As summer officially rolls in, my thoughts often turn to memories of the beach. One of the reasons I moved to Portland was the proximity to Oregon’s absolutely stunning beaches. The beaches here are mostly under-developed, natural, and very wild in places. To reach the coast, you have to drive over the coastal mountain range. The drive is quite beautiful and takes you through foggy coniferous forests. Upon descending the mountain, you are presented with the rugged coastline complete with monoliths, those huge lone rocks standing in the waves just off the shore.
The Oregon shore is so different from the east coast beaches I vacationed at as a child. There, crowds and high rise hotels are the norm. The boardwalk is a nightly draw and carnivals and trinket shops abound. There is a place in my heart for both sorts of vacation towns. I can be a bit of a nut for kitsch sometimes, and I am very sentimental about the busy city of Ocean City, Maryland despite the fact that it is the anti-Portland in many regards. I think it just comes down to the very simple fact that I love beaches of all persuasions.
And of course I can’t omit Hawaii. My husband and I visited Kauai two years ago and it was a stunning, casual, completely laid back vacation. We stayed on Kauai’s north shore near Hanalei and the landscape is all tropical rain forests and dramatic cliffs next to gorgeous shorelines.
It can be very tempting to load up on tacky beach memorabilia just for the fun of it. I often eye airbrushed tees, baskets of shells, cheap anklets, and chalky white sand dollars with a certain degree of appreciation. Perhaps I momentarily covet these treasures for the sentimental association with childhood vacations, or 1980s B-movies in which aimless teens waste day after summer day on some beach or another. Still, those sorts of treasures have a limited appeal and the fun tends to fade once they are brought home. There’s just no way to really integrate most boardwalk finds into a simple, stylish home.
That said, I have collected various beach treasures over the years. They are the sorts of mementos I can spread around the house or use from time to time. They remind me of happy, relaxing times spent with loved ones.
For example, I recently came across my collection of broken shells, beach glass, and sea stones and added them to a succulent garden I was planting. It was a way to make use of all the odd bits and add some color to the garden.
Many of the beach souvenirs I use at home came from second hand stores or antique shows. I found this great paperback book, The Art of Seascape Painting, at a used bookstore in Ocean City for a couple of bucks. It looks great on a coffee table and could be framed some day. The bronze sand dollar is also vintage. It has such a pleasing weight, feels nice to hold, adds a little glitz to my kitchen windowsill. The vases are both from Orcas Island in the San Juans. The white coral one is new and the yellow glass one is old. I think they make an attractive couple and I like to display them together.
I gathered all of these finds in Ocean City during a family vacation. I just love the little pelican salt and pepper shakers. They say beach without being too tacky and they make me smile. The earrings and huge sunglasses are from a traveling antique show. The simple design of the old button looks great on a plain canvas shopping bag.
In Hawaii, we absolutely loved snorkling with the sea turtles so we picked out two matted photographs of sea turtles and framed them once we got them home. I also picked up this adorable alphabet flashcard set (even before we knew we were about to become parents because it was just too cute.) My son now loves this set.
I try to always pick up a Christmas tree ornament as a souvenir. We do this everywhere we travel and it is so much fun to reminisce about our vacations as we decorate each holiday season. I’ll have to do a post with all my vacation ornaments around the holidays.
I also feel Beach souvenirs should always be inexpensive! All the items on this page cost less than $30. Many cost less than $10. Some, of course, were free.