Apparently early European settlers took their cues from baby seals, because Alki was the very first place they stopped in Puget Sound in 1851. The view was quite different back then when they were greeted by none other than Chief Seattle. Imagine—no Space Needle, no Century Link Field, no piers or ferry terminals! The conditions were rather unforgiving, and they named the settlement New York-Alki. “Alki” means “by-and-by” or “In a while” in Chinook, so apparently no one was expecting the place to be a booming metropolis anytime soon.
It didn’t take long for people to move to Elliot Bay, where the weather and harbor were a little more forgiving. The few people who stayed (only two families) dropped the “New York” from the name and kept the Alki, liking its laid-back sound. Eventually even those families bailed on the area, and Alki was left empty while the rest of West Seattle populated. It wasn’t until neighborhoods like Admiral and Fauntleroy were well established that Alki saw action again, this time as a public beach and a resort area for the wealthy.
As with the rest of West Seattle, Alki has a relaxed feeling, and you can tell the residents are ultra-proud of their ‘hood. Visitors covet the beachfront condos and the place is packed during the summer for beach volleyball tournaments and picnics. In the off-season, locals claim their neighborhood once again.
Activities and Attractions
I’m not kidding about the baby seal thing. It’s not uncommon to go for a walk along Alki Beach and come across one of the little guys, and signs posted will be sure to tell you leave them alone. Instead, view from afar while walking, biking, or blading on the boardwalk (you can rent equipment at Wheel Fun Rentals) or just plain sunbathing. Or, if the beach is too packed, try one of the local parks like Whale Tale Park, Bar S Playground, or the Charles Richey viewpoint.
At mealtime, grab fish and chips at Spud and eat it picnic-style, or stop in to Pegasus Pizza, Cactus, or Phoenicia for indoor beachside dining.
Homes in Alki
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If you take your cues from baby seals, you’ll soon be turning up on Alki Beach to enjoy the long stretch of sand and view of downtown. In Seattle, this is as close as you can get to living in beachy paradise.