Travels with Brian
Travel staffer Brian Cantwell, his wife and their two cats traversed the Oregon shore in a rented motorhome. Read their adventures here.
Rating the coastal campgrounds
Posted by Brian Cantwell
How do you judge a campground at the beach? A top criterion has to be this: From the time you step away from your campsite, how quickly can you be walking on the sand and playing "Red Rover, Red Rover" with the incoming tide?
Secondarily, but still important: Overall scenery, interesting trails and activities, quality of facilities.
Here's a roundup of where we stayed and what we liked, in order of our visits:
--Fort Stevens State Park, near Warrenton and Astoria: Nice campground, though it feels more like a small city, with 476 RV sites, 19 tent sites and 15 yurts (it claims to be one of the nation's largest public campgrounds). Big downside: Beach is almost a mile away. Big upside: a network of nine miles of scenic, paved bike paths through woods and dunes, to beach, viewpoints and nearby historic sites, including old military sites and a century-old shipwreck. Warning: Cars are allowed year-round on some sections of this beach; don't plan on leisurely sandcastle building with the kids.
--Beachside State Park, south of Waldport: The name says it -- this one wins the stopwatch award: The sandy beach is just steps from the shoreside row of campsites. It's small, with 74 campsites and two yurts, squeezed between Highway 101 and the beach (so only sites a couple rows away from the highway, where ocean roar drowns out truck noise, get the thumbs up). Some sites have ocean views; others are screened by trees and shrubs. This was Barbara's favorite campground by far, because of the proximity to the beach. My wife loves me -- really -- but she made it clear she would happily park the RV there, live out her life with the cats, and let me hitch a ride back to Seattle.
--Sunset Bay State Park, near Coos Bay: This campground gets high ratings from camping guides and recommendations from some readers, but we thought it wasn't worth the long, long drive off 101. While the small bay is pretty, it's not a quick and easy walk from the campground, nor a beach big enough for long walks. Saving grace, if you have time: Nearby Shore Acres and Cape Arago state parks offer interesting gardens and beaches within a few miles. 64 RV sites, 66 tent sites, eight yurts.
-- Harris Beach State Park, Brookings: The beach is a half-mile hike or drive downhill, but the trail through a rock garden is unique and seascapes are wowing. Barbara rates it down on her "long walks" checklist because of deep streams crossing the beach and a high tidal line reducing access at high tide, but the scenery notches it way up in my book. Some campsites have ocean views. Facilities include a laundromat, a plus near the end of a week of camping. 86 RV sites, 63 tent sites, six yurts.
--Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, between Florence and Yachats: On the opposite side of the highway from the beach, never a very good factor. But pleasant China Creek adds some babbling-brook sounds in the campground, and a pleasant half-mile trail follows the creek under the highway to a beautiful long beach for walking. The campground was recently renovated, with new pavement and electrical hookups for RVs. Up side: Network of trails, including one to nearby Heceta Head Lighthouse. Downside: low supply of hot water in the shower building! (Barbara made me write that.) 58 RV sites, 7 walk-in tent sites, two yurts.
--Cape Lookout State Park: A gorgeous beach worth the loop route (on a rough road) off Highway 101, to a unique stretch of coast with arch rocks and dramatic capes. Some campsites are beachfront, though a dune obscures the view. 173 tent sites, 38 full-hookup sites, 13 yurts, 3 log cabins. Varied nearby attractions including Cape Meares Lighthouse.
A couple walks their dog on the beach in front of the Cape Lookout
State Park campground.
My favorites, if you're going to push me: I'd like to go back to Cape Lookout and Harris Beach. But first -- because I'm not really a stupid husband -- we'll probably return to Beachside.
Apr 18, 10 - 6:00 PM
Pros, cons and the view from the end of the road
Apr 18, 10 - 3:15 PM
Beach towns, beach bakeries (and the jelly donut dearth)
Apr 18, 10 - 10:01 AM
Campground hosts, lighthouses and pink flamingos
Apr 17, 10 - 11:30 AM
Rating the coastal campgrounds
Apr 17, 10 - 1:00 AM
Free-range beer in Newport