Poet’s Beach – General Information
Type Of Beach: City/Urban
Approach: Very Easy
Main Activities: Hiking, Beachcombing, Tidepooling
Services: Restrooms (Waterfront Park), Food (A Few Blocks Away)
Accommodations: Portland (Lodging), Nearby Forests (Dispersed Camping)
Today’s hidden gem beach in Oregon is another non-traditional location away from the Oregon Coast. Poet’s Beach is a manmade beach that was originally opened as a kayak launching point in 2000, although access was difficult and it was unpopular.
In 2014, a group of volunteers with the Human Access Project submitted a proposal to the city and began work to “reimagine” the beach, which included blasting through rocks and adding several truckloads of sand.
The beach used to have lifeguards, although the project was discontinued in 2018. That’s why Bing and some other places online have the beach listed as “permanently closed”, even though this is absolutely not the case.
What to Expect
Poet’s Beach is a relatively small beach but definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Portland area on a hot summer day and you’d like to relax.
You may want to bring headphones, particularly the noise-canceling variety if you can get them since the beach is primarily located under a bridge. Specifically, the heavily-trafficked I-5 Marquam Bridge, which can get pretty loud.
Where Is Poet’s Beach Located?
Poet’s Beach is located in the city of Portland, near the Marquam Bridge. If you don’t mind a short walk, it’s easily accessible by public transportation.
The easiest way to get there without a complicated series of bus transfers is to take a MAX light rail train to Pioneer Square Courthouse. All five current MAX lines serve the station, so you can get there from any part of town served by the system.
After you exit the MAX, walk towards the water (east) on Yamhill Street until you reach the Naito Parkway. From there, cross the street and walk south along the path to the second bridge you find.
If you’d like to walk less, TriMet bus stops 35 and 36 are nearby and will provide a much shorter walk than the MAX at Pioneer Square. There are also a few bike racks available if you’d like to cycle over.
Getting to the Beach
Once you arrive, either by car, public transportation, or bicycle, it’s just a short walk down to the beach from Riverfront Park.
Alcohol, glass bottles, and dogs are all banned, but you’ll still want to make sure you have sandals or flip-flops while walking on the sand. You never know what you might accidentally step on!
Things to Do on Poet’s Beach
The most popular activity here is swimming, made possible by clean-up efforts the city undertook a few years ago in the Willamette River.
There is a designated swimming area close to the underside of the bridge, with a rope line and floats that will keep swimmers from crossing into thru traffic (see light watercraft section below).
Unfortunately, the lifeguard program ended in 2019 and all water-based activities are on an “at your own risk” basis. Life jackets and other flotation devices are permitted and encouraged but are not available to rent on-site. You’ll have to bring your own.
You’ll also want to check the current river conditions on the city’s website, as swimming is not permitted during algae blooms or after heavy rains, due to potential sewage system overflow.
As the beach is located within Riverfront Park, you can either walk on the beach itself or on the path that runs through the park.
Other than the exercise, of course, the main draw of walking here is that there are a series of 30 children’s poems etched into the rocks along the path.
Paddleboarding and Other Light Watercraft
Just north of the main part of the beach, there is a designated ramp for “light watercraft”, such as paddle boards, rafts, and kayaks, among others.
This is why it’s important for swimmers to stay within the designated swimming area, as a paddle boarder or other watercraft could go floating past and cause serious injuries to both parties.
Most light watercraft are allowed here, although the city’s official website does note that jet skis are specifically banned at the beach.
Where to Stay
There are several RV parks located in town, as well as a wide variety of hotels, motels, Airbnbs, bed and breakfasts, and just about any other type of lodging or accommodations that you can think of.
There are several hotels right next to the beach if you plan to spend a lot of time on the sand, including the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront and the Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel.
The one thing you won’t find here, of course, is a traditional campground. If you are interested in camping out and then driving into the Portland city center for day trips, the Tillamook State Forest and the Mt. Hood National Forest offer dispersed camping opportunities.
Other Activities in the Area
Across the river, you’ll find the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which has a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and offers submarine tours underneath the Willamette River. The submarine tour is only $8.50 per person for adults, an excellent value.
There are many great restaurants nearby as well, including Umami Burger, McCormick and Schmick’s, the Portland Sports Bar and Grill, and the Dough Zone.
Just about everything in the city of Portland counts as nearby, with the convenience of public transportation.
Poet’s Beach is a great place to relax, have a swim, or eat some takeout from one of the many wonderful local restaurants nearby.
You will want to be careful while swimming in the river, however, and make sure you bring a flotation device if you don’t consider yourself an advanced swimmer (or even if you do!).
I also recommend earplugs or noise-canceling headphones at a low volume, as the bridge above the beach is quite loud, especially when there aren’t a lot of other beachgoers around.
Whether you plan to stay for a few hours or just read the poems during your walk through Riverfront Park, you won’t want to miss this exciting urban beach just minutes from downtown Portland. Book your trip today!