What's it like to live on the Oregon coast?
August 25, 2010 3:48 AM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about moving to the Oregon coast, close to the ocean, along the 101 corridor: Newport, Lincoln City, Tillamook, all that jazz. But right now these towns are just names to me. What's the skinny on that area?

I don't want to lead anyone's answer too much—any information is welcome—but the questions going through my head are like: Are the beaches any good? Are the people friendly and tolerant of somewhat weird outsiders? Is it all pickup trucks and shotgun racks? What specific character do these towns have that makes them different from each other? Are there any jobs to speak of at frakking all? You know, what's it like to live there?
posted by fleacircus to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a Portlander, but have friends and family members who live in different coastal towns.

Each town really does have a distinct flavor- with some feeling more like a California coast town vibe (Cannon Beach and Seaside come to mind) while others, who have more permanent residents, can have too much of a small town mentality- if you're at all eccentric, liberal-minded, etc, can be very alienating.

In the towns where tourists only really drive through, poverty and joblessness is a real problem- and Oregon does have a very high unemployment rate. If you have any casino skills (dealing, etc) you can possibly find work in the casinos, but a majority of jobs are minimum wage. In the coastal town my husband's grandparents live in, meth is a very big problem. Also, beware of towns near a paper mill or get used to living with a smell unlike no other.

We actually looked at house prices this weekend- yeah, they have fallen and there is a lot out there. Beachside property is still very high, but you can find deals. Somethings about owning a beach house: At least 2 places I know have a hard time with centipedes coming in non stop. They've had to replace the roof often due to wind storms wearing them down...and Oregon coasts are windy constantly- it isn't like walking on the warm beach in California. You also can't keep a car as long- the salt water will really rust your car.

Every time we visit the coast I muse on what it would be like to live there. If money wasn't a problem, I would probably live in Cannon Beach, but I'm kinda happier just being 2 hours away.
posted by haplesschild at 5:00 AM on August 25, 2010

nthing the distinct flavor of each town - I'd suggest Oceanside. Some of the towns are overrun with tourists and gross taffy and seashell stores, some are not. Oceanside isn't and couldn't be because it doesn't have the facilities or size for that to happen. It's not far from Tilamook at all and is literally right on the ocean. There are some lovely 'secret' beaches only accessible at low tide which are literally untouched when you get there. In a town like that, you can be the first person to walk on the beach many mornings. Some things to keep in mind, if you buy a house with a killer view, someone could build a house in front of it blocking the view - so watch out for that. My mostly leftist family has a house in Oceanside that we spend lots of time at, and it's a great community, very tolerant of our whacky liberal ways...
posted by jardinier at 6:37 AM on August 25, 2010

Every time we visit the coast I muse on what it would be like to live there. If money wasn't a problem, I would probably live in Cannon Beach, but I'm kinda happier just being 2 hours away.

Ditto for me!

I want to emphasize that there are relatively few truly warm/sandy beaches along the coast. If that's what you're looking for, stick to Cannon Beach. This is one of the more tourist-oriented -- and expensive -- towns on the coast, but it is lovely.

I believe Newport is the largest town on the coast (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). Lincoln City is near Newport, smaller, but it is the county seat (I think). These two places are my personal favorites, and the places I would seriously consider moving to if I were inclined to do so. Tillamook is on the northern coast and is more oriented toward dairy farming (Tillamook Cheese Factory, anyone?). It has been known to flood occasionally during an especially rainy winter. Astoria is beautiful and has a bit more of a maritime commercial feel to it, since it sits essentially at the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific. Lots of fishing and shipping.

My friends who have lived on the Oregon Coast have had similar experiences to haplesschild's friends/family. High unemployment, a fair amount of vandalism and other property crimes (bored teenagers in small towns), and drug use are all problems. Having said that, however, the Coast is beautiful, and for me that makes up for a lot of its deficits. It's where I go when I need to get some fresh air and recharge.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:56 AM on August 25, 2010

Cannon Beach would be a fine place to live if you love tons of tourists and visitors year-round, and tons more on a day like today when it's supposed to be 92 degrees in Portland. The Oregon coast would be a great place to live, but I would also suggest further south - Tillamook, with the dairy, smells like cow a lot of the time, which I suppose you could get used to but still.

My wife's folks have a retirement place in Rockaway, and it's awesome - it's small (except on the 4th of July weekend when it draws a billion people), but there's enough restaurants and stuff to keep you interested, and while there's really only a small market/general store, it's close enough to Tillamook, where the big grocery store is, that you'll never be wanting for anything.

Now, jobs. There aren't many. Don't know what you do for a living, but most coastal jobs are service-based, and in small towns, there probably are only restaurant/bar jobs. If that works for you, so much the better, but don't expect any fabulous high-paying career to emerge at the coast.

One other thing to consider, that may or may not be an issue, is that if you need health care on a regular basis you might want to consider living in a bigger city. Most small towns on the coast either have only a small clinic or nothing.
posted by pdb at 7:04 AM on August 25, 2010

Are Oregon coastal towns tolerant of weird outsiders? That's really the *only* kind of outsider welcomed on the coast!

I'm from Washington County, Oregon (west of Portland), but spent countless weekends at the coast visiting grandparents in Astoria, and stopping in at other tiny towns in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties.

If I were going to move to the Oregon coast, and I do think about it, I'd land in Astoria (not right on the beach; it's on the Columbia), Manzanita, or Pacific City. They're all full of creative-types and these towns have enough local businesses to sustain commercial life, but are not chock-full of shops geared at tourists (more typical of Seaside and Cannon Beach). Astoria definitely has the most robust economy and cultural opportunities of all of these, but it's not quite "beachy" if that's what you're set on.

Sadly, it's tough to find an Oregon coast town that's neither full of tourists and part-timers nor hit with crushing poverty.

And yes, pickup trucks with shotgun racks abound, but you're also likely to see Subarus with public radio stickers. You might even see the public radio sticker *on* the truck with the gun rack. It's that kind of place.

In addition to whatever subjective insights you glean, you might want to check out some stats, too. The census bureau web site can generate short fact sheets (just enter city and state under "Fast Access to Information; Get a Fact Sheet for Your Community") for even tiny towns (Wheeler, anyone?) with stuff like population, number of rental housing units, percent in poverty, average commute length, etc.
posted by celilo at 7:09 AM on August 25, 2010

Lincoln City is armpit of the Oregon Coast.

I have always thought that once you get south of Newport, you lose the Portland influence, and the towns tend to be less overrun.

And yes, jobs are a problem. Newport, with the upcoming new NOAA facility, as well as breweries and the aquarium, may have prospects, depending on your skills.
posted by Danf at 7:47 AM on August 25, 2010

My folks are in Newport and my husband lived in Florence until recently. They all love it-my folks garden and love to watch the ocean and birds. My husband surfs, so had a great time in Florence. I prefer Florence to NP, but they are both nice towns with some decent rstaurants. I've found people to be v friendly. Florence is largely a retirement communtiy while Newport is more touristy.

Jobs. If you are a healthcare worker you'll have no problem. The other main employers are government, and they often have a hard time recruiting skilled folks. However, there is almost no govt hiring happening in Oregon right now. You could prob find a service industry job but pay will suck.

The weather will keep me from ever living there-windy and rarely truly warm. If you are a real ocean person, though, there is no place more spectacular.
posted by purenitrous at 7:59 AM on August 25, 2010

I only visited a few weekends about ten years ago and things may have changed. The beaches, apart from the dunes at Florence, are quite rugged. So are the people, back then the population appeared to be polar opposites of loggers and their families and new age practitioners over from Eugene. I remember wonderful food. The little hut for gingerbread on the drive west and then little local joints all up and down the main road.
posted by Mertonian at 9:29 AM on August 25, 2010

I lived in Tillamook a few years ago and i gotta say they really aren't very accepting of outsiders, especially if you're of a different skin color. I spent all off 9 months there and i literally packed my bags and ran as fast as i could out of that hellhole the first chance i got.(YMMV though - I'm a black female).
When i lived there, the biggest store was Fred Meyer. There was 1 burger king, 1 McDonalds, 1 subway, 1 KFC, 1 chinese restaurant and 1 mexican restaurant. That was it, except for a couple of mom/pop type diners. Really. The only place to buy shoes was Fred Meyer or the thrift store.
You HAVE to have some means of transportation otherwise you'll just go crazy. Public transport? What's that? You need a car to get around (you can survive on a bicycle if you're not planning on travelling beyond Tillamook).
You have to love cows to live in Tillamook. Not like "oh, look a cute cow", but like "oh shit, my hair smells of cowdung!" The stench clings to you and no amount of scrubbing or baking soda helps!
If you're the social type the Tillamook isn't for you. Besides drinking/smoking/meth, there's really nothing to do there.
The only good thing i loved about the place? About 10 miles north of Tillamook is a quaint little town called Garibaldi. There's an AWESOME seafood restaurant there (name escapes me). Oh, and i did like walking on the beach and collecting agates, while plotting my escape!
posted by ramix at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2010

If you are self-employed or otherwise have a work at home gig, that's the ideal option. Really nowhere in Oregon is hopping with job opportunities. At the coast I'd say most of the jobs are going to be health care/nursing, restaurant industry, and housekeeping for hotels/vacation rentals.

There are tons of great beaches up and down the coast, most of them pretty much devoid of people (especially if you grew up going to East Coast beaches, as I did). The towns you mentioned:

Tillamook: not a heck of a lot going on here other than the cheese factory.
Lincoln City: very touristy, on the tacky side. Might be a decent prospect for jobs due to all the hotels and restaurants.
Newport: the best of the three, in terms of charm, stuff to do, and people. if I had to choose among the three, I'd definitely pick Newport.

I would check out Astoria too, way up on the North Coast. It's not actually on the beach but very close.

People-wise, you're going to have a big mix of very conservative folk, more liberal folk, a ton o' tourists, methheads, and an odd assortment of others. FYI, it's pretty damn white here.

Definitely take a trip here to check it out. If nothing else you will
posted by medeine at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2010

Ugh, hit post too soon. All I wanted to say was:

If nothing else, you'll really enjoy the beauty of the coast. I fall in love with it every time I go.
posted by medeine at 11:55 AM on August 25, 2010

Is there a particular reason you are focusing on the Northern Oregon Coast? If you want rugged beauty, nice beaches (not warm, but you wont find that anywhere on the Oregon Coast), and less people (i.e. tourists) to deal with, then head south of Florence.

Brookings (just north of the California border) has warmer weather than the rest of the coast, but has also become popular because of this, and is a small town with fewer job opportunities. Coos Bay/North Bend is the population center of the Oregon Coast, and has a lot of culture, and more opportunities than smaller communities. Also, it's only a two hour drive to Eugene if you want a city fix.

My recommendation is to take a week to visit the entire Oregon Coast border to border and explore it all, and look closely at the southern portion as well as the northern.
posted by batikrose at 12:59 PM on August 25, 2010

I've been focused on the north coast mostly to keep Portland within spitting distance; I'm city folk. But you're right I don't think that assumption was examined closely enough.

Lincoln City is armpit of the Oregon Coast.

'Armpit' is so expressive without conveying anything exact... Could you elaborate what makes Lincoln City so pitiful?

Thanks for the answers so far, lots to think about.
posted by fleacircus at 1:33 PM on August 25, 2010

Ditto on checking out the South Coast. Brookings is a great place to hide away and enjoy a web-based career; I've been doing that since '04 (came in from CT) and couldn't be happier. Well, maybe if there was a Whole Foods or similar; Fred Meyers is about it. But the selection isn't horrible; just yesterday, our Fred's check-out person told us she'd just moved back after 25 years in Coos Bay, and had never even heard of half the items folks were buying; we silently counted our blessings. A Borders would be nice, and inconceivable…

But the Library's quite large, deluxe and very charming. We moved for the weather and the landscape (it ain't just the ocean that's gorgeous!), not the social life, and it's been everything we could have hoped in that way. Culturally, it's, well, small, and old; lots of retirees, which we're getting to be, too. E.g., the monthly Art Walk is about the sing-alongs and Limerick contests, not so much the art, which is hobbyist. I recently visited Ashland (3.5 hours) for the first time, wandered about downtown and did some grocery shopping; and it was a serious experience of culture shock in almost every way; made Brookings feel like some kind of west-coast version of Appalachia (but hardly as bad as Crescent City!). Surprisingly diverse, though, based on the folks we've bumped into over the years, despite the preponderance of Bush/McCain/Paul stickers.

And there's plenty of money about—lots of lavish housing and shiny new vehicles—despite all the empty storefronts and grey-haired gas pumpers. Some neighbors have recently gotten nice jobs at the nearby casino in CA, and in office management for health-care in Crescent City, 45 minutes away. But it IS a long way from pretty much everywhere else, and at least 2 hours from most specialist medical care; everybody treks over to Grant's Pass and Medford for that.
posted by dpcoffin at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2010

All I can really tell you is that Tillamook = rednecks and cows. And terrible, terrible Chinese food.
posted by Ouisch at 2:45 PM on August 25, 2010

You might even see the public radio sticker *on* the truck with the gun rack.


I've been focused on the north coast mostly to keep Portland within spitting distance; I'm city folk.

Florence is very nice and is close to Eugene. Portland is not super-close to any place on the coast, anyway.

I just drove from Seaside to Newport, so I can say that yes, the towns are all pretty different from one another. Some seem steeped in poverty, while others seem to have real industry (tourism, ocean-related stuff, etc.).
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:42 AM on August 30, 2010

Are the beaches any good?

This reminds me of a funny story - our friends were visiting us in the summer. We woke up one morning and told them we were going to spend the day at the coast, go get dressed. They came out of the guest room wearing flip-flops, swimsuits, shorts, and sun visors. DH and I were wearing tennis shoes, jeans, sweatshirts, and windbreakers. We all stood there looking at each other for a few seconds, then we all cracked up, and our friends went back to their room to change.

The Oregon Coast beaches are rugged and beautiful, but you don’t usually “lay out” on them.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:57 AM on August 30, 2010

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