Where to live in coastal Oregon?
October 17, 2012 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Where to live in Northern coastal Oregon? Vernonia? Astoria? Manzanita? Portland with a wicked commute?

I am coming to Oregon to work for three to six months on a short-term contract job based in Seaside. The job involves traveling up to about 45 minutes in various directions from Seaside, visiting people in their homes, doing health-care stuff. My job will make an effort to focus my work around where I live, within that area.

A possible goal of this job is to get myself set up for a move to Portland. If I stay in the area, I am fairly certain that I ultimately will be living in Portland, as I am a city kid. I will very likely be traveling to Portland at least every weekend. I'll be working four days a week.

I am unfamiliar with the area, and uncertain about where to be looking for short-term (or long-term, if I go the Portland-with-crazy-commute route) housing. I am an artsy-type person, and would be happiest in a community with some artsy vibe to it, with a nice place to get coffee and a yoga studio being very welcome as well. But I don't need a full-on artists' colony vibe. Just somewhere where I wont feel like I'm from another planet, and could potentially meet some like-minded folks to have a beer with.

What would you recommend, MefiOregonians?
posted by jennyjenny to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a Seattleite who's spent time on the Oregon coast mainly for surfing. For me, it'd be Astoria, hands down. It's just big enough to have some good food and a lot to do. A lot of the coastal towns have a touristy vibe, particularly in the summer, but Astoria feels more like its own place. Astoria has a walkable downtown with lots of stuff in it. Good breweries and restaurants. And it's the closest to Seattle, if you want to do urban things there, too.

Cannon Beach is a neat little town, too, and the closest to Portland, I think. But the center of town is encrusted with tourists in the summer. Lincoln City is bigger but feels more generically suburban to me.

The good news for you is that they're all spectacularly beautiful.
posted by gurple at 2:52 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, you mentioned coffee -- Astoria Coffee is an absurdly nice place to get coffee and has a lot going on.
posted by gurple at 2:56 PM on October 17, 2012

If you're going to be doing this soon, you definitely should be looking at living somewhere on the coast, not Vernonia or Portland or anywhere in or east of the Coast Range. Winter can get nasty in the coast range (primarily I'm thinking of ice and downed trees, but snow is also a pain when commuting). But if you're thinking of going into Portland every weekend, if it's over the winter, just be aware that you'll need, minimally, a 4WD vehicle and maybe also chains.

As for specific recommendations, I love Astoria and if I had the chance to live there I totally would. Much more like an actual town and not a kitschy tourist destination.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:58 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would not want to commute from Portland to the coast every day, particularly not during the winter months -- no matter which route you take, it'd involve going over the Oregon Coast Range on a two-lane highway. (So, on a given day in January it might be 48 degrees and rainy in both Seaside and Portland, but sub-freezing on the mountainous Highway 26, which connects them. It's at least a 90-minute drive in dry, warm weather; more unpredictable in the winters.)

Anyway, I totally adore Manzanita, but it might be a bit small for your social and cultural desires. Like gurple and rabbitrabbit, I'd go for Astoria. It's a cool tiny city, with a bit of transplanted-Portland flavor in its coffeeshops and restaurants and galleries, but it also retains the feel of a historic river-port settlement. It's one of the oldest cities on the coast. The whole Oregon coast is beautiful -- congratulations on the position.
posted by lisa g at 2:59 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also? It is dark and rainy in the winter, and the roads through the Coast Range are twisty. I normally like driving, and I actually do driver over a mountain pass every day to get to and from work, but the roads between Portland and the coast are Not Fun to drive in the winter.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:00 PM on October 17, 2012

another vote to live in Astoria!

and a suggestion to camp in one of the yurts at Nehalem Bay (near Manzanita) sometime while you're there - I've gone in early February before and it was ace. Fewer people, epic beach, exploring the dunes, all manner of fun. Best with a few friends to help you fill up the yurt and go exploring!
posted by par court at 3:49 PM on October 17, 2012

Another recommendation for Astoria. The travel to/from Portland or Vernonia is black ice and white outs all through winter. Do not plan your commute on that. The beach towns like Cannon Beach and Manzinita are awesome but expensive and introverted places to live.
posted by humanfont at 8:19 PM on October 17, 2012

I lived in Seaside and the area for 4 years. Commuting from Portland is a really, really bad idea. As in the main highway from Portland to Seaside (26) is one of the most dangerous in Oregon, even when it is dry, and a nightmare when it snows. Keep in mind that snow in the coast range is both common in the winter and exceedingly unpredictable.

If I were you I would live in either Astoria or Seaside. Cannon beach to the south is nice, but notoriously hard to find residence in, and the stretch from CB to Seaside involves a hill pass that frequently ices over, and a flat spot that frequently floods, making passing impossible unless you're running a raised truck. Vernonia would be out, in my opinion, for the same reasons cited above - you're crossing the Coast Range. The county is quite spread out, and each town is a odd enclave separated from each other, for many reasons. You'll have to get used to the idea that you live in a particular town, and while it would be nice to visit the next town 10 miles away, or two towns away, have a nice day followed by dinner, and drive home will end up being a really bad idea, either due to weather, or to that fact that a 15 mile drive up the 101 on the Northern Oregon Coast will probably involve 12 police jurisdictions who are all bored and looking to 'get' people in DUIs. The county has stated repeatedly that they are dependent on the income from these cases and are doing everything in their power to generate more cases.

But it's not all bad! North coast towns are full of salt-of-the-earth people. People that will give you the shirt of their back and more, if you prove yourself to be a genuine person. Unfortunately this will take years, but in the time you're there you will see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, have access to some amazingly fresh seafood (Astoria is best for this), will encounter the strangest personalities ever, and probably have a fantastic time.

But for a short time, I would recommend Astoria, or Seaside possibly. Astoria is occasionally called the Portland of the North Coast. It does have a more cosmopolitan feel than most NW coast towns. Seaside would be more centrally located, from you post, saving some gas, but you'd slightly limit your entertainment options. Rent may be more than you expect, although in the off months I think you could negotiate hard, especially if you'll be leaving before April/May when the summer workers and crowd start showing up.

It will be really awesome, but you might get want to get used to the idea of learning to love the eccentricities of the coastal communities, and hunkering down in the face of daily 40 mile / hour rain :)

If you have more questions, feel free to ask; I hope this helps.
posted by efalk at 11:35 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I'm in Astoria! It's AMAZING. Thanks, y'all!
posted by jennyjenny at 8:11 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

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