Tiny North Oregon Coast Village Packed Full of Delights
(Wheeler, Oregon) – It's one of the least known parts of the Oregon coast, probably because it doesn't really sit by the beach but a bit inland, along the Nehalem Bay. You wander through it, usually – not to it. It’s primarily used for passing between beachy places like Rockawawy Beach to Manzanita.
While for most it’s part of the journey and not the destination, for those who know, little Wheeler – really a few blocks worth of a town – is a dynamic yet serene enclave that’s far from the nutty crowds and a kind of coastal environmental microcosm all its own in a way.
Fishing, crabbing and various kinds of boating activities are one of the big highlights, including a steady diet of kayaking that can take you around some wondrous hidden marshlands that are tucked away in corners of this varied and amazing bay. Wheeler on the Bay Lodge – a local waterfront motel – even gives you free use of a kayak after two nights of staying there.
Although it’s several miles inland, Wheeler doesn’t let you forget you’re close to the beach. You can see the tip of the Nehalem Bay spit from certain heights up this rather steep hill that houses most of the homes, and the ocean waves are still visible. But even from ground level, the looming presence of Neahkahnie Mountain, which hovers over Manzanita, is still a prominent feature.
There are some jaw-dropping hiking trails that wander through these hills and mountains as well.
During the winter, these peaks – such as the prominent Onion Peak – host a lot of snow, providing an interesting visual dichotomy to the nearby beaches.
Meander up into these hills above Highway 101 and you’ll bump into a secret park with a stunning view and an old, derelict lodging with a European vibe that looks intriguing in a haunted house kind of way.
Antiquing is still a major attraction in Wheeler. Two shops out of the ten or so that exist here are antique stores – one of them a massive labyrinth full of old, funky things. This statistically makes antiques its largest industry next to tourism.
The tiny town seemed to be going through a kind of renaissance a few years back that caused it to get regional and national travel media attention with sometimes intense regularity. That attention and its rebirth have faded a bit. A constantly bubbling art scene with one secret delight after another popping up - and then being replaced by yet another – was a sort of tradition there for several years. That has since backed off too. But periodically, the town’s curious subculture comes up with something new, quirky and amusing.
As you cruise along 101 on the north Oregon coast, make sure you’re not blinking when you pass just north of Rockaway or just south of Manzanita – you may miss one of the coast’s more enchanting little secrets. More about Wheeler, Oregon
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