Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Wild, Wet Weather Fun on the Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – It seems as if the second summer phenomenon has ended a bit early, with early October bringing in a large dose of storms rather than the usual warm temps that are mostly typical of this time of year.
It heralds – at least for now – the coming of winter storms and big rainsqualls. This in turn brings to mind the possibilities of early fall recreation and repose. But how to really enjoy these wintry moments on the beach? How to deal with the crazed, erratic weather?
You’d be surprised as to the possibilities. The key is to find beaches that are close to civilization, should the weather turn on you. Or, what drives or viewpoints are to be discovered, where you can enjoy this wild place from the comfort of your car.
That, however, is just the beginning.
It’s less of a secret spot than it used to be, but this tiny town west of Tillamook is huge on engaging attractions and hidden wonders.
At first glance, Oceanside appears to be just another wayside with a collection of homes clustered around it. But this out of the way spot, nestled up against the hills of the Tillamook Forest, is major gem on the Oregon coast. It’s an old, rustic hamlet that smacks of another time, dripping with weather-beaten cuteness and charm – and it hides a major culinary wonder in the form of the upscale Roseanna’s Café.
The beaches here are often shielded from the wind by the headland called Maxwell Point - about 100 yards north of the parking lot - looming above like a tall, dark, watchful god. To the south, it's about three miles of sandy beach leading straight to Netarts Bay, with not much else other than rocks, boulders and driftwood piled up next to the vegetation line. About a mile down, you'll find some minor trails meandering through the brush underneath the Three Capes residential development, and if you're lucky, oddly colored slabs of rock become visible if the tide is low enough.
The real fun of Oceanside's beach lies inside Maxwell Point, however. The concrete tunnel here is a gateway to a stunning, secret world. Entrance into the tunnel is somewhat unadvisable recently, because of falling rocks from the cliffs. During inclement weather, staying away from this tunnel is a definite must.
But if conditions are calm, on the other side sits a stunning beach where enormous boulders and weirdly shaped sea stacks give the entire area a feel like something out of the old ``Star Trek'' series.
The entire area is cluttered with stuff to play on as well as a sense of the serene and the surreal.
In the vicinity is Cape Meares, with its lighthouse, a freakish, enormous organism called the Octopus Tree and stunning views. A couple of wild hidden beaches lurk nearby as well.
If you've got the time – or if the weather is nasty - a leisurely stroll or drive through Oceanside’s miniscule back streets is highly suggested. The ocean view and the neighborhood tour are nothing short of a visual kick in the head.
The older homes are stunning enough, but some of the more recent additions may drive you mad with jealousy with their opulence and the amazing ocean view they sit in front of. A few of these have delightfully weird shapes which will astound you and maybe cause you to scratch your head. Many are located high up on the hill overlooking Oceanside and Maxwell Point, where a panoramic view of the ocean nearly wallops you with its immensity.
Manzanita’s Surrealism and Sands
There are few things like standing on this beach and having to strain your neck to look up at Neahkahnie Mountain looming above you. It’s absolutely awe-inspiring, with its mystical vibe and the mists that often surround it.
A wide and beautiful sandy beach fills the eye here. Although at the beach’s northernmost access – near Neahkahnie Rd. – it quickly becomes large cobblestones and boulders until it ends at the base of Neahkahnie Mt. some 200 feet down.
The most obvious beach accesses lie past its downtown and at along the road skirting next to the beach. But there are numerous hidden ones south of there, between the homes, along the beachside roads. These eventually dead-end at a back entrance to Nehalem Bay State Park.
In this tiny town that's full of culinary and shopping pleasures, wondrous new objects can pop up on the beach at sufficient minus tides. Depending on the amount of sand lying around that time of year, different rock objects appear on an otherwise smooth, barren beach. Simply watching the beach at various times of the year yields interesting moments.
This slice of the coast is especially dramatic as you descend Manzanita’s main drag and catch your first glimpse of the ocean from here. If the sea is raging and bonkers, it’s truly a memorable sight, appearing from this vantage point to broil just beyond the end of the street.
From the north end of Manzanita, this sprawling shoreline of nothing but sand goes on for over two miles, past Nehalem Bay State Park and onto the sand spit that borders Nehalem Bay. A good two miles down the sand spit you may find spots to watch seals rather closely.
But don't get too close: bothering them in their natural habitat is illegal.
What makes Manzanita particularly inviting during rainy moments is that the small town and the parking spots along the street are a short jaunt from the beach. Or, you can hide in your car and enjoy spectacular views by heading up to the viewpoints over Manzanita, catching a bird’s eye view of the ocean and the bay area.
Neptune State Park
It’s a pretty place, lodged in the middle of forestland and rather easy to drive past if you’re not looking carefully. There’s picnic tables, restrooms, a small patch of forest to wander in and access to a small, cobblestone beach. At calmer times of the year, you can continue walking south and stoop in wonder over tide pools. The graveyard of massive boulders here presents all sorts of opportunities for climbing and discovery, as well as watching waves slam against rocks from a rather close yet safe vantage point.
Neptune sits in the middle of one of the coast’s biggest secret landscapes: that 25-mile stretch between Yachats and Florence. Nary a soul is found on most of these beaches during all but the busiest of summer weekends. The terrain is sometimes foreboding, but always stunning, dynamic and even a little weird, with its mix of sandy stretches, pocket beaches and large, monolithic slabs of basalt that often create elaborate labyrinths.
There’s nothing like it on the coast, and it’s perfect for short trips to the beach in crazy weather, or long, lazy drives past places you’ve never imagined existed.
Seaside and Its Other Sides
Often maligned for its heavy-handed touristy qualities, there is indeed much more to this town than the garish.
But first, your initial glance will find its beautiful 20’s-era promenade, a long stretch of wind-sheltered beach, its charming streets and its somewhat carnival atmosphere.
Seaside has all the amenities you could ask for: scrumptious, sometimes innovative cuisine, major grocery stores, a liquor store, a large movie theater complex and an outlet mall filled to the brim with 60 stores.
On the promenade, history takes the front seat on your journey through Seaside. The Promenade was built first as a wooden construct, then made of concrete. These days, it stretches a little more than a mile and a half, taking you past beautiful motel fronts and charming beach cottages – many of them quite old.
If the Promenade whispers of history, then the Turnaround shouts it. Its centerpiece is the statue of Lewis & Clark (who never actually stopped in this spot, although it gives you that erroneous impression.)
All this is a short walk from the beach.
Then, for the more adventurous, venture to the southern end – known as “the cove” – and watch waves slam with indiscriminate intensity. Sometimes, they flood the street here and dump stuff all over. But usually, during those wetter moments – or the dry ones - this is a fabulous spot to park and watch nature.
The extreme northern end, past the 12th Ave. access, presents the beachcomber with all sorts of wondrous finds as well as plenty of alone time.
True but Strange at Seal Rock State Park
This dynamic and enchanting spot offers a few winding paths and a lot of basalt or sandstone to frolic on and ascend, including a few structures which provide some beautiful views of an often wild surf. Clambering up and down these is some of the most amusement you can have on Oregon’s coast.
Part of the rocks here at Seal Rock is a bird sanctuary, so stay away from the signs that designate it as such.
There is one area of sea stack rocks that forms a narrow split, which is climbable and full of fun. This section of rock channels the tide farther in than other spots on this beach and at the same time allows you to climb around on it, taking you out over the rough tide and offering you a somewhat unusual little viewpoint from which to watch the action.
This place works well in various kinds of weather because some of the vantage points from which to check out Seal Rock are somewhat canopied by trees, and all of the pathways are easily traversable paved walks that are a short step from the parking lot. Several overlooks nearby provide great views of the large, weird grooves on the southern end of the Seal Rock cluster of structures from your car, if necessary. You’ll find them south of the park entrance.