Written by Brad Lane
Sep 14, 2020
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The city of Seaside has been attracting families and ocean goers for more than a century. It’s a is popular getaway destination from Portland, less than two hours away.
Much of what has drawn tourists to this oceanside city in Oregon for the last 100 years still stands today, including the historic 1.5-mile boardwalk known as the Seaside Promenade. Connecting the beach to the city and other fun places to visit, including the Seaside Aquarium and Seaside Turnaround, the “Prom” is a top attraction of the Oregon coast. The Seaside Promenade is a fun and free thing to do for the whole family in Seaside.
The real excitement of Seaside comes from its wide and welcoming beach adjacent to the city. This sprawling stretch of sand is backdropped by the impressive and hikeable Tillamook Head. Besides being a great place to lay a towel down, the beach is home to many major events, including massive sand volleyball tournaments in the summer and great weather watching in the winter.
Before you book your next vacation, be sure to check out Seaside’s activities calendar to line up your visit with one of the many festivities happening downtown or at the beach. And for more ideas on things to do and places to visit, read our list of the top tourist attractions in Seaside, Oregon.
1. Seaside Promenade
Seaside Promenade | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Stretching for 1.5 miles and separating the city from the sandy shore, the Seaside Promenade has been a central attraction of Seaside for more than 100 years. As a fun and free thing to do, simply strolling this concrete pedestrian path and taking in the ocean environment is well worth your time.
Numerous other Seaside attractions stem from the Promenade. Other cultural attractions include the Seaside Aquarium, the Historical Society Museum, and the downtown district. Expect some good people watching on “The Prom” come summer, and if the foot traffic ever becomes too thick, it’s easy to hop off and access the bountiful Seaside beach.
While all times of day give good reason to visit, the stunning sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the Seaside Promenade makes for great vacation memories. Early morning on the promenade features the least amount of foot traffic. Much of the walkway is illuminated after dark for some evening entertainment.
2. Seaside Aquarium
Established in 1937, the Seaside Aquarium is now one of the oldest institutions of its kind on the West Coast. The water tanks within the facility give a great view of the underwater world of the Pacific Ocean nearby. And the touch tanks and user-friendly microscopes of the Discovery Center provide even more ocean habitat to explore.
One of the most popular species of sea animals to interact with at the aquarium are the Seaside Harbor Seals, who are always happy to put on a show for visitors young and old. The Seaside Aquarium is a fun place to visit in Seaside when it rains.
3. Seaside Beach
Seaside Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Hands down one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast, the beach at Seaside is wide, welcoming, and backdropped by the beautiful Tillamook Head. From sunrise to beyond sunset, activity abounds on the beach throughout the summer.
Despite the large crowds that flock to the shore, with so much sandy real estate available it’s never hard to find plenty of space to lay a towel down or build an extravagant sandcastle. To really find a spot of your own, simply traveling north or south from the main access point of the beach will have you ditching the crowds in no time.
Some of the most exciting times on the beach occur during the major events hosted by the city each year. The Hood to Coast Relay in the summer has its finish line in the sand near the water, and the world’s largest amateur volleyball tournament takes place each August with more than 1,000 teams competing.
Come winter, the beach is much less populated, but the weather watching really picks up during this wild and often quieter time of year.
4. Downtown Seaside
Muscle and Chrome Car Show in downtown Seaside | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Stretching between Highway 101 and the ocean on Broadway Street, the downtown district of Seaside combines history, tourism, and fun events the whole family can enjoy.
Downtown Seaside is divided by the Necanicum River Estuary and connected by the Necanicum Bridge. On the east side of the estuary, the Gilbert Historic District is home to some of the oldest surviving buildings in Seaside. Alongside this history, this area of downtown is also packed with art galleries and coastal shops.
On the west side of the estuary, family-friendly attractions and restaurants line Broadway Street and easily catch the eye. Arcade parlors, seafood restaurants, and fun places like Seaside Inverted Experience appeal to families and tourists in this lively section of downtown. Broadway Street also connects to the famous Seaside Turnaround and the beginning of the Seaside Promenade.
Special events pack the downtown activity calendar each year, including a Muscle and Chrome Car Show in summer and a bluesy Halloween party in the fall.
5. Turnaround at Seaside
Where the main artery of the downtown (Broadway Street) connects with the historic Promenade, a massive and hard-to-miss Lewis and Clark Statue is the centerpiece attraction of the Seaside Turnaround.
Designating the end of the 3,500-plus-mile Lewis and Clark Trail, the statue speaks to a dramatic time in history as the two explorers met the ocean. This is a perfect spot for a photo opportunity and a great place to overlook the beach, and much of the energy and community of Seaside can be felt emanating from this circular landmark.
The main beach access can also be found leading down from the steps of the turnaround. While cars can use the historic turnaround, drivers should expect slow-moving traffic and tons of pedestrians on any nice day of the year.
6. Tillamook Head Editor’s Pick
The trailhead entrance to Tillamook Head | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Just north of the city and defining the backdrop of Seaside beach, Tillamook Head is part of the larger Ecola State Park. While simply admiring the impressive promontory from the beach is a scenic experience, hiking through the coastal foliage is where the real fun can be found.
With a long beach walk, short drive, or fun ride on the Seaside Streetcar, visitors can access the Tillamook Head trailhead on Sunset Boulevard. From the trailhead, it’s approximately a 1,000-foot ascent to the top. Spread out over 4.4 miles, the walk up isn’t necessarily easy for anyone, but the trail is well trodden, and the views are worth it.
One of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast can also be found at the top, waiting for anyone who hikes in their gear.
A great view of the retired Tillamook Rock Lighthouse also awaits anyone who makes the hike to the top.
7. Seaside Historical Society Museum
Butterfield Cottage | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
For the past, present, and future history of Seaside, the Seaside Historical Society Museum tells the entire story under one roof. Exhibits at the museum span native inhabitants of the region to more recent logging endeavors in the area, with a large focus on Seaside’s emergence as one of the first resort cities on the Pacific coast.
A wide variety of artifacts, historical photos, and detailed dioramas add depth to each exhibit at the Seaside Historic Society Museum. The museum is open to the public Monday through Saturday between 10am and 3pm. Admission is by donation.
The adjacent Butterfield Cottage is also operated by the historical society. This historically renovated cottage lends insight on beach life in 1912.
8. Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
Hiker atop Saddle Mountain
Ascending more than 1,600 feet in under three miles, the trail leading to the summit of Saddle Mountain requires some effort and careful foot placement. The view at the top is well rewarding though, giving sight to Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River, and miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline.
Twenty miles east of the downtown district, variable conditions exist at Saddle Mountain including wind, fog, and rain. If you are prepared for these elements, they can really add to the experience. For a great view without climbing to the top, the much shorter Humbug Mountain viewpoint trail is an easier alternative nearby.
9. Lewis and Clark Salt Works
Lewis and Clark Salt Works | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
This historical landmark is an interesting and free thing to do off the Seaside Promenade. The historic Salt Works gives insight on the life and trials of the Corps of Discovery. It’s hard to imagine the need and struggle for salt in current times, but it was quite the process to secure during the winter of 1805 to 1806.
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Expedition members of the Corps of Discovery spent that winter at this historical location, boiling seawater for salt to spice and preserve their food. This is an extension of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Astoria, and visitors can learn more about this historic endeavor with a quick visit.
10. Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area
Roosevelt elk at Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area | Ian Sane / photo modified
Jewell Meadows was established in 1969 and is operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This wildlife refuge aims to protect habitat for native fauna of the region.
A 30-minute drive from the coast, the wildlife refuge offers visitors many opportunities to see animals thanks to the strategically placed viewing areas throughout. Bird-watching is always popular throughout the year.
For many, the real reason to visit is the large population of Roosevelt elk that call the park home during winter. Between November and April, visitors can expect to see herds of at least 200 elk utilizing the open space, making for quite the sight to see for wildlife enthusiasts.
11. Camp 18 Museum & Restaurant
Camp 18 woodcarvings | Kristina D.C. Hoeppner / photo modified
Just over 20 miles east of Seaside Beach on the Sunset Highway (Highway 26), Camp 18 Restaurant provides much more than a meal. Alongside extensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings, this rustic log cabin and restaurant is also a museum dedicated to Oregon’s logging history.
Vintage logging machinery surrounds the restaurant, as well as informative placards detailing their role in the industry. A large collection of intricate wood carvings is also on the front porch and on the grounds.
The restaurant offers plenty of parking, including designated RV spaces.
12. Seaside Inverted Experience
Seaside Inverted Experience offers a fun photo opportunity just off the beach. Inside Inverted Experience, different rooms depict various settings that make for a unique background on a fun family souvenir. Rooms at Inverted Experience include a saloon, kitchen, and promenade all with a unique twist – they are all upside down.
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More on the Oregon Coast: Once you have finished exploring Seaside, other great small towns on the Oregon coast are equally worth your attention. The hip atmosphere and culture of Astoria hits you as soon as you step foot on the Riverfront, and places like the Oregon Coast Aquarium make for great additions to the top attractions of Newport. A stay at one of beautiful beach resorts is a nice way to experience the coast.
Other Adventures in Oregon: Oregon is stacked with all sorts of adventure outlets. From amazing areas like Mount Hood National Forest to other inland cities like Salem or Eugene, something fun to do is never hard to find. A great starting point is our list of Oregon’s best hiking trails, which is complimented nicely by some of the best campgrounds found throughout the state. Once you’ve explored the trails and tent sites, the beautiful hot springs and waterfalls in Oregon provide even more avenues for adventure.