Rock, Cannon Beach, Ore.
U.S. 101, Oregon — One round-trip ticket to Portland.
One rental car, pointed west. And one tank of gas.
with these elements, then stretch them across four days
and three nights in the shape of a 270-mile triangle.
result? A road trip to the northern Oregon coast, as far
south as Pacific City, as far north as Cannon Beach.
be sidestepping Portland proper and Astoria — and every
other city with a population of more than 10,000 — so
you can take a little time in towns such as Tillamook,
Manzanita, Nehalem and Netarts — and in the landscape
the way — mostly two-lane highways — you’ll find
enough rugged-shoreline panoramas to choke your iPhone,
along with tall trees, beach grass, bike tracks in damp
sand, wave-lashed rocks and plates of homegrown greens,
local oysters and (you knew this was coming, right?)
you happen to catch a few sunny days, as I did during my
May visit, that’s your cue to grab at the outdoor
options with both hands.
the great dune at Cape Kiwanda. Take the Cape Lookout hike
in Cape Lookout State Park. Stand on the wet sand beneath
Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock and watch it become a
whale-shaped silhouette at sunset.
Haystack Rock, some of these stops are time-honored Oregon
destinations. But not all. The midpoint of my trip was
North Fork 53, a farmhouse B&B that opened in October
with a staff of hip, young farmers and servers who run an
organic farm and stylish little farm store.
sits about 15 minutes inland in the deep green Nehalem
River Valley, which makes a nice contrast to the region’s
many beach towns.
let’s get you to those beach towns first. This itinerary
begins with a 108-mile drive from Portland International
Airport west along U.S. 26 and Oregon 6, then south on
U.S. 101 to Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City.
a strange cape.
a gorgeous sandstone finger of land that reaches out into
the ocean, you confront a 200-foot-high sand dune. Yes,
you can and should climb it. (In early morning, there’s
less wind at the top.)
the top you can look down on the cape and out at
327-foot-high Haystack Rock, which is not to be confused
with a more famous (but smaller) Haystack Rock that you’ll
descending: If you run straight down the dune, you may
feel as though you’ve slipped into a weightless slo-mo
dream sequence. I recommend this. Just don’t fall.
the dune, you could head a few miles north to Whalen
Island County Park, where a handful of enormous driftwood
tree trunks is scattered on sand like the Jolly Green
Giant’s forgotten beach toys.
you could forget the island and walk straight from the
dune into the Pelican Pub & Brewery, which has stood
at the edge of the sand since 1996.
City is sleepy, only about 1,000 residents, but the
Pelican stays busy. I gobbled one of the burgers and slept
across the street at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda in a
second-floor room looking down on the sea, the pub and the
if I had gone straight from Cape Kiwanda to my next
destination — the North Fork 53 B&B, near Nehalem
— that would have been a 50-mile dash, most of it on
I tried a few detours on the way north.
first and best, 12 miles north of Pacific City, was the
cliff-top, fern-lined trail out to Cape Lookout, a
4.6-mile round-trip hike within Cape Lookout State Park.
It was fairly flat but plenty dramatic.
views make you feel like you’re doing some sort of
extreme hike, but you’re not," said Evelyn
Hunsberger, a 20-year-old student I met on the trail.
I’d recommend lunch on the sun-splashed patio of the
Schooner Restaurant & Lounge, eight miles north of
Cape Lookout State Park on Netarts Bay. In the afternoon,
you could continue north to wander around the lighthouse
and coastal panoramas at Cape Meares or head east to taste
cheese and ice cream ($3 a scoop) at the Tillamook Cheese
Factory. I did both.
need not get lost and waste an hour on an old gravel
logging road along the Kilchis River, as I did. Instead,
to get to North Fork 53 from Tillamook, just take U.S. 101
up to Nehalem and follow North Fork Road for about five
miles along the north fork of the Nehalem River until you
spot the bright-colored sign, barn and 1930s farmhouse
that belong to the B&B. (Of the four guest rooms —
$105-$125 nightly — three share baths.)
dinner, you’ll want to head into nearby Nehalem or
Manzanita. But don’t miss the North Fork 53 breakfast.
The eggs, greens, carrots, potatoes — just about
everything was grown within five acres of the table.
if that weren’t enough, after breakfast, innkeeper Ana
Tkacik and farmer Lily Strauss took me out to the fields
and picked some Lacinato kale and arugula flowers that we
ate on the spot. (Other visitors, if they’re 21 or
older, might prefer one of North Fork 53’s
marijuana-related packages, billed as "Oregon’s
first fully integrated cannabis lodging experience.")
the last night of this trip, I suggest two ideas an
Oregonian might expect and a Californian might not: First,
drive 24 more miles up the coast up to enjoy the shoreline
and driftwood at Ecola State Park. (Yes, in the era of
Ebola and E. coli, the park has an ominous-sounding name.
But it’s an old native word. Learn to love it.)
park’s Indian Beach and cliff-top picnic area both have
screen-saver-worthy views. But be warned: Winter
landslides have shut down one popular viewing platform
near the picnic tables.
find a hotel on the sand at Cannon Beach so you can spend
the sunset wandering around another Haystack Rock, this
one 235 feet tall and surrounded by swooping gulls,
puffins, murres, cormorants and, sometimes, bald eagles.
(If you stay at the Surfsand Resort, bear in mind the
beach campfire that Surfsand staffers set up on nights
when weather permits. They even supply marshmallows and
Beach, by the way, is no secret to the trendy set in
Portland. The population may be 1,700 or so, but it’s
been a well-known quantity since at least 1806, when Capt.
William Clark (Meriwether Lewis’ partner in northwestern
exploration) found a 108-foot-long whale here, beached on
the shore near Ecola Creek.
Portlanders seek out scores of hotels, rental houses,
galleries and restaurants, most with shingled walls, New
England-style, on Hemlock Street. (Try Lazy Susan Cafe for
breakfast and bring cash. It doesn’t take plastic.)
town’s popularity with Portlanders means things can be
pricey, but its location is undeniably handy. Once you hop
back into your rental car, it’s just 91 miles along U.S.
26 to the Portland airport and your flight home.
around: Oregon has 363 miles of coast and U.S. 101 runs
close to most of it. My trip from Portland airport to
Pacific City to Cannon Beach to Portland airport again
covered just 68 miles of coastline, mostly along 101.
time to visit: May through October, when high temperatures
are typically 59 to 65 degrees at Cannon Beach. Oregon’s
coast gets about 15 degrees cooler in late fall and
winter, and much wetter — more than 10 inches of rain
per month in November, December and January.
Cars can legally drive onto the beach by way of a ramp at
Pacific City, giving easy access to the sand if you have
the right kind of wheelchair. The Tillamook cheese factory
is wheelchair accessible.
Inn at Cape Kiwanda, 33105 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific
City, Ore.; (503) 965-7001. Rooms for two: $179 and up,
depending on season.
Fork 53, 77282 Oregon Route 53, Nehalem, Ore.; (503)
368-5382. Four rooms (three with shared baths, one with
private bath) in a ‘30s farmhouse. Rooms for two:
$110-$125, breakfast included.
Resort, 148 Gower St., Cannon Beach, Ore.; (855) 761-9065.
rooms for two: $199 and up, depending on season.
Pelican Pub & Brewery, 33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive,
Pacific City; (503) 965-7007. Good burgers. Breakfast,
lunch, dinner. Entrees $13.99-$30.
Schooner Restaurant & Lounge, 2065 Boat Basin Road,
Netarts, Oregon; (503) 815-9900. Seafood-y; dining room
and patio by the water. Lunch and dinner, Sunday brunch.
Susan Cafe, Coaster Square, Cannon Beach, Ore.; (503)
436-2816. Breakfast and lunch, cash only. Everything
$13.25 and under.