We’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the north Oregon Coast, moving short distances and spending four or five days in each place. It’s been great. And there’s been almost enough time to explore all of the places that capture our interest.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Following our stay in Tillamook, we moved 25 miles up the coast to Nehalem Bay State Park, another lovely Oregon State Park. Not only is the natural setting gorgeous, the picturesque little towns of Nehalem, Manzanita, and Cannon Beach are nearby. Being so close to Portland, there’s a hip vibe that’s drifted over to the coast, which means that along with beach strolls and hiking nearby trails, we could get good coffee, browse bookstores and intriguing shops, and enjoy creative offerings from local cafés.
The proximity of Portland also means that we were close enough for Eric’s sister Peggy to drive over for a visit. We spent a couple of days together exploring the adorable town of Manzanita and relaxing and catching up. It’s always fun when we’re together.
We also were able to catch up with our friends Rick and Kim, whom we last saw in Taos. They’ve recently bought a sweet home in Seaside, which they’ve beautifully renovated. We spent a delightful afternoon and evening with them, including a long walk along the beach and dinner at a tasty Mediterranean café.
Birding At Cannon Beach
We rose early one morning to head to Cannon Beach, only 25 miles away. Our goal was to see Tufted Puffins at Haystack Rock, an iconic landmark on Cannon Beach and home to a nesting colony of puffins (as well as Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, Pelagic Cormorants, Western Gulls, and Black Oystercatchers).
We had great views of the birds, but came away with no photos of Tufted Puffins. When they leave their nest burrows in search of fish, the puffins fly speedily and awkwardly overhead, like little bowling pins with wings. They are impossible to photograph in flight—and when they head back to their nests, they disappear immediately into their burrows. The lack of photo opportunities notwithstanding, we had a blast watching them.
Hug Point State Recreation Area
Five miles south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point State Recreation Site. We were lured by the promise of unique scenic beauty, where at low tide, a half-mile hike leads to a beach with beautiful sandstone caves, a seasonal waterfall, and tidepools. Little did we know that the history here is as interesting as the landscape.
Before the coastal highway was built, people traveled the coast via the beach. Getting around this particular headland required hugging the point at low tide (hence the name). Stagecoaches plunged into the sea to careen around the point, until someone decided to blast a trail through the rock. Even then, it was a risky ride. At low tide, you can walk along the original stagecoach road, just steps from the pounding surf and tidepools below. At high tide, the old road floods quickly—you had better move fast when the tide starts to roll back in (I speak from experience).
The Hug Point road played an important role in the fight to preserve public access to Oregon beaches. In 1913, Governor Oswald West used the road as an example of why Oregon beaches needed to remain public. He basically saved the beaches by declaring them state highways. In many cases, such as Hug Point, there were no alternative routes. Although the beaches are no longer highways (thank goodness!) all of us Oregonians are really happy that Governor West had the foresight to preserve our beautiful beaches and keep them out of the clutches of private ownership.
Hiking The Cape Falcon Trail
At Oswald West State Park (named in honor of Governor West), just 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, we hiked the beautiful Cape Falcon Trail, a five-mile round trip journey that winds through a forest of ferns, cedars, and spruces and ends up in a maze of tall salal and wild beach roses. We bushwhacked our way through to openings that revealed spectacular views of the coastline below. We highly recommend this gorgeous hike.
Culinary Delights In Nehalem
As far as culinary adventures, we loved Buttercup in Nehalem, a fabulous little take-away eatery that serves up excellent chowders and ice creams. That’s it for the menu. But oh wow, the chef/owner is a genius. She sources everything locally, including fresh seafood, dairy products, organic vegetables, and even local salt from Jacobsen Salt (the little salt producer we visited near Tillamook). The offerings change frequently; we came away with spring clam chowder and Malaysian fish chowder (both excellent) and a basil strawberry sorbet that was ridiculously good.
About The Campground
Nehalem Bay State Park is another beautiful coastal Oregon State Park. The sites are spacious, level, and surrounded by shore pines, each with a grassy sitting area, picnic table, and fire pit. We especially liked the sites in A-loop, and even better, those backing up to the dunes (we were in one of those sites). Electric and water hookups, good Verizon coverage, quiet, and dark night skies—all things that make us happy. Walking trails lead from the campground through the dunes to four miles of beautiful beaches that we always seemed to have to ourselves.
Man oh Man, you’re making me miss that wonderful coast. We’re happy here at the lake for this summer, but your pictures and words just absolutely make me pine…..
Sue, there are so many gorgeous places on the Oregon Coast to explore — we already want to return to some that we just visited a few days ago! Your lake summer sounds pretty sweet, too.
Wish all of us could have retired at 45 years of age!
Our lifestyles are similar in that we enjoy the outdoors more than being inside….We are about
70% motorhome and Jeep and our car and hotels 30%. Enjoy your comments and pictures very much!
Thanks, Bob. Your lifestyle sounds great! Yes, starting our full time travels even earlier would have been even better….but I’m grateful that we’re doing this now!
Wow, you two always find the best of everywhere you go. So cool!
Thanks, Brenda. We love to explore! Let us know when you’re ready to head out in your Casita and we can meet up somewhere. :-)
Will do. We are starting to see the end of the tunnel with our projects here. Hope to be out and about late this fall.
Sounds great! We’re planning to head back to the coast sometime in October….see you then!
Another wonderful adventure with you two. Love your writing and best of all, I can read the joy back in your travels. Heart issue dusted in your past, the open road ahead with sunsets to end the beautiful days. Enjoy and savor the moments….lovely part of the NW. I think Oregon state parks are the best in the country…clean and well maintained. Peace for this day and tomorrow….
Thanks for your lovely words, Julie. We’re feeling back to “normal” and are thrilled to be resuming our adventures. I agree, Oregon State Parks are among the best in the country. And there are so many beauties along the coast!
Sure was fun seeing you guys! We’ll look forward to your next meander through the area!
Kim, we had so much fun catching up with you two. We’ll definitely be meandering back that way and look forward to more time together. Loved our walk on the beach!
One day we really need to redo the Oregon coast. It was a wonderful motorcycle trip but we need to see it again now with some great hiking on the side. Your photos are beautiful. I think a smaller RV would make the trip more practical.
Pam, we’re really happy with the size of our trailer—we’re able to stay just about anywhere we want. But we also see lots of big motorhomes on the Oregon Coast so I don’t think you would have problems. I know you would love the coast. :-)
If you are still in that area a little farther north is Astoria, with the best fish and chips at the “Bowpicker” . It’s a food cart, but not a truck- it’s a boat -one block off main street across from the Maritime Museum. They use albacore tuna and always have a long line.
Thanks for the tip, Tom — we had heard about the Bowpicker and it certainly looked appealing, but since we don’t eat fried food and they don’t offer any other options, we had to pass it by. :-( We’re looking forward to seeing you two on Lopez!
You are now traveling in my most absolute favorite way. 25 miles, a few days, 100 miles a few weeks. I have so dreamed of doing the Oregon Coast from State park to State Park and Lighthouse to lighthouse. I’ve got these two on my list. An empty beach in June? I can’t even imagine it. How wonderful!! That path photograph just makes me sigh! And elk too!! I’ve never seen one of the birds you mentioned at Canon. Love the story of saving the beaches and Oregon is also smart enough not to let cars drive on them aren’t they? Great comparison pictures then and now. Independent bookstores are THE BEST! That one looks great! Your picture of the curving coastline is beyond gorgeous. Love the pictures of the two of you.
Sherry, if I could travel this slowly all of the time, I would! The Oregon Coast is the perfect place for this kind of slow pace — the State Parks are close together, and all are beautiful. You will absolutely love it here. There are so many interesting little treasures to discover, you could spend a lifetime on the coast and never run out of things to do!
So fun – we were in some of these spots in the rain today! Isn’t Refindery just the best name?? We’re already planning a trip back up there when the sun comes out so can’t wait to check out what we missed. There was a line getting into Nehalem SP so we turned around – tis Friday afterall. Love the rich color of the Iris, and the cute pigeons. But the pic of you two at Cape Falcon is the best :-))))
Jodee, it’s fun to think of you guys exploring the same places. We’re happy we stopped by the Refindery — Eric found a particular kind of computer stand that we’ve been looking for — it was brand new and only $2. :-) Don’t miss Buttercup if you’re headed back that way. I wish I had some of that fish chowder for dinner!
We hiked Cape Falcon a couple of years ago…loved it! There really are some sweet towns along the coast, as well as those awesome state parks!
Lisa, the Cape Falcon hike was spectacular, and we were so happy to have a sunny day for it. I need to check your blog before we head somewhere to see if you’ve been there — because I know you guys will have discovered the best hikes! There’s no lack of fun things to do on the Oregon Coast, that’s for sure.
Thanks Laurel for taking us along with you on this jaunt in Northern Oregon. One of our sons lives in Portland and perhaps when next we visit him we might have a chance to explore this gorgeous coastline. Your photos of the beach and the trail are fabulous, are remindful to us of a deserted beach in Portugal.
The puffins.. how lucky you are to have seen them! But I do relate to the disappointment of not being able to capture them in photographs. Never mind, the important part is the experience and memory that comes with that.
It all sounds so charming and lovely…..
Peta & Ben
Peta & Ben, the Oregon Coast is such a beautiful, magical part of this country. I think even with all of your exotic travels, you would enjoy it. Nehalem is only about 75 miles from Portland, and there are lovely little yurts in the campground that you can rent.
You are absolutely right, the most important part of all that we’re doing is the experience and the memory. I had to remind myself of that when trying to capture the puffins in flight!
Oregon is such a great place and so are your pictures. You two look so happy!
Thanks, Debbie. Life is good. :-))
One of the best things about Oregon is they kept the beaches public. Sure sorry they didn’t in Washington. I like the sounds of the little “bowling balls with wings.” I didn’t know there were puffins of any kind in Oregon.
I totally agree, Sheila — it’s so awesome that the beaches in Oregon are free for public use. It’s quite amazing, actually. One of the many reasons we love Oregon. :-) Along with Tufted Puffins. :-)) We’re getting closer to you and our summer on Lopez!
I would really like to revisit the Oregon Coast not in April nor May like we did. There are still so many places to explore and things to do. And with your slow meandering and repeats you are bound to discover new places.
We are in a heat wave >110 for a week! That’s why I’m longing to be on the coast.
110 degrees sounds awful, MonaLiza. I know you and Steve will love revisiting the Oregon Coast — as you discovered, early spring is often rainy. But mid-May and June have been perfect!