Most people wouldn’t like waking up to their partner staring wide-eyed near their face. But this was my fiancé’s one week off between jobs and we planned to spend a long weekend at the Oregon Coast — specifically, Seaside, a 90-minute drive west from our home in Portland. “Seeeaasiiide,” I cooed into Mitch’s ear. “Seeeeaaaasssiiidddee.”
Instantly, his eyelids flicked open. “Seaside,” he whispered back with a sleepy grin. We were ready.
By the time we reached Highway 101 — the famed Pacific Coast Scenic Byway — the morning sun was confidently stepping out of the clouds. Mitch and I rolled down the car windows and simultaneously took a deep inhale, breathing in that unmistakable salty coastal air. Like giddy children, we immediately went to the beach, where we dug our feet into the sand and giggled in fits before we remembered the other reason for our excursion. We, the kings of goofy grins and faces that cannot lie, were slated to star in a couple of promotional videos for the city of Seaside. Hopefully the filmmakers liked authentic reactions. It was time to find out.
What followed was a jam-packed day of incredible outdoor recreation. We pedaled giant swan boats and water tricycles. We went crabbing off the side of a bridge (or rather, we tried). We managed not to fall off our stand-up paddleboards while irresponsibly splashing each other. We kayaked down the Necanicum River and at its mouth to the ocean — no stunt doubles needed at all. Thankfully our time in Seaside wasn’t just for our movie-star aspirations. After filming we had two free days to play in this picturesque North Coast town. And, boy, did we. Here are some of our favorite places and activities from this trip — but trust me, the list will expand as we continue to visit our new favorite getaway.
Seaside Welcome Center
It’s easy to start an Oregon bucket list with the many travel magazines in the Seaside Visitors Bureau (7 N. Roosevelt Drive). The friendly staff help guide visitors’ itineraries beyond the Oregon Coast, but they are especially skilled in all things Seaside and North Coast.
Seaside Visitor Guide
Sure, you can pick up an official Seaside Visitor Guide at the visitors bureau, but why not order it online before your trip? That way you can delve into Seaside ahead of time and get a clear picture of what attractions interest you. (And there’s a lot to choose from.) We each brought our own guides because we’re different people with different interests!
It’s hard to miss the yellow store with a tall letterboard at the southern entrance to Seaside — literally the first stop in town. Inside Trucke’s 1-Stop are gear and licenses for crabbing, clamming and fishing, plus local experts who might share their secret spots if you ask nicely.
12th Avenue Bridge
What an experience to cast a crab pot into the Necanicum River from this picturesque bridge. You can pull up a chair to take in the view or visit the shops and beach access nearby. A few hours later you might be pulling up dinner! September through December is the prime time to try.
Shoreside Razor Clamming
Seaside’s main beach, parallel to the Promenade, is the focal point for any visitor. The beach looks endless and is definitely worth a photo. When clamming season opens, it’s common to see people doing the “clam dance” along the wet sand, looking for air pockets to claim with clam guns. Heed daily limits and you’ll have a great time!
Searching for Sand Dollars
All along Seaside’s beaches are collectible sand dollars, many of which are fully intact. They are technically the remains of sea urchins, so we try not to take too many, especially ones that could still be alive. However one or two dried sand dollars are certainly worth a keepsake.
Wheel Fun Rentals
No trip to Seaside is complete without a visit to the Necanicum River. Wheel Fun Rentals at Quatat Park makes it even better with a variety of entertaining, borderline ridiculous, flotation devices. Whether using a paddleboard, kayak, paddle boat, peddler boat or swan boat, it’s a full workout — partly from laughing so hard.
Kayaking the Necanicum
The relatively flat Necanicum River flows right into the Pacific Ocean for a mighty estuary finale, but before that it glides right through town for nearly two miles. We rented our own kayaks (a good idea for couples trying to keep the peace and their own pace) and leisurely explored the waterway, waving at our crab pots under the 12th Avenue Bridge. Inexperienced? Kayak lessons are also available.
Rivertide Suites Hotel
Seaside has plenty of great lodging options, but keep Rivertide Suites on your radar. It’s located along the Necanicum River and mere blocks from the beach. We loved the view from the balcony. Plus the suites are equipped with full kitchens, washers, dryers and more — so you can really consider it a home away from home.
Funland Arcade – Fascination
Arcades are a sure hit with kids, and let’s be honest, Mitch and I are giant kids. So it came as no surprise that Funland Arcade would keep us amused. But we didn’t expect to spend so much time at Fascination, a classic American parlor game that dates back to the early 1900s. It’s easy to learn and highly addictive. There are 11 known Fascination parlors still operating in the U.S. and only three east of Indiana, so it’s also pretty special.
The food at Osprey Café is incredible — we ate here multiple times. My favorite was the Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish so savory that I ordered it twice. Mitch opted for the special French toast with cinnamon buns, and I stole heavenly bites from our friend’s arepas.
Located in the city’s legendary Old City Jail & Town Hall, Seaside Brewing is as much of an attraction for its building as it is for quality craft beer. We recommend getting a liberating taster tray of ales; my favorite was Tilly’s Pale Ale. You won’t want to escape.
Ask any fun-seeker if they want to feed seals, touch starfish and stare at strange-looking fish. Pretty sure the answer will be a resounding yes. For more than 80 years, the Seaside Aquarium has been a local icon on the promenade. You just can’t walk past the aquarium without being enticed inside by the barking harbor seals and echos of laughter.
Seaside Historical Society
It’s true, you really get to know a place when you learn about its past. At the Seaside Historical Society Museum, we discovered a wide variety of exhibits depicting the area’s history, from the first railroad trestle, to the former boardwalk and pools, to Native American artifacts.
With four locations in Seaside, Wheel Fun Rentals is an easy option for entertainment. At the Holladay Drive location, we began our first foray into tandem biking. (My backseat tactic was to lift my feet from the pedals at stops or turns… not sure if that’s the correct technique.) Using our visitor guide map, we found our way south to The Cove, where we watched the waves sweep ceremoniously into the shoreline, far away from the sounds of the boardwalk.
Ecola State Park
From south Seaside, you can hike into Ecola State Park for the best view of the famed Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (“Terrible Tilly”). This large state park stretches between Seaside and Cannon Beach along the Pacific Ocean. We unambitiously opted to enter the park through the Cannon Beach side and took a short stroll to this view of the notorious lighthouse. We made a mental note to take the longer, but likely more rewarding, hike next time.
Bell Buoy of Seaside
Not all of us are natural anglers. Unsuccessful with crabbing, clamming or fishing? Hungry? Visit Bell Buoy of Seaside for some of the freshest seafood on the North Coast. You can even purchase canned fish for later, when you’re reminiscing about good times in Seaside (which you will).
Finns Fish House
Centrally located and easy to find — thanks to delicious smells wafting from its doors, Finns Fish House is a Seaside staple. The menu offers a wide range of beach-town comfort food, but our recommendation goes to the Captain’s Feast fish & chips.
Nonni’s Italian Bistro
Sure, you can eat fresh-caught seafood for every meal in Seaside and be perfectly happy. But you can also break from that routine with authentic Italian cuisine that tastes homemade. Nonni’s Italian Bistro is a gem of Seaside, cozy and unassuming, yet bursting with flavor. If you’re still craving seafood, try the the steamer clams soaked in garlic, pesto and wine.
U-Street Pub & Eatery
Oregon’s North Coast has earned a reputation for its thriving microbrewery scene and now beer connoisseurs have yet another reason to visit: a craft beer trail. The trail features 13 locations, all with well-earned credentials, from Astoria to Cannon Beach. We picked up a passport at U-Street Pub and embarked on an admirable quest to taste all the suds.
Swinging on the Sand
One of our favorite parts of Seaside is how many swing sets are located right on the beach. Some are front and center from the boardwalk, others are hidden behind tall beach grass. Every time we found one, our inner schoolchildren were unleashed and we raced for a spot, that is, when we didn’t graciously let the actual children use them first.
The magical place where the Necanicum River meets the Pacific Ocean is known as the estuary. It’s here that the sunset seems to paint the sky a special color of pink and picnics evoke an unprecedented level of joy. As we doused our fresh crab in lemon juice, we watched the day turn into night and marveled at the perfect ending to a perfect weekend in Seaside.