There are so many ways to enjoy the Oregon Coast. Lightly peopled beaches, enticing tide pools, expansive dunes, fish-filled rivers, and quaint coastal shopping and dining are all popular pursuits for both locals and visitors. But one of my favorite yet perhaps less recognized attractions are the waterfront boardwalks.
“Boardwalk” for some might mean a coveted property in the game of Monopoly. For others it may conjure the image of an east coast amusement center adorned with carousels, rides, restaurants, tourist-oriented shopping, and even gambling. While none are famed like the Riegelmann Boardwalk on Coney Island in New York or New Jersey’s Atlantic City Boardwalk (touted as the founding structure of this kind), much like the state itself, the harbor boardwalks on the Oregon Coast have a more pragmatic, earthy, subdued appeal.
For those of us on the Pacific side of Oregon, a boardwalk is a place for relaxed indulgence. Carousels and rides belong at fairs or theme parks; blackjack and roulette are left to casinos. Shopping opportunities are modest or nonexistent; dining happens only if you bring the fare yourself. Instead, Oregon Coast harbor boardwalks allow one to partake of salty air while taking in the calm lull of a rich blue river or bay, watching an assortment of boat styles and purposes launch and dock, spying air and aquatic sea life as it frolics or competes for food. Fresh fish can be purchased directly from the vessel that caught it, retired or in-service bridges stretch off in the distance, and artsy decorations dot railings and benches. Each town can be proud of its individual planked activity hub, and they all reflect care in planning and maintenance.
To add to this, whether lively or serene, a boardwalk is a perfect venue for movement. Their broad, flat surfaces are easy to stroll and suitable for all wheeled apparatus, both recreational and assistive. Appealing sights and sounds, as well as plentiful resting options, evoke extended walks contributing to prolonged enjoyment of the splendid surroundings. Nearly every Oregon Coast county has at least one harbor boardwalk. No matter where you are on the Oregon Coast, one of these delightful harbor boardwalks is likely not far away.
Making the List
Below are highlights of each Oregon Coast harbor boardwalk, with a button to view location details. There are many boardwalks and marina walkways in coastal towns not covered in this set. What criteria were used for this list?
- It must fit the traditional definition of a boardwalk. Simply put, made of wooden planks. This eliminates places that have only sidewalks associated with a port. For example, Port of Gold Beach, Salmon Harbor Marina, South Beach Marina. I made one exception: North Bend Boardwalk is exclusively concrete. But the decorative entry sign calls it a boardwalk, it has the same ambiance as the others, and it happens to be one of my favorites…so it made the cut.
- It is not a pier. While “boardwalk” can make one hum the old ditty about amorous antics that happen under it, you’re not likely to want to, or even be able to, go “under” the boardwalks on this list. A pier is certainly a boardwalk, but these harbor boardwalks are not piers. This rules out places like Yaquina Bay Bridgehead Day Use Area and Port of Alsea. Combined with criterion 1, this also excludes the Astoria Riverwalk. Although I have not yet visited there, I believe this Columbia River byway is solely pavement and piers.
- It must have plentiful seating options. Essential for rest stops and view enjoyment. This is 100 Steps after all – seating is important!
I believe this is a comprehensive list. If you know of another that meets the above criteria, let me know!
Harbor Boardwalk Roundup
Here they are! The step count assumes walking the full length of the boardwalk, but does not include reaching the boardwalk from parking. Some boardwalks are connected with other sidewalks or walkways; this also is not included. Enjoy walking!