Summer is ripe for sandy beach bums and tiny legs slathered in sunscreen. Get the kids out of the hot city and relax at the coast for some kite-flying, shell-searching, sandy fun! We’ve rounded up 9 of the best coastal campsites, from north to south, fit for a weekend drive from Portland. Chock full of beaches, hikes, freshwater lakes, or sand dunes, these are all worthy to pitch your tents anytime.

photo: michael via flickr

Fort Stevens

The mother of all coast campsites, this huge campground is one of the best family friendly spots around. The campsite is chock full of activities for history lovers, nature buffs, or recreation-seekers, not to mention being right near the beach. You can tour a real military installation and hear it’s history, swim in the ocean or nearby freshwater lakes, check out an actual shipwreck, or ride nine miles of paved trails (and hike 6 other miles). You’ll need to stay all week!

Distance from Portland: about 2 hours
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Nehalem Bay State Park

On a spit of land between the Pacific Ocean and Nehalem Bay, this campground has a whopping 265 tent sites, situated in a grove of shore pine. Stroll over the dunes to the beach for a day of playing in the surf or hunting for agates, shells, and sometimes glass floats. Other activities include crabbing, clamming, or kayaking on the calm bay. Because of the nearby Neahkanie Mountain and the way the winds blow, Nehalem Bay and the town of Manzanita get thirty-five to forty more days of sun per year than other parts of the coast.

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 45 min
Online: oregonstateparks.org

 

photo: jason via flickr

Cape Lookout State Park

With over 170 tent sites spread out between the sandy dunes and dense forest, this campsite has something for everyone. The beach is easily walkable from all sites, making a whole day on the sand easy and fun. For those that want more of a challenge, tackle the nearby Cape Lookout Hike that takes you to a spit of land that’s one of the best places for whale watching in the state. The 5 mile round trip hike is relatively easy and family-friendly, just be aware that there are some steep ledges. Shorter nature walks are around, as well.

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 45 minutes
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Devil’s Lake Campground

This campsite is a bit unique in that it’s actually in the middle of Lincoln City, at the mouth of the D River. But what it lacks in seclusion it makes up for in summertime fun. Kayaking on the lake is one of the most popular activities here, with the chance to view wildlife like herons, loons, or elk. And don’t worry– the beach is a mere 10 minute walk away, so you’re kids can still get sand in all the wrong places.

Distance from Portland: about 2 hours
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Alternative:

South Beach State Park for better beach access, and kayaking trips up the nearby Beaver Creek estuary.

Distance from Portland: 2 1/2 hours
Online: oregonstateparks.org

photo: ralph via flickr

Beverly Beach State Park

An easy to get to and beautiful campground, this site is nestled between some of the most dramatic sights on the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head and Otter Rock/Devil’s Punchbowl. The campground is full service, with a visitor center selling firewood and souvenirs, a playground, and all the amenities. Sites are tucked back in the shelter of the coastal forest, and a short walk along Spencer Creek takes you under Highway 101 and directly onto 5 miles of beautiful beach. If you’re still in need of more to do, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is nearby, too!

Distance from Portland: 2 ½ hours
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

The second largest campground on the coast with 350 sites, these sites are for dune hunters and lake riders. Bring your sandboards for some wild rides, or launch your canoe onto the freshwater lakes to explore. This place gets busy in the summer and trekking across the dunes to the beach is discouraged, but with plenty of trails to hike and lakes to swim in, you’ll never be bored.

Distance from Portland: 3 ½ hours
Online: oregonstateparks.org

Alternative:

If you’ve got your heart set on the Pacific, try the quieter Carl G Washburne State Park for spacious sites in old-growth forest. Trails lead to the beach, nature viewpoints, and Heceta Head lighthouse. All site are first-come first-serve.

Distance from Portland: 3 hours 10 minutes
Online: oregonstateparks.org

photo: ken via flickr

Eel Creek Campground

Located within a non-motorized section of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, this quiet campground has secluded sites and a peaceful vibe. Explore the nearby trails and the scenic dunes as you hike to the beach, or head out to nearby Eel Lake, or Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.

Distance from Portland: 3 ½ hours
Online: fs.usda.gov/

Note: Many of these book up well in advance online, but it’s worth calling to ask about walk-in availability. Many will set aside some campsites for first-come, first serve.

What’s your favorite spot on the coast? Tell us in the comments below!

—Katrina Emery