Every single mile of Oregon’s Pacific coastline — all 363 miles of it — is open to the public, thanks to far-sighted action by the state government that began more than a century ago.
So what are the best beaches for family fun along the Oregon coast? Much depends on the sorts of fun your family enjoys. All varieties of activities are found at one or another of Oregon’s beaches, and the most successful family outings will be those that match the offerings of a beach with the interests of the family.
Locals know, and visitors quickly learn, that Oregon’s beaches seldom are ideal for tanning in the sun.Hooded sweatshirts are more valuable than swimwear, particularly when ocean breezes kick up.
But as families plan their fun along the Oregon coast, here are five possibilities:
Flying kites at Lincoln Beach
Put nearly constant ocean breezes to good use and fly a kite along the seven miles of walkable sandy beach at Lincoln City, close to the middle of the state’s coast.
Because kite-flying has been a Lincoln tradition for decades, specialty shops in town sell a remarkable variety of kites that range from classically simple to creatively aerodynamic. Or bring your own kite from home.
A couple of annual kite festivals — one the summer, one in the fall — attract professional kite flyers (yeah, folks actually make money holding onto a string) to Lincoln City.
Older teens with strong swimming skills may be inspired to try kite-surfing. A wetsuit is a must, and gear and lessons are available at surf shops around town.
Watch the wildlife at Harris Beach
A zillion species of birds along with seals and sea lions create homes near this beach just north of Brookings at the south end of Oregon.
Just offshore, Bird Island — some call it “Goat Island” — is a national wildlife sanctuary that provides a protected breeding site for the tufted puffin and other rare birds.
Rocky outcroppings along the beach create tide pools with a wide variety of life. Offshore rocks are homes to harbor seals and California sea lions, and gray whales often are visible as they make their winter and spring migrations down the coast.
Build a sand castle at Cannon Beach
Media around the world flock to the annual sand castle competition at Cannon Beach, a popular coastal destination for residents of nearby Portland.
The same packable sand that draws the world’s finest sand-castle builders provides the construction material for young dreamers and their parents as well.
The beach is among the most convenient in Oregon, with public parking available in the town of Cannon Beach. (Not surprisingly, lots fill quickly on summer weekends.)
Haystack Rock, a tower of basalt standing 235 feet tall, provides an iconic memory of Cannon Beach. The beach is popular among walking families, some of which take the stroll of slightly less than a mile to the south, where Tolovana State Recreation Site offers a playground on the north side of the parking lot.
Visit the lighthouse at Bullards Beach
A family favorite in southern Oregon is the historic Coquille River Lighthouse at Bullards Beach State Park just north of Bandon.
Volunteers are on hand from mid-May until the end of September to explain the history and importance of the lighthouse. (What exactly is it about lighthouses that makes them so cool?)
The state park also includes more than four miles of open beach — some families mountain-bike across the sand at surf’s edge — and eagle-eyed kids may discover one of the many types of agates that commonly wash up on the beach.
Hike the headlands of Cape Arago
Adventure-seeking families grab the opportunities to hike at Cape Arago, one of a complex of state parks just south of Coos Bay.
Some hike down the south cove trail for wildlife-watching at tidepools near a sand beach. The north cove trail leads to beachcombing, fishing and watching offshore colonies of seals and sea lions.
Longer hikes across the headlands toward adjacent Shore Acres and Sunset Bay state parks allow families to experience rugged cliffs, seasonal wildflowers and the stillness of pristine coastal forests.
Whatever outdoor activities your family already enjoys — or whatever new ones it wants to explore — the Oregon coast is filled with opportunities for fun.