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Insanely Cool Highlights of Three Capes Drive on N. Oregon Coast

Published 02/28/2020 at 1:28 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Insanely Cool Highlights of Three Capes Drive on N. Oregon Coast

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(Pacific City, Oregon) – Whatever it’s called these days – Three Capes Drive, Route or even Loop – it’s an insanely cool 20-some miles of Oregon coast that doesn’t quit with surprises. Three Capes, a lighthouse, four (or so) tiny villages, a rollicking set of dunes and more fun secrets and discoveries than you shake a chunk of seaweed at comprises this miracle set of miles.

It was once an actual loop connected to Highway 101 at both ends, but a chunk of road up at its northern tip (about Cape Meares) kept collapsing and Tillamook County officials just gave up for awhile. The right engineering plan and the money to build a permanent solution are still a ways away. From the south, Highway 101 right after Neskowin connects to Pacific City and 101 veers inland, making this the beachside route. From Pacific City, Tierra Del Mar is next, and another few miles up the road you run into the Sand Lake Recreation Area, the north Oregon coast’s answer to the 40-miles of the National Dunes Recreation Area on the south coast.

Inching along this winding stretch you soon bump into the entrance to Cape Lookout, the second of the Three Capes. A tad north of that is Cape Lookout State Park, soon giving way to tiny Netarts and the plentiful Netarts Bay. Two more miles up the road is Oceanside, and the next couple of miles contains the secretive Short Beach and the finale, Cape Meares. There, you reach the end of the line and you have to turn back. Once you could get right onto the road next to the Bayocean Spit and the tiny town known as Cape Meares. Now you have to head back into Netarts and run the nine miles back to Tillamook on tiny Highway 131 to get onto Bayocean Road. The Three Capes Loop isn’t as economical on the gas mileage as it once was, but it’s still spectacular. Three Capes Maps

Some Highlights You Need to Know

Cape Meares is best known for its lighthouse and the intriguing Octopus Tree, but make sure you stop at the little overlook just a few yards away from the tree. You really get a fascinating view of Short Beach and the completely cordoned off Lost Boy Beach next to it. Not to mention the entire vantage point offers up remarkable, massive arches and holes in Three Arch Rocks you had no clue were there.

Oceanside is just plain insane with its massive variety of stuff to do all crammed into one tiny place. Still off-the-beaten path it remains a little less populated than other spots, but nothing compared to the empty beaches this charmer still boasted as late as 2010 or so. Maxwell Point and its eerie tunnel are a constant thrill, but free yourself to the fates by simply driving the road that winds up the mountain and let the random discoveries hit you one after another.

Short Beach’s long stairway will wear you out but the pristine nature of this spot full of intrigue is worth it, and just hiking along the trails of Cape Lookout for a half a mile or less will yield astounding sights. In fact, one small gravel pullout near the cape’s entrance will floor you with its view of Sand Lake.

Down at Pacific City, the pleasures of Cape Kiwanda are well known, but the true unpopulated delights are McPhillips Beach (a mere one mile north) and the village of Tierra Del Mar. Lots of soft sand for miles is the order of the day, although McPhillips features a few distinctive rock structures you’ll want to linger around for awhile.

Sheltered Nook on Tillamook Bay. This a wildly unique set of vacation rentals: extremely eco-friendly but with tiny homes (each is 385 sq ft). It’s all set in a secluded woodsy area near Tillamook Bay, not far from the northern end of the Three Capes. You’ll find a disc golf course, fire pit and even dog bath. outdoor seating7860 Warren Street. Bay City, Oregon. (503) 805-5526.

Sandlake Country Inn. This historic beauty is right in the middle of the action at Sand Lake and those dunes, where relaxation and romance are the keys at this cozy B&B secret. It’s built partially from the timbers of a shipwreck and it was the firest certified green B&B on the coast. 8505 Galloway Rd. Pacific City, Oregon. 877-726-3525. 503-965-6745.

Headlands Coastal Lodge. Gorgeous, soaring architecture gives way to upscale, beachfront rentals and hotel rooms. They’re enormous and so are the gripping views, where it’s the closest place to watch Cape Kiwanda get smacked by gargantuan waves. Its also comes with Meridian Restaurant and a spa. 33000 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City, Oregon. 503-483-3000. Website here

Kiwanda Coastal Properties. From extravagant to elemental, there’s a wide variety of vacation rentals here, with many of the 50 or so just steps from the beach. There’s even one in Tierra Del Mar, far enough north where you’re almost guaranteed to find yourself alone on the beach. Pacific City, Oregon. 503-965-7212. Website here.

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