Oregon Coast Travel and Weather Advice for Memorial Day Weekend
(Oregon Coast) - It's when the Oregon coast really starts hopping again with the tourist season and the wild, untamed fun that only late spring and early summer can provide.
Memorial Day means the kickoff to summer to some degree, with masses of vacationers jetting over to the coast. It also means there are so many people heading out there to get away from it all that they inadvertently bring IT with them: the crowds, the traffic, camping and a lot of other aspects about Oregon coast holiday travel that beg repeating.
Then there are the loads of informational tidbits the visitor centers don’t tell you about: tips for beating that traffic, higher lodging prices, the police speeding stings, and of course the weather foibles all the tourism officials never seem to notice.
Here is an unusually detailed survival guide for Memorial Day Weekend on the Oregon coast, with a quite a few tips you’ve probably never even imagined, which will help ensure a memorable and problem-free time. See the Memorial Weekend Lodging Update the week before. More Oregon Coast Weather
Weather Advice No One Bothered to Tell You
Come May, and even in early summer or Memorial Day Weekend, spring on the coast still means some wild mood swings in the way of weather. You’ll want to be prepared for all sorts of things, within the same day.
The big rule for the coast almost any time of year: take along a change of clothes or two. But more so in spring. The weather can go up and down within minutes, which creates some unusual and memorable spectacles - but it’s a pain in the butt if you’re on a long beach walk during a spell of sunny weather and you find yourself soaked by a sudden rainsquall, largely because you’ve neglected to bring your coat. Nasty.
Or, if you’re goofing around the sand and fall in a tide pool or a creek, you’re going to wish you’d brought along an extra pair of pants or something. This happens a lot easier than you think. Make sure you bring a coat if you’re going to wander too far from your car.
And whatever you do, make sure you bring along more than one pair of shoes and socks. It’s way too easy to get these wet – and they usually stay that way for a whole day. You’ll most certainly want to wear sandals or flip-flops while bouncing around the sand.
If you’re going to explore rocky tidal areas, bring shoes that stick well and don’t slip too easy. It’s likely what you’ll be doing is some kind of climbing, at least in a minor way. Sneakers or hiking boots are best for these areas. Always be careful of extremely slippery areas on the rocks, usually found on green spots near the tide. These green areas should be a red alert for you: it’s extremely treacherous while wet. Falling on your back or head here is especially risky business, especially if you’re close to the water.
Traffic and Road Warnings
There’s plenty to be wary of on the road during Memorial Day Weekend. With many more on the highways, you’ll need to leave earlier and give yourself more time to get there. The roads to the region, like Highway 22, Highway 18 and Highway 26, will be packed with other cars and more heavily patrolled by police. BeachConnection.net columnist Guy DiTorrice described traffic as being a bit like “the Terwilliger Curves of the Portland area on a typical business day,” with plenty of cars packing the roads and creating more dangerous conditions. Be very cautious of your speed – not just because it’s the smart thing to do in such traffic, but police saturation is heavy and sometimes sneaky. It’s doubtful you’ll see them in time to slow down.
There are numerous sting spots to look out for: Highway 26, at the big rest stop halfway between Hillsboro and the coast, in the coast range; various gravel pull-offs along Highway 26 and Highway 18 in the coast range; the double-laned areas along Highway 26 in the Saddle Mountain area; Highway 18, between Newberg and McMinnville.
On the coast, they can be found either watching for speeders or keeping a close eye on certain stop signs at: the stop sign at Sand Lake Road junction a mile north of Pacific City; the pull-offs just north of Newport, around Moolack Beach; the southern end of Rockaway Beach (as you come in from Garibaldi); the town of Wheeler is more heavily patrolled on Sundays, just as the tourists begin leaving the coast; and the southern entrance to Seaside. Lincoln City often has heavy patrols in both directions of traffic all day and all over town. Cops frequently wait at the big curve by the gravel pit, just north of the Nelscott area (start really watching yourself after the Outlet Mall).
It’s simply safer to stay the speed limit during your entire journey, not just for the sake of your driving record but for the safety of all around you. If you have a notoriously lead foot you can’t control, you may consider staying home.
Beware the Traffic Jam Zones
Usually, the Sunday or Monday of the weekend means a staggeringly huge exodus from the coast, with everyone leaving the same time. Traffic can be backed up for miles. Folks often leave in the late afternoon, just before sunset. It’s advisable to leave right after sunset, or even wait a bit, and drive home in the dark. While it’s harder to see and less relaxing than the daylight trip back, it’s sizably less stressful than sitting in traffic an extra hour.
Drinking and Driving Mix Even Less on the Coast
This goes without saying. But when good people become tourists, crazy things can happen. There isn’t any excuse for this no matter what, but the penalties can be worse on the coast. Tillamook and Lincoln counties take your car away automatically. Besides, most coastal towns have their bars well within walking distance of lodgings – like Seaside, Cannon Beach, parts of Newport, Yachats and Manzanita. You’ll find excellent cab companies in Lincoln City, Seaside and Newport – and they’re infinitely cheaper than in Portland or Seattle.
Memorial Day means loads of camping, but you may already be out of luck if you’re hoping to reserve one. Time has probably run out already for most coastal campgrounds. These are typically reserved months in advance for Memorial Day Weekend and for Labor Day Weekend.
Some could be left for this coming Memorial Day at this writing (two weeks away), but it’s doubtful. For state campgrounds, you can call Oregon State Parks and Recreation at (800) 452-5687 to find out status, or reserve online at their website.
Some county campgrounds along the coast don’t take reservations and are only first come, first serve. There are certainly more campgrounds than those run by the state, including county, city and other entities. You can find a complete list of Oregon coast campgrounds at the Oregon Coast Campground Guide.
You can still reserve your summer and Labor Day campgrounds at this point, however.
Lodging prices begin their summer spike on this weekend, and many will take advantage of the greater need and have unusually high prices. That’s no fun, but it happens.
The best way to ensure not getting gouged is reserving your lodging well ahead of time. BeachConnection.net has a good and varied list of suggestions on this page and in the lodging sampler.
You’ll want to do this soon. Many lodgings have told BeachConnection.net they are starting to fill up for that weekend, so some will max out very soon. Don’t make your reservations later than a week ahead of time.
Some lodgings are already completely full for Fourth of July as of now, so if you’re planning a trip then – plan ahead soon.
Coastal Secrets Given Away
If you want great, even fantastic lodging and dining deals, no crowds and practically zero traffic, at a time when the weather is likely to be stellar: go just before the big weekend. The week and weekend before Memorial Day weekend is traditionally completely dead on the coast, while weather is usually quite wonderful. It’s the “Lost Treasure” of Oregon's coast in early and mid May.
Lodging prices are still near winter rates, even just a week before the holiday weekend. Many lodgings are also happy to dicker in price a bit to coax people in for what is an otherwise dismal business weekend for them. Economic motivations will create some interesting deals in these three weeks before the holiday.
This time of year is known as the “Secret Season,” because of the lesser crowds, increasingly pleasant weather, better lodging deals and less traffic. It really is a lost treasure waiting to be discovered by the average beachgoer.
Stay tuned to BeachConnection.net for more about this weekend. On the Wednesday before the weekend, look for a lodging availability report from BeachConnection.net, where hotels, motels and rentals that still have openings will be posted on this website – for those last minute travelers who neglected to plan ahead.
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