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Oregon Family Magazine

Summer Fun

06/01/2024 ● By Taj Barnhart Morgan
Plan a memorable family summer vacation in the Cascade Mountains or along the Oregon Coast. Both of these idyllic natural settings offer comfortable lodging options and abundant things to do.

Cascade Mountains

Leave the screens behind (service is limited in the Cascades), pack water, snacks and layered clothing. Breathe in the fresh air of the forests, as you take the kids on some outdoor rambles along leafy paths, up steep hillsides and to misty waterfalls.

Midway up the mountains on Highway 58, a series of reservoirs provide the ideal arena for water-based sports such as swimming, paddling, boating and fishing. Dexter Reservoir has two waterfront parks, both with great picnicking areas, docks and boat ramps. Dexter State Recreation Site has an 18-hole disc golf course, and there is a playground at Lowell State Recreational Site. Make sure to visit the Lowell Covered Bridge Interpretive Center and learn more about the historic covered bridges of the area.

Oakridge has several hotel options, with easy access to uptown’s art gallery, pub and shops. The proprietors of the Westfir Lodge lead outdoor adventures so you can book a family hike, mountain bike ride or rafting experience. Near the Westfir Lodge is the Office Covered Bridge and the junction with the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, a scenic road connecting to the McKenzie River.

Visit the Willamette Fish Hatchery, a family-friendly and educational quite top before you soak in the McCredie Hot Springs or head to Salt Creek Falls, a stunning plunge waterfall – the second highest single drop waterfall in Oregon.

If your mountain escape centers along the McKenzie River on Highway 126, make Belknap Hot Springs Resort your base camp. Access to two hot springs-fed swimming pools adds an extra appeal — but please note that children must be at least 5 years old to enter the hot springs area. The sprawling wooded grounds include the “Secret Garden” water garden, meadows and plenty of paths for hiking and riding bicycles.

Other family attractions in McKenzie River area include the McKenzie River Trail (pick up a map at the McKenzie River ranger station), Sahalie and Koosah waterfalls, Highway 242 (check for current status of this seasonal road) and the other-worldly Dee Wright Observatory in the middle of the lava fields or a rafting trip with a local outfitter.

Takoda’s Restaurant serves pizza, burgers and salads with a spacious outdoor patio.

Note: Road construction is planned along Highway 126 for the summer of 2024, so be prepared for some delays and check before you head out.

Oregon Coast

On the Oregon Coast, North America’s largest coastal sand dunes enchant adventurers. Explore the shifting, towering sand slopes at Sandland Adventures, then have fun trying the bumper boats and mini-golf course. Take the whole family on a fun and scenic Dune Buggy tour — the easiest way to explore the rolling dunes. For even more thrills, book a tour on a sand rail (ages 3 and up only) for a faster, wilder ride. Families with older children (ages 12 and up) may rent ATVs from Ocean Breeze ATV Rental for an independent family ramble across the dunes. Sandboarding is also a fun twist to playing in the sand, and boards are available to rent at Sand Master Park.

Another way to experience the dunes is on horseback. Trail rides with C&M Stables meander across the dunes (ages 6 years and up) or out to the beach (ages 8 years and up). Children under 5 years can enjoy a corral ride on a lead at the stables.

Teach your children about the ecosystem and volunteer to pull invasive scotch broom at an


organized Save the Oregon Dunes event. Or spend a warm day relaxing at Cleawox Lake in Jessie M. Honeyman State Park. There is a sandy beach, picnic facilities and seasonal paddleboat rentals.

Camp near the dunes at Honeyman or stay at the family-friendly Driftwood Shores Beach Resort. Every room has an ocean view and a kitchenette — and for the kids (and adults that want to soak in the hot tub) the indoor swim center is a huge attraction.

On the Oregon Coast, a visit to the gigantic Sea Lion Caves is a must, along with a short hike to the Heceta Head Lighthouse and some time at nearby Hobbit Beach. Plan a day to explore Historic Old Town Florence’s boardwalk, marina and many boutique and antique shops. Family favorites include new and used books at Books ‘n’ Bears, a cup of clam chowder right on the docks at Novelli’s and afternoon tea in LoveJoy’s Tea Room. Learn the saga of Florence’s exploding whale at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum or catch a movie at City Lights Cinemas. At Wind Drift Kites find inspiration for the next windy beach day — kites of every shape, size and color!

Between the mountains and the ocean, there are magical family memories to be made this summer.

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