The Kooks said it best: “I fell in love at the seaside.” And while we can’t confirm or deny that the Kooks wrote this song as a tribute to the actual town of Seaside, Oregon, most of the lyrics seem to aptly apply. The Oregon coast, with Seaside sitting pretty as its largest city -- or town, however you prefer to look at it -- is well known to inland city dwellers for the cultural crash course it provides in farm to table seafood, World War II trivia, vintage aquariums, and its moody postcard complexion.
So if you can’t afford a trip to the windswept jagged beaches of the British Isles -- this is as good as it gets on our West Coast. Oh, and FYI, Seaside may very well be the home of the largest beach volleyball tournament in the world. Consider this checklist of what to do in Seaside the conch shell by which you sample the finest melodies in Northwest Oregon.
Debatable: It’s Fine To Recline Your Seat On a Plane
Check out a historic shipwreck
Twenty-six minutes up the 101 from Seaside sits one of the Oregon coast’s most unlikely tourist hot spots. The Peter Iredale was a Victorian ship built in 1890 that was summarily abandoned by its crew (and two stowaways) on October 25, 1906 after strong winds smashed many of its masts and rendered it useless. The captain dramatically commented (to the ship), “May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands.” After washing up on the shores of Fort Stevens State Park, the wreckage became an immediate attraction -- even Robert F. Kennedy visited it. And while some might see a dilapidated ship on a swollen beach, it still feeds the imagination and lingers in local lore to this day.
Rent a dirt cheap kayak from a Seaside hostel
Seaside is more than a fisherman’s village. Similar to the resident seagull population, there are many flocks of tourists that take advantage of Seaside’s beachfront positioning, in and out of the water. The Seaside Lodge & International Hostel is a community-based hostel with a marshmallow-friendly fire pit, a large garden where you can help yourself to whatever fruit or veggies are growing, as well as a snug “living room” with riverfront views, a mini library, and communal instruments. But its best attraction? Two guests can rent a double kayak for two hours for $24; for two non-guests, it’s $50.
Visit one of the world's biggest beach volleyball tournaments
With 154 courts, 1,550+ teams, 2,700 players, and legions of fans, Seaside has randomly become the home of one of the world’s largest beach volleyball tournaments. Seaside Beach Volleyball, now in its 36th year, just keeps getting bigger -- though it doesn’t formally hold the world record for largest tournament, but its only other competition is in Italy. However, this means that Seaside’s open division tournament is, at least, America’s premier volleyball tournament.
Drink local beers made from coastal rainwaters
Throughout the craft beer loving state of Oregon there are some pretty unconventional locations for breweries. Seaside, as it happens, hosts one of the best. Seaside Brewing Co. is fitted inside the old city jail and uses fresh rainwater to start the brewing process. Unlike jail jail, you can leave the brewery whenever you want. Another bright point of this brewery that sets it apart from a brewery in say, Portland or Bend, is that its menu tends toward seafood. Try the clam chowder.
Looks can be deceiving, as you'll find out upon entering Bell Buoy of Seaside. This seafood restaurant, which also holds an attached market that contains fresh and canned seafood, is as tired and rundown looking as eyesores get off the side of the road. Yet, all you have to do is park, walk inside, and order a crab melt to experience the remarkable splendor. It’s $8 and it’s not huge, but it’s loaded with real crab that was likely caught only a few hours before your arrival. The shrimp cocktail, a coveted and rare variety of fresh razor clams, and $3 oyster shooters also demand a standing ovation.
Tour the only continental US land bombed during World War II
It’s true! Built near the end of the Civil War, Fort Stevens would have no active role in that skirmish, but would eventually stumble upon its moment to shine. From June 21-22, 1942, it became the only continental US fort to play an active role in World War II after a Japanese submarine hit it with 17 shells. The shots triggered minimal damage, but the site remains a quirky fix for roaming history buffs, and it’s scenically located in Fort Stevens State Park.
Feed resident harbor seals at Seaside's vintage aquarium
One of the country’s oldest (and the Northwest’s oldest private aquarium), the Seaside Aquarium was originally an indoor public saltwater bath. Before becoming the country’s first official breeding program for captive harbor seals, the building housed wrestling matches. Nowadays, it’s home to a cast of friendly harbor seals, as well as around a hundred other species of marine life.
Experience Seaside eccentricities firsthand at its Monthly Art Walk
Dip your feet into The Ashore Hotel's heated saline soaking pool
The Oregon coast is dotted with more than a few cheap, 1970s-style motels, but The Ashore Hotel is a nice reprieve from all that. On its website, it lists one of its values as “indie,” so you can imagine what you’re working with. It’s a clever remodel of one of the stuffy motels littered along the Oregon coastline, but it comes with modern touches: chic rustic fixtures, s’mores kits for their seashell-armored fire pits, saunas, and samplers of local beers. These are easily the hippest digs you’re going to find west of Portland.
Survey the splendor of Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is Oregon’s White Cliffs of Dover. It's a tiny resort village just 16 minutes down the 101. Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock -- the most popular attraction -- is a celestial, dramatic emblem of the Oregon Coast surrounded by an army of sea stars, meandering puffins, and beautiful tide pools. While there, you’ll definitely want to grab some form of bread from Cannon Beach Bakery, a picnic basket, some local IPAs and find yourself a nice patch of sand on the beach. You won’t be going anywhere for some time.
Open your senses to the "POG" at Sea Star Gelato
Portland may be known for its unusual spins on almost every baked good known to man, but Oregon’s most exuberant gelato belongs to Seaside’s very own Sea Star Gelato. Its claim to fame: the POG, or passion-orange-guava sorbetto. If you’re looking for another Pacific Northwest-specific flavor, give the Northwest marionberry gelato a stab. It's totally healthier than ice cream.
Hike through the Tillamook Head rainforest
If you're into nature walking (aka hiking), the Tillamook Head Trailhead starts on the south side of Seaside. This soggy trek puts you right in the middle of Oregon’s green and groggy coastal rainforest. Along the way, you’ll spot some mysterious World War II bunkers, as well as views of the lovely, haunting Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Camping note: there are a few first come, first serve huts along the way. Either way, this is one climb you’ll want to break the camera out for.
Score free saltwater taffy for showing up at the Seaside Candyman
Very few things in life are free. While you’re hanging out in downtown Seaside, you'd be wise to give The Seaside Candyman a try. It won’t take long for you to notice that Seaside is certified candy crazy. This joint hosts 180+ flavors of saltwater taffy and the owners will let you spin a big wheel (for free) to try to win candy (for free). Even if you lose, you get some taffy (for free). Oh, it’s also the oldest candy store in town.
Get the bird's-eye view with a Seaside helicopter tour
There’s a three-person minimum, but for $150 (or $50 per person) Seaside Helicopters will launch you into the clouds for a citywide tour. Consider that Seaside’s location gives you a proper sampling of all of Oregon’s best facial features, meaning you'll be flying high over croppings of surf, trees, sand, and craft breweries.
Pop into the Northwest's oldest surf shop
Believe it or not, it’s not only orca whales that find themselves swimming around in Oregon’s cool coastal waves. Seaside is no Encinitas, but the surfing community is robust here, and this is probably your best bet for quality waves north of California. Local surf shops can rent or sell gear, help out with tips, and/or give lessons. If you’re looking for some materials, we suggest visiting Cleanline, which is the “Northwest’s oldest surf shop.” Which simply means it was established in 1980.
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