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U.S. Travel Tips: Rugged, Remote to Chic at Tierra Del Mar on Oregon's North Coast

Published 09/24/23 at 4:47 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Pacific City, Oregon) – Pacific City, at the southern end of the Three Capes Tour, is the big attraction and the centerpiece to local recreation, including surfing and some fine foods. It's a bustling but beautiful little destination all its own. Yet just north of it is the tiny village of Tierra Del Mar with barely a marker designating it exists, and all you see is either forest, beach or a smattering of homes within either. If you're zipping along the Three Cape Tour on Oregon's north coast, you wouldn't really know this hamlet was there. All photos Oregon Coast Beach Connection

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There's never anything written about this teeny semi-secret of the Tillamook Coast – although it abruptly made the news a couple of years ago as it fought a tech company's attempts to lay international cables beneath its sands. Tierra Del Mar stood up against Facebook and won. Then, driving on a part of that beach that was allowed was suddenly disallowed (driving is illegal on all but a small handful of Oregon coast beaches), and according to at least one vacation rental owner that's made Tierra Del Mar more attractive.

Indeed, that's one of the secrets of Oregon beaches being so pristine and popular: applying the very obvious common sense of not driving on the sands.

For international travelers coming from Europe or Asia, or U.S. travelers zipping on over from Missouri or New Hampshire, this is an adventurer's paradise. Here is one of the ultimate rugged Oregon coast experiences for hiking, surfing, hang gliding or biking. Yet for those still wanting a good helping of chi-chi and creature comforts, some of the region's more innovative cooking and art galleries are a close hop. Pacific City is a couple miles south, Lincoln City is 25 minutes away and so is Tillamook to the north. Mexican fare in this area is outstanding as well.

Cape Lookout in the distance; Tierra Del Mar is the smattering of homes here

Within Tierra Del Mar, there's quite a selection of vacation rentals to stay, but none of it's obvious: no neon or even those shy wooden signs with company logos. It's a perfect place to stay and use as your Center of Operations for Fun.

It's about a mile of seriously unpopulated sand between you and the rather unknown, northern side of Cape Kiwanda. That's the hugely popular, soaring beauty with wildly varying landscapes across its acreages [Complete Guide: Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area]. One part is pockmarked, blobby and even alien in some ways, all standing high enough to easily catch sight of whales. Others are a mix of that and sand dune, with the whole thing capped by a giant dune with wind-stripped trees at the top. Sandboarding is a popular sport here – or simply curling into a ball and rolling yourself down the hill.

Tierra Del Mar borders McPhillip's Beach and the northern face of Kiwanda. This part is where you can see into the little “islands” of brittle sandstone that are separating from the larger cape: a kind of oceanic canyon is happening here [Cape Kiwanda: Wild Canyon Full of Ocean].

There's a few miles of pristine, very untouched beach to hike, if you start at Tierral Del Mar. This then leads to Sitka Sedge State Natural Area which contains 3.5 miles of even more hiking loops. For still yet more of an exploratory day, eventually you come to the end of this beach at Cape Lookout, remaining a true hidden spot because of its remoteness. Darker sands of differing shades await – but there's more trails above you. Another five or more miles are up top on Cape Lookout itself, and here you get unforgettable views of the watery world around you as the cape juts out about a mile or so into the ocean. Hiking Cape Lookout Trail on N. Oregon Coast Yields Soaring Views

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Bicycling along the Three Capes Route is one of the more exhilarating explorations of the Oregon coast, and it all begins at Pacific City (or ends there, depending which way you came). Yet it's not always the safest, as the road is narrow and winding in spots. However, there's about 25 miles of rather out-of-the-way coastline to visit along the way. There are truly three capes: Cape Lookout and Cape Meares being the other two.

For surfers, Kiwanda is a popular spot, but another that isn't too well known is sometimes Winema Beach (Winema Beach Hidden Spot), a hidden spot a few miles south of Pacific City. Conditions there aren't always prime, however. Catching waves on the north side of Kiwanda is definitely possible, but it's just not done much – likely for safety reasons if something should happen.

Hang gliding is a big pastime here, especially on the ridge overlooking Tierra Del Mar. Cutting yourself loose from the terra firma above Tierra Del Mar and sailing into the air above the seas is one of the more amazing memories you can collect from this coastline. You may have to get your gear in Portland or Salem, but there is a hang gliding school in Pacific City



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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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