Rugged Hidden Places Abound in One Oregon Coast Village
(Oceanside, Oregon) – Just north of Lincoln City and the sleepy little hamlet of Neskowin, Highway 101 veers east and away from the beach for a couple dozen miles. Meanwhile, the Oregon coastline becomes part of a rugged little road called the Three Capes Tour, beginning with Pacific City and ending just a ways after a place called Oceanside.
This place is like a happy ending to an already upbeat story.
At Oceanside, what at first appears to be a tiny village with virtually nothing to it but a beach access, there is a diminutive bit of coastal paradise that’s chock full of delightful secrets.
Normally, it’s rather bereft of people, although its popularity has soared in the last decade and a half. Here, seen on an especially pleasant summer day, scores have hit this otherwise off-the-beaten-path destination, soaking in the sunlight beneath the watchful gaze of Three Arch Rocks and the ever-present Maxwell Point.
There’s not even a gas station or a store here – only two and a half restaurants and a smattering of hidden vacation rentals and a tiny handful of motels.
Inside Maxwell Point, a tunnel beckons with its mysterious concrete entrance on the southern side.
The majority of the time, the point itself is awash in massive waves and it’s impossible to cross to the other side, where a mesmerizing secret beach awaits. But at serious low tide events, you can cross this threshold and find an intriguing bit of clandestine paradise.
Once inside, it’s a cave-like experience that’s a little disconcerting, like a goofy haunted house attraction at a state fair, but no more scary than that. Jagged shapes and fuzzy structures lurk in the dark of the tunnel, and you sometimes find yourself stumbling on the bumpy floor.
It’s really the perfect place for a first date, should you want to take that someone to a place where they’re likely to suddenly hold onto you.
Meanwhile, there’s always that light at the end of this tunnel – literally – in the form of a bright blur that only becomes clear when your eyes finally can adjust to the contrast of the outdoors against the pitch black basalt surroundings.
Then you come to the edge, where the sea appears again and this unique hidden cove becomes apparent.
The tunnel was built in the early part of the 20th century by the Rosenberg family, which created the original resort in Oceanside. After drilling through to the other side, they built a massive walkway at the end of this cove, which allowed access to the another even more hidden beach called Lost Boy Beach. The walkway was called an “angel walk,” presumably because it was elevated about 20 feet off the ground to keep the waves away.
That structure disappeared and that beach on the other side is indeed lost now, generally inaccessible.
The tunnel through Maxwell Point was for many years covered by a landslide and completely inaccessible. Some time after the early 90’s, it was cleared, allowing people to wander through again.
It’s not without its risks, however. A sign at the entrance warns of falling rocks during rainy or stormy days, and the tunnel has been shut off by at least a couple mud and rockslides since – leaving some stranded on the other side for a time.
The other side of Maxwell Point is an engaging place, full of rocky labyrinths, caves of varying sizes, and a fascinating array of sea stacks.
There was once an arch here, but that crumbled around 2005 or 2006, during a particularly wave-crazy winter, leaving two sea stacks in its wake. Before, it looked a little like the time portal in an old school Star Trek episode.
At low tides, the far end of this cove (where the angel walk used to be) allows some access to the sea stacks, and a multitude of starfish colonies become evident.
This hidden cove is also known for good agate hunting.
As seen from above, from another one of many secret spots in this tiny place – Three Arch Rocks look less imposing and even rather small.
The rocks are a National Wildlife Refuge, as established early in the century by two conservationists, William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman, who started photographing the area back in 1901.
Hunters used to go to the rocks for target practice, killing sea lions and birds with startling regularity. Seabird eggs were also stolen in intense numbers.
The pair brought their observations to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, and in 1907 Roosevelt declared the sea stacks a national wildlife refuge. Now, over 250,000 seabirds nest there throughout the year, and boats are not allowed within 500 feet of it from May through September.
The middle rock actually has an impressive hole in the middle, but this can only be seen by going a few miles north to the cliffs of Cape Meares.
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