A Summer Vacation to the Oregon Coast

Jul 31, 2022

Mike is the vacation planner in our family, as evidenced by the fact that we hadn't been home from our San Diego trip more than a week before he was already making plans for a summer vacation. 

We have wanted to take our kids to the Oregon coast for a long time, and it seemed like the perfect contrast to the busy, bustling, crowd-infused trip that was San Diego. We wanted a slower pace, and we thought Oregon would give us exactly that.

Having just been on a trip with Gordy's family, we thought they would probably want a break from us. However, our two families just travel so well together, so we decided to see if they were up for it, and they were! (It definitely helped that Brooke's brother moved to Oregon awhile ago, so that was an extra incentive for them.)

We decided to kick off our summer with the trip before we were firmly into other activities. We left just a couple of days after school got out, and we couldn't have asked for a nicer start to summer. Oregon is beautiful, and the cooler, more mild temperatures made us wish for an Oregon summer home.

Here are some of the highlights:

Road Trip Activities

We split up the drive to the coast over two days. This was much more manageable for us with little kids and a baby than trying to cram all of the driving into one day. Plus, it meant we had time for some fun along the way. We stopped in Boise to go to the World Center for Birds of Prey. This was a small conservation park, but it had a few things going for it that really made us enjoy it: two large condors (so incredible to see in real life!), volunteers who were knowledgeable and happy to answer questions, and a fun bird show that showcased one of the birds (in our case it was an owl, but it changed depending on the day and time).

We stayed in Pendleton, Oregon the first night. It was a small, quiet town, but we went to dinner at a cute, family-friendly restaurant called Rooster's, which we loved. We almost always choose fast food when we're with our kids, so going to a sit-down restaurant and ordering off of a menu felt like an experience. 

The last thing we did before making it to the coast was a hike to Wahclella Falls. We had been traveling separately from my brother's family, but it was at this point that we finally met up. This hike was so gorgeous: dense forest next to a river with a waterfall at the halfway point. We're not used to so much green in Utah, so we took notice. Also, it was an easy hike for little kids, which we needed since there were eleven kids between our two families (it was the first of many times during the course of the trip that our large group drew attention to itself). 

Family Audiobook

It had been a long time since we had chosen a road trip audiobook for the whole family. Most of the time, we all listen to music or listen to our own audiobooks with headphones. But it's so fun to have the shared memories that come from reading a book together, so a couple of weeks before the trip, I did some research to try to find one that everyone would enjoy, and I landed on the perfect one! We listened to Pony by R.J. Palacio. This is by the same author who wrote Wonder, but it is completely different. One of my friends actually gave it to us as a baby gift when Silas was born because the main character's name happens to be Silas. We were all completely into this book and eagerly turned it back on every time we got in the car. When we hiked to Wahclella Falls, the scenery reminded us of the setting of the book. As we looked up at the cliff face, we could almost see nefarious counterfeiters hiding in the crevices of the rock and Silas stealthily creeping among the trees. And we spent the whole hike asking our own Silas, "Where's Mittenwool?" (because that was one of the characters in the book). This experience reminded me why it's so fun to experience a book together (and I highly recommend this particular book if you're looking for a good one). 

Small Town Life

We stayed in the charming little town of Seaside, which is right on the coast of northern Oregon. We rented a large house that could accommodate our large family as well as my brother's. It looked a bit like a white warehouse (I believe it used to be an inn of some kind), but we couldn't beat its close proximity to the beach. Although somewhat touristy, Seaside was still a very quiet little town. We loved our little stroll past small beach houses and through the grass and sand to the water's edge each morning. On our way, we sometimes would see people walking their dogs or unloading their clamming gear or baiting their fishing poles. There was space for everyone, and there were several times when we had the entire beach to ourselves. Even the "busy" parts of town still had this easy, laid back vibe that was so relaxing. We went on little excursions during the day, but we were always so glad to return to our rental on a quiet street at the end of it. 


We spent a lot of time by the water. Our rental was only a block away from Seaside Beach. We made a habit of going in the fairly early morning each day (except for the end of the week when it was raining). Mike, Gordy, and the big kids would play soccer or frisbee or football. The little kids would dig in the sand. Brooke and I would walk up and down the coast, talking and taking deep breaths of the ocean air. Really, those mornings at the beach might have been my very favorite thing about the trip. 

Besides "our" beach, we hopped around and explored a few others. We were hoping for more tide pool beaches (Indian Beach was really the only one that had any to offer), but I think most of the good ones were farther south. Regardless of which beach we went to, the kids always got in the water. Our days averaged between 55 and 65 degrees, which didn't seem warm enough to get into a cold ocean, but they never seemed to mind the temperature. When we went to Cannon Beach, I didn't have any of them put on their swim suits. I figured surely they could stay out of the water for one time. I was wrong. This beach happened to have a really awesome pool of water that had its own waves running perpendicular to the ocean. It's my one real regret from the trip that I made a big deal about my kids getting their clothes wet. I wish I had just embraced the fun time they were all having.

We also loved Sunset Beach. We parked our car directly onto the hard packed sand and didn't have to pack in all of our stuff. It also had fun sandy hills that Clark, Lyda, and Ian loved running down over and over again. While we were at this beach, another beach goer pointed out a child's helmet that was floating in the water. Inside the helmet was a whole colony of gooseneck barnacles. Anywhere we went, the boys kept an eye out for interesting sea creatures (they even rescued a crab that was tangled in fishing line). Again and again, we talked about how Oregon was just the perfect vacation for our kids who love to run around and explore.


When all was said and done, this was unanimously voted as the favorite activity of the trip. And we almost didn't do it! Mike's sister had been to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago and recommended it, but as we looked into the logistics of it, we couldn't quite figure out how we'd manage it with eleven kids. The place we were looking at had the option to crab from the dock or a boat. We knew we couldn't have the babies on the boat, but we didn't know if it was feasible to have them on the dock either. In the end, we decided to just go for it, and it ended up being so much fun. We went to Kelly's and rented a boat as well as two rings for the dock. Mike drove the boat the entire time, and Gordy and I stayed on the dock the entire time. Everyone else rotated either on the boat or the dock. Both places were fun, so the kids were happy no matter where they were. 

We would let the crab rings sit for a few minutes before pulling them up. Most of the time, we had between ten and twenty crabs in every catch. The kids would pick each one up and see if it was a male or female. If it was a female, they immediately tossed it back in the ocean. If it was a male, we measured it to see if it was big enough to keep. 

At the end of the day, although we had caught well over one hundred crabs, we were only able to keep one, which they cooked and cleaned for us and everyone had a little taste. The fun was really in pulling up the rings and looking at each crab, so we didn't mind that we only kept one. I loved watching how the kids all transformed as they grew more comfortable with the process. At first, they threw out the rings somewhat hesitantly. By the end, they were quick and fast, pulling up the rings with confidence and chucking crabs back into the water like old pros. Mike loved navigating the little motorboat and considered giving up his day job to become a fisherman (just kidding).

Tillamook Factory

You can't go to northwestern Oregon and not make a stop at the Tillamook Factory, am I right? We purposely saved this activity for the rainiest day in the forecast. The self-guided tour was really interesting, and we got to watch everything in full-fledged production. It was mesmerizing to watch the same actions over and over again and try to figure out why some blocks of cheese didn't make the cut and got pulled from the line. 

After the tour, we loaded up on all the dairy: grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese (of which I consider myself a connoisseur, and this one was top notch), and, of course, ice cream. Also, after days of feeling like the biggest family in existence, we finally found all the other big families. Turns out, they like cheese. Just as we were leaving, the rain really started to come down, and we felt like we were getting a taste of the real Oregon. 


We had perfect weather during our trip, and I would even include the nor'wester gale under that "perfect" label. Most of our trip was 55-65 degrees and partly cloudy, which meant we never got too hot, but jackets still felt nice. But then towards the end of the week, a storm rolled in, the wind whipped up, and the rain came crashing down. Although this storm hampered our outdoor activities, we loved hunkering down and playing inside. And being from a desert state means that we always appreciate rain, no matter when it comes. 

Strawberry Picking

We were in Oregon too early for blueberries, but it was just the right time for strawberries. We found a family-owned berry farm where we could do our own picking. The day was overcast, and the strawberries were ripe to perfection. We walked down the rows, eating a few but saving most for later. We ended up with several boxes full. This was our final activity before we started the long drive home, which was good because it meant the strawberries didn't turn into mush before we could use them. Mike made a big batch of jam when we got home, and every time we spread it on toast or a bagel, we think of Oregon. 

Music Video

As per usual when we travel with my brother, we all participated in the making of a music video to capture the trip. We used the fitting song, "West Coast" by One Republic. I really love having this video as a souvenir and am so grateful Gordy takes the time to direct it and put it all together. You can watch this edition here, if you're interested.

Going on vacations as a family takes a lot of time, energy, patience, and money, but I am so grateful to see another part of the world and make these memories with my family. Oregon was one of those trips that I would do again in a heartbeat, and maybe we will someday (or even better, maybe we'll buy that summer home we're dreaming about!). 

Until next time, beautiful Oregon. 

*Most of the photos were taken by me, although I included a few that were taken by Gordy.
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