Notes from the Oregon Coast

The goal: Get out of Dodge by me-self for three days and do it by car.

Astoria-Megler Bridge, which links Oregon to Washington state. (Kim O'Donnel)

The destination: The Oregon coast, about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. A room was booked at the Ocean Point Inn, a small oceanfront property located in the hamlet of Arch Cape. Coincidentally, the Inn is featured in the June issue of Travel & Leisure.

The operative words for my out-of-Dodge experience: Ocean. Front.

The prep: Other than a print-out of Google-ized directions and a fold-up map on loan from a friend, I headed on the highway like a babe in the woods, unbeknownst of what lay before me. After three hours on the road, I made a pit stop in Astoria, Ore., where the Columbia River (almost) meets the Pacific Ocean and the northern tip of the 347-mile coastline I was about to meet.

Just a sampling of the towering basalt "sea stacks" of the Oregon Coast . (Kim O'Donnel)

Arrival weather: As I make my way south and across Youngs Bay, the fog rolled in like shag carpet, but Wayne Downing’s WWII-era jazz and DJ Nacho Bizznez’s “Cocktail Nation” show on Community Coast Radio keeps me company and feeling protected from the atmospheric conditions.

Route 101: Puttering along the two-lane highway that hugs the coast, I stop off in Cannon Beach for local/regional wine finds at The Wine Shack just in case the fog prevents an evening outing (and it did). The misty, cool weather had put a damper on business, too; most shops were shuttered for the day. Back in the car, I resume my road puttering for another six or so miles until I arrive in the very sleepy community of Arch Cape.

“X” Marks the Spot: As I pull into the gravelly drive, innkeeper Bruce Bessey greets me, as does the first of many ancient sea stacks (basalt rock formation resulting from lava eruptions ) I’ll meet during my stay. The air is wet woolish, but the crash of the waves begins the good work needed on my damp spirits. I sleep like a bear.

Tidal pools on the beach at Arch Cape. Ore. (Kim O'Donnel)

The Routine: Breakfast by Bruce on the beach-front deck, staring out into the horizon, the birds dancing around the sea stacks. While the tide is low, a long walk on the wiiiiiide stretch of sand, jumping over tidal pools, collecting sand dollars and taking in some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’m reminded of the Cape region of South Africa as well as Bathsheba, the rocky east coast of Barbados. The afternoon was for exploring by car albeit staying true to my objective of sitting still and listening to the waves.

The Deal About Arch Cape: Unlike many of the other villages dotting the coast, AC has no commercial strip to speak of, which is exactly how the locals like it. “How’d you find us?” asks Jack, my new BFF, whom I met on the beach. He’s been living here for about 40 years. “This place is supposed to be a secret.”

View from of Manzanita beach from Neahkahnie mountain. (Kim O'Donnel)

So when it’s time for human interaction in greater numbers…
You head north to Cannon Beach, a bustling little community, with plenty of shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs, or south a few miles to Manzanita, a village where I felt right at home. Lunch one day was a turkey and avocado sandwich at Bread and Ocean bakery; dinner was spinach lasagna and mixed greens at the neighborly Vino wine bar, where Northwest wines dominate the menu, and in between meals I browsed the funky shelves at Cloud & Leaf book shop (148 Lareda Ave.; 503-368-BOOK).

A glorious day comes to an end. (Kim O'Donnel)

Which Reminds Me…
Your travel tips for the OC have been such a gift. Although I didn’t travel further south of Manzanita, I fell so much in love with the area that I will be returning as soon as humanly possible. As in next week, when Mom is here for a visit. And then maybe again in August in a little beach cabin that Jack, my new BFF, is helping to arrange for me and the Mister.

Lessons Learned: The beauty of the unplanned getaway cannot be underestimated. There are still lots of nice people in this world, and many of them live on the Oregon coast.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 2, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Travel
Previous: Meatless Monday: Spinach Soup Made for Goldilocks | Next: Psst. You Got Cukes? I Got Oregano. Wanna Trade?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

This makes me yearn for the ocean. Kim, the Oregon Coast is so different from the beaches of the mid-Atlantic; after you have more time exploring out there - taking in the summer scene - will you please write more?

What a pleasant piece to read, first thing in my morning.

Posted by: CentreofNowhere | June 2, 2009 7:13 AM

Fantastic story and beautiful pictures, to boot. I love how the Northwest beaches are so different than the Atlantic coast.

Posted by: margaret6 | June 2, 2009 10:18 AM

I'm homesick! (New England coastie stuck in DC)

In other news, I thought of all of us MA-ers on my way to work this morning. I was following a box truck from a local farm of sorts, from a 717 area code(?) and in big green letters on the back of the truck it said:


Posted by: capecodner424 | June 2, 2009 10:58 AM


Thank you for the mention. I hope that we were able to point you to a tasty Oregon wine.

The Wine Shack

Posted by: deaner1 | June 2, 2009 2:35 PM

If you get to Newport, try one of the restaurants I reviewed there for The Oregonian's MIX Magazine:

You were too far from Newport on this trip, anyway!

Posted by: baltimoregon | June 7, 2009 1:26 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company