If you live by your schedule and can’t remember the last time you acted spontaneous, fly by the seat of your pants with this idyllic day trip to Manzanita on the Oregon Coast. A trip to this quaint, coastal town doesn’t require much planning and has enough sand for a car full of kids, several fantastic restaurants along its small strip and the best part of all is that it’s less than a couple of hours west of Portland. All you’ll need to do, is grab your kids and bring your walking shoes, your appetite, and a few beach toys for a fun-filled day spent playing on the beach.

Nehalem Bay State Park photo: Manzanita Beach by Maura O’Brien

Getting There

Manzanita is approximately 90 miles—or a little over one hour—from Portland by car, most quickly reached by following Interstate 26 west to 101 south. But if the kids are napping and you have just a few extra miles to spare, consider following Route 6 west to 101 north, tracing the scenic Wilson River though Tillamook State Forest along the way. One word: gorgeous.

Manzanita

photo: Manzanita by Suzie Ridgway

What to Do

The Beach 
With seven miles of pristine sandy beach, it is little wonder the Oregon Coast Visitors Association has dubbed Manzanita “the third most photographed scenery in Oregon.” But the beach at Manzanita is practical and user-friendly as well, with wind conditions ideal for kite-flying, waves that break far from the shore, and mountainous sand dunes seemingly designed for games of Hide-and-Go-Seek. Kids are, of course, drawn to the water, no matter how cold it feels.

Nehalem Bay State Park (2)

photo: Nehalem Bay State Park by Maura O’Brien

Nehalem Bay State Park
If you walk or drive a few miles south of town, you’ll reach Nehalem Bay State Park, a four-mile spit that protects Nehalem Bay from the greater Pacific Ocean. The park covers an expanse of nearly 900 acres of shore pines, rolling dunes, beach and bay shores, and family-friendly walking trails. Chief among them is the 1.8-mile forest bicycle trail, a flat and paved pathway that gives walkers and bikers the opportunity to view deer, elk, coyotes, and a variety of shore birds.

Care to make this day trip an overnighter? Nehalem Bay State Park also boasts 18 yurts, 265 electrical campsites with water access, and 17 campsites for visitors with horses. Camping spots may be available at a moment’s notice, but  e sure to find a spot before you go because this popular yurt spot often gets completely booked by mid-winter.

Indoor Swimming at the North County Recreation District
Always have a Plan B if the weather takes a turn for the worst. The North County Recreation District maintains an indoor aquatic center with reasonable drop-in swim fees for children and adults. See their website for their fees and aquatic schedule.

North County Recreation District
36155 9th St.
Nehalem
503-368-4595
Online: ncrd.org

Pizza

photo: wikimedia.org via creative commons

Where to Eat

Marzano’s Pizza Pie
Kid-friendly meals don’t have to be unfulfilling for parents—and Marzano’s Pizza Pie is a prime example. Conveniently located a few steps from the beach, Marzano’s is the go-to place to eat in Manzanita, thanks to its homemade dough, fresh ingredients, and wonderfully casual atmosphere. Picky eaters and pizza connoisseurs alike will find something on the menu to devour, from the decadent spicy Italian to the flavorful roasted vegetable. But be warned: Marzano’s is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and shuts down “around 8:30 pm” all other evenings. So do yourself a favor and arrive early.

Marzano’s Pizza Pie
60 Laneda Avenue
503-368-3663
Online: locu.com

Bread and Ocean Bakery
For years, the menu at Bread and Ocean has been tempting locals and visitors alike with freshly-baked breads, salads, quiches, and savory breakfast and lunch sandwiches. But do not miss out on the sweet and tender cinnamon rolls that are reason enough to plan a trip to Manzanita. Just keep in mind, Bread and Ocean is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Bread and Ocean Bakery
154 Laneda Avenue
503-368-5823
Online: breadandocean.com

Manzanita Farmers’ Market 
In 2014, the Manzanita Farmers’ Market attracted a total of 38 vendors to this small coastal town, selling everything from shaved ice treats for children to Pelican beers for their parents. And the summer market season begins once again on June 12, punctuated by live music performances for the whole family to enjoy.

Manzanita Farmers’ Market
Laneda Ave. and 5th St.
Friday nights, June 12 through September 18
5-8 p.m.
Online: manzanitafarmersmarket.com

What’s your favorite Oregon coastal town? Let us know in the comments below!

—Maura O’Brien