Laura writes from the Pacific Northwest. She explores topics on relationships, mind-body wellness, social issues, and lifestyle.
Oregon Is One of My Favorite Destinations on the West Coast
I have two favorite West Coast beach destinations: Oahu, Hawaii, and the Oregon coastline. Since the latter is just around the corner from where I live, I'm going to share some of my favorite local beach destinations there.
Starting at Seaside, Oregon, and then moving on to Lincoln City, Newport, and Florence, this stunning stretch of coastline is a beach lover's dream. The Oregon coast is sprinkled with unique tourist destinations and fishing towns. Each place has its own seaside, small-town charm, giving you a reason to visit each one.
Fly a Kite in Seaside, Oregon
This beach is one of the most crowded, as it is the Northwest's most popular ocean resort. It is only 90 minutes away from the city of Portland. It has an abundance of family-friendly activities: a 1.5-mile paved walkway perfect for strollers, joggers, and bicyclists; volleyball; sandcastle building; kite flying; and dog walking on the beach.
In town, you can treat your kids to a carousel ride, bumper cars, beach bikes, shopping, arcades, a trip to the aquarium, miniature golf, fortune-telling, ice cream, saltwater taffy, and elephant ears. I'm not really into junk food, but elephant ears smothered in brown sugar and peanut butter are out-of-this-world yummy.
Seaside is a special spot for me and my little girl. Maybe I'm too easily entertained, but for me, the highlight of our visit is feeding the seals at The Seaside Aquarium. Each seal has a name and a different personality, and they perform tricks for you when you feed them food, which you can buy at the Aquarium.
Seaside seems to be hosting events every weekend, especially in the summer. We enjoy Wheels and Waves, a parade of hot rod cars driving up and down the main street in town. There is also an Oktoberfest celebration and volleyball tournaments.
Visit a Casino in Lincoln City and Cape Kiwanda
Lincoln City is further down the Oregon Coast, about 80 miles south of Seaside. You will pass several beautiful locations between the two, such as Cannon Beach and Tillamook. Lincoln City is one of my favorites because it's a tradition for my family to go there and shack up in the same hotel each time. We all go to the beach, then at night my husband and I sneak away to gamble at the local casino while the grandparents babysit our daughter.
Chinook Winds is a great casino. It has live entertainment and a wonderful seafood buffet. As far as lodging, I like to stay about 30 minutes outside of town at Cape Kiwanda. This town has a neighboring state park and an exquisite hotel (or an RV park). All the rooms have an ocean view and there's an on-site spa. Pelican Pub and Brewery, with its tasty seafood menu, is located right across the street.
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Watch Sea Life at the Aquarium in Newport
Making our way 24 miles down the coastline from Lincoln City on US Hwy 101 is Newport. I like this town for its great ocean views, restaurants, and small-town boutiques, such as antique shops and old bookstores. This town gives me the feel of a fishing town. It is a popular fishing destination, and many deep-sea fishing excursions depart from here! You can even go whale watching!
Newport is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which has many enchanting exhibits. For example, you can check out "Passages of the Deep," where you are completely surrounded by water and ocean life, wall to wall and floor to ceiling. You are basically inside a giant aquarium.
Go on a Dune Buggy Ride in Florence
Upon entering Florence, 65 miles south of Newport, you can step into the Sea Lion Caves. Here, you can watch the sea lions up close in their natural surroundings beneath the cliffs along the sea. They gather here in great numbers and bark loudly amongst themselves.
Florence is an outdoor enthusiast's dream location. Recreational activities include camping, sand dune adventures, biking, hiking, golf, crabbing and clamming, diving, kayaking, windsurfing, and horseback riding, just to name a few. However, the beach here can be chilly, even in August. I wished I had brought my winter jacket when I went horseback riding on the beach. It was a beautiful experience nonetheless because we chose the sunset ride. Dune buggy rides on the sand dunes are probably the main attraction to Florence and this was where I took my first ride. It certainly wasn't my last, even though at one point during the ride I thought it might be.
Get Some West Coast Souvenirs for Your Friends and Family
The best souvenir to get on your vacation along the Oregon coast is a t-shirt with the phrase, "A quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem." I got mine in Newport. Also, beautiful seashell collections and agates are sold at the beach and in local stores. Or, get an old book about the Oregon coast at an antique bookstore. Several places, like Seaside, have penny smashers that can etch a picture, date, and location onto a penny—this would probably be the cheapest souvenir. Myrtlewood is one of the more expensive materials used for souvenirs on the coast, but a handcrafted Myrtlewood statue would make a gorgeous and unique gift.