My SO and I happened upon Nehalem Bay State Park Campground when looking for a place to camp on the Oregon Coast in a pinch. We were on a weeklong trip to the Pacific Northwest, with twenty-four hours to experience the coast, as we made our way from Olympia to Portland.
The enchanting scenery along the 101 had us giddy and wishing we could set up our tent somewhere on a magical, desolate stretch of beach along the road. Unfortunately, the laws on the 101 (or at least the stretch we were on) prohibit vehicles from parking overnight. As the golden hour waned, Nehalem was the closest campground.
We arrived to find a tent-city. Hundreds of little sites were packed tightly together, with nothing separating them, but an asphalt pull-off for your car. Laughter of children riding scooters echoed through the paved roads. I was disappointed. Nonetheless, sites were available, and there wasn’t enough daylight to shop around for another place, so we stayed.
It was $40 for the night. The rangers were friendly as we registered to camp. We settled on a site near the beach path--after a futile hunt for a secluded site--and headed for the beach just in time for a glorious sunset.
My gripes about the campsite’s claustrophobic layout faded as we walked down the path. This was my first time on an Oregon Coast beach, and the beauty of its vast, open expanse of milky dunes had me stunned. We made a fire and happily chatted the night away amidst a gentle lullaby of waves. Once we were tired, it was a quick walk back to our site, where I instantly fell into a peaceful slumber.
The next morning, I was happy to roll out of my tent and wander to the beach. We spent the rest of the day exploring highlights of the coast, just down the road, before the hour and a half drive to Portland.
So yes, the camping area here lacks that nature retreat feel. But staying here is effortless, and its facilities are pleasant and clean. Its closeness to an awe-inspiring Oregon beach, is a worthy trade-off for the close-quarters of its sites. In the twenty-four short hours I had on the Coast, staying at Nehalem enabled me to fully appreciate its magnificence.
I’m not even sure if the Oregon Coast campground of my dreams exists. But if I find myself there again, I will do a little more research, so I can find a place to camp that’s closer to that dream.