Where to Get Wet on the Oregon Coast

Where it’s not too cold to swim.

Surfing Short Sand

Oswald West State Park, along U.S. Highway 101, Arch Cape, 1-800-551-6949, oregonstateparks.org.

If you know surfers in Portland, chances are they frequent Short Sand, which they probably either call "Short Sands" or "Shorties," the beach break outside of Manzanita that fills up on the weekends with everyone from kooks to shredders. The actual wave is found after a half-mile fairy-tale walk through the green woods next to a creek, and it's generally a little less magical if you're lugging a heavy board. Once you get there, the water is cold—it's Oregon, after all. But the spot is surfable most of the year, depending on your skill level. And even if the waves are too big for you, bring binoculars and become a spectator from land. It's warmer, safer and still pretty thrilling. LIZZY ACKER.

Related: The Essential Bucket List of Oregon Coast Experiences

Kayaking on Beaver Creek at Brian Booth State Park

13232 NW Pacific Coast Highway, Seal Rock, 1-800-551-6949, oregonstateparks.org.

Kayaking is probably the easiest outdoor sport that you're not doing. You sit the whole time, it's nearly impossible to wander off trail and get lost, and for the very lazy there are two-person vessels that allow you to kick back while someone else does all the work. Beaver Creek, a 30-mile waterway that meanders along the coast 10 minutes south of Newport, is docile enough for first-timers but has enough scenic highlights to keep regular kayakers interested. Launch from Brian Booth State Park, where the creek starts off wide before narrowing to the point that only one boat can pass at a time. Above your head rise thickets of grass. Below your paddle, clusters of lily pads form along the banks. It'll be easy to spot statuesque egrets and grand herons scooping up fish from the water. Keep an eye out for beaver lodges and chunks of chiseled wood with their signature teeth marks. Need a kayak? Rentals are available at Ossie's Surf Shop (4860 Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Newport, 541-574-4634, ossiessurfshop.com) for $40 to $60 during a 24-hour period. Ossie's will even haul the equipment to and from the park for you. ANDI PREWITT.

Splashing Around at Devil's Elbow and Heceta Head Light

Thirteen miles north of Florence and 13 miles south of Yachats, U.S. Highway 101, 1-800-551-6949, oregonstateparks.org. Follow signs for Heceta Head Lighthouse. The parking lot is just past Summer Street.

If at some point you decide you need to put your body in the ocean, the place to go is Devil's Elbow. The highlight of this state park is a big, sandy beach that sits under a unreasonably pretty highway bridge and opens up onto Cape Cove. Cape Creek, which runs under the bridge and out to the sea, is a perfect place to splash and play around, and the beach is gentle enough for safe wave-jumping and wading. If you get bored with playing in the water, it's a short walk up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, the strongest light on the Oregon Coast. And if you need some real old-timey entertainment, Sea Lion Caves is only about a minute's drive down U.S. 101. LIZZY ACKER.

Related: Best Swimming Holes Near Portland

Swimming, Canoeing, Paddle Boating and Suping at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

84505 U.S. Highway 101, Florence, 1-800-551-6949, oregonstateparks.org.

Honeyman State Park is the ideal of an Oregon park. It's nestled around the larger part of Cleawox Lake, a freshwater lake surrounded by sand dunes on one side and forest on the other. Even in the summer, when swimming in the Pacific Ocean is really just getting your head wet to prove you aren't a baby, you can always swim in Cleawox and then warm up in the sun on the dunes. And also in summer, a little store opens and paddle boat rentals are available. Firewood and sandboards are also available on the side of U.S. 101, just past the Ocean Breeze Motel, from a guy who rents things in front of his house. Or rent a canoe, kayak, raft, SUP or pretty much anything at Oregon Paddle Sports in Eugene (520 Commercial St., Eugene, 1-541-505-9020, oregonpaddlesports.com) and explore the shores of the lake. Plan ahead and reserve a campsite or, better yet, reserve 10 and invite all your best friends to spend a long weekend playing in the sand and water. When I was a kid, I always said that when I grew up, I would live on Lake Cleawox. It's really one of the best places in the world. LIZZY ACKER.


Editor's Note: The New Coast

Essential Oregon Coast Experiences

What I Learned When I Left Portland and Moved to Astoria

Top 10 Coastal Clam Chowders

The Best Hikes on Oregon's North Coast

Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Astoria's Finest Restaurant

Where to Eat on the Coast

The World's Quirkiest Brewery

Favorite Beer and Bud Spots

The Rusty Magic of Sou'Wester Lodge

Best Places to Stay

Portland Outdoor Stores

Scandinavian Astoria

Secret Beaches, Hidden Features and Easter Eggs of the Coast

This Abandoned Railroad Could Become an Epic Trail From Portland to the Sea

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