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In a few short weeks, the perpetual rains drenching our state will begin to taper off, and Portlanders can start soaking in the rays of sun. For many families — including my own — it will be time for a trip to the coast to mark the arrival of the beach season. We will pile into the car with a cooler of snacks, bags of towels, jackets, and sand-oriented toys for the kids, then make the winding 90-minute drive through the moss-covered forests to the Pacific Ocean. We will grow giddy with anticipation once we smell salt in the air, and wiggle our shoe-bound toes like there is already sand between them. We could head to the northern part of the coast, and take in the many amusements of bustling Seaside, but our hearts lie to the serene south and Yachats, Oregon.
Yachats is a small, beautiful town just south of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. It encompasses a tiny cove where the sleepy Yachats River flows out of the Suislaw National Forest to meet the dark waters of the Pacific. Highway 101 passes directly through the center of town, which is home to cute shops and some of the best restaurants to be found in the state. My husband and I always grab coffee at the Green Salmon before taking our kids to the city’s main beach and scenic area. Here, the river has to cross a lengthy stretch of sand to reach the ocean during low tide, and it is flanked by beaches on both sides. There are little pools everywhere — some left behind by the receding ocean, others formed by the river. These are often warmed to tropical temperatures from the sun, and perfect for kids to splash about in. My children usually spend several hours on this beach building sandcastles, making forts out of driftwood, and climbing on the massive logs left behind in the river from trees felled eons ago.
When the river starts to swallow the beach, it means high tide is coming and we must depart. We climb the stairs back up to the small road running along the cliffs above the scenic area, find our car, and jump in. We usually drive down this road a little ways to an overlook where we can park and have lunch while looking out over the sun-kissed ocean waves. There are a few blowholes carved into the rocks in this area, and they fill the air with gentle mist from their upward spray. In the summertime, whales can often be seen frolicking in the water just off shore, and we get a perfect picture of the Pacific — just like a postcard from Mother Nature.
If we are feeling adventurous after eating, we usually take the kids hiking up to the overlook at Cape Perpetua. From there, visitors can get an osprey-eye view of Oregon’s breathtaking coastline. Further south, there is another geological formation known as the Devil’s Churn that my husband and I like to frequent. An ancient lava tube once spilled out into the Pacific here, and after its demise, large pumice cliffs were left behind. At low tide, these cliffs are high above the water and covered with tide pools. There is also a constant booming noise and giant water spout made by the waves rushing in to fill the empty lava canal. It is very impressive to see, but the whole area is slick with seaweed and not exactly easy for small children to walk over. We plan to bring our kids when they are older and able to navigate the trickier terrain.
As our day begins winding down, we head back into downtown Yachats to grab some dinner at one of the great local restaurants, like Luna or The Drift Inn. (My children highly recommend the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at Luna.) We also refill our cooler with ice and locally caught fresh seafood to have back at home. Once we are on the road, we look for a beach where we can pull over to take in the sunset. We usually opt for one at the Yachats State Recreational Site, where we can find the shoreline glittering with agates the same color as the setting sun. This is a terrific place to watch the day’s end. The vast Pacific Ocean stretches out to the horizon, and the waves thunder against the low sea cliffs while the sun slowly sinks below the rim of the world. As always, my two older kids watch for the mystical green flash when the sun is eclipsed by the water, while my youngest drifts off to sleep in my arms.