We arrived at Nehalem Bay State Park on a Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. with no reservations, thinking surely with more than 300 campsites there would be walk-up sites available. That was until we saw the “Campground Full” sign along Hwy 101.
“We’re turning in anyway,” said Jimmy.
As we rolled up to the check-in booth there were three parties in front of us. Two couples tent camping and one solo woman traveling in her own version of a VW van. They all got spots.
I tentatively stepped up to the ranger’s window, admitted we didn’t have a reservation and asked if anything was available. He looked at me briefly, checked his computer and declared: “I only have one site left for tonight.” Relieved, I smiled and quickly handed over my credit card.
Nestled between the ocean and the bay, this extremely popular family campground is situated on a 4-mile long sand spit. One reason for its popularity, in addition to being on the scenic northern Oregon coast, is that it is only a couple hours (86 miles) drive west of Portland.
“Situated among a sea of shore pines, the campground borders rolling dunes that separate the campground from the beach. A walk over the dunes and you’re at the beach building sand castles, flying a kite or relaxing to the sound of the ocean. Beach-combing can produce special rewards – treasures that include agates, shells, and occasionally glass floats. End the day with a sunset over the ocean in the shadow of Neah-kah-nie Mountain,” says Oregon State Parks.
It is said that campers might see deer, a herd of elk, a lonely coyote or two and a variety of birds. Kayaking, crabbing, fishing and clamming are also popular pastimes.
This public campground is also unique because of its variety of campground facilities.
– Near the entrance to the park, a wooded area has been set aside as a walk-in campsite for hikers and bikers traveling up and down the coast highway.
– A circle of 18 yurts are available as an alternative camping experience for those traveling by car.
– In addition, there are 17 primitive sites with corrals that offer horse enthusiasts a place to camp with several miles of trails and beach to explore.
We asked the rangers about bicycling into the neighboring community of Manzanita and they directed us to a paved bicycle/walk path.
Other nearby beach towns of Nehalem and Wheeler also offer dining, taverns, ice cream parlors, coffee shops and dozens of souvenir stores.
Nehalem Bay Campground info:
Approximately 265 electrical sites with water — $29/summer, $24/winter
Hot showers and flush toilets
RV dump station
Reservations online can be reached by clicking here. (add $8 per reservation)
We checked back with the rangers at 9 a.m. Monday morning and snagged a different site for two additional days.
Photos (click on photos to enlarge): From the top: “Campground Full” sign; Looking north along Oregon Coast from sand dunes at park; Nehalem Bay; Site F-41 with electricity and water; and Jimmy Smith bicycling around the park. (Julianne G. Crane)