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Sleepy Oregon Coast Hamlet Hiding in Plain Sight: the Other Rockaway Beach for International Travelers

Published 10/18/23 at 6:12 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Sleepy Oregon Coast Hamlet Hiding in Plain Sight: the Other Rockaway Beach for International Travelers

(Rockaway Beach, Oregon) – Always trying to be bustling but never quite succeeding, one little Oregon coast town remains a mellow travel destination for those international wanderers or those from around the U.S. looking for something a little off the beaten path. Rockaway Beach – yes, named after the original in New York – is the tiny town that's been attempting to be a resort for maybe 100 years, but instead always ending up a sleepy beach hamlet that has its busy days. (All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Nothing fazes Rockaway Beach. Nothing knocks it out of its dreamy half-sleep – and that's just the way it should be.

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Paradoxically, neither is it off any beaten path. It just seems like it. Rockaway Beach is right on Highway 101, in full view of the beaches, lying between Tillamook Bay and the Nehalem Bay. There, it's a long stretch of town that has a rustic, rugged and slightly Victorian vibe in many spots. Many of the homes here look like they were built back in the late 1900s when the area was a bundle of little resorts with wealthy and middle class Portlanders. Eventually, these little villages (some of which actually called themselves “resorts”) amassed into one big town, creating seven miles of pristine sand under the banner of Rockaway Beach.

See Beginning of Rockaway Beach: N. Oregon Coast History Includes a Science Mystery

It is not the Rockaway Beach of Ramones fame: this is the one with the gargantuan forest on the other side of the highway.

These days, the homes and businesses have often been gussied up in interesting colors or decorated with wacky sea flotsam. All along its “commercial district” (really a block and a half of stuff), there's copious lodging, food joints and a few stores or oddball, curio shops.

The main attraction is still, however, all that prime Oregon coast sand and sea. Nothing beats a day at the beach – especially Rockaway Beach.

The most recognizable landmark on 101 is the main park and access, with the big red caboose catching the eye This now houses the town's visitor center. The parking lot also has restrooms and a viewing area. During the summer, this beach has a giant volleyball net set up. In winter, waves can smack these giant boulders with wanton ferocity, and in extreme tidal events some area can get doused.

Winters may also reveal a secret shipwreck hidden beneath these sands. That's a special Oregon coast tidbit not many know.  Secret Oregon Coast Shipwreck Shows Up after 35-Year Absence.


The other big landmark isn't on land at all. Rockaway Beach is famous for the Twin Rocks - the double rock arches lying just a ways offshore. You can check these out with pay binoculars from this main wayside. Or for an even better view, head south to Minnehaha St. and you'll see the ancient structure (probably some 15 million years old) even closer. [Weird Science of Rockaway Beach's Twin Rocks, N. Oregon Coast: Video] It's less than a mile away then and so big compared to what you see elsewhere in the north Oregon coast burgh it feels spookily imposing.

Behind Rockaway Beach's downtown, on the roads closest to the beach, there are numerous cabins for rent. Check out some of Rockaway Beach's best vacation rentals here (Beach Break Vacation Rentals) or the adorable Tradewinds Motel.

Other highlights in the town include Manhattan Beach, at its very northern end. If you're heading south out of Wheeler, you can recognize it as among the first beach accesses you see as the beach re-emerges from behind the trees of the bay and the road begins to descend.

There's parking on these back streets, but some of it is in people's neighborhoods, so be considerate. At the very last entrance, over a large dune you'll find log-covered Nedonna Beach that soon gives way to enormous amounts of sand. From here, the north jetty of Nehalem Bay is accessible, where you can crawl up the huge boulders and amble around for a while, catching glimpses of the sea making its way into Nehalem Bay.

For international and other U.S. travelers, there is no sales tax in Oregon. Gas prices tend to be higher here than other parts of the nation – and there are no gas stations in Rockaway Beach. They're about ten miles in either direction.

Hotels in Rockaway Beach - Where to eat - Rockaway Beach Maps and Virtual Tours



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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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