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Oregon’s windswept dunes have been around for more than 100,000 years and will be waiting for you on your next visit. So will the other coastal favorites your family has treasured for generations: the tide pools and beaches, candy shops and oceanfront picnic spots. Whenever you’re ready to travel, here are the answers to your most commonly asked questions about visiting the Oregon Coast during COVID-19.

What’s Open?

Are the beaches open?

Most beaches are open, but check Oregon State Parks’ status map for updates and know that facilities are limited, so have a plan for restrooms and a backup plan in case parking is full. Come early or midweek for the best parking.

Are parks and campgrounds open?

Many parks and boat launches are open for day use, but check Oregon’s updated wildfire map before you head out for any closures and detours, and take extra caution to prevent human-caused fires with resources at Keep Oregon Green.

About a dozen Oregon State Park campgrounds on the Coast are open for RV or tent camping, with reservations required online or by phone at 800-452-5687. Cabins, yurts, hiker/biker sites and group facilities are closed through at least Sept. 30. Check Oregon State Parks’ status map for updates. Note that there is a surcharge for out-of-state campers. In the Coos Bay area, more campgrounds are open for reservations through the Bureau of Land Management, and in the Siuslaw National Forest, some parks and campgrounds are open with limited services.

Are trails open?

Some trails are open but many remain closed. Check before you go and respect closures. When you’re on the trail, maintain social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from others in your household, and wear a mask to pull up over your face in tighter areas. Respect all trail users; uphill hikers have the right of way. Respect your public lands and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Is my favorite attraction open?

Most Oregon Coast attractions have reopened to visitors, with new protocols in place. At the Oregon Coast Aquarium, for instance, tickets must be purchased online ahead of time, and all visitors are required to wear a face covering at all times, for both indoor and outdoor exhibit viewing. Tillamook Creamery is also open by reservation only, on weekdays for self-guided tours, takeout and ice cream to go. Oregon Coast lighthouses are temporarily closed to visitors.

Are businesses open for shopping?

Most shops have reopened for business but look quite different, with a limited number of shoppers allowed inside and realigned displays for social distancing. Be aware that dressing rooms may no longer be offered.

Are restaurants open for dining?

Most restaurants are reopened for takeout or curbside pickup. Many are also welcoming diners for limited indoor and outdoor seating, with tables at least 6 feet apart and servers wearing face coverings and gloves. Take a self-guided tour of farm-fresh places to eat along the North Coast Food Trail or Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail. For a DIY picnic, farmers markets and fresh fish markets are also an excellent way to sample the coastal bounty and support local fishers, farmers and ranchers.

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Can I Do This?

Can I go fishing, clamming or crabbing on the Coast?

Fishing is open, but clamming and mussel harvest is closed to nonresidents. Crabbing is open for nonresidents from Cape Falcon (between Seaside and Tillamook) south along the Coast. Check the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife for the latest updates.

Can I build a fire on the beach or at my campsite?

Check to see if a fire ban is in place at your campground. Do your part to prevent human-caused wildfires and check conditions before you go. Read posted signs at your beach, and if allowed, it’s safest to build a fire in an existing fire ring with small pieces of firewood, away from beach grass and larger driftwood. Fully extinguish it with both water and sand when you’re done.

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Keeping Safe

What are lodging properties doing to maintain safety?

Lodging properties are welcoming visitors back with discounts and promotions, especially for the fall and winter seasons. New protocols related to COVID-19 include floor markings to indicate 6-foot distancing, plexiglass shields at check-in desks, streamlined check-in procedures to reduce lobby visits and more frequent disinfecting of common areas. Amenities like gyms, spas and pools may or may not be reopened, so check with the property. Food on-site will likely be to-go only. Look for hotels displaying a Committed to Safety seal, a designation by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association indicating their compliance with best practices.

Are face masks required?

Yes, face masks are required for ages 5 and up in all public indoor spaces as well as outdoor spaces when keeping 6 feet of distance isn’t possible.

What areas are best for social distancing?

The beaches, attractions, shops and dining options are dramatically less crowded south of Newport, where you can discover the allure and wide-open spaces of quieter Oregon Coast towns including Waldport, Yachats, Florence, Reedsport, Winchester Bay, Coos Bay, Bandon, Langlois, Port Orford, Gold Beach and Brookings.

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Getting There and Back

What if parking is full where I’m going?

Have a backup plan in mind — do not park illegally, or you may be towed and face steep fines. If in doubt, head south of Newport, where the parks and beaches along the 205 miles of Oregon’s Central and South Coast coastlines are less crowded.

What if there’s no restroom where I’m headed?

Know that public restrooms may be limited, so go before or after visiting your destination. If nature calls when there is no bathroom around, walk at least 200 feet (or 70 big steps) from any campsite, trail or body of water. Carry a sealable bag with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a trowel, and bury your waste if you are able. Or use a sanitary disposable toilet bag such as a Cleanwaste Go Anywhere kit, sold at outdoor retailers like REI, and pack it out with you along with the rest of your trash. See this video on how to pee outside. Pack your toilet paper out with you, and your pet’s waste too.

I’m traveling with my family. Do you have any tips for me?

Families may especially love the uncrowded South Coast between Reedsport and Brookings, where windswept sand dunes, wide-open beaches and sea-stacked coastlines are calling. Order an Oregon Coast Inspiration Guide for all the resources you’ll need.

— Jen Anderson

Photo courtesy of Seaside’s SaltLine Hotel