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Bayocean Peninsula Park and Cape Meares Beach: N. Oregon Coast Unknowns

Published 03/07/22 at 5:22 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bayocean Peninsula Park and Cape Meares Beach: N. Oregon Coast Unknowns

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(Cape Meares, Oregon) – First, there's the much more well-known Cape Meares – the headland. Then, there's the tiny village of Cape Meares, which is how most people get to the hiking possibilities of the Bayocean Spit. However, there's also the fairly obscure park known as Bayocean Peninsula Park. All of them create a nice little trio of north Oregon coast discoveries – things you'd never seen before.

In fact, the mysteries of the famed Bayocean resort come to life at Bayocean Peninsula Park, now featuring little markers where the town once stood and even signs showing where some of its major landmark buildings sat. These days, hiking here or just taking a stroll can be a lesson in history.

Many don't even know there is also a village by the same name as the much-revered headland. It's a tiny place just west of Tillamook, about 9 miles down the road that skirts along Tillamook Bay, called Bayocean Road.

Cape Meares the village beach access

Cape Meares the village puts you right into Cape Meares Beach, the long stretch of sand and dunes that quickly becomes the Bayocean Peninsula. But parts of these beach accesses can be extremely narrow, bordered by a high rocky pile that's also covered in massive logs, and depending on sand level conditions there can be little to no beach at all. Winter brings the sand levels down and tides are higher, sometimes making for extremely dangerous conditions the Oregon coast is known for.

Bayocean Peninsula Park and Cape Meares Beach: N. Oregon Coast Unknowns
Bayocean Peninsula Park

However, those tumultuous tides can also bring a sonic wonder to Cape Meares Beach: the phenomenon of “magic rocks.” If the tides are hitting those large, often-rounded stones just right, they make a chattering, clacking noise that has the nickname “magic rocks” among those in-the-know.

Farther up the beach, as pure dunes take over on the eastern side, the sands widen and become less threatening even in nasty weather. Over those dunes, on the Cape Meares Beach side and farther north, there's Cape Meares Lake (above), a fairly large body of swamp-like water that has its own rather impressive ecosystem and examples of plant residents.

Bayocean Peninsula Park

As you head towards the village along Bayocean Road, you have a choice of heading west into the village or ducking north along a spotty gravel road. This is the route to Bayocean Peninsula Park, basically a small parking lot set against the eastern edge of the Bayocean Peninsula.

Here's where the walking gets intense.

Bayocean Peninsula Park features a wide, sandy path through all the brush and shrubbery, but it's a long route by foot. It's not the easy access of down at Cape Meares Beach. You're wandering over other dunes and rises, sometimes thinking to yourself “Yay I'm almost there.” Have patience.

Still, it brings you out onto the sandy bluffs and untamed beach of the Bayocean Spit, and along the way to the tip of the peninsula (it's two and a half miles of hiking) there are now little signposts designating the historical spots that once made this spot a sought-after resort.

From about 1906 to the 1920s, Bayocean was a burgeoning tourist attraction on the Oregon coast filled with several miles of roads, homes, electricity, a handful of hotels, a natatorium (hot salt water pool) and even an entertainment hall. A series of failed deals, World War I, and the Great Depression ended this grand dream. And by the '30s chunks of the place were washed out by winter storms. Even the spit itself was torn in half for a time, but eventually sand rebuilt it. In the meantime, all those buildings were eaten by the sea, and those that weren't lay in sad disrepair for decades until it was all bulldozed over by the government in the '70s.

Now, however, there's a large marker showing the town site, as well as the famed Mitchell Store and the Bayside Hotel. Bayocean is a ghost of an Oregon coast ghost town.

On the other side of Bayocean Peninsula Park sits the road going northward, a gravel path called Bayocean Dike Road, which skirts the more intricate layout of the spit's eastern edges and puts you in contact with all kinds of rollicking wildlife, like seals and birds. It's an impressive hidden world here.

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