It is hard to believe that the summer is almost over and that Labor Day weekend is upon us. Three-day weekends usually call for camping, boating, beaches, and BBQs; pastimes that take us out of doors but not too far afield, as work and school resume on Tuesday. The beaches of the Washington and Oregon coasts have been a favorite summer destination since I was little. Now that I have kids of my own, it is fun to revisit some old haunts while also exploring new spots along the coast. If you are looking for a quick getaway that doesn't require too much effort, head to the beach. The sand and the spray will rejuvenate almost anyone!
Our family's favorite beach town is Gearhart, a small, picturesque village that you would miss if you blinked while passing the turn off. Set off the highway and close to the beach, Gearhart is a small community built around the oldest golf course in the northwest, and anchored by a coffee shop, cafe, and small grocery store. There isn’t a lot to Gearhart, which is part of its charm - no go-carts, no salt water taffy shops, and no one trying to sell you beach shovels and kites. Gearhart is about long walks on the empty beach, jumping in the waves, grilling in the back yard, and curling up with a good book in the sand. You never go to the coast expecting sunshine, but when the weather just happens to come through it makes the whole trip that much more amazing.
While there are a couple of small inns where you can rent a room, the best way to experience the beach is to rent a house. With room to relax and hang out with friends, a house is the way to go. There are a number of homes in Gearhart available for rent on VRBO, most don’t allow dogs, but all are within walking distance to the beach. If you decide to eat out during your stay, Pacific Way Cafe and McMenamin’s Pub at the golf course are your best options. But, if you are looking for fresh seafood to throw on the grill head south about 10 minutes to Bell Buoy Seafood. Not only is their catch always fresh but their canned tuna is second to none - I bring a case home every year.
McMenamins Gearhart Hotel & Sand Trap Pub: Small hotel, pub and anchor for Gearhart Golf Links, opened in 1892.
Pacific Way Cafe: Coffee and Pastries. Go early because they sell out!
We choose Gearhart because of its lack of amenities and peace and quiet, so if you are looking for a little more action, head south to Cannon Beach or Manzanita, or north to Astoria.
Astoria had its heyday in the early 1900's when the timber industry brought wealth and prosperity to this seaside town. In the 1980's and 1990's, as logging dried up, jobs became scarce and Astoria emptied out and lost a lot of its joie de vivre. When I was growing up, all I knew of Astoria was that the film “Goonies” (the iconic ‘80s movie) was based there. These days, Astoria is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. In recent years, Astoria has seen an influx of transplants from Portland and Seattle, people seeking a slower, less expensive way of life. As you drive through town, storefronts are no long vacant, businesses are prospering, and many of the beautiful Victorian homes are undergoing restoration. The once desolate downtown suddenly feels rejuvenated by a new crop of brew pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops. We love to stop for a burger and a pint on the sunny deck of Fort George Brewery, or if you don’t mind waiting in line for take-out, Bowpicker Fish & Chips is perched in an old boat on the hill and fries up some of the best fish in town. Don’t be surprised when you see that the menus here offer fried tuna instead of the traditional halibut or cod….it’s whats in the water after all.
On your way down the coast, don’t be tempted to stop in Seaside, just trust me. Keep going until you reach Cannon Beach and the iconic Haystack Rock jutting up from the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Cannon Beach is definitely a destination, so be prepared for crowds, especially in the height of summer. Walk all the way out to the rocks where sea creatures appear during low tide and puffins circle in the sky above. On your way out, be sure to stop for fried clams or fish at local takeout spot, Ecola Seafoods. The Beckman’s have been fishing these waters for years and always have the freshest catch.
Stefanie Inn: Lovely seaside hotel with commanding views of Haystack Rock.
Pelican Brewing Company: Great spot with an unbelievable selection of beer and delicious pub food.
Manzanita is a lovely little spot with a pace somewhere in between Gearhart and Cannon Beach. Galleries and boutiques line the main street in town, which is quieter and smaller than it's neighbor to the north. The beach in Manzanita is a large crescent of beautiful, golden sand that beckons dog lovers, sand castle builders, and anyone who likes the sand between their toes.
Coast Cabins: Beautiful and contemporary freestanding cabins with amazing beach views or private forest settings. A great hideaway for a full service beach experience.
Bread and Ocean: Bakery and cafe in the middle of town with a wonderful lunch selection that makes for a perfect beach picnic.
Big Wave Cafe: Great spot for brunch or a seafood lunch. Don't be turned off by the location right on the highway, their halibut fish and chips are amazing!
Blackbird: The go to spot for delicious food and a lovely night out in Manzanita.
ON THE SIDE
Between Gearhart and Manzanita there are many beautiful wide spots in the road where you can pull over, hike down, and find a completely empty and amazing stretch of sand. My favorites include Arcadia Beach, Hug Point and Arch Cape.
Whats to Come:
Aeolian Islands ★ 010.16
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W A N D E R L U S T