Ultimate Coast Guide: Northern Oregon Coast
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Go here if: you love boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, accommodations and big trappings with your seaside view.
Travel time: 4 to 5 hours from Seattle to Ecola State Park (Portland is just 80 miles away)
Make like Lewis and Clark at Ecola State Park
One of Oregon’s northernmost parks, Ecola State Park wraps around Tillamook Head, the southernmost point explored by Lewis and Clark (between Seaside and Cannon Beach, just off Highway 101). The 1,303-acre park boasts nine miles of beach chock-full of surfing sites and tide pools—but you have to hike to get there. The hikes include eight miles of Lewis and Clark’s National Historic Trail; the famous duo stumbled through Sitka spruces on Tillamook Head to Indian Beach to plunder a beached whale for its blubber. Today, the park has two trailheads that lead directly to the beach from Ecola Point: Follow Lewis and Clark’s lead 1.5 miles down to Indian Beach, or take a more direct, yet difficult 1.25 miles to Crescent Beach. Bring your binoculars: The park’s many winding trails have breathtaking vista points from which you can watch for migrating whales, or check out the Tillamook Lighthouse.
Artists, succulent seafood, yoga on the beach and Haystack Rock—this town may have it all
Like Carmel in the early ’20s, Cannon Beach is Oregon’s seaside artist community, born in the late ’60s when the town’s economic livability, beauty and easygoing bohemian atmosphere proved irresistible to artists.
Today, the bohemia lives on, but under the guise of an elegant yet charming beach hamlet. The town’s waterfront features an expansive stretch of sand—perfect for sunning, flying kites, building sandcastles, jogging, horseback riding and yoga—that looks out to the Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-tall sea stack left over from an ancient volcano eruption, that serves as one of the unofficial faces of the Oregon coast. When you’ve had your fill of sun and sand, Cannon Beach’s tiny main street, Hemlock, boasts several boutiques and galleries that are fantastic for a stroll with a cup of coffee in hand. Pick up your java at Waves of Grain Bakery (3116 S Hemlock St.; 503.436.9600), which serves locally roasted Sleepy Monk coffee—along with delectable cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.
Among more than two dozen galleries is Icefire Glassworks(116 E Gower St.; 888.423.3545; cbgallerygroup.com), located in a building with hand-hewn cedar posts, iron hinges made of salvaged material from a shipwreck and a roof made of an old airplane hangar. Inside, find blown-glass pieces contributed by four artists (sometimes an occasional guest artist as well). Haystack Gallery (183 N Hemlock; 503.436.2547; haystackgallery.com) displays work from more than 75 Northwest artists, with everything from delicate watercolors to bronze sculptures.
As with many beach towns, Cannon Beach is a haven for seaside fare. At the Ecola Seafood Restaurant and Market (208 N Spruce St.; 503.436.9130), just off the main drag in an unassuming cedar-shake building, you’ll find a casual cafeteria-like venue with some of the best seafood on the Oregon coast: chowder, a variety of takes on fish and chips (including Willapa Bay oysters, Oregon albacore tuna, razor clams, troll-caught Chinook salmon and more) and all the cracked crab you could ever want.
To satisfy a sweet tooth, wander over to Bruce’s Candy Kitchen (256 N Hemlock St.; 503.436.2641; brucescandy.com), a mainstay on Hemlock Street since the ’60s with a pink-and-white striped exterior and taffy that's pulled right in the front window.
Enjoy the outdoor patio at the Lumberyard Rotisserie & Grill (264 Third St.; 503.436.0285; thelumberyardgrill.com), where signature menu items include rotisserie chicken, baby back ribs and a Dungeness crab skillet. Prefer to picnic? Ask the bistro to pack you a picnic lunch for an afternoon on the beach, and then pop into the Oregon coast’s premier wine shop, The Wine Shack (124 N Hemlock St., 503.436.1100; beachwine.com). New owners Steve and Maryann Sinkler have crammed the teeny shop with an impressive inventory of vintages from around the world, and, of course, Oregon. The wine bar is open for tastings daily from 1pm-5pm.
Enjoy your picnic on Cannon Beach’s four miles of sandy coastline. Try navigating the beach via a “Funcycle,” a recumbent tricycle you can rent at Mike’s Bikes (248 N Spruce; 800.492.1266; mikesbike.com) meant solely for beach riding. On the southern end of Cannon Beach, the elegant oceanside Stephanie Inn (2740 S Pacific St.; 800.633.3466; stephanie-inn.com; $389-$629 high-season, $369-$609 off-season) promises a romantic getaway with in-room fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs—and views of Haystack Rock. At this four-diamond AAA-rated hotel, you can reserve a suite in the ultraprivate carriage house, or stay in an elegantly appointed room in the main hotel. Either way, it’ll be quiet, as children younger than 12 are not allowed. Families are welcome, though, at the recently remodeled Surfsand Resort(148 W Gower St.; 800.547.6100; surfsand.com; from $249-$414 high-season, $129-$229 off-season). Superdeep soaking tubs, Tempur-Pedic mattresses, gas fireplaces and a swank new indoor pool are among the new amenities. Despite the contemporary décor, the rustic charm of this hotel, just steps from the beach, is still there—as are the unbeatable views (from ocean-view rooms, of course). (Laura Shinn)
The small scale of the town south of Cannon Beach may be its biggest attraction
Despite being just two hours from Portland, tiny Manzanita (13 miles south of Cannon Beach), population 598, retains a unique and funky offbeat vibe. The town occupies less than one square mile, and boasts only a few beach cottages and inns, a café, a bookstore, a small grocery and a pizza joint. But the walking-scale village is a shining and organic example of the New Urbanism aesthetic that so many developers are copying in new communities across the Northwest (such as Oregon’s Bella Beach and Washington’s Seabrook) and beyond. While you’re there, be sure to check out Marzano’s Pizza (60 Laneda Ave.; 503.368.3663; affordablewebhosting.com/marzanos.htm), a regional institution drawing those who crave New York–style pizza from dozens of miles around. Bread and Ocean (154 Laneda Ave.; 503.368.5823, breadandocean.com) serves up still-warm donuts, whole-wheat cinnamon rolls to die for, and a wide variety of other wholesome and tasty baked goods and comfort foods. And for those in need of a little extra pampering, Spa Manzanita (144 Laneda Ave.; 503.368.4777; spamanzanita.com) is the place for manis, pedis, skin care treatments and body work.
Part of Manzanita’s allure lies in what’s nearby. Directly to the north is Oswald West State Park (see signs along U.S. 101; 800.551.6949 for general info; oregonstateparks.org/park_195.php), where a sandy beach and a rocky headland tempt both those catching waves—the surfing is reputedly the best in the Northwest—and those checking out sea anemones. Even kids can enjoy the short hike from the park’s parking area through coastal temperate rainforest par excellence and down to the tide pools at Cape Falcon. An even broader beach at nearby Nehalem Bay State Park (see signs along Highway 101; 800.551.6949 for general info; oregonstateparks.org/park_201.php), just south of town, provides unlimited sandcastle potential. Northwest Equine Outfitters (503.801.7433; horserental.us; from $110/hour) will rent you a horse to ride on up and down the beach and on a network of nearby forested trails (guides optional). Those willing to pass up the charming inns—among them the Inn at Manzanita (67 Laneda Ave.; 503.368.6754; innatmanzanita.com; high-season from $179, off-season from $129) and the Spindrift Inn (114 Laneda Ave.; 503.368.1001; spindrift-inn.com; high-season from $95, off-season from $70) in Manzanita proper might consider camping in either park, where the limited number of first-come, first-served sites go quick during the summer months. (Roddy Scheer)
Get cheesy at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company
While famous for the massive Tillamook Cheese Factory and visitor center (4175 Highway 101 N, Tillamook; 503.815.1300; tillamookcheese.com; open daily), there is another treat for cheese enthusiasts in this small coastal town. Located in a barn that’s been converted into an artisan cheese and gourmet food and wine shop, the Blue Heron French Cheese Company (2001 Blue Heron Drive, Tillamook; 503.842.8281; blueheronoregon.com) makes delectable Brie cheese in four different flavors: double cream, smoked, herb and pepper. If the cheese isn’t enough of a draw, Blue Heron also has a petting zoo out front for kids and animal lovers.
Hike to Netarts Spit
Along the Three Capes scenic route—a 40-mile drive stretching from Tillamook to Pacific City—is Cape Lookout State Park (503.842.4981), which offers hikes that are popular for their final destination: the five-mile stretch of sand known as Netarts Spit. This natural island, 12 miles southwest of Tillamook between Netarts Bay and the ocean, is rich with wildlife, sand dunes and vegetation. Hikes to the end of the spit and back promise a view of Three Arch Rocks, an Oregon Coastal Wildlife Refuge System for nesting seabirds (including, in the summer, the dive-bombing brown pelican), as well as a group of harbor seals. But be aware that Netarts Bay is an important and protected estuary, so treat those wildlife encounters with respect.
Contemplate the ocean at Cape Kiwanda
The Inn at Cape Kiwanda (33105 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City; 888.965.7001; innatcapekiwanda.com; from $139) is a refuge where every room commands a sweeping view of the ocean and Haystack Rock (not to be confused with the other Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach). Each boasts a private balcony, and five rooms offer two-person Jacuzzis in which you can relax with a view of the ocean before slipping down to the Pelican Pub to sip a Tsunami Stout—“Black humor for a beautifully black beer,” says head brewer Darron Welch—and watch the local dorymen launch in quest of salmon or surf perch. On Fridays, check out the manager’s reception for local artists in the Kiwanda Living Room. Pacific City is like visiting another world, and the Kiwanda is the most simply luxurious spot to savor it.
Tiptoe through the tide pools at Depoe Bay Sea Wall
If you blink, you’ll probably miss Depoe Bay. It’s tiny. So tiny, in fact, that the town is actually host to the world’s smallest navigable harbor. The sea caves and lava beds along the shoreline make for an exciting display of the ocean’s strength; dramatic crashing surf and sea geysers reaching as high as 60 feet in the air constantly pepper downtown Depoe Bay’s sea wall. Come low tide, this small bay is perfect for exploring tide pools. And while that’s one reason to visit the tiny town, here’s another: The sea wall is one of the coast’s best places to view the sun dipping past the horizon of the Pacific Ocean.
See the gray whales at Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay has two claims to fame: It is also the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast.” From March through December, a pod of gray whales summer in the waters just beyond the bay. Oregon’s newest state park, Depoe Bay Whale Center (119 SW Highway 101, Depoe Bay; 541.765.3304; whalespoken.org), aims to educate pilgrims who come to witness the cetaceans in their native habitat. But if the seaside view aided by a set of binoculars isn’t enough, take a quick walk to the dock; boats run by Dockside Charters (541.765.2545) and Tradewinds Charters (541.765.2345) specialize in whale-watching expeditions.
This article was originally published in May 2008
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