May 30 – June 18
After a week in Florence at the Port of Siuslaw, we continued to make our way north up the coast. Week-long stops at South Beach, Cape Lookout, and Nehalem Bay State Parks brought more beach walking, more coastal hiking, and even some in-town fun involving beer and ice cream!
We left Florence on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Normally, we prefer to stay in one place on holiday weekends, but when I made this reservation back in February, Memorial Day was far from my mind. At the time, we were hiding in the Arizona desert and not sure any travel was going to happen this summer at all. In an attempt to find something to look forward to, we decided to make a few reservations with the caveat that we could cancel everything if Covid was still raging. So a busy holiday weekend was the last thing on my mind, and as a result, I booked a normal Sunday to Sunday stay without realizing that we would be traveling on a holiday weekend.
But guess what? It worked out and we ended up adding some fun to our short travel day by spending a few hours exploring the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area along the way. Finding a spot to park our 45′ truck & trailer combo on a busy holiday weekend was a daunting task. Every pull-out we passed was jam-packed with vehicles spilling over along the roadsides. But we tried the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center parking lot anyway and by some miracle, the 4 RV spots near the back were empty except for a single van. We knew the spots were there, but from experience figured they would already be filled with regular-sized cars.
A few hours of hiking along the coastal trails was just what we needed. Despite the packed parking areas, the trails were not overly busy and the views fantastic! There are a couple of natural features here that are best viewed at high tide and even though we visited at completely the wrong time of day, it was still a very cool stop along the coast.
South Beach State Park
After our hiking break, we continued north to South Beach State Park. This park is massive! I’m talking 280+ sites massive. And our site – G29 – was allllll the way in the back which made for a long slow drive anytime we left the campground. When I made this reservation months ago, there were three sites available for the dates I wanted. G29 looked the nicest but came with a warning that it was subject to flooding during times of frequent rain. It was a gamble, but the site was dry when we arrived and even though it rained during the night a couple of times that week, we never saw more than a puddle. I’m glad I took the risk because it was one of the nicer sites in the park with a really large yard that backed up to a dense forest.
This ended up being a low-adventure kind of week due to a work project that got a bit out of control and demanded more of my time than it should have. That’s okay though, because from our home base at the campground we had miles of beach to explore, downtown Newport only a few minutes drive away, and even a brewery within walking distance.
Newport is a fun little coastal town with an interesting main street that runs along the water adjacent to the commercial fishing port. There is also a large marina on the other side of the river. We drove over to there on Memorial Day hoping to do some kayaking. There is a beach launch near the Marine center, but it was low tide and we didn’t feel like dragging our boats through the mud to reach the water. There is also a boat launch at the marina, but it was terribly windy over there, so we skipped the idea of kayaking that day. Unfortunately, we were never able to make kayaking around Yaquina bay a reality so it’s on the list for our next visit.
We may have forgone the kayaking idea, but did manage to visit both of the breweries in town. First up was Rouge Brewing, which we were delighted to discover was reachable by foot from the campground! We walked over there on Memorial Day around 6:30 after the crowds had cleared. It was perfect timing and we ended up sitting in a booth with a view of the marina and bridge.
This was our first indoor dining experience since that one time last summer in Colorado. Even though at this point we had both been fully vaccinated for over a month, the thought of spending time indoors with a large group of people not wearing masks was daunting. I consider both of us to be rational people who believe in science and the efficacy of vaccines. But this past year has really done a number on how much we trust and want to be around large groups of strangers. It’s been a slow transition to get back to a place where we’re okay with crowded places. Fortunately, Rogue was not at all crowded with just a few other occupied tables in the restaurant. It was a great experience that helped ease up back into some sense of normalcy. Plus, they have really good beer!
Later in the week, we drove into town and walked around a bit before heading up the hill to Newport Brewing. Another non-crowed indoor dining experience was had with more delicious beers and some really incredible fish tacos topped with fresh berry salsa. The tacos were so good in fact, that I had to re-create the recipe at home the following week!
Cape Lookout State Park
Cape Lookout State Park has an okay campground and an amazing beach. Seriously, would you look at that view!
Our previous stay at Cape Lookout was only for two nights nearly 10 years ago, but we both fondly remember the wide flat beach with layers of waves that extend far offshore. We also remember how much our dog, Phineas, loved this beach. Aside from the obvious beauty, one of our favorite things about Oregon beaches are how dog-friendly they are. It makes me so happy to see dogs out romping around the beach with big smiles on their faces :)
This was another low-adventure week since Tim was on call for work which meant he needed to stay in range of a cell connection at all times. Even though the signal at our site was on the slow side, we were delighted to learn that the signal on the beach was much quicker. As a result, we spent many afternoons walking on the beach. Also, for the first time since we got to the coast, it was warm enough to actually sit on the beach (with a sweatshirt on – let’s not be ridiculous). Woo hoo! Summer is here!
Despite the pull of the beach, we did leave the campground a few times during the week. Once to get ice cream at the Tillamook factory and another time to attend the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. The ice cream was delicious (Marionberry Pie for me & Caramel Toffee Crunch + Dark Cherry for Tim), and the line on the short side (mid-week after 4 pm is the time to go). The farmers market was also great with a few produce booths and other typical farmers market offerings. I got some delicious strawberries from the Berry Patch Girls booth. More importantly, I learned that when we come back to the area for the 4th of July (we have another stay booked at Cape Lookout), the Marion and blackberries should be starting to ripen! I love summer berries.
We also drove over to Oceanside one afternoon to view the Arch Rocks, walk on the beach, and make a quick stop at the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Much to our surprise, the beach at Oceanside boasts a man-made tunnel that travels through the rock to a beach on the other side. We only realized there was a tunnel when Tim saw a dog stroll out of a hole in the rock! The beach on the other side is aptly named Tunnel Beach and if you visit at low tide, there are several additional beaches and coves to explore.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Our first new Oregon State Park! Up until now, all the state parks we’ve visited this year have been places we stayed at previously. Not sure how we missed Nehalem Bay the last time around since it has all the things we love. Spacious, well-maintained campsites? Check! Easy access to miles of pristine beach? Check! A cute town within biking distance, delicious handmade ice cream, and nearby hiking trails with coastal views? Check, check, and check!
Nehalem Bay is another very large campground with mostly uniform sites offering water and electric hook-ups, paved parking pads, and nice grassy yards. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in the pouring rain to find a half-empty campground. 24 hours later, the sun was out and the campground was nearly full – on a Monday. Yes indeed, summer has arrived.
I suppose it comes as no surprise that this was the week campground fatigue started to set in. We’re both usually fairly good at blocking out the fellow campers outside our door. If you choose to live in campgrounds where everyone else is on vacation when you are not, it’s a necessary skill to have. But for some reason, this week I couldn’t stop myself from feeling distracted/annoyed by the other campers.
Between rude people walking through our site, campfire smoke drifting into my window at 6 am three days in a row, or the neighbor kids repeatedly peeing in our site (you can’t make this stuff up), I was beginning to wonder how I was going to make it through the rest of the summer. But then the workday ended and in less than ten minutes we were walking on the beach. A good reminder that this is why we do what we do and how lucky we are to “live” in places where other people only get to vacation.
Despite the minor struggles that come with campground life, the week at Nehalem Bay was pretty great. We figured out early on that we could bike (or walk) into the tiny town of Manzanita from the campground almost entirely on a bike path. For some reason – maybe because I’ve never lived in a house that was walking distance to stores – the worth of a campground always increases in my mind if I can easily reach town (a good part of town – the dollar store doesn’t count) from my site without driving.
Despite a number of cute-looking eateries in town, we limited ourselves to sandwiches from the Little Apple Deli one day and handmade ice cream from Buttercup another day. Both were really good and the ice cream came with the bonus of company in the form of fellow RVers Jodee & Bill! We have been traveling just north of them along the coast for the last month and by luck happened to be near the same place at the same time. I didn’t take any photos of our meet-up, but Jodee has a pic of the Buttercup menu in her latest post in case you want to droll over honey lemon or marshmallow ice cream deliciousness.
It should come as no surprise at this point that the beach here is amazing. Long, wide, and flat with fine sand grains that make for excellent walking. The only thing missing here is water warm enough to swim in. If you’re an adult that is. Not surprisingly, we’ve seen a good number of kids splashing in the freezing cold water while being whipped by the 50-degree north wind. Meanwhile, I am over here walking around with three layers on in June.
Just north of Nehalem and Manzanita along Hwy 101 lies Oswald West State Park. The park is best known for its hiking trails, coves, capes, and a small, sheltered sandy beach. We did two hikes inside Oswald West. The first a nice, yet very muddy, trail through the woods to Cape Falcon Lookout and then back past Short Sand Beach.
And the second, an uphill climb to the top of Neah-kah-nie Mountain for a breathtaking coastal view.
We have a few more weeks scheduled along the Oregon coast before we head north into Washington in search of bigger mountains. Stay tuned for more beach photos…