February 23, 2010

Seaside on the Shoulder

As wet and windy as coastal locales tend to be in Oregon, few names are able to conjure up mental images of sand, sea, and sun – but Seaside must be one of them.

With its strolling promenade, white sand, lifeguard tower and carnival rides, Seaside attracts hordes every summer for the typical beach experience.

However, those in the know travel to Seaside during its shoulder season because while all the salt water taffy stores may not be open, the restaurant lines are short (or nonexistent), the beaches are calm (even if the waves are not) and the deals on lodging can’t be beat.

I know what you’re thinking: What about the weather?

Yes, the north Oregon coast is known for rain, heavy overcast days and occasionally biting wind – but so what? Some days it’s not.

Sure, you may hit a pristine July day in Seaside when the surf is friendly, the light is sparkling on the waves and the sand is warm but you are just as likely – even in summer – to encounter a low layer of cloud cover, as if someone threw a dingy gray blanket over the town.

Vacationing on the Oregon coast means learning to take the weather in stride.

What is there to do in Seaside in the off-peak months? Nearly everything you can do the rest of the year, but with less crowds and wet feet. You can golf (open year round), take a helicopter tour (weather permitting), build a sand castle (expect cold toes) or shop.

Some stores do trim their hours in the off-season but there are so many to choose from you won’t even notice the lack.

When the rain comes, and it will eventually, you have two choices: run away to fun indoor activities or embrace the wet. Believe it or not, a stroll along the beach or along wood trails can be very enjoyable in inclement weather and the upside is you’ll have it nearly to yourself!

One word of warning, however – if it is seriously storming you should avoid the woods (with blow down, not lightning being a risk), and keep one eye on the waves at all times.

A couple of insider’s tips on things often missed by visitors who flock to the beach:

Don’t skip a visit to The Cove, the second home for local surfers, fishermen and wave watchers. This spot on Seaside’s extreme southern end is a great place to sit and contemplate or hike along its rocky edges. (Left off Avenue U and right on Sunset Boulevard)

The city of Seaside and a local land conservancy have set up a scenic wayside on the town’s northern boundary, adjacent to Highway 101. Interpretive signs highlighting native culture, explorers Lewis and Clark and the biological diversity of river estuaries (Neawanna Creek and the Necanicum River meet here on the way to the sea, which is visible from the wayside) are a feature, along with a walking path that leads a short way into the local forest. (Highway 101 where Seaside meets Gearhart)

Don’t miss the part of Seaside east of the river that divides the town. It may seem like all the action is near the beach but the other side of the river has some great shops, restaurants and sightseeing. It is the historical part of town and many of its older buildings have been lovingly restored.

If you don’t like to gamble on vacation weather and don’t consider it a trip to the beach without spotting a bikini or two, visiting Seaside’s shoulder may not be for you. But if you like to budget your holiday money wisely and don’t mind a permanently wet umbrella, don’t write off a visit to the shore during the lesser months.

Out of the wet

Buck’s Book Barn
1023 Broadway
{Great rambling used book store}
Tenth Muse Books
111 Broadway, Suite B
{Independent book store, espresso}
Funland Arcade
Corner of Broadway & Columbia
{Skee ball, pool, arcade games etc…}
Universal Video
47 N. Holladay
{Old-fashioned video store, lots of classics}
Bagels by the Sea
210 S. Holladay
{Great deli, reliable Wi-Fi, fun hangout}
Seaside Historical Museum
570 Necanicum Dr.
{Small but thorough museum}
Seaside Aquarium
200 N. Prom
{Classic seashore attraction, complete with seals to feed}
--story and photo by Leslie Pugmire Hole

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