Four Finds of Frenetic Fun on Oregon Coast

Published 08/23/2015 at 5:05 AM PDT - Updated 08/23/2015 at 5:15 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – To be both busy with fun activity and laidback at the same time is no easy feat. But four spots on the Oregon coast manage to do just that. Where the wild and wacky meets the soft sands; where the kid-friendly attractions are abuzz next to beachy havens of calm. Places where the saltwater taffy or aromas of fine foods blend seamlessly with the wondrous vistas of the ocean nearby. You can keep the kids giggling and in awe of nature all at once.

These spots can keep mom and dad amused as well, with the shops and eateries for grownups all in the mix alongside the kiddie must-stops. Three of the buzziest destinations you'll find on the central Oregon coast, with one on the north coast.

Lincoln City. A sprawling seven miles of a town, the central Oregon coast's Lincoln City has all its attractions spread along the length of Highway 101. Candy shops, kite stores and even some toy sellers are scattered amid the ancient book shops (that's right, not the ones you download), antique stores and wine purveyors.

Kids and adults together will love unique eateries like the colorful McMenamins and the 60's Cafe – both at a shopping center at the north end of town as you come in off the highway. For both the kids and the gourmand, Hwy 101 Burger has truly some of the best hamburgers in the state – found in Taft, at the southern end of Lincoln City. The Nelscott Cafe – a couple of miles north, in the Nelscott District – is also wowing, but a tad tight quarters for kids.

The big shopping monster for the whole family is the Tanger Outlets mall, with a nearly endless array of clothing, finery, books, gadgets and unique items.

Also happenin' for the whole clan is the Jennifer Sears Glass Studio, where you can blow your own glass float.

Meanwhile, it's easy to dart away from it all by driving a half mile west (or less) and ending up at one of the town's two dozen or so beach accesses. It's all soft sands around here, with a couple of rocky tide pool spots found near the Inn at Spanish Head or SW 15th. At the southern side, the Taft district presents the Siletz Bay and bundles of beachy fun to be had there.

Newport. Massive Newport includes two lighthouses (which can be toured most times of the year), the engaging Yaquina Head, about ten miles of beaches, two major aquarium facilities, a dizzying number of shops and eateries, and four separate districts with their own unique vibes and attractions.

The Historic Bayfront is where the curio shops, whale tours and candy/taffy places live, right next to working docks and that placid but mesmerizing Yaquina Bay. Nye Beach has much of the sandy wonders along with wine sellers, fish 'n chips, and everything from quirky to upscale.

The least busy beaches lay on the northern edges of town, at Moolack Beach and Beverly Beach.

In the South Beach area, you'll find the ever-popular Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, as well as the impressive sandy stretches of South Beach State Park and its host of camping spots.

Depoe Bay. Between Newport and Lincoln City sits the awe-inspiring Depoe Bay, a little village full of charms that are kitschy to cool, but somewhat overlooked because it looks out over big basalt structures and not sand-filled beaches.

Some of the most spectacular scenery within any Oregon coast town can be had here, however, with wild, wondrous waves constantly smacking the black, jagged rocks. A highlight is when the Spouting Horn fires off – given the right conditions – and you find yourself staring up at a gush of ocean water 30 feet high.

This is all just across the street from about four blocks of kooky and fun shops and eateries, where salt water taffy is de rigueur, an abundance of Oregon coast T's and hoodies can be found, and other delights.

Depoe Bay also has a decent helping of whale tours and fishing boats, and the Whale, Sea Life and Shark Museum is not to be missed.

Seaside. This north Oregon coast resort goes back all the way 100 years or more with its entertaining of families at the beach, but it has spread out its interests in recent decades to include more grownup pursuits such as gourmet foods and wines, especially in the historic Gilbert District.

Wander the main drag of Broadway, however, and you have a kiddie wonderland, full of sweets, funky shops and even a bumper car ride. The homemade ice cream of Zinger's will satisfy the more sophisticated sweet tooth as well as those of the little ones. The Seaside Aquarium (about a block from the famed Seaside Turnaround) has been letting kids feed the seals for nearly 80 years now.

Encompassing the Turnaround is the becalming Promenade, built back in the 20's. The farther south or north you go, the less people and the more bewitching beach you find. A funky secret about Seaside: at the northernmost edge, close to the Necanicum River, you'll often find more unbroken sand dollars than anywhere else on the Oregon coast.

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A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, sautéed scallops.
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