With summer rolling in, it’s time to scout out some great sandy spots by the water.  Head to a river or the beach for an afternoon filled with splashing, sand castles and nature adventures. It’s the stuff a kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are tons of beautiful beaches near Portland that are just a short drive away from the city and we’ve rounded up our favorite spots for kids together for you. Read on to find out more.

two moms with kids on shoulders on beach vacation

Glen Otto Community Park

These sandy stretches along the appropriately-named Sandy River make excellent summer destinations. The wide river banks offer slow moving and shallow water, and further back you’ll find picnic grounds, barbecue pits, and a playground. The easy access from Portland means that this spot is popular (read: gets really busy), but the water’s always fine!

Online: outdoorproject.com/

Walton Beach

For a classic beach day without the drive to the coast, Walton Beach on Sauvie Island is the ticket. Spend a day on the river watching for eagles, counting cargo ships, and splashing the sand away. It’s a popular spot that doesn’t usually feel too crowded—there’s still plenty of room to fly a kite! Keep in mind that it’s still 9 miles once you get to the island, and roads can be busy on sunny weekends. A $10 daily parking pass is available at the Cracker Barrel Store right off the bridge to the island.

(If you’ve heard rumors of a nude beach, they’re true: Collins Beach is also at the north end of the island, but it’s much further north—there’s no risk of accidentally ending up there if you don’t want to.)

Online: sauvieisland.org

Sellwood Riverfront

Decades ago you might never have thought to swim in the Willamette, but it’s a favored spot that Portland families head to for fun. One of the closest access points is the Sellwood Riverfront. The beach is more of a pebble-sand thing, and you might have to share it with some pooches, but for a quick afternoon dip’n’splash, it can’t be beat.

Online: portlandoregon.gov/parks

Oxbow Regional Park

On the banks of the Sandy River, Oxbow has plenty of sandy areas to enjoy. Because of the wide swaths of beach and the calm, shallow river, it’s a great choice for kids who want to play and splash. Combine a trip with some of the trails through the nearby forest, or cast off your kayak for a float. No dogs allowed, day use fee is $5.

Online: oregonmetro.gov/parks


Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is one of the most popular beach towns on the Oregon coast. People travel from all over Oregon to hang out on this gorgeous stretch of beach. Just offshore, the glorious Haystack Rock is a magnet for beachgoers, providing great photo opportunities and tide-pooling possibilities, and the wide, sandy beach stretches for miles. Spend a day, or stay over night or for an entire weekend! It's a great location for a summer getaway.

Online: cannonbeach.org

George Rogers Park

This wide Lake Oswego beach on the Willamette River keeps very popular with families on the hottest days of the year. While it’s not huge, there’s plenty of space to fit in, and the nearby park with amenities like a playground, restrooms, picnic areas, and sports fields means there’s something for everyone. Check the website for specific restrictions due to COVID-19.

Online: ci.oswego.or.us

Dabney State Park

Downriver from Oxbow, Dabney makes a fun day trip with kids. Sand dunes, clean water, and a small river offshoot that makes for fun explorations with the little ones. Because it’s such a calm spot on the river, it’s very popular to launch inner tubes from, and can get crowded on a hot summer day. But you can always escape to the rest of the park, with an old orchard, ponds, disc golf, and forest hikes waiting. $5 day use fee.

Online: oregonstateparks.org

Henry Hagg Lake/Scoggins Valley Park

A man-made lake with lots of beaches to choose from, Henry Hagg is surprisingly big, and the water is pleasantly warm! Tucked outside of town on the west side, it’s a beautiful area. The beaches are well-used and offer grills and boat ramps, as the lake is a popular boating destination. If your first beach choice is too crowded, you can drive around the lake until you locate your perfect spot. $7 entrance fee.

Online: recreation.gov/camping/gateways/1146

Andrew Dawes

Broughton Beach

Located off Marine Drive in the north of Portland, this popular beach offers unparalleled access to the Columbia River as jets fly by overhead. The beach may fill up with families on hot days, but as it stretches 1.3 miles, there’s plenty of space to share. It makes an excellent option for an easy, nearby day at the beach. $5 day use fee.

Online: oregonmetro.gov/parks

Honorable Mentions

Their sandy spots are a bit smaller, and no kids under 5 are allowed in the waters, so these places are not quite top picks but still great for other reasons.

Blue Lake Regional Park

A beautiful vibrant lake popular with the whole family! Explore the wetlands, reserve a picnic shelter, rent a paddleboat, or play on the sports fields. While the littlest can’t swim in the lake, they can enjoy the nature discovery garden or play in the gushing, dumping, spraying, splash pad. $5 day use fee.

21224 NE Blue Lake Road
Portland, OR
Online: oregonmetro.gov

Battle Ground Lake State Park

Nestled amid a Washington state forest, Battle Ground Lake is a bit colder than it’s river counterparts, but beautiful. It’s surrounded by trees, picnic spots, restrooms, a few hiking trails, and you can even fish for trout in the lake! Requires Washington Discover Pass ($11.50/day, $35/annual).

18002 N.E. 249th St.
Battle Ground, WA
Online: parks.wa.gov

—Annette Benedetti


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