As the crowds have descended on Cannon Beach, people seeking peace and quiet and a slower pace have migrated south to the community of Manzanita. Located south of Neahkanie Mountain, Manzanita enjoys a setting similar to Cannon Beach but without the many haystack rocks. There isn't much to do except walk on the beach and relax, which is exactly why most people come here.
The beach at Manzanita stretches for 5 miles, from the base of Neahkanie Mountain to the mouth of the Nehalem River, and is a favorite of both surfers and windsurfers. The latter have the option of sailing either in the oceanfront waves or in the quieter waters of Nehalem Bay, which is just across Nehalem Spit from the ocean. Access to both the bay and the beach is provided at Nehalem Bay State Park (tel. 503/368-5154; www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks), which is just south of Manzanita and encompasses all of Nehalem Spit. The park, which includes a campground (and an airstrip), has a 1 3/4-mile paved bike path, a horse camp, and horse trails. The day-use fee is $3. During the summer, horseback rides are usually available here in the park. Out at the south end of the spit, more than 50 harbor seals can often be seen basking on the beach. To reach the seal area requires a 5-mile round-trip hike. Alternatively, you can take a brief seal-watching boat excursion through Jetty Fishery.
Located on Nehalem Bay, this wide spot in the road has long been popular for crabbing and fishing. However, in recent years it has also become a favorite for sea kayaking. The marshes of the bay provide plenty of meandering waterways to explore, and several miles of the Nehalem River can also be easily paddled if the tides are in your favor. You can rent a sea kayak at Wheeler Marina, 278 Marine Dr. (tel. 503/368-5780; www.neahkahnie.net/wheelermarina), right on the waterfront in Wheeler, or at adjacent Wheeler on the Bay Lodge & Marina, 580 Marine Dr. (tel. 800/469-3204 or 503/368-5858; www.wheeleronthebay.com). Rates range from around $22 to $28 per hour and from $44 to $60 per day; higher rates are for double kayaks.
If you're interested in trying your hand at crabbing, contact Jetty Fishery, 27550 U.S. 101 N., Rockaway Beach (tel. 503/368-5746; www.jettyfishery.com), located just south of Wheeler at the mouth of the Nehalem River. They rent boats and crab rings and offer dock crabbing. The folks here also offer a ferry service ($10 per person) across the river to Nehalem Bay State Park, where you can often see dozens of harbor seals lying on the beach. You can also sometimes see seals close up if you sit on the jetty rocks at nearby Neadonna, which is just south of Jetty Fishery.
Named (by the local postmaster) in 1879 for Italian patriot Giuseppi Garibaldi, this little town is at the north end of Tillamook Bay and is the region's main sportfishing and crabbing port. If you've got an urge to do some salmon or bottom fishing, this is the place to book a trip. Try Garibaldi Charters (tel. 800/900-4665 or 503/322-0007; www.garibaldicharters.com), which charges between $95 and $125 for a full day of salmon fishing. Deep-sea halibut fishing will run you about $175 per day. Whale-watching and sailing excursions are also offered. At the Garibaldi Marina, 302 Mooring Basin Rd. (tel. 800/383-3828 or 503/322-3312; www.garibaldimarina.com), you can rent boats, tackle, and crab rings, if you want to do some fishing or crabbing on your own.
Garibaldi is also where you'll find the depot for the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, 403 American Way (tel. 503/842-7972; www.ocsr.net), an excursion train that runs along some of the most scenic portions of this section of coast. The train usually runs weekends during the summer. Call to see if it's operating when you visit. The round-trip fare is $15 to $16 for adults and $7 to $10 for children ages 3 to 10.
If you're interested in regional history, I highly recommend visiting the fascinating little Garibaldi Museum, 112 Garibaldi Ave. (U.S. 101; tel. 503/322-8411; www.garibaldimuseum.com), a small, privately owned maritime museum that focuses on the history of Tillamook Bay and Captain Robert Gray, the American ship's captain who discovered the Columbia River. The museum is open May through October, Thursday through Monday from noon to 4pm. Admission is $3 for adults and $2.50 for seniors and children 5 to 18.
Tillamook has long been known as one of Oregon's foremost dairy regions, and Tillamook cheese is ubiquitous in the state. So it's no surprise that the Tillamook Cheese Factory, 4175 U.S. 101 N. (tel. 800/542-7290 or 503/815-1300; www.tillamookcheese.com), located just north of Tillamook, is the most popular tourist attraction in town. Visitors can observe the cheese-making process (cheddars are the specialty), and there's also a large store where all manner of cheeses and other edible gifts are available. From mid-June to Labor Day, the factory is open daily from 8am to 8pm, and from Labor Day to mid-June, it's open 8am to 6pm.
If the Tillamook Cheese Factory seems too crowded for you, head back toward town a mile and you'll see the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, 2001 Blue Heron Dr. (tel. 800/275-0639 or 503/842-8281; www.blueheronoregon.com), which is on the same side of U.S. 101 as the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Located in a big old dairy barn with a flagstone floor, this store stocks the same sort of comestibles as the Tillamook Cheese Factory, though the emphasis here is on brie (which, however, is not made locally). Farm animals make this a good stop for kids. Blue Heron is open daily from 8am to 8pm in summer and 9am to 6pm in winter.
Quilters and other fiber-arts aficionados will want to visit the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center, 2105 Wilson River Loop (tel. 503/842-8622; www.latimerquiltandtextile.com), which is housed in a 1930s schoolhouse. The center has a large collection of textiles and mounts a variety of exhibits throughout the year. April through October, the center is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 4pm; November through March, it's open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $3 for adults and free for children 5 and under. The Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, 2106 Second St. (tel. 503/842-4553; www.tcpm.org), is also worth a visit for its reproduction tree-stump house and interesting natural-history exhibit. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors.
To learn more about the forests and 20th-century forest fires in the nearby Coast Range, visit the fascinating Tillamook Forest Center, 45500 Wilson River Hwy. (tel. 866/930-4646 or 503/815-6800; www.tillamookforestcenter.org). This modern interpretive center tells the story of massive forest fires that devastated this area four times in the middle of the 20th century. After the fires, it took decades of intensive replanting to bring these forests back to the lush woodlands you see today. At the center, there is a reproduction of a fire lookout tower and access to the Wilson River Trail. In summer the center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm (other months it's open Wed-Sun 10am-4pm).
A hangar built during World War II for a fleet of navy blimps is 2 miles south of town off U.S. 101 and lays claim to being the largest freestanding wooden building in the world. Statistics bear this out: It's 296 feet wide, 1,072 feet long, and 192 feet high. The blimp hangar now houses the Tillamook Air Museum, 6030 Hangar Rd. (tel. 503/842-1130; www.tillamookair.com), which contains more than 30 restored vintage planes, including a P-51 Mustang, an F4U-7 Corsair, and an F-14A Tomcat. The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $4 for youths 6 to 17.
You can also go up in a small plane to see this section of the coast, and you may even see whales. Contact Tillamook Air Tours (tel. 503/842-1942; www.tillamookairtours.com), which offers tours in a restored 1942 Stinson Reliant V-77 plane. Flights start at $65 per person if you have four people in your group.
Anglers interested in going after salmon or steelhead in Tillamook Bay or area rivers should contact Fishing Oregon (tel. 503/842-5171; www.fish-oregon.com).
The Three Capes Scenic Loop
The Three Capes Scenic Loop begins just west of downtown Tillamook and leads past Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. Together these capes offer some of the most spectacular views on the northern Oregon coast. All three capes are state parks, and all make great whale-watching spots in the spring or storm-watching spots in the winter. To start the loop, follow Third Street out of town and watch for the right turn for Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint. This road will take you along the shore of Tillamook Bay and around the north side of Cape Meares, where the resort town of Bayocean once stood. Built early in the 20th century by developers with a dream to create the Atlantic City of the West, Bayocean was constructed at the end of a sand spit that often felt the full force of winter storms. When Bayocean homes began falling into the ocean, folks realized that this wasn't going to be the next Atlantic City. Today there's no sign of the town, but the long sandy beach along the spit is a great place for a walk and a bit of bird-watching.
Just around the tip of the cape, you'll come to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, which is the site of the Cape Meares Lighthouse. May through October, the lighthouse is open daily from 11am to 4pm (in Apr it's open Thurs-Sun 11am-4pm). The views from atop this rocky headland are superb. Continuing around the cape, you come to the residential community of Oceanside, from where you have an excellent view of the Three Arch Rocks just offshore. The beach at Oceanside is a popular spot and is often protected from the wind in the summer. At the north end of the beach, a pedestrian tunnel leads under a headland to a secluded beach.
Three miles south of Oceanside, you'll come to tiny Netarts Bay, which is known for its excellent clamming and crabbing. Continuing south, you come to Cape Lookout State Park (tel. 503/842-4981; www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks), which has a campground, picnic areas, beaches, and several miles of hiking trails. The most breathtaking trail leads 2.5 miles out to the end of Cape Lookout, where, from several hundred feet above the ocean, you can often spot gray whales in the spring and fall. There is a $3 day-use fee here.
Cape Kiwanda, which lies just outside the town of Pacific City, is the last of the three capes and is preserved as Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. At the foot of the cape's sandstone cliffs, you'll find sand dunes and tide pools, and it's possible to scramble up a huge sand dune to the top of the cape for dramatic views of this rugged piece of shoreline. At the base of the cape is the staging area for Pacific City's beach-launched dory fleet. These flat-bottomed commercial fishing boats are launched from the beach and plow through crashing breakers to get out to calmer waters beyond. When the day's fishing is done, the dories roar into shore at full throttle and come to a grinding stop as high up on the beach as they can. This is Oregon's only such fishing fleet and is celebrated each year during the annual Dory Derby on the third weekend in July. If you'd like to go out in one of theses dories and fish for salmon or albacore tuna, contact Haystack Fishing (tel. 866/965-7555 or 503/965-7555; www.haystackfishing.com), which charges $180 per person (4-person minimum) for a day of fishing. Trips are offered June through September.
The quaint little community of Neskowin is nestled at the northern foot of Cascade Head, 12 miles north of Lincoln City. Inland families have spent their summers in these tiny cottages along tree-lined lanes for decades. Quiet vacations are the norm in Neskowin, where you'll find only condominiums and rental houses. The beach is accessible at Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site, which faces Proposal Rock, a tree-covered haystack rock bordered by Neskowin Creek. On the beach, keep an eye out for the stumps of trees that died hundreds of years ago when an earthquake lowered the shoreline in this area.
If you're interested in art, check out the Hawk Creek Gallery, 48460 U.S. 101 S. (tel. 503/392-3879; www.hawkcreekgallery.com), which features the paintings of Michael Schlicting, a master watercolorist.
Just to the south of Neskowin is rugged, unspoiled Cascade Head. Rising 1,770 feet above sea level, this is one of the highest headlands on the coast. Lush forests of Sitka spruce and windswept cliff-top meadows thrive here and are home to such diverse flora and fauna that the Nature Conservancy purchased much of the headland. Trails onto Cascade Head start about 2 miles south of Neskowin. The Nature Conservancy's preserve has been set aside primarily to protect the habitat of the rare Oregon silverspot butterfly; the upper trail is closed from January 1 to July 15 due to the timing of the butterflies' life cycle. However, a lower trail, reached from Three Rocks Road (park at Knight Park and walk up Savage Rd. to the trail head), is open year-round.
On the south side of Cascade Head, you'll find the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, P.O. Box 65, Otis, OR 97368 (tel. 541/994-5485; www.sitkacenter.org), which runs classes and workshops on writing, painting, ecology, ceramics, and other topics.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.