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Coastal Travel Intrigue: Four Sandy Wonders of N. Oregon Beaches

Published 10/21/20 at 5:44 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Coastal Travel Intrigue: Four Sandy Wonders of N. Oregon Beaches

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(Gearhart, Oregon) – For the majority of tourists around the world, it’s the sandy beaches that are the happenin’ thang. They’re the big attraction. Those long tracts of soft granules that can go for miles, create a warm glow at sunset and induce couple after couple to engage in the oh-so-cliche yet time-honored hand-holding walks. It’s these things that bring in the folks more often than not. (Above: Gearhart)

There is, of course, plenty of that on Oregon's coast. On that northern third of this shoreline, where cliffs and soaring viewpoints dive and rise along Highway 101, there are some intriguing aspects of beaches you may not know of.

Manzanita. Manzanita is one of the Oregon coast’s most precious gems, with a woodsy, slightly mysterious vibe surrounding it with its proliferation of fir trees and the looming presence of green-covered Neahkahnie Mountain (said to be a spiritual place thanks to the good karma of the local tribes).

Coastal Travel Intrigue: Four Sandy Wonders of N. Oregon Beaches

The beaches are the bomb here, and the main attraction. Head south and you wander into Nehalem Bay and the vast Nehalem Spit, where eventually not another soul is around and you may encounter barking, carousing harbor seals in great numbers. They’re allowed to just be themselves; it’s truly their natural habitat. It’s a few miles of a hike, even from Nehalem Bay State Park.

Head to the north – near Neahkahnie Rd. – and it all quickly becomes large cobblestones until it ends at the base of Neahkahnie Mt. some 200 feet down the way.

In the winter, watch the gnarly waves zoom up the beach and sometimes even come up to the vegetation line. You know it’s a crazy storm then. When summer comes, sand grows and the beach and takes on wild patterns. Hotels in Manzanita, Wheeler - Where to eat - Manzanita, Wheeler Maps and Virtual Tours

Coastal Travel Intrigue: Four Sandy Wonders of N. Oregon Beaches

Gearhart and Seaside. At Seaside, the town’s very northernmost strands are the beaches less traveled, located by the Necanicum River and the Estuary Walking Trail. It’s all accessed by the 12th Ave. area, where you see the Prom dead-end amid dunes. Conversely, the very southernmost end of Gearhart is up against this river, reached by one of the remote neighborhood accesses at the extreme southern end of the little town.

Both are two of the more deserted beaches on Oregon’s entire coast.

You can see part of this complex of sandy mazes from Highway 101, where hordes of rugged dunes cover both sides of the Necanicum River as it winds its way out to sea. It meanders on for about half a mile as you enter more and more unspoiled territory, eventually winding up at a slightly rocky area near the bay mouth.

The great hidden secret about this area on either side of the Necanicum is the proliferation of unbroken sand dollars, the result of a combination of tidal conditions, an undersea shelf that is overflowing with the creatures and a distinct lack of crowds to pick the little critters washing up. There are even more of the sand dollars lurking on the Gearhart side. Hotels in Astoria/Seaside - Where to eat - Astoria Maps and Virtual Tours

Winema Beach. Just a tiny bit north of Neskowin and a tad shy of Pacific City resides this truly hidden wonder. This is an intriguing mixture of a clandestine beach spot, a rock climber’s paradise and a playground of endless sand. On Highway 101, between MP 94 and Oretown, Winema Road sits inconspicuously on the west side.

Once there, you’ll find all sorts of oddities in the cliffs – most notably the giant rock structure plopped in the middle of the tideline. It too is perfect for climbing, with a tiny patch of grass welcoming you at its top.

Head another mile or so north along this beach and you’ll reach some very secretive areas of the Nestucca Bay. Hotels in Lincoln City / Winema - Where to eat - Winema / Lincoln City Maps and Virtual Tours

Short Beach, Near Oceanside. One of the state's most enthralling hidden spots lies right next to Oceanside, just west of Tillamook. Look for Radar Rd. along the back road between Oceanside and Cape Meares, and you'll find the long, long stairway that is the entrance to this unique beach.

First, you'll find the bulbous blob at the tideline, resembling the sea stack at Neskowin to the south. Wander here a bit longer and you may see the waterfall coming from the side of the cliffs of Cape Meares, which hosts the lighthouse.

Legends abound here. It's said that at extreme low tides, there is yet another tunnel visible (like the one through the cliff in Oceanside). One version of the legend says there may be two tunnels here. Hotels in Oceanside - Where to eat - Oceanside Maps and Virtual Tours

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