Vanlife: A Camping Week on the Oregon Coast
We just came back from 5 nights and 6 days along the Oregon Coast. We lucked out with the most amazing weather. We've travelled the coast quite a few times and always know there is a big risk for rain, fog and freezing winds. While some nights were cool and the beach always windy we were blessed with sun and blue skies the entire time!
To write this post I read back to all your amazing comments and suggestions on our last camp post. Thank you so much for your support and ideas. I did put some of them into action and some are on my camping wishlist.
Our trip down coincided with the day before the eclipse so our approximately 7 hour road trip took over 11 hours! We only stopped for lunch outside of Seattle (and a quick shop for me :) ) and a couple gas station breaks to pull into Astoria at 8:30pm. The kids were champs on the drive. We had downloaded shows on Netflix for Theo so he was set but poor Mae, facing backyards in the van, didn't have much to keep her entertained but naps and food. I kept their snack cups and water cups full and we just hoped for the best. She kept it together until the last 1.5 hours where she just cried because she had had enough. Also I have a general no sugar rule on road trips or planes as the sugar crash is never worth it. (FYI... these are my favourite snack cups and finally got one for each kid)
We had dinner, beers (actually an Oregon Pinot for me!) at Fort George Brewery (thanks to your recommendations) and then set up camp in the dark at Fort Stevens State Park. In the morning we watched the eclipse at the beach with everyone and turns out that extra 2 hours south our friends drove made the difference between a normal ecplise and TOTALITY. Oh well, there was no way I was packing up those poor kiddos in the car to drive in traffic again! We stayed a second night in Fort Stevens and then made our way to Nahalem Bay State Park. Nahelem Bay is 5 mins south of the adorable town of Manzanita and we would have stayed there the whole trip but there wasn't availability even months in advance. Fort Stevens was a nice second place but I don't like that you need to drive (or at least bike) to the beach.
We beach hopped our way down to Manzanita and set up with more friends at Nahalem Bay. Days were spent eating and beaching and chasing kids. Mae decided on this trip to stop listening and become adventurous which was equal parts adorable and maddening. Someone always had to be on Mae watch as she just wanted to walk the campsite looking for dogs. We are so grateful to camp with a village of friends (and even my Dad this time!) who help to play with and wrangle the kids. Hopefully some friends with kids will join us on our next adventure! Please don't let the 11 hour trip deter you, i'm sure your car is faster than ours :).
The drive home was as long as the trip there so I think the lesson learned is to drive as much in the evening or overnight as possible to avoid I5 accidents and traffic. Also it's time to get Nexus for Mae!
Nahalem Bay State Park - super family friendly (though you do sacrifice some privacy) I love the wind swept pines, white sand beach and beach grass that lines the dunes. They drive around and deliver firewood to you for $5 a bunch (fireban was lifted for our last three nights!). Hot showers and walking distance to Manzanita beach is all I need.
Fort Stevens State Park - 15 mins from Astoria, a wooded campsite a short drive from the beach. Not as wonderful to me as Nahalem but a great alternative if you can't get a spot.
Sea Level Coffee - in the southern tip of Cannon Beach is an adorable coffee shop that was recommended to me by multiple trustworthy sources and it definitely lived up to expectations by serving Heart Roasters (one of the BEST). The baked goods were wonderful too!
14th Street - a great stop in Astoria we made sure to make on our way out of town. Serving Stumptown and Brunch.
Fort George Brewery - The perfect stop after a very long drive. Burgers and Beers and local wines.
Costco - special mention of the costco in Warrenton as we bought most of our groceries there. The local grocery stores in Manzanita and Cannon Beach while lovely, have coastal prices. We filled our cart with fresh food and Oregon Pinot Noir (and Pinot Noir Rosé). We eat really well camping and it is mostly because of our wonderful and organized friend Jess who literally sent me a shopping list of my share of the food as we were driving down the state. We had Fajitas, Pesto Pasta, Burgers, Salads, cheese plates and more. Maybe I'll see if she wants to write a guest post on planning food for camping!
Stumptown - Normally I like to plan to stop at Stumptown in Caplitol Hill, Seattle and there is a great park (Volunteer Park) a few minutes away. But terrible traffic and border lineups made for other plans. But wanted to mention it here in case you are planning a similar route.
Haystack Rock - you can't go to the coast and not visit Haystack rock. it's an icon for a reason and should not be missed, no matter how touristy someone might say it is.
Short Sands Beach - we spent the day here so the boys could surf but also because it wasn't as windy as more exposed beaches. There is a bit of a hike in that is easy but just be prepared. I wore sandals and a 25 lb baby so it's that kind of a hike. Beautiful beach not to be missed.
Manzanita Beach - a 10 minute walk from our campsite this beach goes for miles and is truly beautiful. Be prepared for heavy wind and fog but all of it is part of the magic. We bought a $5 kite in town that entertained kids and adults.
We tried fleece footed pajamas, added a sheep skin and more blankets and Mae still didn't sleep through the night until the last night (and never in her own crib). I still would recommend a travel crib in the camper van as it works for naps and for early bedtimes. The travel crib also worked to corral her in the campsite for a few minutes when we needed her safe. But she woke up at 10 or 11 every night screaming and often throughout the night too. Considering she has been sleeping through the night lately this was disappointing but understandable. My next plan is to look for a sleeping bunting bag like was recommended on my last camping post (here)
I didn't make a list I can share this time but I did pack less clothes than our previous camping trip. Though I was careful to pack two sets of warm clothes for everyone. I managed to wash some of the kids clothes with dish soap and hang to dry to get extra wear from them. Also I've been bringing a dry bag to hold dirty laundry which keeps smells and dirt contained. A few standout items were toques for the whole family, and overalls were great for keeping shirts cleaner and for warmth (though I forgot that I would be matching the kids when I wore mine, woops).
We brought our beach tent and used it everyday despite some heavy winds. It allowed us to stay in the sun much longer than we could have otherwise. This is the one we have, it's not the most stylish but it's served us well. I'd love to find something as functional that's more beautiful but for now I can't beach without this tent.
ADD TO THE LIST
Each camping trip we add items to our packing list that we missed so we will remember them next time. Here's what we added this time...
Fleece Blankets (for around the campfire but not to be used at beach)
A Good Lantern (would love any advice on this! The one we bought based on amazon reviews is the most awful blinding LED)
Extra Dish Bin for Rinsing
Bigger Outdoor Rug (total wishlist, not needed)
Anyway thanks for letting me share our little van adventures. Hopefully there is something useful for you in there. I know I am so grateful for any tips or advice you share with me! We dream of driving down to San Fransisco next year so this was a good test run for us. Every camp we are learning more and adapting to what the kids need as they grow and change.