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Maxwell Point and Tunnel Beach: Oceanside's Trippy Gift to the Oregon Coast

Published 07/07/2019 at 3:53 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Maxwell Point and Tunnel Beach: Oceanside's Trippy Gift to the Oregon Coast

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(Oceanside, Oregon) – Along the north Oregon coast's Three Capes Tour, just before you get to the third and final cape of Cape Meares, Oceanside stands out as a tiny village in the middle of almost-nowhere with a massive load of things to do. Once a secret within a secret, the tunnel going through Maxwell Point and the beach on the other side are now common knowledge. Even if the name of that beach is slightly up in the air.

The beach known as Tunnel Beach (or Star Trek Beach, depending on your inclination) and the headland that houses it have numerous engaging aspects and some curious history.

Maxwell Point soars a couple hundred feet above most of Oceanside, and until recent years featured one motel or another at the top. The mini headland had this place for decades, the last incarnation of which was the Clifftop Inn. Even in the ‘80s there was talk of how much of the property was disappearing due to erosion, however. Chunks of that cliff were sliding away periodically, though it never seemed to seriously endanger the business.

Either way, it did have incredible views of this part of the Oregon coast. You can't beat the ocean vistas from this vantage point.

For more scenic fun, head up Maxwell Road and keep following it. The neighborhood drive here is incredible, with some tasty and curious architecture in some of the homes as you curl around the mountain. Perfect for those rainy days, along this drive you may also encounter a deer or two wandering the streets.

Maxwell Point and Maxwell Mountain that hovers over it apparently got the name from a settler way back in the 1880s. A man named John Maxwell tamed some of the land for a farm, around what would later become Oceanside.

In 2021 or 2022 – depending how you think of it - Oceanside will turn 100 years old. A pair of brothers, H.H. and J.H. Rosenberg, bought up the land in 1921, and in ‘22, on the Fourth of July, it officially got the name Oceanside.

It was they who blasted the tunnel out of Maxwell Rock a few years later, opening up the little beach that later became Tunnel Beach and eventually nicknamed Star Trek Beach. They also created a massive wooden platform that went around the northern tip of Oceanside's secret little beach, called an Angel Walk. As you can imagine, building a wooden construct that sat just above the waves on a rocky point isn't the most stable of engineering endeavors. The walkway, according to some stories, was rebuilt once or twice before it was given up on.

On the other side of that point is a very secret – and dangerous stretch – called Lost Boy Beach. It's reportedly accessible under very rare circumstances when tide levels are incredibly low. It is a really bad idea to even try as conditions at that outcropping are extremely dangerous.

However, back in the day, Lost Boy Beach is where the Angel Walk led early tourists of Oceanside.

There was a sizable amount of time that Oceanside's famed tunnel was not accessible. Sometime in the ‘70s or so a massive landslide covered the entrance to the tunnel, and all you could see was the small piece of the concrete that juts out its south face. Then, probably in the mid ‘90s when El Nino storms rattled the Oregon coast and scoured out so much sand that the Neskowin ghost forests were really exposed, a series of tempests cleared out the tunnel entrance. State park workers took care of the rest, as did other storms.

Periodically, storms dump their junk back in the tunnel and you'll find loads of debris inside, sometimes blocking some of the dark, spooky passageway.

At that far end of Tunnel Beach, you'll notice a massive semi-cave in the rock. In between there and the tunnel opening sit mounds of beachy treasures in the form of little rocky enclaves and fun structures. For hundreds of years there was a small arch here, but in the early 2000s it crumbled under the batterings of the sea. Now there are only two small sea stacks where there was once one.

This lovely stretch is also known for its wild tidepool life, filled with a rainbow of seastars, especially at the northern tip.

That arch is part of the reason Tunnel Beach became known as Star Trek Beach. The arch resembled that time travel portal in an episode of the original series, and another feature is a bit reminiscent of the planet Kirk fought the Gorn on. Plus, the place simply looks alien.

The tunnel through Maxwell Point is clearly the only means to getting into Tunnel / Star Trek Beach. Or is it?

Occasionally, on rare low tide moments, you can actually get around Maxwell Point by foot. It's tricky with the tides, however. They aren't always in your favor, so be extremely cautious. It's interesting to note that during many summers the sand levels rise so high they imitate a low tide situation: sand bars build up and they keep the tide out. Oceanside is the lucky recipient of this action fairly often in summer, as are other normally out-of-reach places like chunks of Yaquina Head in Newport, the arch at Arch Cape, and even the Devil's Punchbowl near Depoe Bay.

Words of caution when it comes to Maxwell Point and Tunnel / Star Trek Beach: the top of the promontory gets rather loose when it's rainy or stormy and it's strongly advised you don't go inside under these conditions. A landslide could happen, or you could simply get hurt by a falling rock. Hotels in Three Capes - Where to eat - Three Capes Maps and Virtual Tours


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