Whether you want to curl up fireside, eat fresh seafood or take an invigorating walk in the sea mist, Thanksgiving weekends on the Coast are a classic Oregon experience. We’ve rounded up some of best bets for holiday weekend eats and activities on the Central Coast — just three hours from Portland and two hours from the Willamette Valley, whether you’re coming from Salem, Corvallis or Eugene. So grab your raincoat, book a table for a plated meal or buffet with an ocean view and get ready for adventure.
Sometimes you want to skip the steep switchbacks and head out on a stress-free nature walk instead. There are plenty of easily accessible options here in Lincoln City, including the Alder Island Nature Trail — a lovely half-mile loop that winds through forest and marshland through the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you prefer to get your workout inside, try the Lincoln City Community Center, where the whole family can enjoy the heated pool and waterslide, gym, rock wall, indoor track and spa.
For the big Thanksgiving day meal in Lincoln City, indulge at a local restaurant like Mist Restaurant and Lounge at Surftides or Fathom’s Restaurant buffet at the Inn at Spanish Head. Reservations are needed at some restaurants but not all, so call early to inquire and ask about this year’s menus.
The blustery days of fall are a favorite time for whale watching on the Central Coast. Pile the family into the car and head 10 minutes south of Depoe Bay to Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area to marvel at the rocky shoreline, explore the tidepools (watch out for sneaker waves) and look for spouting whales. Stop at Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint and grab an epic shot of the coastline from 500 feet above the ocean. Make sure to spend time at the Whale Watching Center downtown, where you can borrow binoculars and have volunteers help you identify what you’re seeing.
All that sea mist will make you hungry — get ready to feast at a premiere spot like Surfrider Restaurant at Depoe Bay’s Surfrider Resort or Samphire Restaurant at Salishan Resort in Gleneden Beach, just north of town.
Newport is home to two iconic lighthouses — the best spots in town to soak up the panoramic views, investigate the history and explore nearby trails. Both the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and Yaquina Head Lighthouse (the tallest in Oregon) are easy to explore all year-round (but closed Thanksgiving day itself). Come back down to land and take the crew to the famous Oregon Coast Aquarium or Hatfield Marine Science Center, where you can make kissy faces at the squid, feed the animals and learn about the critical role of sea stars and tidepools in the ecosystem.
Then sit down to a feast at any of Newport’s beloved family-style restaurants, including Chalet Restaurant & Bakery or Georgie’s Beachside Grill.
The 31,500 acres of giant dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are a magical place, and you there are plenty of ways to enjoy it in the wintertime. Outfitters like Sandland Adventures, based in Florence, offer year-round tours on their giant dune buggy for small or large groups, age 3 and up (closed Thanksgiving day). Mini golf and go karts are on site too for family fun. Not far away, bring your binoculars to the Sea Lion Caves, where you may see sea lions, marine birds and other wildlife in this giant cavern, nothing short of wondrous.
Later, give thanks for a festive holiday meal without the fuss at Surfside Restaurant at Driftwood Shores Resort, or Sunset Grille at Three Rivers Casino Resort. We can raise a glass to that.
Story by Jen Anderson
Photo courtesy of the Surfside Restaurant at Driftwood Shores Resort