Affordable Family Beach Escapes

Photo © Robyn Unruh | Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau

by Carrie Uffindell

For a seaside getaway with the kids that won’t break the bank, grab the beach toys and sink your toes into the soft sand at these coastal towns. All offer miles of shoreline, perfect for beach play as well as a host of affordable activities and attractions.

Long Beach Peninsula, Wa

One of the longest public beaches in the world, this 28-mile-long and 1.5-mile-wide spit offers families acres of continuous public shoreline to explore along Washington’s southwestern coast.
First, pick up a map of the area at the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau, located at the peninsula’s southern end, right at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 103.

When you’re ready for the beach, head to one of the half-dozen access points along the peninsula. Popular spots are in the neighboring towns of Long Beach and Seaview. It’s not hard to see why, with eclectic stores, beach paraphernalia, art galleries and assorted culinary delights available so close to the beach.

Well worth a visit is Long Beach’s World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame ( Through video and displays, you’ll discover the cultural significance of, and quirky uses for, kites all over the world.

Also in Long Beach is the 0.5-mile oceanfront Long Beach Boardwalk, a raised wooden platform built over the dunes. For a longer trek, the paved Discovery Trail runs more than eight miles from Long Beach’s grassy dunes south to the wetlands of Ilwaco.

In Ilwaco, explore regional history at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum ( and walk along the marina. Less than two miles south is Cape Disappointment State Park ( Here you’ll find 19th century lighthouses at North Head and Cape Disappointment, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the remains of Fort Canby intermixed with old-growth forests, saltwater marshes and miles of coastline.

You can also explore two more of the peninsula’s abundant natural resources: cranberries and oysters. Tour a cranberry bog and learn about the region’s berry-growing history at the Cranberry Museum ( Walk around the sleepy late-19th century village of Oysterville and visit Oysterville Sea Farms (, the last remaining oyster station in Oysterville.

When You Go

42nd Street Cafe (
Ole Bob’s Seafood Market and Galley (
The Depot Restaurant (
Pickled Fish (

The Breakers Long Beach (
Adrift Hotel and Spa (
Lighthouse Oceanfront Resort (
Find more information at

Birch Bay, Wa

Home to a crescent-shaped warm water bay with a gently sloping beach, this small yet vibrant community is located about 100 miles north of Seattle, Washington, and 35 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Get your bearings by heading down the community’s main thoroughfare, Birch Bay Drive, which also hugs the bay’s saltwater shoreline. To hit the beach, just park along the drive or on one of its side streets and walk to one of the many public access points.

Swim, bird-watch, camp, hike and experience free interpretive performances in the outdoor theater at the Birch Bay State Park (, located at the southern end of Birch Bay Drive. This 194-acre gem of a park encompasses more than a mile of coastline and nearly twice that of freshwater shoreline along Terrell Creek.

For water fun without the sand, head to another popular local attraction, Birch Bay Waterslides ( It features eight exhilarating slides and ramps as well as a hot tub for soaking and a kiddie pool with three smaller slides. Thrill-seekers will love the Black Tower’s 60-foot drop slide.

Other memorable ways to explore Birch Bay are on electric scooter, bicycle, vintage surrey, stand-up paddleboard or sea kayak. Paddle and Pedal Adventures (, just off Birch Bay Drive, offers a wide range of rentals. For full or half-day kayaking trips led by friendly, experienced guides, check out Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures (

Take a break from the beach with a gentle 1.5-mile, round-trip hike through wooded wetlands at the 54-acre Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve (, located almost two miles south of the state park. Along the well-maintained gravel trail you’ll spy wildlife, alder trees, Sitka spruce and salmonberry bushes. Near the trail’s end are wide-angle views of the Strait of Georgia and the San Juan Islands.

When You Go

C Shop (
Via Birch Bay Cafe & Bistro (
Semiahmoo Resort’s Pierside Kitchen (
Semiahmoo Resort (
Cottages by the Beach (
Sandcastle at Birch Bay (
Find more information at or

Rockaway Beach, OR

Seven miles of flat, sandy beach dominate this small, laid-back seaside resort town in Tillamook County, located about 88 miles west of Portland.

At the southern end of Rockaway, you’ll find the town’s commercial heart as well as the Rockaway Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. The center is housed in a vintage red caboose that’s parked right in front of the community’s main public beach access point.

When you reach the sand you’ll quickly notice Twin Rocks, two 100-foot rock formations situated just offshore. Picnic benches and a small pirate-themed play structure round out the access point’s amenities.

The southern part of town is also immensely walkable; the seven blocks between North First Avenue and South Sixth Avenue are filled with fun-to-explore shops and casual eateries, including two sweet shops, a bakery, several antique stores, a beach emporium and a glass blowing studio.

Hear a train whistling? That’s a historic steam locomotive chugging along the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (, which runs between Garibaldi and Rockaway on most summer days. Hop aboard one of the vintage passenger cars at Rockaway’s train station, located next to the visitor center.

For crabbing, fishing and boating, head three miles north to Kelly’s Brighton Marina ( The owners and their friendly staff welcome all ages and experience levels.

If time permits, be sure to visit the 200-acre Kilchis Point Reserve (, located about ten miles south in Bay City. This lovely reserve has two miles of meandering, well-groomed interpretive trails dedicated to the area’s plant species and wildlife as well as Native American heritage and pioneer settlement history.

When You Go

Old Oregon Smokehouse (120 N Hwy 101)
Offshore Grill and Coffee House (122 N Hwy 101)
Sand Dollar Restaurant (
Upper Crust Pizza (
Surfside Oceanfront Resort (
Sea Treasures Inn (
Silver Sands Resort (
Find more information at