Located just 25 miles southwest of Tillamook on Highway 131, Pacific City is a sleepy little beach town in the heart of the Three Capes Scenic Loop. This hidden gem on the North Coast is home to fewer than 1,100 full-time residents, which makes it a wonderful getaway. With a wide, sandy beach, a lung-busting dune to climb, and the lesser-known Haystack Rock (locals refer to it as Chief Kiawanda Rock) rising out of the surf, Pacific City offers more than enough fun to fill your summer weekend.
For a great workout with a fantastic view as a reward, climb the 220-foot towering dune at Cape Kiwanda. Make it extra special by timing it to take in the sunset, then run or jump your way to the bottom. Take advantage of the waves that curl off Haystack Rock with a surf or paddleboard lesson from Moment Surf Company, which offers gear rentals and lessons for all ages. You can also explore this expansive coastline on horseback with Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides. One- and two-hour guided rides follow the water’s edge, or head along the Nestucca River and up into the dunes.
The nearby Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a peaceful spot with accessible trails and observation platforms that frame views of Haystack Rock, the bay, the Coast Range and the Little Nestucca River. Head to Bob Straub State Park to explore the spit created by the Nestucca River, or Cape Kiwanda Marine Gardens for critter-filled tidal pools and interesting sandstone formations.
Pacific City is the gateway to the 40-mile Three Capes Scenic Loop, which unfurls with one spectacular view after another. The drive meanders past numerous points of interest, including Cape Lookout State Park, with its fantastic ocean views and easy access to the beach. (Beachcombers say this is a good place to find glass floats.) Another must-see is Cape Meares Lighthouse; it’s the shortest on the Coast at 38 feet, but its vantage point is 217 feet above the surf. Here you’ll also find Oregon’s largest Sitka Spruce, as well as the Octopus Tree, an Oregon Heritage Tree and sacred evergreen trained into its unique shape two centuries ago by Tillamook tribes. Netarts Bay, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge and Tillamook Bayround out the loop. (Note: The Three Capes Scenic Loop section from Oceanside to Cape Meares is closed and should instead be accessed via U.S. Route 131 from Netarts to Cape Meares.)
FOOD + DRINK
Known for its tasty fare and delicious craft brews — as well as an incredible view of Haystack Rock — Pelican Pub & Brewery is the only beachfront pub on the Oregon Coast. The outdoor patio gives you a front row seat to the action on the shore, including the launching of Pacific City’s famed Dory fleet. Remnants of a century-old fishing tradition, the double-ended dory boats launch from the beach and deftly navigate the surf in search of off-shore salmon. Ben & Jeff’s Tacos & Burgers draws a loyal clientele for burritos, halibut and smoked salmon tacos, fish and chips, burgers and vegetarian fare. For fill-you-up breakfasts and lunch, head to Grateful Bread, where the scones, breads and pies are all house made. The quaint Haystack Rock Coffee & Chowder House roasts beans in small batches and gets rave reviews for homemade chowder. They even offer surf and kayak rentals — one more way to explore the Nestucca and the estuary.
Photo by Larry Andreasen