NEWS YOU CAN USE
Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast
travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway,
Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe
Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.
Summer Cometh: Are you ready?
Seaside: Three Faces of an Oregon Coast Town
Oregon) – Part carnival, part natural wonder and part living
history, Seaside has more than one side. If you take the family-oriented
kitsch of your basic state fair and combine it with a beach town
where you can walk on – and touch – history, well, you
get the idea.
The town is often maligned
for its more obvious commercial sides, but the interesting thing
to note about such towns on Oregon’s coast is that they have
their clandestine natural aspects. Sometimes, these are more of
a hidden pleasure than other beaches that are less populated.
main drag, Broadway, is filled with a variety of touristy shops
and attractions, restaurants of varying degrees of finery and a
few bars that are legendary hotspots during any time of the year.
At the beachy end of the street is the historical “Turnaround,”
which sits in the middle of the also ancient Promenade – a
mile and a half walk along a charming path that overlooks the strand.
You’ll find another Lewis & Clark landmark just south
of the Turnaround, and the Gilbert District lets you disappear into
the past a bit.
Then there’s the
beach, which includes the deserted northern end, the somewhat deserted
cove area at the south of town, and the hiking path that meanders
over Tillamook Head some six miles to Cannon Beach.
most people coming into town, things begin at the southern end,
where various roadside attractions, shops, coffee shacks and eateries
are interspersed with the occasional farmer selling flowers and
such. Close to the biggest chunk of Seaside proper, Seaside Helicopters
provides flights of fun over the area, starting at $35 per person.
You’ll spot wildlife cavorting around the top of Tillamook
Head, see the ocean and other Cannon Beach and Seaside landmarks
from a new and particularly breathtaking point of view, plus you
may get an aerial peak at Goonies Rock near Cannon Beach –
which was used in the cult film “Goonies” in a couple
integral scenes. www.seaside-helicopters.com.
From there, Highway 101
zips through town – or crawls, depending on the time of year
– amidst various big stores and eateries. Some of Seaside’s
best cuisine lies here, such as the stunning, scrumptious fresh
seafood and unforgettable tuna melts of Bell Buoy, the award-winning
Mexican fare of Mazatlan and the aromatic outdoor cuisine and barbecue
of Riverside BBQ & Espresso. There’s an outlet mall here
that includes a grand wine shop as well.
District is part of a rebirth of Seaside’s historical vibe,
an area that includes most of downtown east of the Necanicum River.
Older buildings are getting refurbished and reoccupied all the time
here, with various new businesses springing up often. The area is
a true charmer, and remarkably different from the rest of Seaside.
The district sometimes gets accused of trying to cop the attitude
and feeling of Cannon Beach or Portland’s swanky Pearl District,
but in fact it has its own attitude. There is a small sense of time
travel here; like old Americana with just a touch of swank. If anything,
it’s equitable to Newport’s Nye Beach neighborhood.
historical wonders are the Seaside Aquarium (one of the oldest in
the U.S.), strolling the Prom (originally built in the 20’s,
made out of wood), and the Seaside Historical Museum.
A river runs through
it all here, with one gigantic aquatic park hosting a business that
rents out funky foot paddleboats. The river divides the Gilbert
District from the more commercialized parts of Broadway, which scream
kid friendly, sweets and goofy times. From here up to the Turnaround,
this is the area that gets the most attention – for better
or for worse. Kids and families love it; travel writers pan it for
its carnival atmosphere.
fact, there is a layer here that’s often unseen: the kitsch
factor has an enormous inadvertent humor factor. For those whose
cultural taste leans a little below the mainstream and slightly
askew, this street can be a riot, unbeknownst to itself. You can
take this all very seriously, as in your family will love it or
you hate the commercialism. Or, you can relax, see the goofiness
of it and maybe even poke fun at those aspects.
the way, there are a few surprises. Of particular note is Zinger’s
Homemade Ice Cream, which, as the name implies, makes its own frozen
goodies. They’ve got many of the usuals, but plenty of somewhat
exotic delights. Some of the highlights here are their fruit selections,
all made with the real stuff. The marionberry has quite the powerful
taste, using berries from Marion County. Then there’s the
tangy (and very real) strawberry, and the seriously wowing (but
only periodically available) mango. All the fruity ones have chunks
of the real thing inside, waiting to wow. Sugar free and diabetic
options are available, but mostly Zinger's offers singles that are
actually the size of two scoops, and doubles - well, they're twice
as large. 210 Broadway. (503) 738-3939. www.zingersicecream.com.
It’s no secret
that Seaside is likely one of the most crowded towns on this coast
during peak seasons, so finding an empty spot is a bit of an art.
But they exist – and they host loads of natural wonders. The
strange secret about this frenetic beach town is that its hidden
beaches are really more so, because so much attention is concentrated
in the main area around the Turnaround.
At the Prom’s
northern end, at 12th Ave., things become markedly more deserted.
This final access gives way to a host of fluffy dunes, and eventually
an estuary and the mouth of the Necanicum and its slightly weird
mudflats. For some reason, people tend to migrate south of this
rather popular entrance, but leave the northern section alone –
which is where the river mouth sits.
the end of the beach
Walk this stretch
of perhaps a quarter mile or a little more, and you’ll discover
one of the more unusual spots on Oregon’s coast, albeit deceptively
so. At any regular glance, it looks completely average, perhaps
even slightly boring and featureless. It cloisters a treasure trove
of unbroken sand dollars – likely the most you’ll ever
find on any beach on Oregon’s coast. Reasons for this are
unknown, as no science official in the area has as yet had any explanation
for BeachConnection.net. Part of this has to do with that no one
seems to spend much time in this area, so the goodies don’t
All this depends on conditions,
but it is easy to find way more of these sand dollars freshly washed
up than average.
Cannon Beach, and many other beach towns, often the extreme southern
and northern ends tend to be the least populated, usually because
they’re farther from beach accesses or the center of activity.
With Seaside, the southern end – known as the “cove”
- is also a bit more clandestine. It is, however, often a hotspot
with surfers. But beachcombers don’t find it to easy to stroll
on as the large stones are not conducive to such activity, and the
sandy stretches there are hidden by the tide half the time.
the cove and the southernmost end of the Prom, that walkway gives
way to a simple concrete path that runs alongside the beach. Here
– between Ave. E and Ave. U - the beach slowly changes from
the softer sands to rocky and stone-covered, which is much more
like the entire beach of Seaside was back in the early part of the
century, before the building of the jetties in Astoria. These 15
blocks or so tend to be even more deserted than the southern end,
as nothing but summer homes and suburban neighborhoods occupy this
part of the beachfront. Tourists tend not to gather here in any
employee adjusts the pipe
- and oddity – can be found near the Turnaround, at the tide
line, directly in front of the Seaside Aquarium. You’ll notice
a pipe sticking up out of the ocean, visible in varying degrees
depending on the tide. This pumps water into the aquarium, lying
six to 20 feet under the sand, depending on its location. Regular
visitors to the area will notice it occasionally changes shape out
on the tide line. This is because sands shift and they need to periodically
reconfigure it to keep it from being smothered.
moment in Seaside: the Prom is covered in hail
The pipe also
brings the visitors back around to the subject of Seaside history:
it originally belonged to the natatorium which occupied the spot
where the Seaside Aquarium is now. Natatoriums were hot salt-water
baths, which often had entertainment as visitors relaxed in the
warm water. These were very popular at the turn of the century.
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it all is Tillamook Head, where a strenuous hiking trail takes you
past amazing viewpoints, a remnant of an old military installation
and a primitive campground. There’s also a major Lewis &
Clark landmark here as well.
If you want to add yet
another dimension to your discoveries of Seaside, numerous bars
give the place quite a buzzing feel (no pun intended) at night.
Here, too, is the goofy, inadvertent humor factor, which is given
extra-added spice when you mix wacky locals and silly tourists with
alcohol. But you’ll find most locals and tourists a convivial
Seaside is not just the
kitschy, commercialized place it’s often slapped with for
a label. People often forget it’s on the beach, and then they
don’t know what those beaches hold. It is possible to get
away from it all, even in this nutty, frenzied beach town.
You simply have to know
where to look.
For more on
Seaside, see the Virtual Tour