If you want to experience an unforgettable beach vacation, consider heading to the Pacific Northwest to explore its rugged coastline.
This isn't the part of the world most of us picture when we think of heading to the beach. We tend to picture warm, tropical climates and sandy shores.
It is true that the Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain, but during the summer, it is mostly sunny.
Plus, while much of the coast is rocky, you may be surprised just how much sand there is to enjoy.
Why Visit Pacific Northwest Beaches?
- Rugged scenery. The high cliffs and erosion-sculpted sea stacks along the Pacific Northwest coast are some of the most dramatic beach scenery you will ever see.
- Seclusion. If you visit popular beaches in densely urban parts of the country like Southern California, you are often wading through more crowds than surf. This is rarely the case in the Pacific Northwest. Many of this region's beaches remain secluded even during the summer.
- Agates. If you enjoy rock collecting, you will have the chance to collect hundreds of beautiful agates along Pacific Northwest beaches.
- Surfing. Some of the beaches in Oregon and Washington State are renowned for their incredible waves!
1. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
When you picture the Pacific Northwest, what do you visualize? Redwoods? Mountains? Probably not sweeping sand dunes that look like they belong in a desert. But that is exactly what you will find should you venture to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area along the Oregon Coast.
According to the Forest Service, the dunes comprise "one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world."
While there are a number of places you can pitch a tent in and around the Oregon Dunes, we recommend Umpqua Sand Camping through the Forest Service. You can camp here during any season; just make sure you make a reservation in advance during the summer.
Why You'll Love It
The Oregon Dunes offer a distinctive environment like no other. Where else can you explore dunes like these so close to the sea and forest? The ecology is unusual and the landscape is constantly changing. In fact, the Oregon Dunes made such a big impact on sci-fi author Frank Herbert that they helped to inspire Dune!
2. Kalaloch Campground at Olympic National Park, WA
Why visit just any beach on the Washington State coastline when you can camp at Olympic National Park? It is hard to beat the location of Kalaloch Campground on the Olympic Peninsula.
With the campground's location on a bluff, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean. Beach access is available. You'll also be surrounded by gorgeous trees. In fact, there is an iconic landmark here known as the Tree of Life. This startling tree is straddled in a gap between two bluffs. While it is flourishing in this unusual spot, its roots are largely exposed, giving it a resemblance to the mystical Tree of Life that plays a role in diverse mythologies.
Why You'll Love It
Did we mention the cool Tree of Life? Also, you'll be right at Olympic National Park with its rainforest trails, waterfalls, beaches and snowy mountains. There is literally something for everyone in this park with its incredibly diverse ecology.
Be sure to make a reservation during peak season. Kalaloch Campground is popular, and sites can go fast. If you are staying here on the off-season, however, there is no way to make a reservation. It is first-come, first-served.
3. South Beach State Park at Newport, Oregon
Heading back to Oregon, you will find the South Beach State Park right next to the town of Newport.
This park offers a classic sandy beach experience and is a popular choice for families. There is a convenient Jetty Trail on which you can jog or cycle, as well as an equestrian trail, disc golf course, playground, and horse-shoe pits.
Why You'll Love It
South Beach State Park offers excellent amenities and entertainment right on-site. But you also will be close to Beaver Creek Natural Area, Yaguina Head Lighthouse, Yaguina Bay Lighthouse, and other destinations.
You can also head into Newport itself to visit attractions like the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Newport Discovery Zoo. And don't miss out on other nearby beaches like Agate Beach and Nye Beach.
Tips for Camping at Pacific Northwest Beaches
Now that you have your eye on some exciting beach destinations in the Pacific Northwest, here are a few tips for comfortable camping.
- Pack layers. While the Pacific Northwest is known to be a temperate region, it can get to be blazing hot during the day over the summer. But it can also cool down significantly at night. So, you should pack layers of clothing so you can be comfortable throughout the day and night.
- Check the forecast for precipitation. If you are visiting during summer, this might not be a big deal, since these are the drier months. But during the rest of the year, it is very important to be aware of the possibility of rain and prepare for it.
- Pack a beach canopy. This shelter can give you some protection from the sun and light wind (see below).
- Check the forecast for heavy wind. While many people know to associate rain with the Pacific Northwest, those who are not from this region often do not realize that wind can be a big deal along the coast. Really heavy winds can damage a canopy tent or camping tent. So, try to avoid scheduling your beach visits for super windy days—and choose a canopy tent that includes air vents to prevent billowing.
- Book ahead. Place your reservation well in advance at popular beaches. If you are visiting a beach with first-come, first-served sites, have a backup plan ready in case all sites are full.
Enjoy the Rugged Beaches of the Pacific Northwest
The beaches of the Pacific Northwest tend to be overlooked, but that is part of their appeal. You will love the wide open expanses of sand, the towering cliffs and sea stacks, and the rugged solitude of these Oregon and Washington beaches.