For kids that have never seen the ocean, what places should we visit?
The Oregon Coast is 363 miles of family friendly, but there are some great stops known for being kid-rrific. The town of Seaside is one of Oregon’s first beach resort towns and it is still known as one of the best family destinations in the Pacific Northwest. There is a lot of family friendly shopping, dining and attractions including a large arcade, bumper cars, go-carts, miniature golf and much more. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a great place to explore the natural environment with kids. At its base are colorful tide pools and it is nesting ground to many varieties of birds including Tufted Puffins during the spring and summer.
Newport is also a fun destination for families. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a great experience and Newport’s historic bay front is a fun mix of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions like Ripley’s Believe it or Not and a wax museum. Sea lions are usually barking up a storm and can be seen on the bay front docks. Yaquina Head is another great place for marine life watching and to explore tidepools. Beverly Beach State Park is a nice campground with beach access and is close to these attractions.
In Florence, the Sea Lion Caves is also a good option though the best viewing in the cave is usually during the winter or other stormy times. When the sea lions are not in the cave, they can usually be seen from viewing areas on the rocky shore below. If you have time to go further south, the Oregon Dunes is a great family recreation area. You can take a dune buggy tour, try sand boarding or just tumble and slide down the towering dunes. Honeyman State Park is a great family place to camp, combining the dunes with nature trails and freshwater lakes where you can rent canoes or paddleboats.
Another great family campground is Sunset Bay State Park near Coos Bay. It is adjacent to a pretty cove beach that is more calm and protected than some beaches that are less suited to wading or playing at ocean’s edge. There are two other state parks within minutes that offer great views including an overlook at Simpson Reef, one of the best places to see (and hear) seals and sea lions in their natural environment. The town of Bandon has a wildlife safari attraction with exotic animals and further south near Port Orford is a unique roadside attraction known as Prehistoric Gardens, a rainforest trail with life-size dinosaur statues.
Brush up on beach safety before your trip and happy exploring!
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About Ask Oregon Expert Gary Hayes
Gary Hayes is publisher of Coast Explorer Magazine and founder of Explorer Media Group, a travel media and marketing company based in Seaside. Gary is a native Oregonian whose earliest memories include working on his grandfather’s fishing boat on the Oregon Coast. Now living in Cannon Beach, Gary is an extensively published photographer and writer focusing on the Oregon Coast and the Northwest's food and wine culture. He also serves as Executive Director of the SavorNW Wine Awards.