When I say “Beach trip!” You probably wouldn’t think of Oregon. With a reputation for being gray and rainy, Oregon tends not to be the first port of call for folks looking for a beach road trip destination. But discounting Oregon is missing out on prime vacation potential.
Maybe it’s because rain reminds me of growing up in England, but it’s one of my favorite trips. If you know where to look, the Oregon coast can be a blast and an affordable getaway. If you’re cool with rain like I am, the off-season is a great time to be there, because the beaches are practically empty.
It’s All About Newport
At around two and a half hours from Portland, Newport and nearby Waldport are an ideal spot. The stretch of highway between them offers a host of cool activities. Plus, stopping off in Portland to shop for books at Powell’s or grab some great coffee is the perfect way to break up a long day of driving.
Be warned: Newport is a popular spot, and the town itself can get pretty busy. My best advice: avoid standard tourist fare like Ripley’s and the Wax Museum, and you should be fine. It is, however, worth a trip into town for famous clam chowder from Mo’s, and the fish markets. If you’re doing as I’m about to suggest, and renting a beach house, cooking with the fresh-caught fish is your best bet for good eats.
Rent a Beach House
Seriously, forget about hotels. The best way to experience the Oregon coast is to chip in for a beach house with a bunch of friends. The ones we like to rent are right along the highway between Newport and Waldport, putting us right between all our favorite activities. If you book far enough in advance, you can get one that directly overlooks the beach. This is an authentic, relaxing experience that you just can’t get at a hotel. The houses are well maintained, most of them have decks, cozy sitting rooms, and kitchens stocked with cooking supplies. Bonus points if you snag one with a fireplace or a pool table in the garage!
Stuff to Do
Just across the bridge to the South of Newport is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. If you only spend money on one non-beach activity, this should probably be it. The aquarium is a 23-acre facility and a non-profit accredited member of the American Zoo & Aquarium Association. They take education and conservation seriously, and the facility itself is super cool!
A little further South along the highway is the village of Seal Rock, with two state parks nearby. From here you can scramble over rocks to investigate tide pools, check out the seals, and enjoy other cool features of the beach. Seal Rock State Park has a disability-accessible area.
If you want to get your hands dirty, there are docks in Newport and Waldport from which you can rent crabbing boats and equipment. We like the Port of Alsea in Waldport, but there’s plenty of choices around. This can be a pricey activity, with the cost of a license plus rental gear, but it’s one of my favorites.
A Little Further Down The Highway
If you’re an outdoorsy sort, you may want to drive another hour south down the coastal highway until you reach Florence. There are good hiking and dirt biking in the sand dunes. You can hike to the beach, check out more of Oregon’s state parks, and of course, there’s always the Sea Lion Caves. Beware, the latter is pretty heavy on the tourist quota.
In fact, Oregon is full of off-highway trails, ATV tours, and dirt bike tracks. With a ride variety of challenge levels, from ride-along tours to intimidating MX tracks, it’s a great spot whether you’re a casual trail driver or a motorsport enthusiast.
A few words of caution, though. If you’re taking your personal vehicle on trails, remember to think about the terrain. Dry trails can turn muddy quickly in Oregon’s rainy seasons, so plan your routes, check the weather, and come prepared with the right tires.
My family and our friends like nothing better than gathering up in a group, renting a beach house and enjoying a beach trip that doesn’t break the bank. Especially in spring, if you can handle the unpredictable weather, the Oregon coast is a particularly relaxing trip. The beach was practically empty for our last trip in late March. Maybe we’ll see you down there next time!
About the Author
Ben Steele has lived in 3 countries and loves to explore. He wears many hats, as a writer, live theater professional, and not for profit administrator. Currently, he lives in Idaho, and is in the process of exploring nearby weekend trips whenever he can! You can follow him over on Twitter.