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Four Finds Where Kiddie Distractions and Grownup Fun Meet Untamed on Oregon Coast

Published 5/06/24 at 5:25 a.m.
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

(Oregon Coast) – To find a place in your travels that's both bustling and laidback at the same time is no easy endeavor, and neither is it effortlessly achieved by the destination. Yet four spots on the Oregon coast manage to do just this, providing distractions and attractions for the kiddies while also a wilder side that's calming and mellow. They're hotspots where the kid-friendly aspects are abuzz with activity yet next to beachy havens of serenity; where the aromas of sweet shops and fine foods waft all at once. Even so, the wonders and vista of the ocean are close by, even within earshot at times. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection: Cape Foulweather near Depoe Bay)

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. They're each among the "buzziest" destinations – but they have their more untamed sides.

Newport. For a coastal town it's massive and yet chock full of repose. 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.

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Along the Historic Bayfront is where you'll find the curio shops, the whale tours, and plenty of candy / taffy destinations, enough to get more than a few tugs of the sleeve along the walk. All of this, however, is 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.

Still, the town plays host to some remote fun. The least busy beaches lie on the northern edges of town, at Moolack Beach and Beverly Beach. Hunt these for agates or watch for storms in late fall through spring, and in summer you can get away from crowds a bit.

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. Hotels in Newport - Where to eat - Newport Maps and Virtual Tours

Lincoln City. Set along seven miles of pristine sands, as busy as Lincoln City gets its beaches can still provide plenty of calming moments.

The major attractions are 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 that are often colorful, among them some truly awesome, downhome pizza joints and burger spots that are surprisingly gourmet. 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 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 Lincoln City 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 tidepool spots found near the NW 15th access. At the southern side, the Taft district presents the Siletz Bay and bundles of beachy fun to be had there. Hotels in Lincoln City - Where to eat - Lincoln City Maps and Virtual Tours

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's up against rocky cliffs and not sand-filled beaches. People are missing out.

Some of the most spectacular scenery within any Oregon coast town can be had here, 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 the largest helping of whale tours and fishing boats on the coast, and the Whale, Sea Life and Shark Museum is not to be missed. It's all a quick jaunt to either Newport or Lincoln City if sandy spots are an absolute must, but the rocky areas here are just crammed with wowing sights. Hotels in Depoe Bay - Where to eat - Depoe Bay Maps and Virtual Tours

Seaside. Yes, it's the king of busy spots on the coast, and it's known for its kiddie aspects. Yet there's so much more than that going on here, both in the array of natural aspects to be explored and in the culinary sense.

This 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 and you have the well-known 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 '20s. However, the farther south or north you go, the less people and the more bewitching the beach. 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. Hotels in Seaside - Where to eat - Seaside Maps and Virtual Tours


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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