Tillamook Coast Solo Drive
In all my days of sniffing sea breeze I’ve encountered nothing quite like the wind that whips off the Oregon coast. Nothing compares to the scent that rolls in off the Pacific and meets the dense forests of Oregon—crisp, wet, evergreen, clean.
I visited Portland as I do most places—solo. Like all my trips I didn’t have a plan, just the rumor that I’d like it there (spoiler: I do). During my stay I knew that I had to get out to the Oregon coast. So I rented a car and drove down Oregon’s protected Scenic Highway 101, from Cannon Beach to Tillamook. With nothing more than a cup of coffee, a good playlist, and a neglected map, I made my way down the Tillamook Coast the only way I know how. On my own, at my pace, enjoying every overlook.
Just one hour after rolling out of Portland on Highway 26 (a super scenic, enjoyable ride) I hit the coastline and highway 101. I pulled off into Cannon Beach just a few minutes later. A morning stroll along Oregon’s iconic craggy coastline, coffee in hand, was the peaceful start to my day I had been wanting. My walk was quiet, joined only by a few other chilly morning walkers and their dogs, sprinting along the endless beachfront. A quick stop at the Cannon Beach Visitors Center put me in the most pleasant of moods. In true Oregonian style, the personnel were cheerful and kind. With a new coastal map in hand I hopped back in my car and made my way down the 101, pulling off at any and all scenic overlooks that struck my fancy. Don’t miss Hug Point, where a freshwater waterfall runs directly into the ocean. I stayed there for a half hour, enjoying the vastness of the coastline and pureness of my surroundings, a scene out of Pandora.
As my coffee wore away and lunch-time rolled around I followed my nose—to Manzanita. Here I stumbled upon San Dune Pub and their fresh fried oysters. I partnered them with hot sweet potato fries and washed down each bite with sips of amber ale on tap from a local brewery in Redmond.
Manzanita was mellow, as most surf towns go. But full of life and character that I took in as I ate my meal. The bar girls wore flannel and thick hiking boots. The wood paneled walls of the simple pub kept the atmosphere dark and cozy, like a lodge. A large fireplace, though quiet for the summer, was prepped and ready for a roaring fire with stacks of pungent logwood piled high alongside. Surfboards were pinned to the wall, a reminder that this coastal town was a surfer hot-spot. Pieces of driftwood-turned-placard lined the walls. As I write this I’m trying to remember the aphorisms hand painted onto their surface. I can recall just one—“What happens in Manzanita stays in Manzinita.” I wish I could keep this silent beach town a secret, but those oysters must be enjoyed by many.
I kept heading South down 101 until a special kind of smell permeated my car. And I’m not talking Oregon’s iconic fresh air. It was not at all like the fresh ocean breeze I’d been sniffing all day. I was in Tillamook and the Tillamook Cheese Factory was not far away. That meant diary cows and all of the pungent smells that come with farm animals. After a thorough self-guided tour of the Tillamook Factory, I sat down with a locally inspired flavor—Oregon Blackberry, and watched the families mill about as they ate their own treats and made family memories.
Tillamook Coast is often known for it’s couples’ weekends, or family vacations to the Cheese Factory. But don’t miss out on Oregon’s natural beauty if you find yourself there traveling solo. It’s the perfect getaway for a solo adventurer who seeks nothing more than unspoiled coastline, good food, real people.