I am a Native Oregonian (a dying breed!) and have been visiting Seaside – a quick 90-minute drive from Portland – for over five decades. In that time, I have concluded that this cotton candy, sandcastle, bumper car town just might be the archetypal, the quintessential, the consummate summer beach burg.
The reasons to visit (for a day trip or a week) are virtually the same today as they were when I was a kid. Here are eight that stand out for me:
#1. The Promenade
This is my number one reason to rank Seaside as an awesome Oregon beach town: the ocean is accessible to EVERYONE via Seaside’s Promenade. Whether you’re a kid attracted to the world’s largest sandbox or a wheelchair-bound senior, the paved boardwalk – aka “The Promenade” – makes it easy to stroll along the Pacific.
This 1.5 mile sidewalk hugs the beach from 12th Avenue on the north side to Avenue U on the south (note: all the streets south of Broadway are lettered A through U, north of Broadway they are numbered) and is nearing its centennial birthday. Before the concrete was poured in 1921, it was a wooden walk way, a classic boardwalk.
Amenities like benches at regular intervals ensure that those who have mobility issues can rest. And that everyone can sit and watch a fantastic Oregon coast sunset.
#2. The Turnaround
No mention of the Promenade is complete without paying homage to the Turnaround. Seaside’s main drag – Broadway – dead ends at this famous U-turn which is also purported to be “The End of the Lewis & Clark Trail” (that journey took place in 1805-1806).
I love sitting at the turnaround with my feet propped up, lazily watching the ocean and the tourists. It’s a great way to de-stress, slow your heart rate down, and acclimate your body to Beach Time (not unlike Island Time).
#3. The Beach
It’s what you’re here for, right? Fortunately, Seaside’s coastline is, in addition to being uber-accessible, pretty awesome. To the south, Tillamook Head juts outward, to the north is the Necanicum River outlet and Gearhart. You’ll find stairs from the prom to the sand every couple of blocks. Often you’ll encounter beach grass with well-worn paths; they will guide you down to an expansive beach.
There is also a handful of swing sets on the beach. Don’t pass these up! They aren’t just for kids. There is something particularly liberating about swinging, back and forth, with the surf approaching and fading in the distance…
#4. The Kid Stuff
Seaside, perhaps more than any other Oregon coastal town allows everyone – ages 2 to 102 – to be a kid.
Broadway is a kid fun mecca. As you move east down this busy street you’ll find a bunch of wacky, day-at-the-beach activities to enjoy, including bumper cars (IDK why it is so funny to ride these things – but is is!), putt-putt golf, a humongous arcade and the always entertaining (and slightly addictive) Fascination. Beyond Broadway you’ll find boat rentals (pedal boats and kayaks) for rides on the Necanicum River (which runs parallel to the ocean), surrey rentals, beach bikes and more.
Beachy food – like Pronto Pups, saltwater taffy, Elephant Ears, cotton candy, ice cream, and more – are all available on Broadway as well.
#5. The Aquarium
Let’s be clear here: this aquarium is NOT in the same league as the award-winning Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Seaside’s Aquarium has been in the same building since 1937 and still retains some of that old time atmosphere.
I checked it out for the first time in decades the last time I was in Seaside – and I was pleasantly surprised. If you work your way counter-clockwise around the aquarium (it’s essentially a large dark room filled with tanks of sea life on the perimeter), you’ll see plenty of cool specimens. Touch pools (particularly appealing to youngsters) have been added in the center of the room. And then there are those crazy harbor seals in the front of the aquarium. Hams all, they are hilarious to watch.
#6. The Seaside Historical Museum
I’m a sucker for small town history museums. And Seaside’s is great. For only $3 you can learn about the first settlers (Native American and European) at this coastal outpost, the story behind Seaside’s delightful Promenade, its evolution as a tourist destination, and more.
#7. The Cove
Not everyone is aware that there’s another not-to-be-missed beach in Seaside: Drive down to Avenue U and then take Ocean Vista Drive out to The Cove. There you’ll find ample parking and a ringside seat on the waves crashing into the rocks along the shore. Much of the time you can also sit and watch as surfers ride the waves.
#8. It Is (Literally) COOL
On a recent 100 degree day in Portland, Seaside beckoned, a perfect 72 degree oasis.
If you head west to the Pacific on a scorching day, you won’t be the only ones with this escape-the-heat idea. But, rest assured, there’s plenty of room on Seaside’s big, welcoming beach for your lounge chairs.