West Seattle is the birthplace of Seattle. (The first European-descent settlers landed at Alki Point on November 13, 1851.) It’s also a big, inviting place, with a wealth of flavors and neighborhoods.
One of the gems of West Seattle—some would call it a best-kept secret—is the area called The Arroyos. The Arroyos is bordered, more or less, by Puget Sound to the west and south, the Arbor Heights neighborhood to the north, and by Seola Park to the east. The Arroyos encompasses two distinct, but related, neighborhoods: Arroyo Heights and Arroyo Beach.
Although there’s a variety of residential architecture in Arroyo Heights, the neighborhood has an impressive share of mid-century Modern. In the 1950s and ’60s, Seattle’s post-war economic boom brought a flurry of quality home-building to the area. Most of the mid-century residences in Arroyo Heights have been lovingly maintained and/or impressively updated. Newer homes—and there is some in-fill going on—trend in the Contemporary Modern style.
Arroyo Heights is known for its spectacular views. Stand just about anywhere in the Heights and you’re looking out at Puget Sound in all its glory. Expansive vistas take in Vashon Island, Blake Island, Mount Rainier, and more. On a sunny day, the saltwater sparkles like diamonds. Most streets have underground wiring, which enhances the views. There’s also the quiet, the salt air, the single-family homes on often generously sized lots. Shopping and services are close by, including Westwood Village Shopping Mall, which is only about ten minutes away.
Down the steep, twisting road from Arroyo Heights, you’ll find the small enclave of Arroyo Beach. This is a residential community (no shops or services at the beach proper) that has the feel of a small beach town. The rural-like lanes are a favorite with local joggers and walkers who come down the very steep hill from Arroyo Heights and then challenge themselves to run, or walk, back up.
Unlike Arroyo Heights, Arroyo Beach does not have underground wiring. Doesn’t matter. Generally speaking, the wires that are there do not interfere with views. Arroyo Beach brings to mind the old saying, “If you’re lucky enough to live at the beach—you’re lucky enough.” Breathe in the fresh sea air. Listen to the saltwater lapping gently against the shore. Look out over the Sound and you might see a grey whale, or a pod of Orcas, passing by. Most of these beach homes, many built in the mid-century, are on surprisingly generous lots—some even have swimming pools.
One of the charms of The Arroyos is its proximity to natural areas. These untamed greenbelts create a scenic buffer against traffic and development, while helping to preserve the quiet, majestic beauty of The Arroyos. The Seattle Parks and Recreation website calls the 7.4-acre Arroyos Natural Area “an undeveloped area in a quiet neighborhood with great views of Puget Sound.”
There’s also the 8.8-acre Seola Park to the east. Seola—although open to the public—feels more like a habitat refuge. The Seattle Parks website cautions: “Try not to get lost in this great ravine…on your way down to the madrona grove at the park’s south end and the rocky beach beyond.” It’s not often we’re warned “not to get lost” in the woods of Seattle. But I suppose those pioneers who landed at Alki back in 1851 could have related.