Oregon Coast Otherworldly Auto Tour: Cannon Beach to Manzanita
(Manzanita, Oregon) – Few auto tours along the coastline are quite as engaging as that run between Manzanita and Cannon Beach. It's about 15 miles and about a dozen bends of winding startlers along stunning cliffs that enter a lush, forest canopy, only to reemerge along more stunning viewpoints. Here, The ocean explodes in front of you all over. Separating you from the beaches located at the bottom of various 100-foot-plus plunges are various manmade barriers constructed of stone, sometimes gray and other times black basalt - like leftovers of a castle.
The curves begin just south of Cannon Beach, twisting along various bends as you drive past pullouts and spots like Hug Point, Arcadia Beach and Arch Cape that never cease to amaze. Soon, you'll enter the Arch Cape tunnel, which opens up to a brief glimpse of panoramic ocean views, then entering the forests of Oswald State Park. Here, check out the surfing mecca of Short Sands Beach, some wondrous trails, primitive campsites and a couple of hidden beaches tucked along the road.
Just south of all the parking lots, you emerge from the forest with more scenic stunners overlooking the Pacific and the charming burgh of Manzanita.
It's a favorite run for Danielle Eriksen of Redding, California.
“Most of what you see along here is forest, but there's enough of the beach just popping in and out view - like a fast music video – to keep you looking,” Eriksen said. “I feel like I've driven it 20 times and I still see something new every time.”
These viewpoints just south of Cannon Beach are some of the most famous on the entire Oregon coast. It starts with the wonders of Silver Point, where a sprawling concrete barrier almost encircles an enormous parking area. To the north are views of the town itself and even Haystack Rock and its Needles. Straight out to sea there's an endless horizon, but also a glimpse of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Look south and you're peeking at Arcadia Beach and Hug Point from a semi-aerial view.
A couple of unmarked viewpoints sit south of here as well, where a gravel patch gives way to other ethereal sights from above.
Travel southward again and you'll reach Arcadia State Park and then Hug Point. The latter is one of the most striking beaches on the entire coastline.
“That waterfall always gets me,” Eriksen said. “You can't always get to the tiny road going around the point, but most of the time you can get to that waterfall. So relaxing.”
An overlook that is overlooked sits immediately south of the Arch Cape Tunnel, where even more beautiful glimpses of the sea and sea stacks are available.
For an amazing hidden spot, try darting down Falcon Cove Road, not quite a mile south of the tunnel. You descend through more thick forest to an upscale neighborhood, where a beach with some very unique qualities lies. It's nicknamed “Magic Rocks Beach” for the unusual, rattling noises made by dense layers of rounded cobblestones when disturbed by the ocean. It's also quite startling the way this tiny cove beach is almost entirely made up of these.
Onward through Oswald West, you could take a bit of a hike to Short Sands Beach – a huge surfing Mecca – or find one of the little forested viewpoints tucked away nearby.
As you round more winding, twisting sections of Highway 101 towards Manzanita, more wild sights abound. You briefly get glimpses of Cape Falcon and the trailheads to either the top of Neahkahnie Mountain or the long pathway down to Short Sands. You'd best be quick and pull over onto the gravel chunk just outside the forests of Oswald. This is where the most impressive sights hide, such as the mysterious Cube Rock, which looks like something made by giants and then abandoned.
“It's just this weird rock sticking up right out of the ocean, like maybe a hundred feet or something,” Eriksen said. “And if you walk all the way down there, there's more of them.”
Take that same pathway to see other oddities, like giant, craggy arches or the awe-inspiring Treasure Cove, where you look down through a rocky area so small it's like viewing the snarling ocean through giant tube.
The final attractions here are the Neahkahnie Overlooks just above Manzanita – one of the most popular viewpoints along Oregon's coastline. More on these areas below and at the Cannon Beach Virtual Tour, Map and the Manzanita Virtual Tour, Map.
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