mom and son walking to haystack rock cannon beach oregon
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The Best Guide to the Northern Oregon Coast with Kids!

Why visit the Northern Oregon Coast with kids?

The Oregon Coast is one of the most kid friendly, adult friendly, and dog friendly destinations in the Pacific Northwest! Oregon has 363 miles of coastline to explore, and loads of state parks to visit along highway 101. There are endless outdoor activities that kids and adults both love. Not to mention these small beach towns which are loaded with charm! From beach combing and building sandcastles to exploring tide pools and hiking through the lush green forests, you and your family will never be bored. The Northern Oregon Coast with kids is the perfect family vacation.

dad throwing kid in air arcadia beach oregon

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How to get there:

The Northern Oregon Coast is a great destination no matter where you’re coming from! But it’s an especially easy trip if you’re traveling from Portland, Seattle, Spokane, or somewhere in between. The closest airport to the Northern Oregon Coast is Portland, Oregon which is about 1.5 to 2 hours away. Another option would be to fly into Seattle, Washington which is a 3.5 to 4 hour drive. Or like us, you can road trip if you live close enough!

Tip: If you are driving through the Columbia River Gorge or have extra time, I would highly recommend stopping at waterfall alley near Portland. Our favorites were Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

hOW TO cHOOSE WhICH tOWN to stay IN?

There are so many cool towns on the Northern Oregon Coast, and where you choose to stay will depend on what type of vacation you’re looking for! Seaside is the biggest town on the Northern Oregon Coast and has a huge beach. Cannon Beach is super charming and picturesque. Astoria has so much interesting history and fun unique things to do (but less beach area). And some of the other small towns will give you more of a quiet vacation outside of town! I’ll describe the main towns down below with best places to stay, things to do, and where to eat.

We absolutely love staying in Cannon Beach. It’s the most charming beach town in Oregon and we love how central it is to so many different activities. Plus, it’s absolutely stunning! Haven’t convinced you yet? Check out our post on 10+ Reasons to Visit Cannon Beach!

Getting around THE oREGON cOAST:

Having a car is a must on the Oregon Coast. There are so many little hidden gems to explore on the coast and having a car will give you the freedom to see as much as you can. We always use Economy Bookings for our rental cars and we’ve saved a ton of money!

Where to stay on the Northern Oregon Coast

cANNON bEACH

Hotels in Cannon Beach
  • The Ocean Lodge: sit on the deck and see up close views of Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach
  • Surfsand Resort: an affordable and stunning beachfront resort with views of Haystack Rock!
  • Hallmark Resort & Spa: a beautiful hotel conveniently located – and they have bikes for borrowing!
cANNON bEACH Vacation Rentals

mANZANITA

hOTELS in mANZANITA
vACATION rENTALS IN mANZANITA

Rockaway Beach

Hotels in Rockaway Beach
Vacation Rentals in Rockaway Beach

sEASIDE

hOTELS IN sEASIDE
vACATION rENTALS IN sEASIDE

aSTORIA

hOTELS IN aSTORIA
vACATION rENTALS IN aSTORIA:

Map of Things to do:

Things to do on the Northern Oregon Coast with Kids:

There are so many things to do in this part of the Oregon Coast. It’s possible if you’re willing to do a little bit of driving to do all of these things no matter where you’re staying! Also check the map above if you want more of a visual of where these activities are.

1. Fun Northern Oregon Coast Beaches for Families

We love the Oregon Coast for their dramatic and beautiful beaches, huge areas to run and play in the sand, and stunning wildlife viewing opportunities. The Oregon Coast is a place we keep coming back to over and over again!

For a full list, check out our post of the 9 Best Northern Oregon Coast Beaches for Families!

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is absolutely incredible and our favorite all around beach on the Oregon Coast. With it’s iconic views, room to spread out, and nearby shops and restaurants it’s a fantastic overall pick for your Oregon Coast vacation.

Cannon Beach is also huge, so you’ll have plenty of space to let your kids run and play. Bring beach games, have a campfire (check local regulations), build sandcastles, or go beachcombing! Get a coffee to go from Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters and enjoy the views on the beach.

Hug Point Recreation Area

Hug Point Beach is a unique Oregon Coast beach and a hidden gem on the coast. If you’re looking for a little more adventure, this is the perfect beach for you!

Tip: Make sure to visit at low tide or you won’t be able to get very far on the sand.

Pro tip: It is a must to bring or buy some beach toys for young kids to play with. After we gave our kiddo a bucket and shovel, he didn’t let them go the entire trip. This kept him busy on the beach for hours and gave us some peace to enjoy the view!

Short Sand Beach

Short Sand Beach does require a half mile walk through the woods on a beautiful trail to get there. So this is the perfect opportunity to combine a little kid friendly hike with your beach day. If you get lucky you might get to watch surfers, and you may see a surprise waterfall as well. The path to the beach also is the same trail as the Old Growth Forest Trail.

Arcadia Beach

Arcadia beach had really interesting rock formations and a lot more private feel than Cannon Beach. We loved this beach for sunset! If you’re like us visiting the Oregon Coast with kids, you’ll probably spend the majority of your time on the beach – so spend some time checking out multiple beaches.

2. tIDE pOOLING & BeachCombing ON THE nORTHERN oREGON cOAST

Tide pooling is one of my absolute favorite beach activities! I love looking for sea stars, sea urchins, anemones, barnacles, snails, hermit crabs, and more. The best time to go is 1-2 hours before low tide. Depending on which time of year you are visiting and which areas you visit, the best tide pooling spots may change. I would recommend you ask your vacation rental hosts, hotel staff, or other locals for the best spots!

The best time to beachcomb is a couple hours after high tide when the ocean has washed up interesting things on the beach.

3. State Parks & Hiking

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park has a beautiful drive through the forest, and stunning ocean views with some kid friendly trails. It costs $5 to park your car here for the day. There are several picnic tables if you want to pack a lunch to eat here!

kid on table in front of view at ecola state park on a rainy day

Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park is located near Manzanita, Oregon and has opportunities for camping! The State Park campground is located in the forest near the beach with kid friendly trails for hiking. There are also places to ride bikes and enjoy popular ocean activities like clamming and crabbing!

Oswald West State Park

There are a few hiking trails in Oswald West State Park, but the most kid friendly is the hike to Short Sand Beach (0.5 miles one way) and the Old Growth Forest Trail (0.2 miles). You have to park in the parking lot across the street but then can take the trail down to the beach and the same trail meets up with the Old Growth Forest Trail. It feels like you are walking onto a secret beach. I would definitely recommend visiting this one.

Fort Stevens State Park

Located near Astoria, Oregon, this State Park is on the Northernmost section of beach in the state of Oregon. There are tons of easy hiking trails here for kids including a short hike to see an old shipwreck. This state park also has tons of opportunity for camping if you are looking for a good spot.

Cathedral Tree Trail

If you are going to be heading to the charming town of Astoria, the Cathedral Tree Trail is a very kid friendly trail to a unique tree. The trail is not well marked but when you get to a fork in the trail while on the boardwalk you will go left for the Cathedral Tree Trail and right if you want to extend your hike to the Astoria Column. It’s about 1-1.5 miles round trip to the tree, and if you go to the column I believe it adds another couple miles. However, we didn’t go all the way to the column. We’ll save that for our next trip!

kid walking cathedral tree trail astoria oregon

Cape Meares

Cape Meares has a lighthouse, the Octopus Tree (0.2 miles), and several incredible vista points. This was such a fun stop on the Oregon Coast with kids and one of our favorite things to do here. Stop at Roseanna’s Cafe afterwards for some incredible homemade desserts!

4. Other Oregon Coast activities with Kids

Walk Around Downtown

The downtown areas of all these coastal towns are worth checking out. Whether you’re looking for souvenir shops, ice cream, art galleries, or other cute boutiques – it’s definitely worth checking out.

If you’re visiting Cannon Beach, walking downtown along Hemlock Street is a great family friendly activity to get souvenirs or stop for some ice cream and candy at Schwieterts.

kid eating icecream stting on cow

In Astoria, check out the pier and the historic cannery. Get a coffee at Coffee Girl and watch for sea lions on the pier!

latte art with ocean view coffee girl astoria oregon

Drive the 3 Capes Scenic Loop

Cape Meares mentioned above is part of the 3 Capes Scenic Loop. If you are feeling up for a little more adventure and a longer drive (~35-40 miles), drive the 3 capes scenic loop which stops at Cape Meares, Cape Kiwandas, and Cape Lookout.

Visit the Tillamook Creamery

Kids love this place and if you like free cheese you may like it too. This is an easy stop if you are going to Cape Meares or driving the 3 Capes Scenic Loop. Tour the factory and get some samples of cheese before you head back to Cannon Beach.

kid feeding baby cow tillamook creamery

Kelly’s Brighton Marina

We haven’t had a chance to visit here yet, but this place looks super fun! You can go crabbing from the dock and they will provide you with the supplies. You will also need a shellfish license which you can purchase there. Consult with them, but high and low tide may be the best time to catch crabs.

Garabaldi Scenic Trail Ride

Ride this scenic train along the coast and learn about the wildlife and the history of the area. Check their website for specific rides they are offering this season.

Where to eat and drink:

Breakfast/Coffee:

Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters – Cannon Beach

This place is so charming. Not to mention they have great coffee and they bake all of their pastries fresh that morning. The savory scone was TO DIE FOR, don’t leave here without trying one!

Wayfarer – Cannon Beach

Your server here may tell you they have good bacon, and let me tell you they are not lying! This is an excellent place to get breakfast if you want to enjoy an incredible view of haystack rock while you eat. They do have a kids menu as well.

tea at wayfarer restaurant cannon beach oregon beautiful view of haystack rock
Coffee Girl – Astoria

Located on the pier next to the historic cannery. You can see sea lions on the pier and enjoy a delicious coffee and breakfast!

Bagels By the Sea – Seaside

This place has options to go in and sit down, or if you’re busy (or don’t want to get the kids out of the car) check out their drive through!

Yolk – Manzanita

This is the place to go if parents want a cocktail (we won’t judge it’s vacation!) and delicious food!

Beach Bakeshop – Rockaway Beach

Try their signature sand dollar hand pie!

Lunch/Dinner:

Buoy Beer – Astoria

We love a good brewery and this one is super fun! They have good beer, are located on the river and have a glass floor where you can see sea lions through. *Note: There was a partial building collapse so the location has temporarily changed! Check their instagram or website for more information.

Pelican BRewing Company – Cannon Beach

If you’re looking for a variety of food options that will satisfy both kids and adults, this is your place. Also have a delicious local beer! If you make it as far South as Pacific City, that spot has an incredible location right on the beach.

Grizzly Tuna – Seaside

Try some Tuna Fish and Chips for a unique thing to eat, and if the kids aren’t interested in trying new foods they also have french fries! It’s a drive thru so good if you’re not wanting to take your kids to a sit down restaurant.

Crab Rock Pizza – Rockaway Beach

The have wood fired pizza AND gelato – you can’t go wrong!

Manzanita Mudd Dogs – Manzanita

If you or your kids like hot dogs, you can grab a quick bite here and get back to the beach

Overall thoughts on the Northern Oregon Coast with kids:

I love the Oregon coast, we’ve visited four times now! The Northern Oregon Coast is such a great place to vacation with kids (or dogs!) to let them explore the great outdoors. The coast is absolutely stunning and the rugged shorelines never get old to look at. The weather can be a bit challenging in the Spring and Fall, but if you visit in summer or come prepared with warm clothes you will definitely enjoy your trip regardless of the weather. Repeating vacations is not something we do often, but I continue to find myself back at the Oregon coast!!

THings to know before visiting the Oregon Coast with Kids:

1. Pay Attention to the Weather

Make sure to pack for rainy and cold weather just in case. Even if you are visiting in summer, or especially if you are visiting in Spring or Fall, there is a good chance you could encounter rain or chilly weather during your stay. This last trip we visited in March and had cold rainy weather for most of the trip. We had prepared for this weather and brought warm clothes for our kiddo and we had a blast! Lined rainboots, a beanie, and a warm jacket were a lifesaver for the chilly weather and the beach. Not to mention you will get those extra beautiful moody Oregon Coast vibes if it’s a bit rainy.

2. No Sales Tax

There is no sales tax in Oregon! Take this opportunity to do a little shopping if you encounter a rainy day.

3. You Can’t Pump Your Own Gas in Oregon

Most places don’t allow you to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon. It’s always a weird adjustment, but just wait in your car for a gas attendant to assist you.

4. Learn how to Check the Tide Schedule Before Heading to the Beach

Learn how to check the tides so you can find the best time for checking out tidepools and when some beaches may be inaccessible due to high tides. We used this website, but there are several if you do some googling.

5. The Ocean is Cold!

If you’re visiting in the summer, you may be able to swim in the ocean (a quick swim). But don’t expect California beach weather or warm water. The water typically doesn’t get much warmer than 60F/16C so be careful if you’re swimming!

I hope you have the best family vacation ever! If you decide to visit the Cannon Beach area we have several guides to help you plan your trip.

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