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Home to 23 miles of shoreline, the quiet coastal town of Lakeside — tucked away just off the Pacific Ocean — is my family’s hidden getaway. In fact, in the 1940s, Lakeside was a popular retreat for Hollywood celebrities. Today it still feels worlds apart from the rest of Oregon and the adjacent coastline, giving us the ability to go from shoreline to shoreline (ocean and lake) in one vacation or even one day. The first time we discovered Lakeside, we’d planned a trip to the beach, then adjusted plans when a rainstorm approached. The more sheltered lakefront was perfect for a day of paddling. After that we were sold and have returned many times since.
Ready to discover it for yourself? Here’s how to spend a long weekend settling in.
Day 1: Fishing, Paddling and Pizza
Many visitors don’t realize that just inland of the coastline near Lakeside — about 30 minutes north of Coos Bay and 3.5 hours south of Portland — is an entire system of winding, meandering finger lakes including its largest, Tenmile Lake, with opportunities for fishing, swimming, paddling and wildlife watching.
On your arrival day to Lakeside, get to know the lake system. My family and I like to bring our own stand-up paddleboards and kayaks and launch directly from Ringo’s Lakeside Marina, the only year-round marina on the lakes. You can rent watercraft there and pick up fishing licenses. We don’t fish ourselves, but when our kids were small, they enjoyed hanging out by the marina to see what others brought in. Families looking to fish can try their luck for largemouth bass plus impressive numbers of panfish — including crappie, yellow perch, bluegill and bullhead catfish — in addition to stocked rainbow trout and native cutthroat trout.
From the public dock, families also can kayak Tenmile Creek for a different sort of experience that keeps you closer to the shoreline and in easy spotting distance of birds and other wildlife. We paddleboard with each family member paddling their own board, but kayak rentals include tandems and singles. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, which we’ve spotted more than once. You’ll need $3 for the day-use permit at the Tenmile boat ramp, and packing a picnic lunch is always a good idea.
For dinner, you’re close to Osprey Point Pub & Pizza, located at Osprey Point RV Resort, and Up the Creek Tavern, where parents can grab a cocktail or craft beer and not stress over keeping the kids too quiet, thanks to the relaxed atmosphere. The burgers are a hit with our teens, and there’s a kids’ menu for little ones.
Day 2: Sand Hikes, Sand Dollars and Burgers
The sand beckons today. Directly along Oregon’s stretch of coastal Highway 101 lies the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which offers 40 miles of sandy hills and valleys awaiting exploration. The biggest of these dunes are just outside of Lakeside at Eel Creek Campground. Off-road vehicles are not allowed along this stretch of “seafront Sahara,” but there are picnic tables and restrooms to use for the $5 parking fee. It’s a half-mile walk through the campground to the open dunes, where the possibilities are limited only by your daring (and your leg muscles — climbing up the sand is hard!).
A great way to explore is to get out on a hike. Head up to Tahkenitch Creek, located about 9 miles north of Reedsport. Due to the expanse of the dunes, this area is still within the National Recreation Area limits. It’s well marked along Highway 101, and at one point the trail crosses a deep creek that kids love to splash in. The banks are steep and sandy, making them fun to run down. The hike is 2 miles round-trip to the ocean, where visitors will find the best part of this hike: dozens of sand dollars that you may find at low tide. Bring a backpack or basket for collecting; our kids enjoyed displaying the sand dollars on their windowsills in their rooms afterward.
Want another option? The 5.5-mile out-and-back John Dellenback Dunes Trail is just two minutes away from the campground back on Highway 101. You’ll go through dunes on this trail, too, and it’s known for wildflowers. By evening you’ll have worked up an appetite for dinner, and lucky for you, Tenmile Grub and Lakeside Cafe (temporarily closed, but check back for reopening) both offer casual fare including burgers and salads less than a 5-minute drive away.
Day 3: ATV Thrills, Wildlife and Whales
You did the hard work of hiking and sandboarding the dunes yesterday, and now it’s time to enjoy the dunes from the comfort and fun of a guided dune-buggy tour. Why go with a guide? These experts add ecological education, awareness and safety along with the thrill.
Or opt for a pedal-powered tour of this stretch of pristine coastline; find inspiration and resources about fat biking 100 miles of Oregon Coast. Remember to keep beach safety in mind: Beware of sneaker waves and stay off rocks and small, enclosed beaches. Please be respectful and do not touch the wildlife or the sensitive micro-environments you encounter.
As you make your way north toward Reedsport, stop in at the Umpqua River Lighthouse, where you can book a tour and see the inside of its signature red-and-white Fresnel lens, one of two in the world still used today.
Umpqua Discovery Center in Reedsport is a great way to acquaint yourself with the area’s flora and fauna and local history. We especially liked learning about the area’s native history and present-day Native population. There’s whale-watching information as well — you can see whales along the Coast year-round, but you’ll spot the most during the spring and winter migrations.
Just north of Reedsport you’ll find Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, right along the highway and well worth the stop if elk are out and about. Just take a look through the telescope viewer or bring your own binoculars. Families can enjoy a snack on the benches and check out the large information panels.
Where to Stay
If you prefer the comforts of home, rent a vacation house along the Tenmile network of lakes. Or for rustic camping right next to the dunes, opt for Eel Creek Campground. William M. Tugman State Park on Eel Lake offers yurt rentals, though families should note that motorized sports in the area can add some noise to the campground experience. Alternatively, the Seadrift Motel offers a traditional motel experience.
If You Go:
- Gear rentals are available in Winchester Bay, Reedsport and North Bend. We recommend Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rental.
- Time your visit to coincide with any of the following annual events (plan for 2021): Crawdad Festival (May), Oregon’s Free Fishing Days (June and August), Lakeside Brewfest (June), Lakeside’s Independence Day Celebration including fireworks over the lake, and the Columbia Drag Boat Race (August).
If you’re camping, bring waterproof layers and a rain canopy for your site. Lakeside does enjoy ample sunshine, but weather is fickle on the Coast, so it’s best to be prepared.