer high and low diving boards and large swim areas. East beach’s sandy area overlooks concrete stairs that lead into the water; West beach offers only grass, no sand. 7201 E. Green Lake Drive N., Seattle.


Madrona Park

Mount Baker Park

Best beaches near shops

Parking can be a hassle at Seattle’s Madison Park, which is near neighborhood shops. Next to the beach, there’s only four-hour street parking. The trade-off is a grassy area for sunbathing, strip of sand, long swimming area with roped deep and shallow areas, swim raft and diving boards. A playground across the street features stone sculptures and a wooden fort in addition to the usual play structure. East Madison Street and East Howe Street, Seattle.


Marina Park, 25 Lakeshore Plaza Drive, Kirkland (no lifeguards).

Best for renting a boat

Explore nearby Mercer Slough in a canoe or kayak rented from Enatai Beach Park, 3519 108th Ave. S.E., Bellevue.


Green Lake Park

Sullivan Park

Lake Sammamish State Park

Best for nonwater stuff

Juanita Beach, 9703 N.E. Juanita Drive, Kirkland, hosts a nighttime farmers market 3-7 p.m. Fridays through Oct. 5. It’s also home to an outdoor movie series, which includes “Wild America,” rated PG, 8:30 p.m. Aug. 24 and “Charlotte’s Web,” rated G, 8:15 p.m. Sept. 7.

Beaches with ample parking

Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle.

Lake Sammamish State Park

Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park

Madrona Park

Newcastle Beach Park

Lake Wilderness Park

Thornton A. Sullivan Park

Stephanie Dunnewind: sdunnewind@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2091