I have always been proud of the fact that Oregon has an entirely public coastline. However, the laws surrounding camping on the beach can be confusing and difficult to wade through. It can be very difficult to find a place to camp and not be woken up by a park ranger or police officer handing you a hefty ticket and generally harshing your entire vibe.
After a fair amount of research and many failed attempts (and a few embarrassing encounters with law enforcement) later, I discover a gem: Bay Ocean Spit.
While not the remote wilderness areas that other parts of our glorious state have to offer Bay Ocean Spit is a great place to camp for the night. It’s less than two hours from Portland and right outside of Tillamook. The spit itself is actually what creates Tillamook Bay itself.
The Spit used to be the sight of a small planned resort community but after terrible storms in the 1930’s it became clear that it was not a safe place to build permeant structures. Lucky for us it us still a fantastic place to camp.
At the entrance to the park you will find a small parking lot and and a gated access road. Don’t be deterred by the no camping signs, those are specifically for the parking lot area and not the park itself.
Because of the spit’s proximity to civilization it is a great jumping off point for exploring the northern Oregon coast by car. I recommend driving out Friday after work and setting up your tent in the dark,waking up to the sound of the surf, packing up and spending the entire weekend exploring Tillamook, Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda, Cape Meares, a stop a the cheese factory, and another at the forestry center on the way back to Portland.
While highly accessible, Bay Ocean Spit is not a car camping destination. I recommend packing your camping supplies into a backpack and walking down the access road as long as you feel comfortable. You could walk for up to five miles if you wanted but there are turnoffs down to the beach every few hundred yards. Once down near the water find a sheltered place in the dunes to pitch your tent for the evening and enjoy the sound of the crashing waves.
To get there take HWY 26 west until you get to the turnoff for HWY 6 towards Tillamook. Follow HWY 6 until you cross HWY 101 soon after that you’ll take a right on Bay Ocean Road NW following for several miles until it turns into Bay Ocean Dike road immediately before dead ending at the parking lot.