For a lovely evening with someone special or to relax on your own, visit Pacific City where sandstone cliffs meet the sea. Located at the south end of the Three Capes Scenic Loop-which includes Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda-Pacific City is a wonderful spot. Pristine sands give its public beaches a private feel. You can drive your car along the water, launch a boat, or amble peacefully beside the waves and throw a stick for your dog. Pacific City’s long waves make it a Mecca for surfers.
Plan to stay at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda where you can book a cottage on the water. A clear day is best for this trip, but storm watchers flock here when the ocean is mean and the winter winds are punishing. A good place to start your trip is at the north end of the Three Capes Scenic Loop, at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, 10 miles west of Tillamook. Take Highway 131 W out of Tillamook and bear to the right to follow signs for the Three Capes Scenic Loop. The loop road is full of potholes, especially at the north end. So take your time, drink in the views, and save your tires. This landscape will give you more if you don’t rush.
Cape Meares, northernmost of the three capes, is home to a lighthouse only 38 feet tall. Here you will also find the famous Octopus Tree, a Sitka spruce thought to be an Indian gathering place. As you drive south and pass through Oceanside, look for hang gliders soaring overhead. Their colorful sails are hard to miss as they try to land on the open beach. When you drive through Netarts, you might see people scattered over sand crabbing or digging for gaper and butter clams. At Netarts bear right to stay on the loop.
Continue south until you get to Cape Lookout State Park located on a sand spit between Netarts and the ocean. Take advantage of the two-mile hike along Cape Lookout that has a bench at the far end. It will let you leave your car and stretch travel weary legs. Panoramic views dominate this part of the route where gravel pullouts allow travelers to stop and look up the coast, so don’t forget to bring your camera. As you leave Cape Lookout, bear right again to stay next to the ocean and on the scenic loop.
The Sand Lake recreational area is next with its signature dunes, and then it’s only a few miles to Pacific City. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda will be on your left. Cape Kiwanda State Park contains the smallest of the three capes and spectacular waves. You’ll see Haystack Rock, directly opposite the inn, looming out of the sea like a lifeguard watching over the ever-present surfers.
After you check in, park your car and stroll on the sand. This is the place to enjoy the roar of real-not digitized-waves. Inland dwellers are often surprised at how busy the ocean is. That tidal heartbeat pulses on as the sun goes down and human life assumes a slower pace.
If you decide to dabble in crabbing while you’re here, state shellfish regulations vary depending on the kinds of crabs you catch. Some of this information is included in your tide table. A shellfish tag is required for anyone 14 or older.
Next, return to your room and before dinner explore your beautifully appointed cottage at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda. In it you’ll find everything you need for a successful evening away: a full kitchen, two bedrooms, skylights, a gas fireplace, complimentary wines, and a deck for watching the action on the beach. The rooms are warmly decorated, crisp and spotless. You’ll feel like the first ones to use them.
A evening interlude is not complete without a tasty and graciously served meal. The Pelican Pub and Brewery across from the inn specializes in seafood dinners and offers pairings from the bar. Pacific Coast crab cakes with mango salsa pair with their Scottish ale. The pub’s blackened Ono "Wahoo," a tender light fish served with a green chile couscous salad, sparkles with Doryman’s dark ale. If the weather is kind, try dining on their deck for a close up view of Haystack Rock.
After dinner it’s time to kick back, take a last picture or two while the light holds, and settle in for the evening. Spend more time on the beach if you wish. Beach fires dot the sand well into the night. If your timing is lucky and you get a clear night with a full moon, the effect is ethereal. Whatever you’re celebrating-a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, or time alone-these surroundings make your occasion even more special.
Before you leave the next day, visit the Stimulus Café in the Inn at Cape Kiwanda’s main office building. Their coffee drinks, such as espresso macchiato or con panna, are brought to your table by friendly staff. For a light indulgence, try their biscotti. They are soft almondy delights.
For a more substantial breakfast the Pelican Pub and Brewery serves heavier fare. If one of your party eats light and the other heavy, you can order crepes stuffed with Ricotta cheese and topped with apple-cinnamon compote, and a Pacific City omelet containing bay shrimp, salmon, snapper, and Mahi Mahi with pepperjack cheese.
Surfers will be riding the waves when you leave. Some have been out since five in the morning. As you head home, you’ll envaiarably promise yourself to come back to Pacific City again.
What and Where:
Inn at Cape Kiwanda (33105 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City; 503-965-7001 (Stimulus Café on site for breakfast)
Pelican Pub and Brewery (across from the Inn on Cape Kiwanda Drive; 503-965-7007)
Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, Inc.
Viewpoint hours: Daily 7 AM to dusk (admission free)
Lighthouse hours: Daily April-Oct 11-4 (admission free)
Cape Lookout State Park
Day Use fee: $3.00. Hours: Dawn to dusk
Cape Kiwanda State Park
Fee: None. Hours: Dawn to dusk
Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) in Newport for more tourist business information. Tel: 541-574-2679
Directions: Portland to the Three Capes Scenic Loop
Take I-5 S toward Beaverton/Salem.
Take the exit on the left for 405 N toward Beaverton/US-26.
Take the exit for US-26 toward Beaverton and drive about 20 miles.
Stay left at OR-6/NW Wilson River Road.
Follow OR-6 about 49 miles.
Where OR-6 ends at Highway 101, turn left and continue south toward downtown Tillamook.
Turn right at the sign for Three Capes Scenic Loop/Highway 131 W.
Where Highway 131 goes left and Three Capes Scenic Loop goes right, stay right.
It’s about 10 miles to the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint.
Directions: Pacific City to Portland via 101 N
Turn right from the Inn at Cape Kiwanda main driveway and head north two miles to a stop sign.
After stopping, drive straight six miles to a three-way intersection.
Turn right at the three-way, where there’s a sign for 101 N.
Drive four miles east to 101 N.
Follow 101 N through Tillamook to 3rd Street/OR-6/Wilson River Highway.
Turn right and follow the signs for OR-6 about 52 miles.
Stay right to merge onto US-26.
Take the exit for St. Helens/Seattle.
Stay right for 405 S and I-5.
Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high-tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, and published two award-winning chapbooks of poetry. She lives and works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington.