We love visiting Oregon during the summer and now it’s part of our yearly routine. The days are mild, nature stunning and the food is fresh and amazing. However, things on the Oregon coast can be sleepy as shops and restaurants often close early. This is problematic if you finish your outdoor activities for the day at 8PM (as the sun is still shining bright) and go out to eat only to find all of the restaurants have closed.
With some careful planning, you can have long summer days filled with fun and not starve! Bonus – almost all fun activities are free or low cost!
As picky pescatarians, we only eat fish when it’s fresh and we know where it’s coming from. When in Oregon, Fishing and Crabbing is not only an entertaining activity, but it’s a way to connect to our food. The first time I took my daughter fishing in a local lake stocked with trout, I was worried she would be traumatized with catching a fish and then eating it for dinner. As we started to hook some beautiful rainbow trout, I anxiously watched her to see if the would express any worry or fear. Lo and behold, my adorable little cherub daughter held a trout by the tail and was smacking it against a wet sand bank. Ok, well I guess it wasn’t a problem. Crap, was she going to grow up and be a serial killer? (Spoiler alert – she’s not.)
Fishing licenses are inexpensive and you have access to a grill, rainbow trout are easy to clean and roast over a grill – make sure to drizzle the whole cleaned fish with olive oil, pat with salt and stuff some lemon wedges and fresh dill inside. So delicious!
If you don’t have time to fish, you can pick up some fresh tuna directly from the fishing boats at the docks. They will often clean and filet cuts for you with a minimum order of like $15. Tuna season starts in July, so be on the lookout for cardboard signs by the docks that say ‘Fresh Tuna Today!’
Depending on the summer season, blackberries may be available to pick in July but I find that August is the most robust month. Blackberry bushes are essentially weeds in Oregon, so you’ll see them everywhere. However, here are some guidelines for picking:
- Wear gloves – the wild blackberry bushes have prickly thorns and they will rip up your hands quickly. Without gloves, you’ll have to pick SO slowly and precisely, that picking enough for a pie would be very time consuming.
- Don’t pick on or in someone’s yard unless you have permission. Many tourists will roll up to a street and start picking on a hedge that is on someone’s fence line. That’s in poor form – don’t do it.
- Highways – Highway picking is loud, unsafe and often poisonous spray is used as they have to battle back the bushes for road control. I recommend driving out on a country road. Look for open land, or bushes on public nature park. There are many public estuaries that have plenty of bushes with juicy ripe berries. If you don’t find good ones on the coast, drive a little inland. Berries like heat and you’ll find the best selection a few miles in.
There are also many U-Pick Blueberry Farms and they typically open late July through September depending on the weather. They charge by weight and snacking while picking is often encouraged!
Obviously farmer’s markets aren’t free, but it’s a wonderful way to buy local produce, jams, sauces, honey and other handcrafted items. I have found the prices to be extremely fair at Oregon markets and the selection is mind blowing.
This is an excellent time to stock up on holiday gifts such as berry jams and chutneys. Oregon has 32 types of edible berries, so now’s your chance to try many of them!
I’ve kayaked all over the country and Oregon is one of my most favorite places to kayak. The river trails are typically calm and the scenery is breathtaking. As I also kayak in Florida often, I love that I don’t have to worry about alligators stalking me.
The freshwater rivers are so clear that I can often see to the grassy bottoms and with a keen eye, I’ll spot a few friendly newts wiggling away from my wake. It’s not uncommon to see lazy deer on the side of the riverbank munching on summer grasses, or playful otters spinning and chasing each other. If you don’t bring your own kayaks, you can rent them. They are anywhere from $20-$40 for a few hours to a day.
The beaches are windy, cold and often empty. However, the wild and blustery beaches are also what makes them so alluring. Oregon beaches are typically not meant for sunbathing (most Oregonians do that at inland lakes where it’s warm and calm).
However, dress for the chill, and take a hike on any Oregon beach and you will most certainly find some treasures. From agates, shells, blue jellyfish, driftwood to interesting STORM debris! We’ve found items with Japanese writing on them, pieces of boats that were ripped up from winter storms and other oddball items. If you have young kids, this is a great opportunity to teach them about weather, seasons and fierce storms. Go on a family scavenger hunt to see who can find the weirdest thing!
Bring your hiking shoes or tennis shoes with good tread. There are so many fun State park and Community trails. Study the map before you go, pay attention to signs and bring water.
Even though the air may be cool, you will get dehydrated after tromping through the forest a couple of hours. Look for interesting mosses, banana slugs, wood snails and colorful mushrooms. Remember to look, take pictures, but don’t touch or take!
Also, be mindful that you are in bear country. It’s a good idea to bring bear spray or some other deterrent in case you encounter a bear. Mama bears are out with their cubs in the summer. They will often shy away from people, but if you startle a mama bear, she may absolutely go into protection mode.
Deer are often ambivalent to people, so just say hello to them and keep on hiking.
Eating out in Oregon during the summer can be competitive and the crowds are nuts. I recommend getting as many locally sourced fresh food items as possible and make your own delicious dinner or BBQ. Eating out at lunchtime is your best bet – get there early and try the fresh fish and chips, locally sourced seafood cioppino, local oysters, salmon, clam chowder and fresh greens with blackberry dressing. When driving through larger towns, map to see if there is a local cannery. You can often pick up freshly canned local tuna that is out of this world, and peppered smoked salmon on a stick!
What are some things you like to do in Oregon that’s free or low cost? Comment below!