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Four Wonders of Nehalem Bay - Eye-popping, Even Surreal N. Oregon Coast

Published 06/23/020 at 8:44 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Four Wonders of Nehalem Bay - Eye-popping N. Oregon Coast

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(Wheeler, Oregon) – Because it’s not the beach it gets a bit overlooked. That stretch of north Oregon coast around the Nehalem Bay snakes its way inland a ways between the hot destinations of Manzanita and Rockaway Beach, but a lot of people aren’t paying attention as they zip through the tiny towns of Wheeler and Nehalem.

Besides the delectable eateries here and the river recreation possibilities, there are some truly unique aspects to Nehalem Bay, especially in the natural world. Here’s four rather mind-blowing wonders you likely know nothing about.

Glowing in the Bay. One of the greatest pleasures by far of the Oregon coast is catching sight of the “glowing sand” phenomenon, which is caused by tiny forms of phytoplankton that are bioluminescent. This means they glow like fireflies, a biochemical reaction in their bodies that causes them to light up when moved or disturbed somehow.


Photo above courtesy Angelina Martin

On the beaches this causes little blue / green sparks as you move your feet along. But did you know you could spot it in Nehalem Bay itself?

There, it’s an extra special, surreal sight. If it’s happening on the beaches, head to the docks at Wheeler, stick your hand in the water and you may see a wild glow in the wake of your hand movements. These tiny creatures sometimes make it into the bay, and it’s particularly bizarre if you’re swimming in there (see the photo above and this video). Some have described this as “it’s like you’re a skeleton in the water.”

Summer in the Bay – Calmer River Winds. As you wind along the Nehalem Bay from Manzanita going south, you may notice a sudden change in weather. It’s downright striking in summer during a heatwave, especially if the valley is up in the 90s or beyond, because as you get just a mile or so inland from the cooler beaches it suddenly heats up again. By the time you’ve gotten into Nehalem or certainly Wheeler, you’re likely basking in summer’s sizzling heat once more.

Wheeler is only a few miles inland but that’s all it takes for marine layers to lose their cooling influence on hot days. In fact, many times during those days of coastal fog and valley heat, the sun suddenly comes out once you get into Nehalem or Wheeler. However, head south again and well before Rockaway Beach you’re back into whatever weather system the shoreline is dolling out.

Conversely, Nehalem is protected from major coastal storms a bit by the hills just southeast of Manzanita, and if heavy storms are getting you down you’ll generally find that area calmer. However, Wheeler winds up still exposed because the Nehalem Bay opens up directly to the west, so winds there can be as punishing.

See these to stay in and around Nehalem and Wheeler:  Beach Break Vacation Rentals - Sunset Vacation Rentals - in Manzanita, Rockaway Beach

Looking Down on the Bay. The overlooks above Manzanita are the definite highlight of the Nehalem Bay area, indeed one of the coolest, most cajoling sights of the entire Oregon coast. From here, you’ve got a view to forever, with the whole of the Nehalem Bay spit and Manzanita’s beaches down below, even glimpses of Oceanside if the weather is clear enough.

Perhaps the unsung pleasure is looking way down onto Nehalem Bay itself: you see the large expanse of blue, inland water in the distance as the spit trails off into almost nowhere.

Even more such aerial views lie above at the top of Neahkahnie Mountain, which is quite a hike but it gets you to 1600 feet above everything.

Nehalem’s Boatel. Driving along those forested bends just as you leave little Nehalem you may spot a head-turner: a sign that says “boatel” and apparently some kind of houseboat lodging on the Nehalem River. Indeed, that’s the story here.

There are actually three little vacation rentals clumped together here, part of the roster of Beach Break Vacation Rentals. They all can be combined into one big vacation rental for larger groups as well. All sit cozily on a dock with bundles of amenities, the most attractive of which is the fact you’re out in the middle of nature, right on the river. Wildlife like elk, seals, birds (including bald eagles) and of course fish abound here.

In fact, if you’re lounging on the dockside patio don’t be surprised if a seal comes up and pays you a visit. See the Beach Break Vacation Rentals site for the full scoop on rates and availability. 503-368-3865. 877-655-0623

Hotels in Manzanita, Wheeler - Where to eat - Manzanita, Wheeler Maps and Virtual Tours

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