We found all of this and more on a winding, scenic 38-mile stretch of road between Tillamook and Pacific City.
Exploring The Three Capes
When we started making plans for our “Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip,” the Three Capes Scenic Drive was near the top of our list. The three capes refer to Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, all picturesque locales on the north Oregon Coast.
It’s not only the spectacular vistas from the capes (assuming that the weather allows for views), but also the unexpected gems along the way that make this an appealing destination. It’s well worth detouring off of Oregon Coast Highway 101 to explore the Three Capes Scenic Drive. However, it’s best to leave your RV behind, unless you have a really small rig.
Many people do the drive in an hour or two. But in our typical meandering fashion, we found it so interesting that even one full day wasn’t enough. We made two trips to explore different sections in-depth, and still didn’t get to quite everything we wanted to do. (Oh good, a reason to return!)
Strolling down the heavily forested path toward the tip of Cape Meares, a red and white light beckons. It belongs to a short, stout little lighthouse—the shortest (only 38 feet tall), cutest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.
You can view the beautiful original Fresnel lens at eye level, and then walk down the path to enjoy a close encounter with the lighthouse. From the bluff above, the view looking toward Cape Lookout is stunning.
South of Cape Meares, we discovered two delightful local foods purveyors. At Nevør Shellfish Farm we purchased a dozen tiny Netarts Bay oysters (reputed to be among the best of the best) and a dozen enormous oysters from another nearby bay that we put on the grill with a bit of olive oil and garlic. So delicious! Not sure why the tiny oysters cost the same as their much bigger kin ($10 a dozen), except that the huge ones might intimidate people who aren’t used to oysters. (I grew up eating oysters, but there’s no way I’d tackle one of those gigantic ones raw.)
Jacobsen Salt Company, just down the road, makes their salt the old-fashioned way, by boiling seawater. And then they create all kinds of fancy salts and offer tastings in a little shed on the property. We brought home a jar of black garlic salt to add to our herb collection and came close to buying a bag of their yummy salted caramels. But the fear of losing a gold crown to the sticky treats prevailed.
The hike to the tip of Cape Lookout is a gorgeous 5-mile round trip journey through a fern laden, lush coastal forest. If it’s a clear day, the views are outstanding.
We started the hike in a thick morning mist, and enjoyed the show as the curtain of fog rolled back, revealing the sparkling azure waters of the Pacific and the curve of Cape Kiwanda in the distance. A word of caution: Don’t hike this trail following heavy rainfall—had we attempted this just a few days earlier, we would have been slogging through ankle deep mud.
The big attraction for us here was Pelican Brewery. In fact, we didn’t even make it out onto the beach—which I regret, because the tide pools are reputed to be outstanding. But we arrived late afternoon at high tide, and our mission was to drink beer after our hike at Cape Lookout.
We liked (a lot!) almost every beer we sampled, from the outstanding Beak Breaker and Dirty Bird IPA’s to the rich Tsunami stout. A platter of smoked oyster bruschetta and a bowl of steamer clams rounded out our beer tasting. Those smoked oysters were seriously amazing. I could have eaten the whole plate all by myself, no problem.
Around Tillamook: Cheese/More Beer/More Hiking
Although Tillamook is perhaps best known for cheese, we didn’t bother with a visit to the namesake cheese factory. The visitor center is closed for renovations until sometime in 2018. We did, however, spend about 15 minutes at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, a touristy venue (in a beautiful 1930’s barn) that lured us in with samples of brie, including an exceptionally delicious smoked version that we couldn’t resist buying.
We also paid a visit to de Garde Brewing, a unique little brew pub that “embraces imperfection.” I’ll say. They have a cool tasting room, where they offer brews that depend on spontaneous fermentation, with no two batches the same. It’s apparently an acquired taste. Beer connoisseurs travel here from all over the world, and they don’t balk at spending big bucks to stock their cellars with de Garde beer. (A beer cellar? Who knew?) All I can say is that it’s the sourest beverage I’ve ever tasted. However, I did really enjoy the “guest stout” they had on tap.
If you’re in Tillamook and looking for a place to hike/walk, the Bayocean Peninsula County Park is a beautiful place to explore. There are several miles of trails along the bay (with good birding) and on the opposite side, an equally long stretch of peaceful beach to walk. We enjoyed it so much that we went twice in our four days in Tillamook.
There’s no doubt that Tillamook is farm country.
Where We Stayed
In January, when we started making plans for our trip up the Oregon Coast and Olympic Peninsula, I had no problems getting reservations for prime sites in state parks for May and June—with the exception of Memorial Day weekend. There was not one site to be had in any state park on the coast. That’s how we ended up behind the Ashley Inn in Tillamook. (Our original idea was to stay at Cape Lookout State Park.)
The Ashley Inn RV Park is a bargain, offering level concrete sites separated by grassy areas, water and electric hookups, and wifi for $15 a night. The location is convenient, and it’s surprisingly peaceful and quiet. The only downside is that there are surrounding lights at night, but with our blackout shades, we were fine. They don’t take reservations, but even on Memorial Day weekend the park was only half-full.
So happy we got to see you guys! And now we know of more places to explore in our own back yard. Thanks!
We’re so happy we had some time with you guys, too! Love your new place in Seaside. You have a wonderful back yard. We’ll be back for another visit. :-)
So many things to love there…the woods, the waters, the beers… (though, I think I’d pass on the sour one too…) Were those trails as empty as they seem from the photos or were they very busy? Either way, they look lovely, and the lighthouse photos are gorgeous!
Laura, we practically had the trails to ourselves, which is kind of amazing given that it was Memorial Day weekend. I guess most people go to the beach. Then again, we had the beaches practically to ourselves, too! I think everyone was at the cheese factory. :-)) The most crowded trail was probably Cape Lookout, and we passed only a dozen or so hikers in three hours on the trail. I should add that we didn’t go to Cape Meares or Cape Lookout on Saturday or Sunday, which we figured would be the most popular days.
We visited Tillamook recently. Go to the Fish Peddlar Restaurant (Bay City) for the best and biggest oysters on the half shell. Also the fish and chips were superb. Prices were excellent.
Oh darn, we planned to go there and didn’t make it! Thanks for the recommendation, Bev. We’ll make sure we get there for some oysters next time we’re in the area.
I second this recommendation! We found even better oysters at the little place across from the Tillamook Cheese Factory (can’t think of the name… sorry!). And for the best brownie dessert, head out to Netarts Bay to Schooners for dessert there (we found their food too salty, but the dessert was fabulous) and cooked in a wood-fired, stone hearth!
Oh good, more to add to our list. Thanks!
We loved the Three Capes Scenic Drive, the cute little Cape Mears Lighthouse, and Cape Lookout hike. Somehow, though, we missed Pelican Brewery, but their beers sound excellent. Next time…
I think we like a lot of the same adventures. :-) I’ll bet you guys would enjoy Pelican Brewery — the original location on the beach is especially picturesque. We were there around 4:00 and it was the perfect time to beat the crowds that arrived at 5:00. Most important, the beer is great!
That is a great tip about the Ashley Inn. Walk in spaces on Memorial Day, you are a wizard. This is an amazing blog with such great information and fantastic pictures about so many wonderful places to go and things to see that I don’t know what to comment on. The little light house made me laugh. Reminds me of a short stout grandma hunkered down in her spot. How cute! Love seeing Eric looking so well. Your view from Cape Meares photo is nearly breath taking. Thank goodness I’ll be in Maine soon where there are similar looking views. Now if I could only match your photography skills. Speaking of – what setting is your canon on for that unbelievable fiddlehead picture?? The Pelican Brewery shot is one they should have on their ad. One last thought…your shot of the beer reminds me of how I feel about all beer and of my picture about my camera in my last post. We have to get together and do a double disgusted photo shoot!!
Awww, you’re always so complimentary, Sherry! I always hope that our posts will prove helpful to fellow travelers and I love comments. :-) As far as photos, I’ve found that I can get the close-ups I want when I stand back far enough to use the zoom fully extended (instead of trying to use the macro). It creates the soft background that I like for those types of photos. (Speaking of photos, the Pelican Brewery beach shot is from their website. When we were there I was shooting right into the sun and couldn’t get a good photo. I gave them credit in the photo title….I hope people realize it’s not our photo!)
One day we will have to get closer to the Oregon coast with the MH. We’ve only visited on a motorcycle trip. We did make a stop at the Blue Heron. It looks like you had lots of sunshine. Your photos are spectacular!! You and Eric take such perfect photos. See you soon!!! Can’t wait!
Pam, I think you guys would enjoy traveling the Oregon Coast in your MH. There’s lots of great hiking! The weather has been close to perfect much of the time. Late spring or fall is often the best time on the coast, but there are no guarantees. Thanks for your compliments on our photos. Can’t wait to see you two!!
This is a blast from the past! I remembered that trail along the coast, and we were walking in a bit of mud for we were there in April 2012. We too bought some brie from the Blue Heron French Cheese Co. You look so lovely in your purple outfit :)
Thanks, Mona Liza. You know me and my attraction to all things purple. :-) I’ll bet if you were on the Oregon coast in April you had LOTS of mud. There was still mud on the trails, but nothing that we couldn’t easily get around.
Great post Laurel…Am itching to do the Oregon Coast in our coach…hmm, maybe this fall.
Thanks, Brenda. I think fall is the PERFECT time to do the Oregon Coast. We’ve lucked out with great weather this spring….but it’s not always this way.
I’m so glad you’re caught up on posting – we arrive in Tillamook this afternoon for three weeks! Can’t wait to check out everything here :-)) Last time through we only spent one night – a Harvest Host stop at Blue Heron – and fell in love with the beautiful valley. Love those long coastal shots!
Oh, you’re going to have a blast — but you already know that! There are so many cute little coastal towns and interesting places to explore within easy driving distance of Tillamook. I didn’t mention the Fish Hatchery near Cape Meares — but we enjoyed it. I think you both would like it. I really, really wanted to get back to Cape Meares for sunset at the lighthouse — maybe you can go for me?? :-)
Cute shot of you tasting the sour beer! Looks like you found a bunch of neat spots along this stretch of the coast.
It’s crazy how far in advance one must book to stay in coastal state parks. Our travels up the coast this summer will be state parks Sun – Thurs, then private parks on the weekends. The good part is that the private parks look interesting too, and are often along the rivers instead of the beach…good variety!
Haha, thanks Lisa! We had a blast at that little brewery, even though a few of the tastings were ridiculously sour. I think your plan for the coast sounds great. We’re staying in a private RV park for several days on the Columbia River and loving it — I’m watching the sun set over the river right now.
Great post! We spent a good bit of time there last year and are returning this year. Had a bad ankle then and am planning to see more now that I can walk :) Have saved your post so we don’t miss anything!
Thanks, Ellen — so glad to hear that your ankle has healed and that you’re able to get back to exploring! I appreciate your comment and hope the post comes in handy for you.
Black garlic salt sounds great. Your pictures came out fabulous. You even make cows beautiful. We are looking forward to our return to the NW next year.
The cows did look beautiful standing in those lush green fields with the picturesque barns everywhere! :-) We enjoyed some of the black garlic salt on roasted orange cauliflower last night. It was soooo good.
About those oysters… I must confess some French “oysters must be eaten raw snobbism.” At the first mention at oysters in garlic and olive oil my reaction was “ahhh what a shame given the availability of beautiful raw oysters” but by the time I read about the smoked oysters and started to reconsider my snobbism about raw oysters and acknowledge that I have NEVER had cooked oysters and would definitely now like to try both of those.
This almost sounds like traveling through the French or Belgian countryside…beer and all… and stopping for authentic artisanal food treats along the way. Just our kind of trip!!!
And yes that lighthouse is awfully cute indeed! Our lighthouse in Galle Sri Lanka winks at the Oregon stoutier counterpart.
Terrific photos too!!!!