Oregon’s Only Island Community Is a Must Visit and It’s Not on the Coast

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The Interstate Bridge between Washington and Oregon with Hayden Island behind it in the Columbia River.

When heading north on Interstate 5 through Oregon, your last exit will take you to Hayden Island. You can even see it from the highway. However, if you’re thinking, “I-5 doesn’t run along the coast,” you’d be right. But for a place that’s not on the open water, it has irresistible coastal charm. 

So where in Oregon is this island, and is it worth a stop before rolling into Washington State? Let’s find out!

About Hayden Island

Hayden Island is an almost entirely self-contained resort area with a unique identity. This riverfront community could be one of Portland’s neighborhoods. It has six marinas and busy retail centers, especially on the east end.

The island is long and narrow, about 4 miles long from east to west, and has a populated beach area. Its name is for Gay Hayden, one of the area’s pioneers in the mid-1800s. He owned the island for years from around 1850, and he and his wife, Mary Jane, lived there.

You might guess that this little slice of paradise is along Oregon’s 363-mile scenic coastline. However, it is not.

Where Is Hayden Island?

Hayden Island is almost in the middle of the Columbia River, the boundary between Oregon and Washington. It’s just south of the main channel, making it part of Oregon.

Much of Hayden Island is within the city limits of Portland. This narrow four-mile strip of land is about 7 miles from downtown Portland and about 4 miles from Vancouver, Washington.

Do People Live on Hayden Island?

Besides being a fun place to visit, Hayden Island is home to a reported 2,378 residents. Some live in apartments, condos, and mobile homes on land, and others on houseboats. The population swells in the summer as more boats arrive for an extended outdoor living season.

The island isn’t thoroughly developed, however. It’s also home to more than 800 acres of hardwood forest and wetlands.

Who Owns Hayden Island?

While most of the island is within the city limits of Portland, a separate government entity, the Port of Portland, owns 826 acres on the western part of Hayden Island.

This is where you’ll find areas to explore and scout for wildlife, including a sizable bird population. The many species visitors have spotted there include bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers, and western meadowlarks.

Sunset behind a marina in the Columbia River.

Does the Island Have An Amusement Park?

There’s no amusement park on Hayden Island, but there used to be a couple. One of them was pretty famous and was a mainstay for more than 40 years. The Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was in operation from 1928 to 1970.

Visitors knew it as “Coney Island of the West” during its heyday. A competing amusement park, Lotus Isle, drew crowds to another part of the island for a few years in the 1930s.

How Many Islands Are Off the Oregon Coast?

Hayden Island isn’t the only island in Oregon, but it’s probably the best known. Next door to the east, joined in places, is Tomahawk Island, where Lotus Isle used to be.

Oregon’s Pacific coast has many uninhabited islands smaller than Hayden. The Oregon coastline, from Washington to California, is a designated national wildlife refuge with 1,853 islands, rocks, and reefs.

The rocky Oregon coastline with waves coming ashore.

Traveler’s Tip: Visit the oldest town on the Oregon coast that can’t be beat for small-town charm and amazing views.

Can You Take An RV Onto the Island?

Even if you don’t live on Hayden Island, you can stay there overnight. There are hotels on the island and an RV campground.

Jantzen Beach RV Resort has 169 sites with full hookups, some of them pull-thrus that can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet. Other amenities include a clubhouse, a fitness center, a basketball court, a playground, and a heated pool.

All sites have access to free cable Wi-Fi. The asphalt sites are level, and some of them are pretty compact. Because of the exit off Interstate 5, there’s easy access to the RV resort. However, as it’s so close to the freeway, you should expect some road noise.

Should You Visit Hayden Island?

There’s no question that there’s a novelty factor attached to Hayden Island. It’s not on the ocean and inside a bustling city, making it an unusual place.

It’s also a compact area, around 1,400 acres total, where nature coexists with commercial development. You could say it’s a microcosm for the Pacific Northwest in general.

Hayden Island attracts many visitors. Some love the shopping opportunities or water recreation. Others may want to kick back and enjoy the panoramic views of the water.

You can’t help but envy the fortunate folks whose backyards brush against the Columbia River. They can quickly launch a canoe or kayak or fish for wild salmon just minutes from the dizzying I-5 corridor.

Have you ever visited Hayden Island?

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