Far from the Maddening Oregon Coast Crowds
(Oregon coast) – Now is when the big tourist season has completely kicked into full gear on the Oregon coast, with bundles of visitors to share the roads and lines at diners with. Know that lodging prices spike, traffic is much heavier, and your favorite beach will likely be more crowded than usual.
So where to go to get away from it all? Or where to go to get into the middle of all the excitement? Here's a mix of beaches you may not know about.
Clandestine on the Central Coast
South of the South Beach area of Newport, it's a host of winding, twisting spots on the road and residential areas with no beach accesses.
But a set of truly hidden crescent-shaped dents in the cliffs lay near a hidden beach access about eight miles south of Newport. Look for Stone Crest Cellar Bed and Breakfast near MP 146, and less than a quarter mile south of that you'll see an unmarked beach access with a gravel patch by the side of the road.
Once on this unnamed beach, you'll find a quaint little stream and a lot of striking sandstone cliffs. But head maybe a quarter of a mile to the south and there's a couple of these rounded-out areas in the cliffs, one of which has a tiny waterfall. There is a tiny stretch of climbable spots above the cliffs next to the beach access, which are slightly surreal but thoroughly delightful.
Upper Lane County
While even the most hidden of beaches will be more crowded than usual on this high-density part of the year, the area between Florence and Yachats still yields many isolated wonders. Look for an unmarked beach access immediately south of the line between Lincoln and Lane counties, and you'll find a parking lot that gives way to two routes to a varied and rather amazing beach.
Walk the winding, twisting path over the bluff to hop onto large basalt structures filled with cracks and crevices that give glimpses of churning waves beneath you. They'll sometimes squirt water up at you.
Or walk down a sizable but smooth and paved trail from the parking lot to the sandy part of this beach, which makes for a cozy little cove, bordered by the cliffs of Neptune State Park to its south.
You can usually hop up and down the basalt structures from here as well, and part of the rock forms an intriguing arch in the sand. At its northernmost, there's a small cove and tiny patch of beach which ends in a large wall.
Different Sides of Seaside and Gearhart
The 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.
But if you’re looking to get away from it all, the northernmost end of Seaside’s beaches, at the river mouth, provides some intrigue and mystery – with rarely a soul here. At any regular glance, it looks completely average, perhaps even slightly boring and featureless. But it cloisters a treasure trove of unbroken sand dollars – likely the most you’ll ever find on any beach on Oregon’s coast. Part of this has to do with the fact no one seems to spend much time in this area, so the goodies don’t get picked.
This landscape looks a lot like Gearhart at this part of Seaside, with its large tufts of grass-covered dunes providing a massive border between the beach and the higher ground beyond the vegetation line. It’s at Gearhart where serious peace and quiet takes over, with a town not geared to tourists – almost not at all. Stay at the southern end, however, where the beaches take some walking to from these charming streets. There’s a stretch to the north where driving on the beach is legal, so it’s way more populated and the sand is unclean and greasy because of the vehicles.
The other big attraction of Gearhart is the proliferation of old and stunning upscale homes, with some slightly resembling the mansion from that “Hotel California” album cover by The Eagles. This tour is a guaranteed jaw-dropper.
It steadily remains fairly sequestered, although each year more seem to find this jewel on the north coast.
The tiny town of Oceanside lies just west of Tillamook, a few miles from the Cape Meares Lighthouse, if you're traveling along that back road with intermittent ocean views. The burgh itself hosts little else than a bunch of interesting homes and about five businesses (including two restaurants.) But the small headland there contains a wild and wacky tunnel going through the other side, where a beautiful and slightly surreal beach awaits, filled with an array of remarkable rocky boulders, walls and shapes.
On that back road between Oceanside and Cape Meares, you'll find another breathtaking veiled beach called Short Beach. Look for the blob of a sea stack lurking just beyond a sign marked Radar Road. Walk towards the cliffs of the cape to find a hidden cove-like area and to witness a stunning waterfall.
Hush-Hush Around Pacific City
There's plenty here that's obvious: the wondrous cliffs of Cape Kiwanda, tide pools at low tide, and the numerous quaint shops and eateries. But for less populated fun and frolic, hit the unmarked State Park one mile north of the Kiwanda's parking lot (a small road darting down the hill on the west side of the highway.) There, you'll find a small outcropping with basalt columns that look a bit like ruins, and a few indentations in the rock to make for great cuddling or hiding from the wind.
Then, for some real alone time, walk south, towards the much less seen north side of the cape, and encounter more natural wonders along this immaculate stretch of sand.