Heading to the Northern Oregon coast? You’re likely sifting through charming waterfront towns laced together by sea stacks and Pacific mist, trying to decide where to bide your time. Fortunately, the best retreats from Portland hug the coastline within a few miles of each other, and it’s perfectly plausible to explore them all during your stay. But you’ll still have to decide where to plant your roots for the week, and there’s a good chance you’re bobbing between the sister towns of Gearhart and Seaside.
Gearhart vs. Seaside
Seaside Oregon is a coveted weekend getaway for Portlanders located 80 miles west of the city, a proverbial buckle belting together half a dozen coastal communities between Cannon Beach and Astoria. Gearhart is Seaside’s closest neighbor resting just a few miles north of the Oregon coast hub town.
Think of Gearhart and Seaside as Pacific twins linked together by a 3-mile long, bridged roadway. Both are classic, coastal Oregon small towns, similar yet inspiringly unique, making visitors eager to embrace one just as much as the other. Both ooze nostalgia; one is clinging to nods of yesteryear and the other to the last strands of disappearing, raw, Pacific shorelines.
Seaside, the first, exhibits an iconic early 20th-century carnival atmosphere complete with a historic promenade and carousel, the scent of saltwater taffy wafting through the air, and storefronts painted in dreamy ice-cream hues.
Gearhart is the latter, a tiny town flanked by wild and untamed coastal dunes where ruggedness and sophistication are sewn together like salt and sand. It’s a place where time is measured in golf pars, and seasons are logged by the catch of the day from razor clams to Dungeness crab, salmon, albacore, and more. Equally as exceptional, and often more affordable, Gearhart’s municipal brand and demand for its vacation rental options grow every year.
17 Things to do in Gearhart, Oregon
Hanging out in Gearhart is all about beach-combing and golfing. Most visitors are drawn to this pocket of the Northern Oregon Coast for the seafood and Gearhart Golf Links, one of the oldest golf courses in the USA. But, that’s not all! They also visit Gearhart for the quiet, history, and abundance of outdoor adventure.
Check out the best things to do in Gearhart:
- Look for the Gearhart Elk, a local herd of about 200 coastal elk
- Go bird watching at Gearhart Necanicum Estuary
- Tee off at the 129-year-old Gearhart Golf Links
- Take a bike ride through town or along the beach
- Charter a boat to go salmon or sturgeon fishing
- Go whale watching during winter and spring
- Play tennis at the Gearhart Public Course
- Book a vacation rental at Gearhart by the Sea
- Explore the seaside at Del Rey Beach
- Go shopping at the old-fashioned stores and boutique shops on Pacific Way
- Dig for razor clams on the beach
- Take a hike on the Gearhart Ridge Path, Saddle Mountain Trailhead, or Young’s River Falls
- Drive on the beach to see the Peter Iredale shipwreck
- Go swimming at the Gearheart Resort
- Eat and drink at the legendary McMenamins Sand Trap Bar & Grill
- Go kayaking or paddling in Newanna Creek, Necanium River, Sunset Lake, and Cullaby Lake
- Immerse in history at the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
30 Things to do in Seaside Oregon
Seaside is home to one of the oldest oceanfront boardwalks on the west coast, luring Portlanders to the Pacific since the 1870s. The Promenade’s main attraction is a 1.5-mile-long beach path lined with shops, arcades, and eateries. This small town attracts an astounding 50,000 visitors during summer and holiday weekends.
There are a plethora of things to do in Seaside:
- Walk to the Turnaround aka “The end of the Lewis and Clark Trail”
- Ride a surrey on The Prom
- Play arcade games at Funland Arcade Corner
- Eat saltwater taffy at the Seaside Candyman Shop
- Ride the colorful Seaside Carousel inside the Carousel Mall
- Feed seals at the Seaside Aquarium
- Learn about local mining history, the Tillamook Lighthouse, Seaside railroad history, and Native American culture at Seaside Historic Museum
- Go shopping at the Gilbert District shops, the Seaside Carousel Mall, or Seaside Factory Outlet Center
- Visit nearby wildlife refuges like Jewell Meadows and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge
- Go kayaking or paddling in the Necanicum River or Broadway Park
- Take a five to 42-mile bike ride on one of several biking trails, including the Crown Camp Loop, the Lewis & Clark Mainline, and the 500 Mainline
- Go hiking on the Tillamook Head, Saddle Mountain, or Mill Ponds
- Surf, kiteboard, or skimboard on Seaside Beach
- Visit The Salt Works to learn how Lewis & Clark made ocean water suitable for drinking and curing meats
- Spend some time on the greens at Seaside Golf Club
- Attend local events like the Miss Oregon pageant, classic car shows, beach volleyball tournaments, kite festivals, music festivals, art walks, and more.
- Browse the Seaside Farmers Market for local produce, organic cheese, grass-fed meat, and artisan foods
- Dig into seven of Seaside’s most sustainable restaurants, bakeries, and breweries with the North Coast Food Trail
- Play in the park at one of eight Seaside parks including playgrounds, picnic areas, skate parks, nature trails, and lakes
- Explore surrounding state parks including Sunset Beach and Ecola State Park
- Take the whole family to Captain Kid Amusement Park for go-karts, bumper cars, rock climbing, and mini-golf
- See the Camp 18 logging museum
- Take unforgettable vacation photos at the Inverted Experience
- Duck into the Broadway Street art galleries
- Tour downtown Seaside Oregon from a vintage Seaside Streetcar
- Visit the renovated 1912 Butterfield Cottage
- View local architecture at the Clatsop County Historical Society
- Try out the aerial ropes course with 50 obstacles at High Life Adventure Park
- Watch the art of crabbing on the 12th Avenue bridge
- Go surfing or watch the sunset from The Cove
At the end of the day, or the end of your stay, you really can’t go wrong with either town. If you’re seeking lively fun and colorful excitement, Seaside is the place to be. If you’re seeking a bit more peace, and quiet, proximity to nature (and golf) as well as value for the dollar, while still being close to all the fun of Seaside, Gearhart is ready for you!