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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”