The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Nothing along the Oregon coast prepares you for the carnival ambience of downtown Seaside (pop. 6,457), one of Oregon’s oldest seafront resorts. Ben Holladay, who built a resort here in the 1870s, included a racetrack, zoo, and plush hotel to lure Portlanders to ride his rail line to the beach. Come during spring break, or on a weekend during July or August, and join the 50,000 or more visitors wandering among the saltwater-taffy stands and video-game arcades along Broadway, or cruising the concrete boardwalk (called The Prom) along the beach.
Where Broadway meets the beach, a small traffic circle known locally as The Turnaround is marked by a statue and a sign proclaiming the town “The End of the Lewis and Clark Trail.” South of here, between Beach Drive and The Prom, is a replica of the Lewis and Clark salt cairn, where the explorers boiled seawater nonstop for seven weeks to produce enough salt to preserve meat for their return trip east. From the south end of Seaside, you can follow a challenging but very rewarding five-mile trail over Tillamook Head to Ecola State Park.
A half mile north of downtown, housed in a wood-shingled old motor court on the banks of the Necanicum River, the Seaside International Hostel (930 N. Holladay Dr., 503/738-7911) has dorm beds, private rooms, canoes and kayaks, an espresso bar, and nightly movies. There are dozens of motels and a handful of B&Bs in Seaside, booked solid in summer and serene, verging on lonely, come wintertime. The best breakfasts are served up on Broadway just west of US-101 at the Firehouse Grill (841 Broadway, 503/717-5502). For fish ’n’ chips, head to the south edge of town along US-101, where the no-frills Bell Buoy (1800 South Roosevelt Dr., 503/738-6348) has daily fresh halibut and excellent crab cocktails, best eaten on the outdoor deck overlooking the Necanicum River. There are also pizza places and ice cream stands all over Seaside.