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Three Capes Winter Top Ten: Wild at Oceanside, Pacific City, N. Oregon Coast

Published 01/06/2020 at 1:05 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Three Capes Winter Top Ten: Wild at Oceanside, Pacific City, N. Oregon Coast

(Tillamook, Oregon) – Every winter, it’s a new, crazy scene along the north coast’s Three Cape Tour, where Oceanside, Tierra Del Mar, Neskowin and Pacific City meet with the Tillamook Bay and Garibaldi. Weird beaches that chat with you, ancient objects popping up, holiday train rides and fun little secrets abound.

Here are the top ten reasons to hang out along the Three Capes Tour and Tillamook Bay in winter.

Talking Rocks at Bayocean, Oceanside. They’re nicknamed Magic Rocks beaches, actually because of the first beach to get that name, up by Oswald West State Park and Arch Cape. Essentially, the large, rounded stones here make a funky chattering, clicking noise as the ocean disturbs them. It’s more prominent at Bayocean (the village of Cape Meares) than Oceanside, but it can happen there. It’s really only found in winter in these spots.

Ghost Forests. Winter scours out lots of sand – some years more than others – and this can bring ghost forests into the light, often 3,000 to 4,000 years old. Those at Neskowin are present year-round, but the rarer ones of Cape Lookout State Park and McPhillips Beach (immediately north of Cape Kiwanda) are freaky looking and well, simply more interesting. These are rarely seen, however – not every winter.

Storm Watching. So much of the Three Capes Route is a gem for wave watching: anything with a good rocky area causes waves to explode. At Cape Kiwanda, really big storms can cause waves to tower and climb from the outer edge to slam onto the inland side. Oceanside is not safe at all during large storms, but excellent to watch from the parking lot as the point gives birth to monsters. Looking down on nearby Short Beach is good too, and Cape Meares can show off true titans coming in towards the shore (but it’s not a place you want to be in high wind situations).

Three Capes Relay Every February. On February 29 in 2020, there’s the Three Capes Relay. From Cape Meares to Cape Kiwanda, you can watch people running solo or in teams of two to five through the beautiful scenery of the entire Three Capes. It starts off at Cape Meares and ends in Pacific City. This one-day race helps to support the three legs of the Ultimook non-profit organization; Tillamook Distance Project, Ultimook Running Camp, and Ultimook Track Club. Cape Meares, Oregon.

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Pacific City Lodging Secrets. Need to hide from the rain with a great view of the storm? See Pacific City’s Inn at Cape Kiwanda (503 965 7001, and Headlands Lodge and Spa (503-483-3000, Website here) for front row seats to the tidal madness and a lot of pampering. Looking for glamping in the wild winds? Hart’s Camp (503 965 7006, Hart's Camp Website) is luxury in the great outdoors, inside restored vintage camping trailers.

Down the road, at off-the-beaten-path Tierra Del Mar, Idyllic Beach Houses (503-662-5420, features two stunning and charming vacation rentals just steps from the beach. Listen in awe as the winds whip through the thick forest around you. Further north, at the Sand Lake area, Sandlake Country Inn ( 877-726-3525) is a warmth-inducing bit of history packed in a BnB: parts of the wood were made from a shipwreck about 100 years ago.

February Mini Spring. A little known secret about the Oregon coast is the peculiar warming trend that can happen fairly often in February – in many years, but not all of them, that is. Blues skies and temps around 60 can be found dotted throughout the month, and it's often much warmer than inland. See more at Oregon Coast Weather Secrets.

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. As winter really kicks in, not much happens with these ancient and charming old choo-choo’s until spring. But the holidays do feature some warmth-inducing events. The Candy Cane Express boasts Santa and the Mrs. on a steam-powered excursion from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach, including goodies like hot cocoa and cookies. The Rockaway Beach Lighting Train takes you to the lighting festival with – again – lots of holiday treats. See the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad for dates and schedules each winter.

Cape Meares Lighthouse. This old beauty is always worth a gander no matter the weather. At only 38 feet it’s the Oregon coast’s shortest lighthouse, but the cape itself is 2000 feet high, making it actually the tallest on these shores.

Excuse Me, Your Bedrock is Showing. Winter sand levels can drop to a phenomenally low height and more than just ghost forests show up. At McPhillips Beach, just north of Pacific City, 18 million-year-old bedrock can emerge, revealing all sorts of weird cracks and cragginess. The same thing can occur at Cape Lookout State Park, where it appears to be more basalt than anything. Lots of agates can pop up around Oceanside during these events as well.

Holiday Lights. All of Tillamook County gets quite lit up for Christmas, in the sparkling bulb way, that is. From Neskowin and Pacific City up to Wheeler and Manzanita, everyone puts on a big show. One of the highlights is the giant G above Tillamook Bay in Garibaldi all decked out.

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