6 Ways to Beat The Heat & Enjoy Summer Fun on Mercer Island

July 29, 2022 | by Wendy K. Leigh

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Kayakers & paddle boarder on Lake Washington | Photo credit: Lisi Wolf Photography

When summer finally arrives in the Pacific Northwest, we rejoice – and then immediately start melting. Western Washington’s love-hate relationship with summer sun inspires us to look for the best possible ways to enjoy that vitamin D while staying cool and protected. Thankfully, Mercer Island’s parks, beaches, and public spaces provide much-needed spots to cool off, get wet, and find a little relief from high temperatures.

We rounded up this complete list of Mercer Island’s favorite ways to beat the heat, from summer lake plunges and crystal-clear swimming pools to sweet frozen treats and refreshingly powerful air-conditioning.

1) Go Jump in a Lake at Mercer Island Beaches

Groveland Beach Park

The city maintains three primary swimming beaches, at Luther Burbank Park, Groveland Beach, and Clarke Beach – and monitors Luther Burbank and Groveland beaches for water quality in the summer months. Aside from these, some smaller beach parks offer water access for swimming, including some of the street ends (see below). Unfortunately, due to budget issues, the City of Mercer Island Parks & Recreation Department no longer staffs any of the beaches with lifeguards.

Luther Burbank Park

This 73-acre park facing Lake Washington includes three-quarters of a mile of shoreline, with a designated swimming area and sandy beach toward the south end for romping, playing, and splashing. Nearby dedicated picnic areas are available by reservation for group gatherings and celebrations. Even your dog can cool off at Luther Burbank – a dog park located on the north side of the park has its own beach providing lake access for your furry friend to jump in and cool off.

Groveland Beach

A favorite spot for cooling off in the waters of Lake Washington, a pier extends and turns into the lake where swimmers scoot past sunbathers stretched out on towels and dive right in. A small, shaded area offers a couple of benches near the restrooms, and the paved sports court and children’s playground have semi-shaded sections. Access Groveland Beach by taking a slight downward hike from the parking lot near SE 58th Street and 80th Ave SE.

Sunbathers at Groveland Beach Park | Photo by Wendy K. Leigh

Clarke Beach

The east side of the island’s beach offers fewer amenities than the ones at Luther Burbank and Groveland parks. But the lack of a playground and sandy beach often makes it a bit quieter and more peaceful. It does offer plenty of grassy open space, picnic and barbecue areas, docks, trails, and restrooms, open in the summer.

2) Get Wet at Mercer Island Pools

Mercer Island Beach Club. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Beach Club

Mary Wayte Swimming Pool

Mercer Island’s only public swimming pool opens for laps and family swims on most days, but uses an online booking system to prevent overcrowding. Schedules change seasonally (late August and mid-June), but include a fun “family and aqua exercise” three days a week in the summer.

Stroum JCC

Mercer Island’s Jewish Community Center is open to everyone, via monthly memberships or day passes, and includes family swim time in the evenings on weekdays, with additional times Friday through Sunday (changes seasonally). The pool also offers swim lessons, classes, and teams, while membership includes the gym, events, and more.

Private Swim Clubs

Three of Mercer Island’s private clubs provide members-only outdoor swimming pools and the opportunity to join water polo, swim, and diving teams. In addition to the summer opportunity to cool off, all three keep their outdoor pools open year-round (adding a “bubble cover” or pool dome on top during off-season months). Unfortunately, all have limited memberships and waitlists long enough that you are unlikely to see the water this summer. Read more about Mercer Island Beach Club, Mercerwood Shore Club, and Mercer Island Country Club in our guide to the island’s private clubs.

3) Launch Your Boat

Mercer Island goes the extra mile (or at least the extra street) to provide convenient small-vessel launches into Lake Washington.

Mercer Island Boat Launch

Mercer Island’s main publicly accessible boat launch sits just under I-90 on the west side of the island, with parking and a boat ramp available to the public via annual, monthly, or daily permits that carry small fees.

Mercer Island Boat Launch

Street Ends

Perched at the end of easily accessible neighborhood streets ending at the lake, some of these hidden mini-parks offer pleasant places for swimming, while others are designed for launching small boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and other water toys. 

There are no fees for using any of the island’s 20 “street end” launchpads, ten of which are developed and maintained for easier boat access. Many include small shady areas for relaxing on benches or picnic tables, and some have foot trails leading to the water and nearby beach.

The 10 developed street ends include:

  • Calkins Landing: SE 28th St and 60th Ave SE
  • Forest Landing: SE 43rd and Forest Ave SE
  • Franklin landing: 78th Ave SE and SE 42nd St
  • Fruitland Landing: 97th Ave SE and SE 34th St
  • Garfield Landing: SE 30th St & 60th Ave SE
  • Lincoln Landing: 76th Ave SE & SE 22nd St
  • Miller Landing: Forest Ave SE & SE 48th St
  • Proctor Landing: SE 32nd St & 60th Ave SE
  • Roanoke landing: W. Mercer Way & Roanoke Way
  • 77th Ave SE Landing: 7670 SE 22nd St
Franklin Landing

Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard

Sadly, Mercer Island doesn’t have any local retail outlets that provide kayak or paddleboard rentals, but you don’t have to go far to find one. A quick jaunt to Northwest Paddle Surfers, near Seward Park, just on the Seattle side of I-90, gets you to hourly paddleboard and kayak rentals. On the Bellevue side, REI Boathouse offers similar, plus canoes, in Entai Beach Park just under the east end of the floating bridge. Seattle Adventure Sports runs paddleboarding summer camps for kids out of Luther Burbank Park and offers occasional half-day adventures for the whole family during the season (with hopes to do rentals on weekends at some point).  

4) Find Some Air Conditioning

Mercer Island Library, Photo Courtesy Mercer Island Library

Mercer Island has great options for air-conditioned public spaces that offer a comfortable place to beat the heat and enjoy fun activities at the same time.

Mercer Island Community & Event Center

The Mercer Island Community & Event Center is a true (and air-conditioned) community asset, offering engaging endeavors such as gym activities, a game room, and a full-fledged fitness center. The free Mercer Island Art Gallery within showcases the work of regional artists and refreshes exhibits at six-week intervals. Some activities incur nominal fees and/or advance reservations. However, the facility is also open for passive use and drop-in activities all week, except Sundays.

Mercer Island Library

The contemporary air-conditioned Mercer Island Library welcomes anyone to chill out while browsing books, accessing up-to-date computer equipment, and playing board games. Teens have a dedicated lounge, along with vending machines, and little ones get their own reading room in the children’s area with lively art and comfy kid-size chairs and bean bags.

5) Get Frosty with a Sweet Treat

Shaved ice at Island Treats | Photo by Wendy K. Leigh

Nothing cools you down and perks you up like frozen island treats. Fortunately, island vendors have you covered.

Island Treats

Seasonal shaved ice here includes a tempting array of flavors and toppings. Curated employee mixtures like Island in the Sun, Shark Attack, and Rainbow Road, or customize your own combination for just the right sweet treat for you.

Sano Café

Fresh smoothies come with the option of great customizable add-ins on top of the flavorful ingredients such as blueberries, kale, coconut milk, lime, chia, avocado, goji, shredded coconut, and lots more. A big perk of grabbing chilled drinks on 27th Street is plenty of tables and chairs resting beneath shady trees.

Hap’s Burgers & Taps

Apt for the classic burger joint vibes at this remodeled gas station are the hand-dipped Snoqualmie Ice Cream milkshakes, in flavors like local strawberry and with the option of adding cookie crumbles. The same crumbles, along with organic chocolate sauce, top vanilla ice cream on their ice cream sundae.

6) Take a Shady Trail Walk

Trail signs in Pioneer Park | Photo credit Lisi Wolf Photography

Public nature trails represent the ethos of the Mercer Island community, highlighting the values of fresh air, exercise, and communal assets. Finding and connecting with nature in everyday life is easy, even on hot days, with shaded trails in natural habitats.

Pioneer Park

Stretching across 113 acres of forested open space at Island Crest Way and SE 68th Street, Pioneer Park harbors three separate quadrants of towering deciduous or coniferous trees. Shade is the name of the game on hot summer days, with 6.6 miles of winding trails. Hike all three quadrants and you’ll discover dense ravines, protected wetlands, and eco-sensitive streams and creeks. Leafy branches from western red cedars and hemlock, bigleaf maples, and Douglas firs shade you from UV rays, and there are plenty of benches for rest breaks and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.

Walking bridge over a creek in Pioneer Park | Photo credit Lisi Wolf Photography

Island Crest Park / Deane’s Children’s Park

Similar to Pioneer Park, Island Crest Park is mostly wooded with a well-trodden trail system. In the center of the park, you can feel secluded in nature, but it’s not so big that you’ll ever feel lost.

Dean's Children's Park castle
Castle playground at Deane’s Children’s Park

If you haven’t explored the nearby Deane’s Children’s Park, aka “Dragon Park,” located next to the tennis courts and fields of Island Crest Park, you’re missing a treasure. Plus, it’s a great park for little ones to play at during hot summer days due to the park’s shaded setting.

Sculptural dragon at Deane’s Children’s Park

The playground and sculptural dragon in this park are among the most popular play spaces on Mercer Island. Generations of children who grew up on the island fondly remember playing at Dragon Park.

The original dragon was replaced in 2013 by a new, larger sculpture by the original artist, Kenton Pies. There is a slide off the dragon’s tail, and children can climb across its back and into its belly through its mouth or side openings. Kids will also have fun playing on the castle playground as well as on swings and a climbing rock nearby.

Wherever there’s a park on Mercer Island, you’ll find trees and shade, and most likely, nearby trails. Check out the online Mercer Island park map and descriptions for more details.