Part 3 of a three-part series exploring Oregon’s north coast
Recently, my husband and I took a week to drive the 130 miles south on Highway 101 from Astoria to Nye Beach along Oregon’s spectacular northern coast. Along the way, we stayed in Astoria, Cannon Beach, Pacific City, and Nye Beach (about half way down the coast). Each town has its own coastal vibe — Astoria with river traffic; the artsy Cannon Beach, laid-back Pacific City, and serene Nye Beach. Find miles of beaches, iconic rock monoliths, artisanal products, and friendly locals. You’ll also find fishing, clamming, oyster harvesting and boat trips in each town. Part 1 highlighted Astoria; Part 2 took the drive from Astoria to Cannon Beach, and Part 3 focuses on the drive to Pacific City and then onto Nye Beach.
From Cannon Beach, it’s about a 90-minute drive along the Pacific Scenic Byway (Highway 101) to easy-going Pacific City. There was a lot of time along the way to encounter beautiful scenery and coastal vistas, eat delicious oysters, and tour a renowned cheese and ice cream factory.
When we were about 45 minutes outside of Pacific City, we pulled off at Bay City to devour luscious local oysters on the half shell at The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster. Then it was on to Tillamook Creamery and the interactive visitors’ center. Their popular cheddar cheeses and ice cream draw thousands of visitors to the factory annually. A cooperative of 63 skilled farmers forms the heart of this business; they are committed to both the quality of ingredients and the stewardship of the land. Learn about cheese making and sample some specialties; enjoy a tasty, cheese-laden meal and save room for ice cream and time to shop in the gift store.
Both of these places are on the North Coast Food Trail. The organization was created to help visitors appreciate the bounty of the area. (NCFT is used throughout these articles to identify partners.)
Pacific City sits at the point where the Big and Little Nestucca Rivers merge; parts of the town hug the Pacific coast. It has a population of a little over 1,000 residents. Pacific City is known for its active Dorymen’s Association (with a fleet of more than 300) and the annual Dory Days Festival. The town’s relaxed vibe makes it a magnet for tourists.
We stayed at the uniquely situated Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa on the banks overlooking popular Cape Kiwanda, the extensive beach and the “other” Haystack Rock. Both the exterior and the interior of the resort convey a classic lodge feel with its Northwest style — from the building materials and exposed wooden beams, to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the warm colors, and aroma from the roaring fire that greeted us when we arrived. All of the rooms and cottages at this gem on the Oregon coast are oceanfront so there’s no need to leave the relaxed spacious accommodations for views that don’t quit.
Our room had the same rustic feel as the lobby with muted shades, a fireplace, and other wood accents. Each room is also equipped with an iPad that features lodge activities as well as your personal itinerary. Never lose sight of the coast whether you’re on the balcony or in the soaking tub or shower. Brew a cup of freshly ground coffee and watch the beach activities — you might even catch the comings and goings of the dorymen. At the end of the day, store your bikes and surf board on special racks.
The resort staff provides attentive service and is eager to set up your next adventure. Whether it’s at the spa, on the beach clamming, or hiking, fishing or boating, you’ll find an array of options on the lodge’s website. See below for details.
SHOP AND PLAY
The Headland’s Adventure Center is the spot where staff is ready to help organize your time at the lodge. We chose an itinerary focused on relaxation so we headed to the Tidepools Spa & Wellness for massages. I chose the Muscle Recovery Deep Tissue to release tension and heighten relaxation. My husband had the Curative massage combining inhalation therapy and deep tissue. Afterward we sank into the outdoor hot tub. Next up was an oyster-shucking lesson at the bar in the Meridian restaurant with a local fisherman, chef, and more (including a hotel adventure leader).
Steps from the hotel are loads of options: Hike through Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, and climb up the dune or grab a complimentary cruiser bike from the hotel and ride on the beach. Unlike its Cannon Beach counterpart, the Haystack Rock by this beach is out to sea, and not accessible at low tide. Close by is Bob Straub State Park with lots of room to enjoy strolling the dunes and the beach.
Twist Wine Company sits near the banks of the Nestucca River. The owners are a husband-and-wife team who produce their wine in the Willamette Valley with grapes sourced from there and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington. They prefer the laid-back lifestyle of Pacific Grove (often described as a “quaint drinking town with a fishing problem”) for the tasting room. Their labels each reflect their style for certain varietals. Favorites include the 2021 Shy Chenin Syrah Rosé, 2021 Shy Chenin Sparkling Syrah, 2019 Reversal Pinot Noir, and the 2018 Reversal Syrah. You can also enjoy small plates and beer on tap.
Grateful Bread Bakery (NCFT), down the street from Twist Wine, is open Thursday through Monday. The bakery has been a fixture in Pacific City for years and uses many original recipes. Their fruit-filled and savory scones are the most popular. In addition to a full breakfast menu, the lunch menu features fresh dory-caught fish, and a variety of soups and sandwiches.
The Meridian Restaurant & Bar (NCFT) has a prominent place in the resort lobby with all of the same great views and interior design. In addition to their own herb garden, the ingredients are sourced from local farmers and fisherman, reflecting the restaurant’s focus on the north coast. We savored everything about the meal, including the char-grilled octopus served with a Vietnamese harissa dipping sauce and the Kaizen Donburi — luscious sashimi of local fish served with house-made citrus soy, seaweed salad, pickled cucumber, red onion, and other garnishes. We tried the Sparkling NV Illahe Vineyards “Cap Fizz” to accompany our meal.
To top it off, we chose artisan chocolates paired with three Oregon wines: Pike Road Pinot Noir, Remy Dolcetto, and Abacela Port. The notes of each of the wines balanced perfectly with the flavors of the PNW chocolates.
Our last stop, about another hour down the coast, was in Nye Beach, a smaller, quieter town just north of the busier Newport. Its historic district has been a magnet for tourists for over 200 years, attracting artists, fishermen, kayakers, surfers, marine researchers, and others to this idyllic location.
The Inn at Nye Beach overlooks the ocean and has vistas up and down the beach. The rustic decor (exterior and interior) uses reclaimed materials and incorporates many green elements in the hotel design including wood and other items from the original cottages on the property, solar energy, low-flow showers and toilets, sustainable furniture, and much more.
We had views from almost everywhere in the room — from the private balcony to the soaking tub. In addition to the expansive beach and coastline, we overlooked the infinity hot tub and outdoor fire pits (both have nonstop ocean views). The inn also has direct access to the beach for guests only. On arrival, we were greeted with warm cookies, and the next morning, savored breakfast delivered to our door with freshly brewed French press coffee we made in the room.
Everything in Nye Beach is within walking distance. Because our stay there was short, we window shopped only. Among the array of shops and boutiques in town, we found these places to eat:
Zurita attracts locals and visitors alike with its Spanish-themed menu and locally sourced ingredients. We sat in the outdoor garden for a late afternoon snack. (The interior is a stunning two-level open space with vaulted ceilings and Spanish decor.) Reminiscent of our time in Spain, we savored Cava and boquerones (anchovies) on toast.
We had an eye for steamer clams, so we headed to Pacific Kitchen at Nye Beach for dinner. With views of the ocean, we enjoyed a big bowl of tender clams and a classic Caesar salad. The Barossa Valley GSM and Tsunami stout on tap were the right choices.
Patty Burness can be found on Instagram (pburness) and reached by e-mail at [email protected].