Summer is prime season for coast camping Oregon. It’s also a brilliant opportunity for families to travel together and appreciate not only time with each other, but also the beauty of Oregon’s dunes, beaches, and clear skies.
…Kids love to help, including making camp and breaking camp… The ins and outs of our camper’s electrical, water, and propane systems… Lakeside dunes are amazing waterslides.
…A couple dozen pancakes and campfire biscuits… Two blobs of molten plastic… Hammock-snuggle moonrise family memories… Our camper’s name!
Our last morning at Cape Perpetua, gray smoke turned golden in the gleam of vast sun rays reaching into the canyon.
We said our good-byes to our friends, and we all worked together breaking down the camper. Aster helped Jodie tuck the bed canvas and secure the elastic cords. Connor stowed the door, worked the cranks, and even helped prep the trailer tongue.
Camper hitched up to the Subaru, we told Perpetua we’d see it down the road, then we turned left onto southbound Highway 101. As we made our way toward camping in Florence, Oregon, we considered stopping at the Bob Creek Wayside. The lot was full (and would have been pretty tricky to navigate while towing the camper). We skipped it for now, but we knew we wanted to head there during this trip and decided to try again next time we headed north.
Coast camping Oregon family travel video!
Summer coast camping Oregon, our camper’s name + why in the world did our family of 4 get a popup camper?
There’s lots more info below about our coast camping Oregon trip and our experiences, plus you can really see our family in action!
And… we reveal, at last, our popup camper’s name!
Check out more about this trip and see the camper name reveal in our family travel video below:
A little south of Florence, we turned right off 101 and into the forested entrance of Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, one of many awesome Oregon state campgrounds. At 28 acres, Honeyman is a good size park. Its eight camping loops vary: Some are more open and flat, with a central field and sand play area (where the kids thoroughly hunted for buried dragon eggs). Others are up slopes (perfect for scootering), have dense tree cover and feel more private and cozy. Some loops are more ideal for tents and smaller campers, and others are setup for large RVs.
Being at Honeyman gave us a chance to try out the camper’s water and electrical hookups, which we hadn’t gotten to see in action yet. We plugged in and watered up easily. All the outlets were working too (though we also started discussing how we could add solar to the camper so we can have power when boondocking, or camping without hookups out in the country, next year).
The hookup options at a park like Honeyman are a good reminder that coast camping Oregon can take so many forms. We’ll have short and long trips where we want to boondock out in who-knows-where. Our thinking is we can boondock for a stretch, then come in to a campground for a few days.
Once camp was set and we had some down time, we decided to take advantage of the breezy evening. Little did we know that choice would end in a casualty.
End of a friend
A little outside Florence, Heceta Beach looked like a great spot for a bit of evening kite flying. Our purple kite has braved the coast’s high winds on many a trip. The kids wanted to each have a go at piloting the string too, so we headed out into a sunny yet blustery evening, while the surf pounded, the salty air stung our noses, and blowing sand left us thoroughly exfoliated.
The kite went up… a little above Anthony’s head. Which, given his height, isn’t exactly saying much for the launch. We tried a few more times. Sometimes we could get the kite almost launched, but the fierce wind kept smashing the kite back down to the beach. Each of us tried to launch the kite. We worked together from each end, playing out string, lifting up the kite, until, finally, it launched! And flew, flapping hard in the breeze, working to make its way higher and higher into the salty air.
Then the kite crashed to the beach, and one of the wings flapped at a strange angle. When Anthony picked it up, we saw that one of the support rods had snapped.
Our little purple kite… was no more.
Coast camping Oregon: Dune sledding at Lake Cleawax
The summer sun shone high the next day. Connor is turning into a good griddleman, flipping pancakes while Jodie and Aster got the breakfast table ready. Aster chowed down on three pancakes, then lay down on the picnic table’s bench.
“I’m getting energy for the day,” said Aster.
Anthony cocked an eyebrow. “You look like you’re taking a nap.”
“Naps help energy up you.”
Good thing she energy upped, too. One of our friends had told us of a quintessential Honeyman pasttime: sledding down a sand dune.
The Central Oregon Coast is home to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The forty miles of coastal dunes inspired Frank Herbert to write his classic novel Dune, but what we found inspiring was the idea of the kids being able to slide down a steep, sandy dune, right into the bright green waters of Lake Cleawax.
Located inside Honeyman State Park, Lake Cleawax wraps around a dune like a crescent moon around its shadow. It’s a lovely spot to sit and have a picnic, and take in the play of sunshine on the water. For Connor and Aster, of course, it was all about seeing how many times they could head up the dune and how far out into the water they could manage to launch themselves.
Misadventures in propane heating
Part of getting to know our camper has been firing up the various propane systems, with mixed results. That’s not the fault of the camper though—this is all us.
Our first misadventure? Melting the plastic surround of our stove while seasoning the cast iron griddle. But it wasn’t our last propane mistake.
Our first night at Honeyman, we hung out inside the camper, chatting and playing games. We also fired up the on-board propane heater, adding some cozy to the chilly evening.
We also made a slight rookie mistake.
Alongside the camper, we had set up a camp table, and set our plastic utensil drawers on it. However, we didn’t think to check the clearance of the shelves from the heater’s vent.
The next morning, Anthony went to get silverware out of a drawer… but the drawer wouldn’t open. Turning the drawer around, we discovered a blob of melted plastic.
Fortunately, Anthony was able to slice off the blob. Once he did, the drawer worked fine. And now we make sure there’s plenty of clearance around the propane exhaust.
Maybe those propane misadventures played into our decision to cook dinner over the fire that night. Either way, a tasty stew, filled out with meatballs and tortilla chips, paired deliciously with sauteed green beans and skillet biscuits.
After dinner, Aster took Anthony for a walk. She pulled him out of the way of cars, “because I was looking out for Daddy.”
North to Yachats (pronounced “yah-hots”)
Day trips and side trips when Central Coast camping Oregon
Some days we stay closer to camp. Those days are full of games, writing, conversations, art, and little jaunts throughout the campground.
Other days, we load up for a day trip. Today’s brought us about an hour north, to the lovely wee town of Yachats. Scenic viewpoints and easy-access beaches dot this stretch of Highway 101 between Florence and Yachats.
Visiting Neptune for Strawberry and the Devil
This area is far enough north to be out of the dunes (which is nice if you don’t want to climb a hill of sand in order to get to the beach). Along the way we stopped along the Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint. Neptune SSV can be a little confusing. It’s not one viewpoint, but four individual pull-offs managed by Oregon State Parks.
One of our favorite stopoff spots on the Central Coast is the Strawberry Hill Wayside. Located at a small parking lot and picnic area, Strawberry Hill starts high, at the edge of a hilly cliff. Down below, waterside rocks, the sea-rumbled remnants of lava flows millions of years ago, barely jut out of the sea. It’s common to see some of the rocks covered in lounging harbor seals (and, of course, please remember to stay back from the wildlife).
A little farther north up 101, you can pull off to Devil’s Churn. Follow the paved and boardwalked switchbacks of the Restless Waters Trail down the cliffs to where you can see the Churn itself.
Like a horizontal funnel, the narrowing rocks force the relentless surf through a long channel. The end of the line is an 80-foot-wide chasm, where the compressed ocean pounds the rocks, frothing white and brown as the sea violently reverses itself back out toward the open water again.
From the churn to the ice cream
Yachats occupies a different part of the Oregon coast. No dunes. Little in the way of sandy beaches. No dramatic offshore rock formations. Instead, Yachats tops coastal cliffs made of angular, geometric black basalt. From the edge of the coast, green hills rise, dotted with houses.
A lovely downtown is right off the highway. Our main focus?
Bellies filled, we meandered through Yachats, then turned south for one more adventure.
Coast camping Oregon: Back to Bob Creek Wayside
The golden sun and the ceaseless wind combined to make shimmering waves. This time at Bob Creek, the parking lot was mostly empty. The surf pounded hard, and we reminded the kids that with the rougher waves here, they could only get their feet wet.
A slow, low creek wound its final journey down from the coastal hills to the sea. Much of our venturing was up the creek. Connor floated driftwood, seeing what he could build—or what he could try to surf on. Eventually he navigated a log all the way down the sea, and set it sailing on the ocean. Aster splashed in the current and examined the round, bluish-gray rocks, all the while chanting “shells, shells, shells,” while she built up a new collection.
The bedtimeless night
And then passed one of the best nights of our lives. Traveling with kids has its challenges—hanger, tantrums, trying to get kids to listen, getting them to come back from going too deep into the pounding ocean.
But traveling also has amazing moments. The moments you tuck deep into your love-filled, frazzled parenting heart. The ones you now and again take out and relive, as you reflect back on this weaving, winding journey of shepherding wee humans into surviving to adulthood.
Our final night on this Oregon camping trip was one of those moments.
Back at camp, we feasted on breakfast for dinner (or brinner), including a delicious batch of campfire-baked biscuits. As the sun set over our final night, Aster and Connor played with two children from a nearby campsite, while Connor soundtracked their adventures with his rendition of Hamilton’s “Guns and Ships.”
We’ve set a tradition with the kids that on our last night coast camping Oregon, they are allowed to stay up as late as they want (as long as they are being kind and listening well).
Full moon sky on a summer night
Aster stayed up for a little bit, but she said she was tired and went to bed. Jodie and Connor chatted. Anthony relaxed in a hammock, taking in the clear summer night sky. After a while, Connor joined Anthony in the hammock. Dad and son snuggled up, then Aster got in too. The three of them chatted about how we found our camper, and our vehicles, and our house. Then they talked seeing the world, and all the amazing people you can meet, all the friends you can make, while traveling.
As the full, silvery moon rose above the tall trees, Anthony and the kids talked about the school year to come. The trips we had to look forward to. How the summer was going to start winding down toward autumn. Eventually, as the moon cleared the trees and the night deepened, the kids got sleepy, and Anthony carried each one to bed.
What a good trip. What a way to finish out our summer. And what a beautiful life.