History is not what attracts most people to Seaside, though. Rather, it's the miles of white-sand beach that begin just south of Seaside at the foot of the imposing Tillamook Head and stretch north to the mouth of the Columbia River. Though the waters here are quite cold and only a few people venture in farther than knee-deep, there are lifeguards on duty all summer, which is one reason Seaside is popular with families. At the south end of Seaside beach is one of the best surf breaks on the north coast. You can rent a board and wetsuit at Cleanline Surf, 719 First Ave. (tel. 503/738-7888; www.cleanlinesurf.com). A complete rental package runs $35 a day. Don't know how to surf? You can take lessons from Oregon Surf Adventures, 1116 S. Roosevelt Dr. (tel. 503/436-1481; www.oregonsurfadventures.com).
Because of the cold water, nonaquatic activities such as kite flying and beach cycling prove far more popular than swimming or surfing. All over town there are places that rent four-wheeled bicycles, called surreys, and three-wheeled cycles (funcycles) for pedaling on the beach. The latter are the most popular and the most fun but can really be used only when the tide is out and the beach is firm enough to pedal on. Cycles go for between $10 and $15 an hour, and multipassenger surreys rent for between $20 and $30 an hour. Try Wheel Fun Rentals, 407 S. Holladay Dr. (tel. 503/738-8447; www.wheelfunrentals.com), which also has locations at 153 Ave. A (tel. 503/738-7212) and 21 N. Columbia St., Ste. 103 (tel. 503/717-4337).
If you prefer hiking to cycling, head south of town to the end of Sunset Boulevard, where you'll find the start of the Tillamook Head Trail, which leads 6 miles over the headland to Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. This trail goes through shady forests of firs and red cedars with a few glimpses of the Pacific along the way.
Golfers can play a round at the 9-hole Seaside Golf Club, 451 Ave. U (tel. 503/738-5261; www.cannon-beach.net/seasidegolf), which charges $15 to $16 for 9 holes; another 9-hole course, The Highlands at Gearhart, 33260 Highlands Lane, Gearhart (tel. 503/738-5248; www.highlandsgolfgearhart.com), also charges $16 for 9 holes. However, the area's best course is the Gearhart Golf Links, 1157 N. Marion Ave., Gearhart (tel. 503/738-3538; www.gearhartgolflinks.com), where you'll pay $30 to $65 for 18 holes. This course was established in 1892, which makes it the oldest golf course in Oregon.
Kids will also enjoy the gaudily painted carousel at the Seaside Town Center Mall at 300 Broadway.
Tackling Tillamook Head
The Oregon coast offers hikers a slew of magnificent opportunities and the 6-mile Tillamook Head Trail from Seaside to Cannon Beach, or vice verse, is one of the best. Tillamook Head is the giant headland that you see jutting into the sea at the south end of Seaside. In the winter of 1806, the explorers Lewis and Clark traversed this 15-million-year-old remnant of a massive basaltic lava flow on an expedition to buy whale blubber from the Indians at Cannon Beach. Clark marveled the view, exclaiming, “I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed.” The basic trail is 6 miles long and climbs 1,000 feet through a temperate rainforest of fir and red cedar. There are several signposted hikes of varying distances that you can take from Seaside or from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. You’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Tillamook Rock, an offshore island with a lighthouse that operated from 1881 to 1957 (today’s it’s a privately owned columbarium).
This is a remarkable hike, if you go from one side of Tillamook Head to the other, but it is strenuous and not something you can do in your beach flip-flops and shorts. For more information, visit www.oregonhiking.com.
To find the trailhead from Seaside, travel south on Hwy. 101 to the town’s southernmost traffic signal, turn west on Avenue U for 2 blocks, and left again at Edgewood, which becomes Sunset, for 1.2 miles to the road’s end.