Stock landscape and outdoor adventure photos from Oregon, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest

Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City, Oregon: The Perfect Beach Vacation

Without a doubt, Pacific City is one of my favorite spots on the Oregon coast.  Not only is it home to the Pelican Pub’s perfectly hoppy, awarding-winning India Pelican Ale (IPA), but it also has one of the most diverse and scenic landscapes in the state.  A strenuous climb up and around Cape Kiwanda can reveal many gems that are otherwise hidden from those who are more “reclined” than “inclined.”

If you have only one day to explore this area, I would recommend getting up early, grabbing a hot cup of Joe from one of the beachfront coffee shops and taking a sunrise stroll down to the tide pools near the big sand dune at the north end of the beach.  As the sun climbs up and over the hills surrounding the Nestucca River Valley, the light will often produce beautiful colors as it reflects off of the seaward clouds. 

 

Sunrise photo of Haystack Rock from the tide pools at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon.

Sunrise photo of Haystack Rock from the tide pools at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon.

 

After you’ve explored around the tide pools for awhile (and hopefully after the coffee kicks in), point your toes up the steep sandy hill and start climbing over the left-hand shoulder of the dune.  You will find a protective fence at the top of the shoulder; however, many people consider this barrier to be more of a suggestion than an actual obstruction, so if you’re in an exploring mood—and you’re not hiking with small children—you might want to take a gamble and head out to the far end of the Cape.  Just don’t get too close to the edge of the cliff because the sandstone can break away without warning, and falling a few hundred feet down onto a rocky shore probably won’t be much fun.  It’s also important to stay on the main trails leading to the overlooks so that you don’t add any further damage to the eroding trails leading down to the water. 

If you prefer to stay on the safer side of the fence, I would recommend continuing the hike by climbing up the western face of the dune where you can get a nice gull’s eye view of the waves crashing into the Cape and Haystack Rock. 

Photo of Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda from the Big Sand Dune in Pacific City, Oregon.

Photo of Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda from the Big Sand Dune in Pacific City, Oregon.

 

 

Continuing up and over the steep sand dune will provide even more breath-taking views (literally), and a peek into the canyon on the other side.  Here, the rocky cliffs jet straight skyward from the tide line.  A keen eye will also spot a natural tunnel that has been carved through the sandstone bluffs.

 

Photo of the Cliffs and Canyon on the North Face of Cape Kiwanda.

Photo of the Cliffs and Canyon on the North Face of Cape Kiwanda.

 

Now that your heart is pumping at the summit of the dune, skirt around the eastern slope and drop down to the beach on the other side (the “Secret Beach” as my kids call it). This beach tends to be much more secluded than the one on the main side of the dune, and it has another nice collection of tide pools and a big natural sandstone bridge that you can walk under during low tide.  I’ve also seen bald eagles and sea lions fishing over on this side of the Cape, which is always a fascinating experience.

If it happens to be low tide, you can easily spend an hour or so at the Secret Beach looking at all of the starfish, hermit crabs, and anemones that are hiding in the various tide pools. 

 

Dancing Starfish in the Tide Pools near the Secret Beach in Pacific City, Oregon.

Dancing Starfish in the Tide Pools near the Secret Beach in Pacific City, Oregon.

 

After an invigorating morning of exploring around Cape Kiwanda, you can sit out on the Pelican Pub’s oceanfront patio and replenish yourself with a couple of pints or a wide variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches while you watch surfers riding the waves coming in from Haystack Rock.  If time allows, you might also choose to take a short drive north along the Three Capes Scenic Loop to Cape Lookout and Cape Meares or south to the charming little beach towns of Neskowin or Newport (home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon State Marine Center, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, and Rogue–another wonderful Oregon brewery).  Just don’t stay away too long, because Pacific City also has amazing sunsets.

 

Sunset photo from the Cliffs of Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon.

Sunset photo from the Cliffs of Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon.

 

These are just some of the reasons that I enjoy vacationing in Pacific City.  If you go for a visit, I would highly recommend staying in one of the Cape Cod-style cottages at Shorepine Village. These fully-furnished vacation homes offer a much more relaxing way to enjoy the coast than a standard hotel room, and if you’re traveling with small children, they can set you up in one of their kid-friendly units which are stocked full of toys for your little ones to enjoy.  Shorepine Village is an idyllic little beach community complete with a few families of wondering bunnies, and some nice flat bike paths that meander around the grounds and through two old-timey covered bridges.  Between the ales at the pub and the scenes along Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City is a truly unbeatable beach get away.

 

Sunset photo of Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda from the beach at Pacific City, Oregon.

Sunset photo of Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda from the beach at Pacific City, Oregon.

 

Posted by Troy McMullin

NOTE: If you want to see additional pictures from Pacific City, you can browse the Pacific Coast Gallery on our Pacific Crest Stock photography site or search the site for “Pacific City.”

11 Responses Subscribe to comments


  1. michael croxford

    I love these pics…and i love the way you narrate your blogs! Fantastic! om

    Mar 14, 2009 @ 4:56 pm


  2. Plumber

    I REALLY liked your post and blog! It took me a little bit to find your site…but I book marked it. Would you mind if I but a link back to my site?

    Mar 20, 2009 @ 5:20 pm


  3. corporate bootcamp sydney

    I just wanted to leave a quick comment to thank you for your post! I really like your blog site!!! Would you mind terribly if I put up a backlink from my site to your site? Keep up the great work!

    Mar 22, 2009 @ 4:08 pm


  4. Kevin

    Fantastic photography. Makes me want to head south right now for a photo trip.

    Time to browse your site.

    Cheers

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 2:13 pm


  5. Troy McMullin

    Thanks Kevin. Oregon is always beautiful, but the summer wildflower season will be starting soon and that’s always my favorite time of year around here. I hope you make the trip.

    May 03, 2009 @ 6:45 pm


  6. Pam Hawk

    This is AMAZING! You have perfectly captured our favorite beach/dune/cape/tidepools.
    (Sans sunburn.)

    I’ve cringed at so many other non-commercial sites about PC and have been really reluctant to send people those horrible and boring links because they don’t capture the true Cape Kiwanda. When telling my friends and family in the midwest about this place, I can now send them here. Thank you!

    Pam Hawk

    Jul 03, 2009 @ 10:26 am


  7. Troy McMullin

    Pam, thanks so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures, and we appreciate the link.

    Jul 13, 2009 @ 3:59 pm


  8. Gina

    This blog captures Cape Kiwanda in the most perfect words for explaining. I just came from there, and have been having with drawls since the weekend. All of the pictures, and words you use are a perfect description. I myself, was having a hard time putting it into words, but you’ve done a wonderful job. Everyone take your family and friends here, it is a beautiful sight to see without taking an airplane to another state.

    Jun 30, 2010 @ 8:54 pm


  9. chris chennault

    The photographs are perfection. This is where I spent my childhood summers; you have captured its essence.

    Aug 25, 2010 @ 5:59 am


  10. Rick Minter

    Wonderful pictures. Cape Kiwanda and the Oregon coast are exhilarating. I remember visiting the coast during college and driving down US 101 from Lincoln City to Northern California.

    Sep 06, 2010 @ 4:40 pm


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