Exploring Oregon’s North Coastline – Portland, Oregon

Exploring Oregon’s North Coastline – Portland, Oregon

July 2019

Oregon’s North Coastline – Portland, Oregon

Today was the last day with the rental car and the plan was to complete the radius around Portland by heading west to the coast.

The drive west took a little over an hour and though it was another cloudy day in the Pacific Northwest, the drive was scenic. The route navigates through Tillamook State Forest which lines the roads with thousands of massive trees and windy one lane roads traveling up and down through the forest. Worth noting, there are dispensaries everywhere in and around Portland, each competing to create the catchiest name to attract customers. We passed our favorite name by far on this drive – Tsunami with the catch phrase “get to hire ground”. Winner ladies and gents!

As we approached Highway 101, we both expected the trees to pull back and the coast line to magically appear but that was not the case- just more trees.

The first stop was at the famous Cannon Beach for an up close view of Haystack Rock. There is a public lot that we took advantage and walked through the town, still no sign of a beach. After a few minutes of walking, we finally found an opening to the beach, and as we climbed the sand mountain we caught our first glimpse of Haystack Rock.


It was certainly more massive than I expected, standing tall at 235 feet. We immediately picked up the pace to get a closer look. As we approached we spotted many seagulls circling around the rock and even more perched. The rock serves as an ecosystem for the land and sea animals in this area. While the first look appeared to be all gulls, once in front of  Haystack Rock there were all sorts of bird species. We read after that Puffins actually nest here in June and July thought I do not think we knowingly saw any. Without the sun, it was difficult to identify specific birds, through we did spot pelicans riding by.


We walked pasted the rock for awhile before heading back to the car, just amazed at this mass sticking out of the sea. In the distance north of Cannon Beach, you could see Ecola State Park extending out in to the ocean and a small lighthouse on a rock of its own. It really did look like a painting with the haze of the fog creating a veil, making it difficult to pick out details.


Before continuing on our journey south, I wanted a snack but it was still too early for Cannon Beach establishments (most open at 11AM). One of the only places open was Sleepy Monk and while it was crowded with fellow beach goers, we ended up with a pretty delicious snack.


House made smoked salmon mousse on a toasted plain bagel. The person taking our order said it was life changing – always nice to have such enthusiastic approval of your order!  The mousse was innovative and tasted like everything on a lox bagel blended and whipped together. It was the perfect snack for us to split, each getting half the bagel and have the mousse- a power up for our day.

Back on Highway 101 heading south to our next beach destination, Short Sand Beach. I found this gem digging through the depths of the internet described a secluded, locals only beach but I liked most was the hike through the Oswald West State Park to reach the beach itself. I figured this would be a unique way to see a beach and combine a little exercise along the way.

The parking lot is directly off the highway (and by that I mean it is a turn off a major highway with only one lane- we witnessed a truck almost slam into a car trying to make the turn into the parking lot). The parking lot was packed when we arrived around 11:30AM with only a few spots in the back remaining. The trail starts by taking you under the highway and then begins your journey through the trees.


This was our first hike without drastic elevation climbs so it was a welcomed change, honestly more of a walk than a hike. Merely fifteen minutes later and we could begin to see a clearing along with a stream ended in the ocean.


And then the jaw dropping reveal!


We stopped and stared at the cove, a horseshoe shape beach surrounded by trees, and the sun glistening on the ocean. There were so many surfers with waves all to themselves and plenty of beach real estate for all the visitors. We walked from one end of the cove to the other, observing the sea life, digging for sand crabs, even exploring a small waterfalls. We stayed here for an hour but I wish we had the time to sit and enjoy the sun’s welcomed warming rays for the rest of the day.


Back to the car (and a tricky left turn back onto the speeding highway), we continued south. There were so many other beaches recommended – Manzanita, Pacific City, Lincoln City – but we were working against the car rental return time so we had to cut the beaches off for this trip. Instead we moved on lunch spot, Tillamook Creamery, which was ubiquitously acclaimed by the locals we encountered as a must do.

This leg of the drive finally revealed the sweeping coastal views that we were anticipating and there were several areas along the way to pull over and take it in.


Side note: plan your gas stops appropriately because they are not as frequent as I would have expected – there is not one in every beach town. Bonus: there are gas attendants here! A nice call back to good ol’ Jersey.

We weren’t sure what to expect out of Tillamook Creamery, only that everyone we encountered told us to go, and they served food (cheese based of course) and ice cream. There were also 13,000 reviews on Google so I *guess* we had to see what all the fuss is about. I figured it would be a farmhouse setting with cows in the pasture and a stand serving up grilled cheeses and ice cream.

Boy, was I wrong.

Read about our experience at Tillamook Creamery!

I think our only complaint about visiting Oregon’s North Coastline is the limited time we had! We would have loved to slow down and relaxed, especially at Short Sand Beach. Pacific City and Lincoln City were highly recommend as well so it would have been great to see those but time only takes you so far. Any of the beaches you visit will be a great addition to your Portland, Oregon trip!

Read the full details of our Portland, Oregon trip!

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