Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beachy Keen

With paragliding and pirate lore, these Oregon beaches are more than just sun and sand


Washington is better than Oregon in just about every way that matters.

Except when it comes to beaches.*

While most of our oceanfront is tantalizingly far away on the Olympic Peninsula, the Oregon beaches are remarkably easy to get to — just a few hours drive from Seattle.

Here's our guide to the best beach spots in the Beaver State.

Right at the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria will automatically dredge up serious nostalgia for anyone who grew up on The Goonies. But this gritty, rustic fishing village has evolved with the times. Stop into the gorgeous Bridgewater Bistro for some of the best seafood in the state, and work your quads walking the hills that earned Astoria the nickname "Little San Francisco."

An hour and a half west of Portland through the Wilson River pass lies Cape Lookout, a gorgeous state park nestled on a sandy spit that juts out into the Pacific. The beaches here are as smooth as glass, with high tide sometimes swallowing them up entirely. The miles of uninterrupted coastline make it popular for paragliding, if you're feeling adventurous.

You're still in the North Pacific, so you don't expect tropical swimming. But that's what you'll find at Sunset Bay. Located just over 10 miles from Coos Bay, the water here is protected on three sides by imposing sea cliffs, meaning the Bay's shallow water stays a few degrees warmer than the rest of the ocean.

Newport is a ramshackle agglomeration of California-style beach huts, fishermen bringing their catch into port, and a quirky cast of locals just waiting to be made into a TV series. Multiple nearby beaches make this a great place to set your headquarters for a longer visit. While you're in town, don't miss the clam chowder at Mo's, a local restaurant with a garage door in the front — they built it when a woman accidentally drove through the pre-existing wall.

It's a 15-minute hike through the woods to reach this beach, which keeps it refreshingly tourist-free during the summer. Surfers are another story. If you have a board, this is one of the best spots on the coast for waves. And if you're in the market for booty, head to Smuggler's Cove, where pirate treasure is buried (according to urban legend).

*And videogames that involve a trail, a large-wheeled wagon, and death via dysentery.

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