Positioned at the confluence of two major rivers and under two hours from Oregon's dramatic Pacific coastline, Portland, Oregon is actually quite the beach town. From sandy spots perfect for sunbathing to surf breaks to scenic sea stacks that have attracted cinematographers and Instagramers alike, there's a little something for everyone.

When the sun is out and the mood strikes, don't waste daylight figuring out where to go. We narrowed it down to 7 of the best beaches near Portland, Oregon.

The Earth is the most beautiful artist and the sea keeps her company, as here in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Getty Images

1. Cannon Beach        

Charming Cannon Beach is one of the most popular beach towns on the Oregon coast. Several premier hotels here cater to a fancier clientele, as do the town's many boutiques and art galleries. In summer the streets are ablaze with flowers. Lodging is expensive, and the streets are jammed: on a warm, sunny Saturday, you'll spend a good chunk of time just finding a parking spot. (There are several public lots.)

But there's a good reason for the town's popularity. Just offshore, glorious Haystack Rock is a magnet for beachgoers, providing great photo opportunities and tide-pooling possibilities, and the wide, sandy beach stretches for miles.

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Oregon Coast
Hull of the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale on the Oregon coast. ©Sankar Raman/Getty Images

2. Astoria        

Named after America's first millionaire, John Jacob Astor, Astoria sits at the 5-mile-wide mouth of the Columbia River and was the first US settlement west of the Mississippi. The city has a long seafaring history and has seen its old harbor, once home to poor artists and writers, attract fancy hotels and restaurants in recent years. Inland are many historical houses, including lovingly restored Victorians – a few converted into romantic B&Bs. It's nonbeach-y vibe gives it a special ambience on the coast.

Astoria has also been the setting and shooting location for movies such as The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop and the Free Willy and Ring series. The Goonies in particular has drawn endless streams of film fans to various iconic locations around town – to the extent that the owner of the famous Goonies House finally got fed up and shuttered the place. But even though the house is off-limits, there are plenty of other film-related sites to check out; start at the old jail, now a film museum.

USA, Pacific Northwest, Oregon Portland Sauvie Island, people relaxing and remains of log breakwaters on one of several beaches
People relax by the remains of timber breakwaters on Sauvie Island at one of several beaches © Alamy Stock Photo

3. Walton Beach and Collins Beach

About a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland is Sauvie Island, an agricultural oasis providing an excellent break from Stumptown's bustle. Its flat, 12-mile country-road loop also makes it a popular place for weekend cyclists. If it's sand you're seeking, however, head to Walton Beach, a sunbathing spot on the island's eastern side, about 9 miles from the Sauvie Island bridge on Reeder Road. Leashed dogs are allowed, but fires and camping are not. If you want a clothing optional experience, head toward Collins Beach at the northern end, past the pavement. The refuge and beaches require a $10 parking permit; get one from the Fish & Wildlife office or an island store.

Sunset over Newport and the Pacific ocean, Oregon, USA
Sunset over the beach and the Pacific ocean in Newport, a town along the 101 highway along the coast in Oregon, USA © Getty Images

4. Newport

Tied with Astoria as home to Oregon's largest commercial fishing fleet, Newport is a lively tourist city with several fine beaches and a world-class aquarium. In 2011 it became the Pacific Fleet Headquarters of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Good restaurants – along with some tacky attractions, gift shops and barking sea lions – abound in the historic bayfront area, while bohemian Nye Beach offers art galleries and a friendly village atmosphere. It's the perfect beach town for visitors who prefer wuthering on moody, romantic coastlines to getting sand in their suits playing beach volleyball.

The Newport area is also an excellent destination for surfers of all skill levels. Arrive early to get in the lineup at breaks like Otter Rock and Agate Beach. Head to Ossies Surf Shop to rent the gear you'll need from boards to wetsuits, or to book a lesson if it's your first time trying to get up on a board and hang ten. Ossies has been in business since 1998, and they really know their stuff.

Heceta Head Lighthouse on the central Oregon coast between Yachats and Florence. ©Jennifer Bosvert/Shutterstock

5. Yachats

One of the Oregon coast's best-kept secrets is the neat and friendly little town of Yachats (ya-hots). Lying at the base of massive Cape Perpetua, Yachats offers the memorable scenery of a rugged and windswept land. People come here to get away from it all, which isn't hard to do along this relatively undeveloped stretch of coast. Lining the town is the 804 Coast Trail, providing a lovely walk and access to tide pools and fabulous ocean vistas. It hooks up with the Amanda trail to the south, eventually arriving at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.

Beaches around here are small, secluded affairs that offer tide pools and rocky promontories. Beginning at Cape Perpetua and continuing south about 20 miles is some spectacular shoreline. This entire area was once a series of volcanic intrusions that resisted the pummeling of the Pacific long enough to rise as ocean-side peaks and promontories. Acres of tide pools are home to starfish, sea anemones and sea lions. Picturesque Heceta Head Lighthouse rises above the surf, while tiny beaches line the cliffs.

Portrait of female surfer carrying surfboard at coast, Seaside, Oregon, USA
A female surfer carries her surfboard near Seaside, Oregon, USA Alamy Stock Photo

6. Seaside

Oregon's largest resort town is popular, gaudy and unpretentious Seaside, which attracts families and young folks looking for a fun and affordable beach getaway. On summer weekends and during holidays or festivals the town's central precinct – dominated by ice-cream shops, video-game arcades and gift stores – is thronged with tourists and takes on a carnival-like atmosphere. Bicycles and surreys have the run of Seaside's 2-mile boardwalk, called 'the Prom,' but at least most of the miles of sandy beach are relatively peaceful. During spring break, expect a wilder party atmosphere. 

There's great opportunities here for surfers of all skill levels, too, at Seaside Beach and nearby Short Sands Beach and Indian Beach. There are several surf shops in town where you can hire your gear. Surfing isn't the only sport that has pride of place in Seaside, however. If you're here on the second weekend in August, check out the largest amateur beach-volleyball tournament in the world. On the fourth weekend in August, the Hood to Coast Relay race jams the main road between Portland and Seaside and packs out the town. 

Aerial of misty Manzanita Beach and Pacific Ocean surf on the Oregon coast. ©Rob Crandall/Shutterstock

7. Manzanita

One of the more laid-back beach resorts on Oregon's coast is the hamlet of Manzanita, boasting lovely white-sand beaches and a slightly upscale clientele. It's much smaller and far less hyped than Cannon Beach, and still retains a peaceful atmosphere, although there's a lot more going on here these days than even a few years ago. Still, it's easy to find peace and quiet, relax on the beach, and take part in some mellow activities.

To stretch your legs a bit, hike up nearby Neahkahnie Mountain, from where you get a spectacular view over the coast. Surfers and body boarders can head a quarter-mile from the highway parking lot to Short Sand Beach, which offers good waves. There are kayaking opportunities just 4 miles south in Wheeler – and the Wheeler Marina rents paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes.

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