Oregon’s Seven Wonders, Part II: The Oregon Coast

Not your typical beach day. Photo: Clark.
Not your typical beach day. Photo: Clark

After a few wonderful, food-filled days in Portland, we loaded up our rented VW Eurovan (our own van, Shaquille, couldn’t make it out in time, so the awesome team at Roadtrip Oregon hooked us up with an amazing stunt double). If you’re looking for an awesome way to experience the state, their Eurovan rentals are perfect—and come with everything you need already loaded! From there we headed west toward the first Wonder of our trip: the Oregon Coast.

With over 300 miles of coastline, the Oregon Coast has it all—from rocky and rugged to giant expanses of empty white-sand beaches to areas where carpeted forest meets the sea. And even in the peak of summer, you can find yourself with miles of beach all to yourself. It’s a beautiful escape just an hour or so from the city.

But just our luck, we timed our trip just as, according to locals, the “biggest storm in years” arrived. We love an adventure as much as anyone, so we zipped up our raincoats and headed out toward this wild wonder that is the coast.

Seaside/North Coast Beer Drinking

Greetings from Seaside. Photo: Clark
Greetings from Seaside. Photo: Clark

The Oregon Coast’s finest resort town, Seaside has a massive beach with high-rise hotels rising up from the sand. With the record weather, it made an ideal day for the Beer 101 Pint Pass tour, which connects beer-centric establishments in Oregon’s North Coast.

We decided to start our tour at the tip top of the Oregon Coast in Astoria, the fishing town where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean — and also, a fun fact: where The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop were filmed.

Astoria Brewing Company Taproom

The brewery was founded in 1997, but it wasn’t until a year ago that they opened a taproom, where patrons can sip a pint and look down on the actual brewery.

Buoy Beer Company

Fried oysters with jalapeño jam. Who wants one? Photo: Clark
Fried oysters with jalapeño jam. Who wants one? Photo: Clark

A renovated 90-year-old cannery building turned brewery, tasting room and restaurant, Buoy has giant windows looking out on the water and a Plexiglas floor where you can see sea lions lounging between pilings.

It’s about as close as you can get to the ocean without getting wet. Though it’s not technically on the 101 Pint Pass Tour, we loved the cream ale and dunkel, as well as delicious fried oysters with jalapeño jam (house specialty).

Rogue Ales Public House

Beard yeast never tasted so good. Photo: Clark
Beard yeast never tasted so good. Photo: Clark

Formerly the Bumble Bee Cannery (and also supposedly haunted), Rogue has quite the eccentric vibe, with quirky beer names and unique flavors — most notably: Beard Beer, brewed using wild yeast originally cultured from beard hairs belonging to Rogue Ales’ brewmaster, John Maier; OREgasmic Ale, Morimoto Soba Ale, Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, Wasted Sea Star, etc. Plus, they have the most amazingly kimchi crab cake sliders. So good!

McMenamins Sand Trap Pub

One of 57 McMenamins establishments, the Sandtrap sits on, you guessed it, a golf course — the 18-hole Gearhart Golf Links, to be exact. The cozy pub offers a wood-burning fireplace and a warm ambient bar. Be sure to order the Cajun tater tots!

While there were many more venues on the Pint Pass Tour, at this point, we figured it was time to head back — there are only so many beers one can drink in a day.

Cannon Beach

We pulled off Highway 101 onto Hemlock Street just as the sun peaked out and blue skies set the backdrop for the shingled shops and beach homes in downtown Cannon Beach.

After three straight days of a tempest roaring onto the coast, the reprieve from rain and wind allowed us to get a clear glimpse of the iconic 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock rising straight out of the sea.

Sleepy Monk Roasters

Grab a coffee from here and cruise the idyllic street filled with boutique shops and coastal charm.

Lazy Susan Café

Hope you like homefries and potatoes, as this place offers up a classic country-style breakfast that will fuel you for the day’s activities.

Haystack Rock

Finally, the sun peaked out, illuminating Haystack Rock.
Finally, the sun peaked out, illuminating Haystack Rock.

From Hemlock Street, drive south of town to Tolovana Park to access the beautiful beach and ogle the third tallest “intertidal” rock that can be reached when the tide is low.

The Coastal Drive

"Stormy" the Eurovan, taking in the scenery. Photo: Clark
“Stormy” the Eurovan, taking in the scenery. Photo: Clark

California’s Big Sur Coast gets a lot of (warranted) attention, but the drive along the Oregon Coast is certainly on par — especially in the area south of Cannon Beach. We remarked to each other that we could spend months there and still not experience all the beaches, hikes and waterfalls.

Pacific City

As we watched unruly, 30-foot waves crash against the cliffs of Cape Kiwanda, it was hard to imagine the surf there could ever be calm enough to be considered “fun” by anyone’s standards.

But as we later learned from the crew at Moment Surf Shop in this tiny town, those days do exist. Exactly how good it gets and when, they’ll leave up to us to figure out (we don’t blame them — if this place was our little secret, we’d keep quiet it too!).

Cape Kiwanda

Sandboarding, sunset snacking and sipping, and billy-goating around and on the cape, Kiwanda is the “natural” pride of Pacific City.

Pelican Pub and Brewery

Ocean-front views, award-winning beers, tasty food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and Tuesday-night trivia make this a must-stop for any Oregon Coast cruiser.

Moment Surf Company

If you plan on venturing out into the Pacific to play on the waves, look no further than this local shop.

Offering info and lessons, the folks at Moment, who also own the adjacent Ben and Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos, will happily share their passion for the ocean with you.

The wild coast during the "storm of the year." Photo: Clark
The wild coast during the “storm of the year.” Photo: Clark
Beautiful Cape Kiwanda. Photo: Clark
Beautiful Cape Kiwanda. Photo: Clark

Unfortunately for us, landslides, floods and downed trees kept us from reaching the rest of the Oregon Coast on this trip. But based on the stories we’ve heard and photos we’ve seen, we know we’ll be back. Great surf, fishing, sandboarding, camping and hiking await. Next time, Oregon Coast.

John Stifter & Janna Irons, @vanventures

To win an Oregon Winter Wonders getaway …

For more information about the People’s Coast, go to visittheoregoncoast.com.