Featuring candy-colored towns and hikes peppered by ocean spray, here are some local tips on where to find the best beaches near Portland.
Going to the beach is such a popular pastime in Oregon that a law was passed in 1967 to make all beaches public property. Found in the state’s northwest, you might not be able to catch a sea breeze in Portland itself, but the city is only 60mi (97km) from the swirling Pacific on Oregon’s west coast.
The approach to Cannon Beach is quiet. The tangles of the Ecola State Park silently barricade the edges of the highway leading into it until the road reaches the gloriously rugged, wide coastline. There’s certainly a conception that this beach is one of the northwest’s best-kept secrets. The pièce de resistance is Haystack Rock, a dome-shaped monolith rising some 235ft (72m) out of the sand. A gentle westerly wind makes this a popular kite-flying spot, too. Recommended by local insider Madeline Churm
Carved out of sandstone cliffs, this craggy stretch of coastline, a 2hr drive west of Portland, is best seen from the sand dune piped atop of the layered cliffs. At dawn, the views are bewitching. Steely waves froth around rocky contours and mingle with the morning fog curling above the water and shimmering in the early light. Later on in the day, this is also a favored spot for hang-gliding and sand-boarding. You can try both – if you dare. Recommended by local insider Madeline Churm
This small beach sits at a secluded point where the volcanic rock of Tillamook Head cascades into the ocean. To reach the seafront, it’s a gentle hike through 2.5mi (4km) of thick sitka spruce forest. Once you’re there, spend a few hours watching foolhardy surfers battling the Pacific’s mighty swell and – if you’re lucky – you might spot a few whales, too. On your way back, stop off at one of the candy shops in Cannon Beach a few miles south to pick up some shell-shaped chocolate as an edible souvenir. Recommended by local insider Jordan Singh
There’s plenty of evidence that Short Sand Beach is ‘where the forest meets the sea’, from the gigantic sitka spruces crammed onto the hillside to the splintered driftwood scattered across its sands. You get the impression that this wild beach has been the same for centuries, and with good reason: some of these huge trees are over 300 years old. The only evidence of human activity is a wooden bridge hanging over the river on your hike in, although this only adds to the atmosphere of wild adventure. Recommended by local insider Jordan Singh
A colorful seaside town that hugs the base of Neahkahnie Mountain on the Pacific coast, Manzanita’s blustery seafront is a lengthy swipe of dove-white sand. You’ll want to bring your binoculars, swooping bald eagles can often be seen above, flying from their nests in the nearby mountains. Make sure to visit Manzanita itself while you’re there for freshly caught seafood (try the crab cakes at Big Wave Cafe) served by ultra-welcoming residents. Recommended by local insider Jordan Singh