Why You Should Visit A Nude Beach

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i feel like the response to why you should visit a nude beach will either be met with “omg YES! it’s an amazing thing to do” or “omg NO! are you insane?!” and you pull your sweater a little closer.

hear me out.

about 45 minutes out of portland there is a place called sauvie island. you can pick berries, visit farms, and enjoy a sandy beach along the columbia river with stretch of it that is clothing optional. who doesn’t love options, right?

i had a lot of anxiety going those first few times when we moved to portland and my option always included a well-knotted bathing suit. for me, the concept or mere idea of being naked in front of strangers…um…no thank you. nudity, for me, was always closely tied with sex and intimacy, none of which i wanted from any of the strangers on the beach. ew.

once there, i sat and stared at the water, checking every few minutes that all of my lady parts were tucked in nicely. eventually i started becoming more comfortable with seeing people pass by instead of wincing like a weirdo by each naked person that passed. it wasn’t like i was gawking at them or being a creeper, but i took notice of all of the different shapes and sizes of the men and women who strolled by on the beach.

then i started noticing families and honestly at first i was somewhat horrified. how could anyone bring innocent children to this place?! then i realized they were laughing, splashing and playing like kids on the beach do except they were doing it in the buff. they didn’t care one bit. it was just…normal.

i started pondering if you could indeed be nude and it be nothing related to sex or intimacy but rather just being. i mean, they do it on beaches in europe! we all basically have the same parts and i started thinking how we function in our society of seeing naked bodies. it seems like either it’s way overly sexualized or it’s taboo unless you are in a relationship with that person.

i have taken two strong insights from visiting the clothing optional beach.

# 1 – it’s very empowering to see people of all different weights be so comfortable in their own skin, exactly as they are. no spanx to hold their stomachs in and no push up bras to push the twins out. they were being, just as they are.

#2 – we, as a society, have hyped up the naked human body. women still cannot be topless in public but men can (instagram keeps kicking chelsea handler off of it because she continues to challenge this). why can a naked body evoke such a wide range of feelings and for many of us, it can be so negative or shameful?

also, this is a family friendly place. no one is doing it in the bushes (which i had fears of), no one is tying to pick up a date but the threat of sand in unwanted places is indeed a real thing.

it took a few times over the course of the summer we first moved here until i became slightly more courageous to dare to undo the top of my bikini and if it fell down, “so what.” to be honest, the first “so what,” turned into me feeling intense embarrassment, like to the point i begged my husband that it was time for us to go home.

the next time, after some liquid courage in the form of wine from a box, i undid the top of bikini and simply sat on my towel, pretending like i was totally cool with the fact my ladies were getting sun for the first time in their lives. you know when kids put sunglasses on and then they pretend like you can’t see them? that was me, chilling in my shades and pretending like i was invisible. i was still freaking out pretty badly in my head but i stayed strong.

another time i went through the same process and then my husband asked me to walk down to the water with him. leave the safety of my towel/invisibility bubble? no thank you.

after some more coaxing and some more liquid courage, i hesitated for a while (two hours) and then scurried down the beach, topless, to the water.

you know what happened?


no one looked twice at me. no one glanced my way. no one told me i was weird or looked gross half naked. nothing happened.

i’m not sure if i expected some sort of weird paparazzi to pop out of the bushes (i know, why on earth would there be paparazzi) or people to start throwing things at me but truly nothing happened.nude beach portland

to be honest, i kept going back and forth about whether to hit ‘publish’ on this post because it’s sort of weird. i can’t say that i’d be completely comfortable if i ran into someone i knew there and at this point it’s not like i want to go with my whole family or a group of friends. i know for some people (like me at first) it might be weird to ever consider doing this.

what i can say is that stepping outside of your comfort zone (also known as your clothes in this instance) helps you dig deeper into why you feel and think a certain way. these experiences have helped me to examine how i’ve been socialized to think and behave in a certain way and how there are other ways to view and interact with the world.

it’s also surprisingly helped with my own body image and confidence. of course our worth is not determined by the number on our scale, our cup size or other siiiize (if you catch my drift), but it was really amazing to see people of all sizes strutting their beautiful selves with their heads held high. why was it so hard for me to do the same? it gave me a reality check and recall why it can sometimes be so hard to talk about our own beauty.

it was liberating on multiple levels. as a friend matthew wrote on the photo i posted on instagram “my wife and i go once a year to remember nobody really cares what we look like. it’s very therapeutic!” i liked that. no one really cares and often times it’s all in our own heads about our insecurities.

if you ever get the chance to visit a nude beach, go. it might make you uncomfortable, you might need “invisibility sunglasses” or you just might feel liberated and leave without a single tan line!

have you ever been to a nude beach? would you consider going?


  1. Kait

    July 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm


    Go girl! *happy dancing* over here for you. MUAH.

    And I know you hate caps but I needed them to fully encapsulate my response.
    Kait recently posted…How to Get in the Mood: 11 Ways to Get Turned on Fast

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      hahahah this made me laugh out loud, kait! thank you for acknowledging my ovaries haha 🙂 it’s such an interesting internal process to go through while there!

  2. Elyse

    July 20, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Love this! I love how you did something that was a bit anxiety-provoking and did it like a champ!

    I would definitely go to a nude beach. I have no body shame, I’m assuming it’s because of my medical issues or maybe it’s because I honestly could care less what people thought of me. I’ve never had the opportunity mostly because my husband has some insecurities about his body, but it’s something I’d definitely do!
    Elyse recently posted…5 Must Read Blogs for Married People

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      thank you elyse!!! there was totally some serious anxiety there but i’m glad to have the experience both internally and externally!

      what a powerful statement to read that you have no body shame! that is amazing! not sure if you’ve written on how you got to that place and how others can get there but i’d love to read about your experience! totally love that you’d be on that beach in a second 🙂

  3. Esther of Local Adventurer

    July 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    i think i’d be down to visit a nude beach.. or be nude. I just feel awkward when every one isn’t nude.. or I guess when everyone is and I’m the only person clothed. haha I just want to make sure if I’m taking my clothes off.. everybody better be doing the same! 😛
    Esther of Local Adventurer recently posted…21 Great American Road Trips to Put on Your Bucket List

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      hah fair point in feeling super awkward if others weren’t nude! it was interesting because i’d say almost all of the men were naked, and about 1/2 of the women were topless and the other 1/2 were totally nude. there were a few folks with groups of friends or part of a couple that kept suits on too!

  4. Rachel G

    July 20, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I would 100% never ever ever go. Yes, the amount of clothing you feel comfortable wearing in what situation is totally a societal/cultural construct, and I’ve been strongly influenced by my own culture. I like clothes, very very much. One of the most terrifying stories I ever heard in my life was from the wife of one of my buddies from high school days. He’s Japanese, and the first time she went to Japan to meet his family, right before they got engaged, they took her to the public spa baths where she had to go bathing (sans clothing) with every female member of her entire family-in-law-to-be. Swapping cross-cultural marriage stories is one of my favorite things to do…and I’m grateful I’ve never had to do something like that.
    Did you hear the news story about the hikers who took off their clothes on a mountain in Malaysia and were sent to jail? I’m pretty sure there would be no nude beaches in this nation. 🙂
    Rachel G recently posted…Family Olympics 2015

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      whoa i would absolutely panic if i had see and then be naked with all of my future female in-laws! i probably would have passed out. keep those cross-cultural marriage stories coming, rachel!!

      i did not hear about the hikers that took their clothes off on a mountain in malaysia and ended up in jail! good thing we stayed clothed while in that country ha!

  5. Melissa C.

    July 20, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Omg girl I’m so glad you hit publish on this!! I totally think our country needs to embrace the clothing optional beaches. It’s like you said, no one cares. I love that you saw so many body types and good for you for wandering in the water!! This is just awesome on so many levels
    Melissa C. recently posted…Criss Cross Applesauce: DIY Fancy Tee

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      thanks melissa! i was feeling nervous with this one because i wasn’t sure how it would be received (though i did just receive a phone call from my dad saying “so you’re running around nude on beaches now huh??” HA).

  6. Cathy Gidley

    July 20, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Oh hells no! I would rather eat glass than go naked, even at a nude beach. I almost had a panic attack reading your post. You are very brave.

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      haha oh well then please never go to a nude beach because the thought of you eating glass is horrendous! it’s been quite the experience!

  7. Jon Hammond

    July 20, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Good for you. Very courageous post. I wish more people were comfortable with it. I am frustrated I got kicked out of Safeway! 😉

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      haaaa good one jon! please keep all clothes on while in grocery stores 🙂 it is fascinating how so many people get uncomfortable about it (myself included)

  8. Sam

    July 20, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    I absolutely love this post and I’m so excited for you that you went out of your comfort zone!
    I like to think I would drop my clothes, but obviously wouldn’t know until in that situation?
    Anyway, I hate the stigma around a naked person (man, woman, or child). Even in one of the most basic forms of motherhood, nursing, is offensive to others. And it is so upsetting that women give up breastfeeding because of the “sexual” stigma around breasts or lack of support, etc. Even pictures of childbirth are censored for comfort. Really??
    FYI: this is probably my favorite post of yours yet!! 🙂

    • chelsea

      July 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      oh sam, you’re the best! thanks for saying this is one of your favorite posts 🙂 that alleviates a lot of the anxiety i was fearing about seeing how it’d be received so thank you!

      i was just talking to someone about the “sexualization” of a mother feeding her child! it’s nuts! i mean breastfeeding is literally sustaining a human life, c’mon! sounds like maybe you need to do a blog post for TNW about this 🙂

      • Sam

        July 22, 2015 at 11:21 am

        Of course. 🙂 I’m kinda jealous you have something like that so close to you. Obviously we have topless pools here in Vegas but that isn’t ideal. And wouldn’t help with my self image!!
        And that really funny you say that because I’m in the process of setting up my own blog! Hopefully it will be up and running in a month or so.

        • chelsea

          July 23, 2015 at 10:51 am

          there’s actually TWO, sam but i’ve only been to this one. so nuts and yeah topless pools in vegas…probably not exactly the same type of environment! glad you are setting up your own blog – YAY!!!! keep me updated!

  9. Audrey

    July 21, 2015 at 5:26 am

    This is one of the most interesting blog posts I’ve ever read. I’m so glad you published this! I love that you pushed yourself! There was no danger or crazy risk, but you did something that SOOOO many people are terrified to do! Go you!!

    How cool that you have a nude beach so close! When we were in France (the year after 6th grade) we went to a beach where clothing was optional. My brother and I were so freaked out but everyone on the beach acted so natural and normal, lol.
    Audrey recently posted…Age is But A Number…

    • chelsea

      July 21, 2015 at 8:25 am

      thanks audrey and i hadn’t thought of it the way you said there was no danger or crazy risk but yet it was still so terrifying! you’re right!

      i know what you mean about feeling sort of freaked out when people are acting normal but naked! i don’t know if my 7th grade self could have handled that!!! but when in france…

  10. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    July 21, 2015 at 10:15 am

    AH you are amazing!! I love hearing about your thought process (and liquid courage) as you challenged yourself to do it!!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted…Is money saving all about HABITS?

    • chelsea

      July 22, 2015 at 8:33 am

      thanks for your comment ashley! i was feeling nervous both at the time and publishing this so thank you for your support 🙂

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  12. Amanda

    July 24, 2015 at 8:41 am

    I legit had no idea the U.S. even had nude beaches. I totally thought that was a European thing. Oops! But, I totally get your point and LOVE that you point out here the nudity is always sexual or taboo and not just…what it is. Why must we freak out so much over some damn boobs or bush. I guess we’re getting a little better since I’ve seen a lot of butt cheeks on the FX network though!
    I think you are awesome for giving it a go. I would love to experience a nude beach and wish I would have the courage to embrace it and go for it, but in reality I’m sure I’d do exactly what you did. I could probably do it on a smaller scale, like that scene in the Wanderlust movie with a few people in a hot tub or something. Haha.
    There’s also a lot to be said for the beauty of people having the confidence to not give a shit about their bodies and bare it all. Kudos to them.
    Amanda recently posted…Going Home: Indiana Trip Recap

    • chelsea

      July 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      i knoooow i was pretty surprised to find out we had some here (there are actually two within a 45 minute drive from portland!) i have no idea why we freak out at “boobs or bush” haha love that.

      thanks for your thoughts and comment on this, amanda 🙂 yeah it’s interesting what your brain and body experiences when you are actually there. you should try to find one!