Nehalem Bay State Park: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Nehalem Bay State Park An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

When planning a getaway, many families are caught between nature walks and beach escapes. But what if you can get the best of both worlds? Nestled along the picturesque Oregon coastline, Nehalem Bay State Park is a great way to get a slice of nature and a beach laze in a single trip.

Thanks to breathtaking trails, a sprawling beach, and neighboring Manzanita, Nehalem Bay State Park has earned a reputation as one of the most revered family destinations in the US. The park is estimated to receive about 700,000 visitors every year, making it one of Oregon’s most revered spots.

In this article, we are going to look at what makes Nehalem Bay State Park the ideal family destination;

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What you need to know before heading to Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park is a coastal haven located at the start of a 3-mile-long sand spit beneath the Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain, just 17 miles north of Garibaldi. Spanning 890 acres, this park seamlessly blends the best of Oregon’s natural wonders. The expansive beach invites visitors to enjoy the soothing rhythm of the gentle surf while offering breathtaking views of Nehalem Bay.

The park’s beach overlooks the bay rather than the Pacific Ocean, adding a unique charm to the coastal experience. Further inland, the park unfolds into a Pacific Northwest forest adorned with shore pines, offering families a chance to explore wooded hiking trails, some even spacious enough for horseback riding. Here is vital information you need to know before heading to Nehalem Bay State Park;

Nehalem Bay State Park on Google Map:

1. Can you have a fire at Nehalem Bay State Park?

The warmth of a crackling fire adds to the enchanting experience of camping with family. However, it’s important to adhere to the park’s regulations regarding fires. Fires are only allowed in designated fire pits within the campground and day-use areas. It’s also worth noting that burning beach driftwood in the campground or day-use areas is strictly prohibited.

2. Where can I fish on the Nehalem River?

Nehalem River, particularly around the town of Wheeler, is a haven for fishing enthusiasts. Positioned at the confluence of the Nehalem and Salmonberry Rivers, Wheeler provides an excellent setting for both boat and bank fishing. The convergence creates an ideal habitat, making it a prime location for those hunting salmon, steelhead, and trout.

3. What kind of fish are in the Nehalem River?

The Nehalem River and its tributaries boast a diverse and thriving ecosystem that supports several species of fish, making it a haven for anglers. Within these pristine waters, one can find an array of species, including the iconic spring and fall chinook, coho salmon, and chum salmon. The river’s clear and cool waters are also a habitat for steelhead trout and cutthroat trout.

What to do in Nehalem Bay State Park

To help you plan your itinerary, here is a list of things to do in Nehalem Bay State Park;

1. Join the Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger Program at Nehalem Bay State Park offers an exciting and educational experience for kids aged 6 to 12. Young adventurers can immerse themselves in a variety of engaging activities designed to foster a connection with nature and the park’s rich history. But it’s not just the little ones who can partake in the fun – the park also extends its programs to adults.


Head to the Visitor Center to get your little adventurer acquainted with the program. Here, you’ll discover several events tailored to both children and adults, providing a unique opportunity for the whole family to learn and explore.

2. Go picnicking in Nehalem Bay State Park

Picnicking along the serene Nehalem River is a delightful experience, thanks to the well-equipped day-use areas in the park. Located in the heart of the park, the day-use areas offer an ideal setting for a memorable outdoor picnic.

The facilities include a spacious meeting hall that accommodates up to 49 people, featuring amenities like a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink with hot and cold water, and restrooms connected to the building. Outside, a grassy expanse dotted with picnic tables awaits, offering the perfect spot for families, friends, or colleagues to bond.

3. Go biking in Nehalem Bay State Park

Biking along the Nehalem River offers an enchanting experience for outdoor enthusiasts. A two-mile paved trail meanders through the woods, creating an ideal route for cyclists to explore the natural beauty of the area. As you pedal through the scenic trail, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, with elk, deer, and coyotes frequently making appearances along the route.

4. Go birdwatching in Nehalem Bay State Park

Birdwatching is a delightful experience for nature enthusiasts. While the shore is an excellent spot to observe shorebirds, the real birding treasure lies in the nearby nesting trees. These trees attract a variety of birds, including the endangered western snowy plover, which frequents the park in large numbers during the March through September breeding season.

Also keep an eye out for smaller feathered residents like great horned owls, downy woodpeckers, and northern flickers. Meanwhile, the beach areas host larger birds like vultures and majestic bald eagles.

Please Note: To protect the nesting habitat, specific sections of the park may be temporarily closed.

5. Go fishing in Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park is every angler’s dream. While Tillamook Bay often takes the spotlight, Nehalem Bay is equally an excellent fishing spot. The summer and fall seasons are particularly fruitful for Chinook salmon, with the peak of fishing occurring in July and August.

For great results, steer clear of the fishing jetty and focus on the lower bay areas. However, if you’re looking for perch, head closer to the jetty, especially during the spawning season. A fishing license is a must-have in Oregon for all anglers aged 12 and older.

6. Go boating in Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park offers a delightful boating experience, making it ideal for those who want to tour the park on a boat. The main boat ramp is operational from May through September and is located near the center of Nehalem Bay. The bay’s tranquillity makes it perfect for canoeing and kayaking adventures, allowing visitors to explore the scenic beauty at their own pace.

7. Go horseback riding in Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park offers an enchanting horseback riding experience with its extensive network of equestrian trails. The park has over ten miles of scenic landscapes. Renowned for having some of the finest RV horse facilities in Oregon, the park caters to both seasoned riders and beginners.

The equestrian trails, most of which trace the pristine coastline, provide a breathtaking backdrop for a relaxed ride. Other trails wind through the lush wooded areas of the park, offering a diverse and immersive experience. The park also provides horse rental services, allowing visitors to explore the trails on horseback.

8. Explore Nehalem Beach

The expansive sandy shores offer a large picnic area adorned with picnic tables, restrooms, and fire rings, creating an ideal setting for families to gather. Engaging in beach activities like beachcombing, wildlife watching, and hiking adds an extra layer of enjoyment for those who love the sand between their toes.

Watersport enthusiasts will find joy in windsurfing and surfing, taking full advantage of the Pacific Ocean’s allure. The beach’s proximity allows visitors to embark on a quick hike over the picturesque dunes, where they can witness the breathtaking spectacle of the sunset over the sea.

9. Go hiking in Nehalem Bay State Park

The park’s diverse landscapes, including the ocean, bay, and enchanting forests, are best experienced by hitting the hiking trails. As you traverse the well-maintained paths, each step brings a new perspective, allowing you to absorb the breathtaking beauty that surrounds you. Here are the best hiking trails in Nehalem Bay State Park;

0.1 Nehalem Bay Trail Loop

The Nehalem Bay Trail Loop is a captivating 2.9-kilometer pathway located near the charming town of Manzanita. The trail is very easy to walk and takes about 32 minutes to complete, making it an ideal choice for outdoorsy families.

Nestled in the heart of nature, the loop offers a perfect escape for camping enthusiasts and avid anglers, with opportunities to engage in fishing along the way. Dogs are welcome on the trail, provided they remain on a leash.

0.2 Nehalem Spit Trail

Located near the scenic Rockaway Beach, Oregon, the Nehalem Spit Trail unveils a captivating 6.8-kilometer out-and-back adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. With a moderate level of difficulty, this trail beckons hikers, walkers, and birding enthusiasts to embark on a journey that takes about 1 hour and 13 minutes to complete.

The Nehalem Spit Trail offers a serene escape, allowing visitors to enjoy moments of solitude during quieter times of the day. Dogs are not permitted on this trail.

Where to eat in Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park isn’t just a haven for nature lovers; it’s also a surprisingly delightful destination for food enthusiasts seeking to satisfy their taste buds amidst the great outdoors. The neighboring Manzanita has several food hubs offering a wide diversity to cater to all your cravings. Here are the best restaurants near Nehalem Bay State Park;

1. Yolk

Just 1.2 miles away from Nehalem Bay State Park, Yolk is a culinary gem with a delightful and vibrant atmosphere. Boasting exceptional service and mouth-watering cuisine, Yolk is the perfect spot to kick off your day with family, whether it’s a leisurely morning or a delightful lunch.

The menu offers a diverse range of options to cater to various preferences, including delectable choices for vegetarians, vegans, and those with gluten-free diets. Some of the all-time favorites include the savory Corned Beef Hash, Sauteed Veggie Hash, Crispy French Toast, and the Lamb Burger.

Yolk on Google Map:

2. Big Wave Cafe

Located just 1.2 miles from Nehalem Bay State Park, the Big Wave Cafe is a delightful dining destination for families seeking a satisfying culinary experience. This family-friendly establishment not only offers a warm and inviting atmosphere but also takes pride in its commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.

The menu at Big Wave Cafe reflects a dedication to quality, showcasing a diverse array of dishes crafted with care. From savory seafood options to delicious comfort food, visitors can savor a taste of the Pacific Northwest’s culinary richness, all while enjoying the welcoming ambiance that makes the Big Wave Cafe a perfect spot to unwind after a day of exploration in Nehalem Bay State Park.

Big Wave Cafe on Google Map:

Where to stay in Nehalem Bay State Park

Inside the park, camping enthusiasts have the option to set up their tents at the designated campground, allowing them to fully embrace the natural beauty of the surroundings. For those desiring a touch of luxury or added convenience, there are excellent hotels close to the park. Let’s explore the accommodation options available within Nehalem Bay State Park.

1. Hotels

0.1 The Ocean Lodge

Located 12 miles from Nehalem Bay State Park, The Ocean Lodge is a beacon of unique and romantic lodging along the picturesque Oregon coast. Situated just steps away from the Haystack Rock, this charming retreat invites guests to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. From the moment you arrive, the lodge’s coastal charm envelops you, creating a serene and enchanting atmosphere.

The Ocean Lodge on Google Map:

0.2 Inn at Cannon Beach

Situated about 12 miles from Nehalem Bay State Park, the Inn at Cannon Beach welcomes tired explorers with its ambiance. After a day of adventure, guests can indulge in the comforting embrace of this charming accommodation.

Guests can bask in the warmth of the afternoon sun, reclining in Adirondack chairs with the soft touch of green grass beneath their toes. For those seeking to rekindle the joy of childhood, a bonfire on the beach is a wonderful way to do so.

Inn At Cannon Beach on Google Map:

2. Nehalem Bay Campground

Staying at Nehalem Bay Campground is a delightful experience for families seeking a peaceful retreat amid nature’s beauty. With 265 pet-friendly sites, including beach-front options, the campground offers standard hookup sites equipped with water and either 30 or 50-amp electrical hookups.

Each site features a back-in driveway, a fire ring, and a picnic table, creating a comfortable atmosphere. The campground’s amenities, such as restroom and shower facilities, an amphitheater, a dump station, and a play area, cater to both convenience and entertainment.

Nature lovers will appreciate the regular visits from deer wandering through the campground. With park hosts available onsite, the campground ensures a worry-free stay for its guests.

Please Note: Reservations can be made from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Nehalem Bay State Park is a hidden gem along the Oregon coast, offering families a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and relaxation. Whether you’re building sandcastles on the beach, hiking through lush forests, or camping under the stars, Nehalem Bay State Park provides a memorable experience for families seeking quality time together in the embrace of nature.

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Happy Travels!

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