Some days, the local play structure or fountain park just doesn’t cut it. You need real adventure. The kind you might find manning a cannon, exploring a shipwreck, playing in the ocean or hiking and biking along a scenic bluff. It’s time for a day trip, and have we got one for you! We promise that Fort Stevens Park, located between Astoria and Seaside on the Oregon coast, is no ordinary day at the beach.
This gem is located roughly 15 to 20 minutes between Seaside and Astoria, off 101. Pack the night before because you will need a lotta gear to make the most of your visit. Depending on your kiddos’ interests, we’re talking swim suits, sand toys, towels, bikes, sturdy walking shoes and a yummy picnic lunch.
The 411 on the Fort
OK, just so you look like you’re in the know, here’s the Cliffs Notes on the fort. Fort Stevens was in service for 84 years, opening during the Civil War and closing at the end of World War II. The fort was built to protect the North against an English invasion from Canada, should the British join the Civil War on the Confederate side. During World War II, the Japanese fired 17 shells at Fort Stevens, making it the only military installation in the continental United States to receive hostile fire during World War II, though the attack caused no damage to the fort. Fort Stevens and its gun batteries protected the Columbia River until shortly after World War II, and was decommissioned in 1947.
Exploring the Fort
Your first stop at Fort Stevens Park should be the actual fort. During the summer, they offer a walking tour which is about 3 miles or you can choose a 45-minute truck tour in an authentic army jeep.
Then take some time to visit the military museum and information center, which features a diorama, artillery replicas and other military artifacts for your GI Joe or Jane. Your explorer will love wandering through the concrete artillery gun batteries and fort.
Though beware: The signs that say “Watch out for open pits and drop offs”? They aren’t kidding!
This part of the park features plenty of picnic areas and lots of grass for your little ones to burn off their energy. But don’t tire them out too much, because your next stop will be the shipwreck.
As you head back up to the camping area, turn off near the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and spend some time exploring. Once you’ve had your fill of the shipwreck, drive to the adjacent parking lots for something that you don’t see much of in Oregon….empty beaches!
A Hidden Gem
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. This beach is wide open for activity — none of the congestion you find on Oregon’s other coastal tourist areas, like Seaside or Cannon Beach! Keep driving until you reach Lots B and C, which offer ample parking and tons of wide open beach to run, play, kite fly and dig on!
Don’t forget to bring your bikes because the campground area features nine miles of paved bike trails that are flat and fabulous. The trails are designed to loop in different ways to allow the perfect ride for whatever your family’s skill and attention level!
It’s also a spectacular place to camp and we hear that you can often find spots even on summer weekends (though reservations are recommended). The campground also offers yurts, which are a cozy option for fall or winter camping.
Take a Hike
Six miles of hiking trails take you over a variety of habitats including spruce and hemlock forests, wetlands, dunes and shore pine areas.
Go Jump in the Lake!
Coffenbury Lake, which is also part of the park, is available for day use and has two swimming areas, a picnic area, restrooms (yay!) and a boat ramp. If you can squeeze one more recreational activity into your day, the fishing is awesome!
With 4,200 acres of area to explore, Fort Stevens has something for everyone – from the military buff to the hikers/bikers to the ones who just want to dig a big hole on the beach! So whether you need one more summer outing, or want to take advantage of a pleasant fall or winter day, pack your lunch, your bike and your camera and head out to enjoy the beauty and diversity of Fort Stevens.
What’s your choice adventure at Fort Stevens State Park? Have you visited this gem of family fun?
Cathie explored the fort and park with her curious kids and took all the photos, with the exception of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, which comes courtesy of Roger Warren Keepers and the yurt from the Fort Stevens website.