Oregon Coast Town Has a Bay, Beaches and a Mountain
(Manzanita, Oregon) – Any description of Manzanita usually begins above the town, as well it should. It's here, some 600 feet above the ocean or so, that people normally first spot this placid place on the north Oregon coast, at the overlooks of Neahkahnie Mountain. This is one panoramic view that may be the mother of all panoramic views, showing an exquisite shoreline that disappears into the distance somewhere around Rockaway Beach, and then veers directly into a flat horizon of Pacific ocean splendor. Many a snapshot gets snapped here each day, no matter what the weather, as people pull over at the pullouts and viewpoints to take in the wonder of it all, somewhere along their journey from Cannon Beach, Seaside and destinations south like maybe Tillamook or Oceanside.
Manzanita sits between the Nehalem Bay and the cluster of headlands that encompass Cape Falcon, with the 1600-foot mountain looming overhead (the top is accessible via a trailhead or two up here). Amidst the odd historical rumors involving a wrecked Spanish galleon that have created the vague possibility of a buried treasure, Neahkahnie cares not of this useless chatter and continues its watch over the sandy beaches with a commanding, timbered presence, sometimes appearing to almost change the weather in its vicinity at times.
In and around this part of Cape Falcon, Oswald West State Park and its famed Short Sand Beach sit, with their forested canopies of thick trees and the sandy cove that appeals to surfers. There are also a myriad of trails here, some of which take you to wild, untamed viewpoints of craggy rock points and cliffs of steep, frightening drops. One includes this oddity above: Cube Rock soars above the ocean in a kind of Roman column shape, looking like a remnant from an old civilization of giants.
Manzanita itself is a haven of non-commercial, small town Americana mixed with woodsy beach atmosphere, with dashes of upscale and Portland-esque hippie and alternative cultures tossed in at the last minute. It's a blend of unpretentious intellectualism, quirky artiness, roughneck woodsiness, a healthy self-deprecating sense of humor and mellow retirement vibe, all by the seashore. A variety of small shops, restaurants, a pub, and lodging businesses allow access to the finer things, but there's often a decidedly individualistic slant to them and never a sense of the tourist trap among the lot of them.
It's too small to get too bonkers during the height of the season, but nonetheless Manzanita swells to capacity in the summer and can feel a little claustrophobic. The best tonic for this is the beach or the miles of sandy expanse of Nehalem Bay State Park, which are all practically inches away from the madness.
Just a stone's throw from Manzanita is Nehalem Bay itself, found by driving a few miles through Nehalem and into Wheeler, but also by walking a couple miles along the Nehalem Bay Spit. From the bay, you can indulge in all manner of aquatic kayaking pleasures as well as fishing and crabbing.
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