8 Stops Along the Oregon Coast with Kids

8 Stops Along the Oregon Coast with Kids

With our oldest daughter heading off to college next year, we know we won’t have as many opportunities for family vacations with all eight of us. Gracie loves the Oregon Coast, so we decided it would be the perfect spot to have our last summer vacation with her before college. 

If you and your family are looking to plan a trip to the Oregon coast, I recommend flying into Portland International Airport and renting a car; it’s the best way to experience all the Oregon Coast has to offer.

The scenery most of our drive to Waldport was amazing, but when we started to follow I-84 along the Columbia River, the view became even more enjoyable. We drove through beautiful small towns like The Dalles and Hood River, which made for great spots to break up the drive where everyone could stretch their legs. The stunning Multnomah Falls are also on this same route and are a must-see stop if you are in the area.

One of my daughter's favorite things to do in Oregon is to walk the beach looking for seashells, so we decided to rent a beach house in Waldport for this trip using the house rental website VRBO. Waldport is in the middle of the Oregon Coast, making it an excellent central hub for most of the activities up and down the coast. It's not as busy as the more popular destinations like Cannon Beach or Newport, which gave us the opportunity to relax in a quiet place.

On the first night in the house, we all discovered that the Wi-Fi was hit and miss, which was a little frustrating at first, but later became a welcomed blessing. Disconnecting from our phones for a few hours each night felt good and provided some great opportunities for card games and hilarious conversations each night. I love this quote from a Scenic Route article I read about the benefits of being off the grid while on vacation: "Put down the phone, look into their eyes and have a good talk you all might remember forever." All our kids mentioned after the trip how much they enjoyed winding down at night as a family with no distractions. It was nice to have time that reminded me of what life was like without a phone; a life my kids will never know unless we create moments like this.

Since there can be a little bit of driving between the different sites on the coast, we decided to spend the first few hours of each day exploring Big Stump beach near our house. This allowed us to take our time each morning and ease into our day. Beach time usually included flying kites, looking for shells or digging in the sand, which to my surprise, fascinated my older boys for hours. 

By the early afternoon, everyone was usually ready to jump in the car and start exploring the sites. Even though this was our third time visiting the coast, all our kids were excited to be back. Every time we go, we end up finding new things to explore, and this year was no exception. Since more significant places to see are north of Waldport, we spent our first two days moving up the northern part of the coast and our last two days traveling south of Waldport. Below are a few of the places we explored.

North of Waldport

Seal Rock (8 minutes from Waldport)

A beautiful beach any time of the day, but during low tide, we always find sea stars, anemone and all kinds of different ocean life.

Newport (25 minutes from Waldport)

This is our favorite city along the coast. We like to spend an entire day in Newport eating breakfast at the Pig N Pancake, going to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, picking out unique taffy at the 2 Kids Candy Store, and eating clam chowder at Mo's restaurant. The historic bayfront in Newport is also an easy way to see seals up close.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (34 minutes from Waldport)

This nature preserve is close to Newport and features one of the best tide pools we have found along the coast. We always see seals in the ocean as we explore the tide pools in this spot, and one year we even saw whales while taking pictures at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse.

Devil's Punch Bowl (39 minutes from Waldport)

This naturally carved rock is another spot that is great to visit at low or high tide. We prefer visiting it at low tide when the ocean has left the bowl and you can discover the many shells inside.

Tillamook Creamery (2 hours from Waldport)

This was our first visit to the creamery’s newly remodeled building and we were pleasantly surprised with all the updates. There are a lot of new interactive things for kids to do along the tour that teaches them about the different processes of how cheese is made.  The tour starts at the farm exhibit which is a fun way for everyone to learn about how farmers care for the cows that provide the milk. As you leave the farm exhibit you enter the viewing gallery on the top floor. The viewing gallery is a step by step viewing area that looks over the factory floor as the cheese is being produced and packaged. Our favorite part of the tour was the cheese tasting bar at the end which gives you the opportunity to taste the different types of cheese that Tillamook offers.  The Tillamook Creamery is a little over an hour away from Waldport, so be sure to buy a bag a squeaky cheese for the kids to snack on during the drive home.

Cannon Beach (3 hours from Waldport)

We didn't have time to visit Haystack Rock on this trip, but in previous years we have loved spending time at this iconic beach. If you plan on going, try to go early before the crowds because parking can be difficult. 


South of Waldport:

Cape Perpetua (16 minutes from Waldport)

We visit this spot every time we visit Oregon, and this year we saw whales! It's excellent at low tide for exploring tide pools, but it’s also entertaining at high tide to witness the power of the sea as waves crash into the lava formations at Devil’s Churn, Thor’s Well, and Spouting Horn. 


Florence (48 minutes from Waldport)

The beautiful town of Florence is definitely worth the fifty-minute drive from Waldport. The sand dunes in Florence are an amazing sight to see, and your kids will love playing on them. This year we rented sandboards for the first time from Sand Master Park and had a great time riding on the dunes at Jesse M. Honeyman State Park. The lake in the middle of Jesse M. Honeyman State Park is also a great spot for swimming, kayaking or paddleboarding. While you are in Florence be sure to take the quick hike up to the famous Heceta Head Lighthouse, you can take a tour to the top of the lighthouse and the view is amazing. Florence is also home to the famous Sea Lion Caves which is America's largest sea cave. 

Sandboarding at Sand Master Park Sandboarding at Sand Master Park

On the last night of our trip, I went for a walk on the beach with my older daughter. As she talked to me about the different seashells she had found on our trip, I thought back to our first time visiting the coast. She was only one year old on that first trip and back then it seemed like forever before she would be a college student. In the years between these two trips, my daughter and I have shared a lot of highs and some lows, but I am so proud to call her my daughter. I will always think of the Oregon Coast as the bookends to her years of growing up with me.

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About the Author

Alan Lawrence

Alan Lawrence is the father of six incredible kids and married to his best friend. His family is his number one pastime, but he also enjoys photography, tech and the outdoors. He started his blog, That Dad Blog, in October 2014 shortly after his son Wil was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He hopes to inspire others to find joy in every opportunity in life.