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Digging Deeper Into Rockaway Beach: North Oregon Coast Quirky to Cool

Published 11/05/2019 at 5:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Digging Deeper Into Rockaway Beach: North Oregon Coast Quirky to Cool

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(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – Just north of Tillamook Bay and Garibaldi, and quite a ways south of Wheeler, this part of the north Oregon coast turns from winding and twisting roads to a long, narrow, elongated town of numerous beachy pleasures. Rockaway Beach – coincidentally just like Lincoln City – also features seven miles of sandy repose and tidal raucousness. But here the long, flat oceanic horizon is interrupted by the gargantuan Twin Rocks – like a two-humped monster in the waves with a big hole in it.

This once-frontier community has a rustic and rugged vibe, dotted with a touch of Victorian architecture along with sleek condos and a few wildly painted buildings from other eras. Many of the homes still smack of the late 1900s when it was a bustling resort for wealthier Portlanders. Some are imaginatively dressed up in wacky flotsam from the sea, including those old Japanese glass floats that once were part of the archetypal Oregon coast experience.

Zipping along Highway 101, there can be plenty to gawk at in between fleeting glimpses of the ocean. While Rockaway Beach still goes for a touristy vibe as much as it can, there are elements keeping it visually grounded in the past. Perhaps an old bar or two where the ‘50s could almost be alive and well again, or the oddball curio shops that feel like a trip to the ‘70s or ‘80s at times – to even that pirate-themed playground at the main access.


That access – really the centerpiece to Rockaway Beach – is called Ocean’s Edge, and it features that ever-popular visitor center fashioned from an old caboose. A bright red refugee from the past against a deep blue sea – or just as often that cloudy gray the area is known for. The parking lot also has restrooms and a viewing area. During the summer, this beach has a giant volleyball net set up. A myriad of fun and funky stores and eateries surround this spot, essentially Rockaway Beach’s one or two blocks of downtown.

A little ways down, perhaps on the quirky side – at least in name – is the Littoral Bar. Few bars in the world have a moniker that comes from a geology term: a littoral cell refers to the stretch between headlands on a coastline. In this case, the littoral cell for the Rockaway Beach area runs from Neahkahnie Mountain at Manzanita to the north down to Cape Meares.


When it comes to geology, Rockaway Beach has deceptively quite a bit going on, though it at first appears to just be a sleepy beach town. Twin Rocks is the biggie: the giant, black remnants of an 18-million-year-old lava flow so massive that it plunged into the ground and then re-erupted elsewhere. Twin Rocks is just such a re-eruption. It’s even wilder to imagine all this and the rest of the Oregon coast was well under water at the time.

Fast forward 18 million years later, Rockaway Beach hides a bizarre secret or two beneath its sands. One is the wreck of the Emily G. Reed, which crashed nearby some 100 years ago and now parts of it only show in certain winters when sand levels get low enough. See more on the Emily G. Reed shipwreck.

Twin Rocks plays its own odd power trip on the beach. It literally alters the sands (see Rockaway Beach Geologic Surprise). Then at the very northern tip of town, the jetty and Nedonna Beach seem to be a magnet for logs in a rather bizarre way. See N. Oregon Coast's Rockaway Beach, Nedonna Beach: Where History, Logs, Geology Meet.


Another fun and unusual aspect of the quiet north Oregon coast hamlet is how Twin Rocks changes its shape abruptly depending upon your point of view. From mid town, it holds the shape most of us know it for: the two bumps with the big hole. Get farther south and that arch disappears. But head north, especially up at Manhattan Beach or the jetty and Nedonna Beach, and it suddenly contorts into a thinner version itself: like the old spaghetti westerns in the opening credits.

See more of Rockaway Beach and maps at the Rockaway Beach – Manzanita – Nehalem Bay Virtual Tour. Hotels in Rockaway Beach - Where to eat





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