There is no hiding my love for the Oregon Coast, one of my favorite places on Earth. Previously I’ve highlighted the best experiences to enjoy on the Oregon Coast as well as a specific trip, a weekend getaway to Pacific City, Oregon.
Pacific City is on the south Tillamook Coast; today, let’s explore some of the small, quiet towns of the north Tillamook Coast. Our base for the weekend is Manzanita Beach, a place I’d love to retire to someday soon!
Slow Down in Manzanita
Although a popular town to visit, the bulk of things to do in Manzanita exist on a single street — literally. But, what’s nice is that Manzanita is off the main coastal road, so traffic is light, keeping the town feeling quiet and slow. There isn’t much to do in Manzanita apart from walk on the beach or sit on your balcony and relax.
Of course, you can hit up the local candy shop — or the ice cream parlor across the street. There’s a wine bar in Manzanita; or, if it is a sunny day, try the spacious back patio behind the Sand Dune Pub. The local pizza joint, Marzano’s, is always busy, and for good reason.
If you hop in the car and head south a few minutes around Nehalem bay, you’ll find some options that are nice on a rainy day or if the Pacific coast winds are whipping too much for you. In Nehalem itself, there is the Nehalem Bay Winery, which is a fun stop. They are more well-known for their fruity wines (some not as sweet as you are picturing), but they have a wide variety of wines and tastings are free — though plan on buying a bottle for your hotel room and another to take home!
Wheeler and Nehalem both have some small shops and a lot of antique malls; I always find wandering around an antique mall is an inspiring trip back in history, whether you discover a vintage tea set for your next tea party, or an incredible deal on a keepsake to gift.
Quiet Coastal Adventures
The coast is really the star of the show in this neck of the woods, so when you see a park or viewpoint along the road that calls to you, pull over! To the north of Manzanita, you have Oswald West State Park. Park along the road and enjoy a half-mile walk down to the beach, where you’ll find a small waterfall and lots of surfers.
Just north of that is Hug Point, which seems to be most Portlanders’ favorite. It’s a small parking lot but then an expansive beach with unique coves, and you can even see the remains of the original coastal road, a cliff-hugging track that has left a set of wagon-wheel tracks in the stone.
To the south you’ll find numerous spots to pull over for photos. For a great sunset spot, try the north Barview Jetty, which juts out into the ocean just north of Garibaldi. If you happen to be down here, don’t miss stopping at the Fish Peddlar just south of Garibaldi for food — best fish and chips in the area!
A Trip to Tillamook
Tillamook is the “big city” of the Tillamook Coast (I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, as it isn’t a huge town). But no doubt if you’re visiting from afar, you’ll want to zip through Tillamook at some point. The most popular attraction is Tillamook Cheese Factory, where you can sample locally made ice creams, cheese, and other delicious dairy items. Cheese curds make for great beachside snacks!
However, if you want to stick with the relaxing theme, book yourself a table for high tea at La Tea Da. It’s the real deal, complete with teapot cozies and towering trays of cakes and sandwiches. Reservations recommended.
Where to Stay
When it comes to these smaller towns on the Oregon Coast, there are mostly small hotels and vacation rentals; you aren’t going to find large resorts or big mainstream brands, so it is worth your while to do a little searching.
In Manzanita, one of the best hotels ever is the Ocean Inn at Manzanita (pictured above). You can’t get a better beachfront property than that — the units are literally steps from the beach. Each apartment is different but well appointed with modern kitchens, luxurious bathrooms, and other furnishings. It will feel like the beachfront cottage you’ve always wanted.
Just south of Manzanita is another quiet beach town, Rockaway Beach (with a superb restaurant, the Sand Dollar). We’ve stayed at Surfside Ocean Resort. While their rooms are quite dated, they are incredibly spacious and very good value.
I’ve also had a fine stay at the Garibaldi House in Garibaldi, which is about 10-15 minutes south of Manzanita. It’s another small town on the bay, but a backup option if you’re having a hard time finding a place to stay in Manzanita, which can happen in summer.
The best way to get to the Tillamook Coast is from Portland, Oregon; it’s about a 2 hour drive from PDX airport. You can take US26, which accesses the coast about 20 minutes north of Manzanita (and you can stop in Cannon Beach for lunch or coffee). The other option is US6, which is sometimes a better road in winter when the Cascade Range gets a bit icy. US6 drops you in Tillamook, which is about half an hour south of Manzanita.