Weekend Wanderings in Oregon: The North Coast

Discovering the treasures of Oregon’s North Coast

written by Jen Stevenson

Ghostly shipwrecks, iconic movie settings, some of the state’s richest history, and crispy beer-battered and fried Pacific Ocean albacore—Oregon’s North Coast is a true treasure chest of must-sees and must-eats.


It’s but a two-hour trek northwest to Astoria from Portland, but to fuel your journey, stop off in Hillsboro at Helvetia Tavern, a no-frills, cash-only local landmark that specializes in beer, burgers and bucolic surroundings. A half hour up Highway 26, brake for a bit of boutique wine sampling at Wines of Oregon, a tasting room run by a collective of Oregon wineries hailing from the Rogue Valley to the Columbia River Gorge. And if you’ve never met a cinnamon roll you didn’t fall head over heels for, take a slight detour to Camp 18 Restaurant in Elsie, a log-cabin-themed pit stop that advertises its signature sweet as “huge and delicious.”


Line up with the Astorians for fish ‘n chips at charming boat-bound Bowpicker, give your regards to the sea lions that lounge beneath a glass panel in the floor before bellying up to the bar at Buoy Beer, and make tough choices at Frite & Scoop (get both the frites and scoops, obviously), before working it all off with a brisk stroll along the Astoria Riverwalk. Taste your way through Pilot House Distilling’s lineup, then sober up with oyster chowder poutine and grass-fed beef burgers at cozy Albatross.

A day of sand castle building, kite-flying and biking along the historic Seaside prom works up an appetite, so make your way to Bell Buoy, a no-nonsense fish market and restaurant about a mile from downtown. Satisfy your every seafood whim with some of the coast’s best clam chowder and fresh Dungeness crab served with slaw and cheesy bread; if the weather’s cooperating, eat at the back deck bar overlooking the Necanicum River. Back in town, carefully sample the selection before making your choice at Sea Star Gelato, where many of the homemade gelatos and sorbets are crafted with local fruit, then settle into a seat near the fire pit with a pint of Seaside Brewing Co.’s Sneaker Wave IPA.

The perennially popular coastal hamlet of Cannon Beach charms with shingled cottages, beachy boutiques, old-fashioned candy shops, local seafood and local spirits. After linguini and clams and line-caught halibut at Harding Trading Company, taste award-winning rums and short-lived seasonal spirits at Cannon Beach Distillery, or make tough decisions at new MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar in Manzanita, which features more than 150 types of scotch, whiskey, bourbon and rum.
Time stands still in rustic Rockaway Beach, where locals and passersby alike pile into Offshore Grill and Coffee House for seafood omelets and homemade biscuits and sausage gravy before exploring Nehalem Bay State Park. After a morning of fishing and clamming in Nehalem Bay, crack crab at the Jetty Fishery. Or, enjoy bubbles and freshly shucked local bivalves at new Source Oyster and Wine Bar in Garibaldi.

In nearby Tillamook, join the happy herds at wildly popular Tillamook Creamery for a self-guided tour, plentiful cheese samples and oversized scoops of Oregon marionberry cheesecake ice cream piled high on chocolate-dipped cones. Just down the road, there’s a little something for everyone at Blue Heron Creamery—kids will make a beeline for the petting zoo, while adults will veer toward the wine bar. Gather picnic provisions from the deli and head west, passing U-Pick oysters signs en route to Cape Meares, which offers some of the most dramatic coastal views in the state.

A haven for surfers, fishing enthusiasts and beachcombers, Pacific City’s petite patch of sand a half hour southwest of Tillamook is just the spot for a relaxing weekend of surf and suds—stop into friendly beachfront Pelican Brewing Company for a taster tray and hearty pub grub like the smoked oyster bruschetta and Tsunami Stout bacon jam-slathered Backyard BBQ burger. After a big breakfast at cheery The Grateful Bread bakery and café, charter a dory, book a surfing or SUP lesson, climb the famous Cape Kiwanda dune, or just sit on your hotel balcony and savor the sea views.


Settle into your river-view room at the Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa with a bottle of Fort George Brewery’s barrel-aged imperial stout and one of the front desk’s copies of The Goonies, pausing occasionally to watch a freight ship steam by. Watch the sunset from your Haystack Rock-facing balcony at the cozy Stephanie Inn, then head downstairs for a complimentary port nightcap in the oceanfront library. If you’ve always been intrigued by the tiny house movement, try your hand at living light for a night at Sheltered Nook in Bay City. And come January, book a long weekend at the luxurious Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa, featuring a full spa, “adventure coaches” in lieu of a traditional concierge, and the beautifully designed beach-facing Meridian Restaurant and Bar.

Published by
1859 Oregon's Magazine

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