I’ve had an Oregon travel guide on my blog list for ages, but I haven’t gotten around to actually working on it. Then, I thought: maybe I should try to visit all these places before I write a guide for them. I mean, it’s been a while for some places.
So I decided it would probably be easier to do short travel guides for now, then work my way up to a big one.
Danny and I just got back from Rockaway Beach. Three years ago, when Forrest only 9 months old (was he ever that small? And yet, has it really been that long?), we visited Rockaway Beach with Danny’s family and had a blast. We did that again this year. I hope this becomes a tradition for a very, very long time because it’s really fun.
So you’ve decided to visit Rockaway Beach! Exciting! First things first, decide where you’ll want to stay. Rockaway Beach is itself a very small town (and a rather large beach); the town has less than 2,000 residents and is made up primarily of hotels, some shops, and condos. There is kind of a boardwalk, but the main street is also dominated by a set of train tracks.
We usually stay in a rental home, either through VRBO or HomeAway, on all of our vacations; it’s generally just more affordable in the long run. This trip was no different.
There are AirBNBs, large condo complexes, and hotels in the area, all of which seem nice (or nice in a middle-of-the-road, you-won’t-spend-much-time-here kind of way). Everything is within walking distance to the beach, so you don’t have to worry about that if you’re staying in Rockaway itself. If you choose to stay in Garibaldi (the next town over towards Tillamook), you will have a longer drive, as Garibaldi itself is a small bay. There are also campsites nearby if camping is your thing, as well as lots of lodging options in Tillamook. Further down the coast, Lincoln City is only about an hour away, but has a ton of rental house options and more. If you decide to go north, Manzanita and Nehalem Bay are also great little towns with some shops and hotels. Manzanita in particular has a lot of condos as well as beach access.
I highly recommend looking at the VRBO options for Rockaway Beach though; there is nothing quite like being able to watch the sunset over the ocean or sit outside with your morning coffee listening to the sound of ocean. What an incredibly way to start the morning! This is the condo we stayed in and we loved it; the back patio area had a ton of seating, plus two sand areas that were perfect for Forrest to play in if we just wanted to relax and not worry about him running into the ocean every 5 minutes. We had our own private path down to the beach as well.
Even for a short trip, I’m a big fan of using rental homes, as you can save money on food and it’s not that much more expensive than a hotel—plus you ultimately save on food, as you can cook meals yourself.
2. The Beach
Being right on the beach has so many benefits.
The Kite Festival
While we were there, there was a large kite festival happening most days. As well, kites are incredibly popular anyway. The Oregon Coast is notorious for being windy. Our condo happened to be in prime seating for this festival though; everyday, there were probably 10+ huge kites right beside our condo. We could sit on the back patio and watch them. Forrest was obsessed.
This was probably one of the best parts of our trip is seeing those kites. When I say they were huge, I mean they were big; probably 20-30 feet long each and shaped like different animals. There were sharks, whales, cats, cartoon characters, sting rays… you name it!
This kite festival happens every late July and early August, so I highly recommend visiting then.
Even if you can’t make it for the festival, there are also always kite flyers out. Buying even a cheap kite on your way there will make it super fun, but if you can spring for a more expensive one, again, I say go for it. We got Forrest a small kite that he spent hours playing with; it was total worth the expense because he really enjoyed it.
Other Things to Do
If you’re right on the beach, you can literally do anything: read, embroider, knit, or whatever; build sandcastles; go for long walks; search for starfish and sand dollars; and much more. You probably don’t need me to tell you those things.
We tried skimboarding and boogie boarding, both of which were fun for the younger people in our group. (I did not personally try them. Danny wiped out bad!)
We had the most fun just relaxing, which is what we needed. I got a lot of writing done and Danny read. But if you’re more active, there are still tons of activities to try, even though the water is much colder up north.
3. Places to visit
We love visiting Tillamook, but as a warning, it is crowded. No matter the day or time of year, it is almost always crowded. It’s often even more crowded when the weather isn’t good during the summer, as visitors flock there instead of the beach. The day we went was foggy, rainy, and overcast. Needless to say, it was crowded.
We still had fun though. We briefly checked out the factory tour, but the factory wasn’t actually operating that day so there wasn’t a lot to see. We perused the gift shop and then treated ourself to some food and ice cream. You can check out the entire menu here.
We ordered the Classic Mac n’ Cheese (“A creamy blend of Tillamook Medium & Sharp Cheddars. Topped with crushed buttery herb bread crumbs”) and a small salad (“Seasonal greens, tomato, red onion, mushrooms, house made croutons, and Tillamook Sharp Cheddar. Tossed with our creamy Tillamook Sour Cream herb dressing”). I know that ordering a salad probably doesn’t sound very fun, but I was in a mood where I needed some vegetables—and the salad was good! We got Forrest the kids grilled cheese which was massive and came with fries, like most kids meals. He really enjoyed it. The mac n’ cheese was really delicious; very cheesy without being overly goopy. We demolished it, along with the salad; the salad was actually one of my favorite things I ate and it was just their standard house salad!
After lunch, we got ice cream to share; we got a scoop of cookies n’ cream, chocolate swirl, and butter pecan. Chocolate for Forrest, cookies n’ cream for Danny, and butter pecan for me. All three were excellent; Tillamook ice cream really is some of the best in the world.
I treated myself to a Tillamook sticker for my car, as well as a brick of smoked cheddar (my favorite cheese). Forrest picked out a hat which has nothing to do with Tillamook, but it made him happy and I am a sucker.
Most of our days we spent in Rockaway itself. There are some fun places to visit aside from the beach.
One place were were very excited to revisit was Pronto Pup, less of a restaurant and more of a food stand. I have really nostalgic memories of this from our trip three years ago; however, I felt like it wasn’t nearly as good! Pronto Pup is essentially a corn dog restaurant and I do love a good corn dog. My memory of it is being one of the best corn dogs I ever ate, but I feel like they either changed something or my memory is totally faulty. However, Forrest really enjoyed visiting Pronto Pup (including riding the big corn dog outside) and ate his entire corn dog.
In Rockaway, there is also Flamingo Jim’s, a large gift shop that is really fun to look through. Like most small, tourist towns, almost every shop sells the same stuff (little gifts and trinkets, kites, flip flops, sweatshirts, and coffee mugs). However, as much as we try not to buy stuff like that, we did have fun looking.
There are two competing ice cream shops in Rockaway: Schwieterts (which also has a location in Manzanita) and Sea Breeze, a more kitschy gift shop that also sells salt water taffy and gifts. I personally prefer Sea Breeze; you got more ice cream for cheaper, and if you got salt water taffy, the owner tried to guess the weight before you put it on the scale. (He was almost always right!) Both sell Tillamook ice cream, however, so you can’t really go wrong!
There are a few restaurants in Rockaway Beach. We only visited one: the Beach Bite/Dos Rocas, two-restaurants-in-one. One is a more classic diner with seafood options and the other is a Mexican restaurant. The menu is double-sided, so you can order whatever. We visited with Forrest and he got a quesadilla (which I only got him to try by saying it was “like a grilled cheese”, his newest obsession). I ordered the Bite Burger and Danny got the mahi mahi fish and chips. We really enjoyed everything we got, even if it was a little expensive. In a small tourist town, most of the restaurants are going to be a little pricey, but it was nice to have a break from cooking one day of our trip!
On Monday, we visited Manzanita, a town north on the coast by about 20 minutes (but really only like 7 miles from Rockaway on the beach itself). It was nice to drive through some of the smaller towns along the coast; Danny and I both love talking about architecture and homes as we drive through towns and beach houses are so gorgeous. Manzanita is a fun little town with a main street that runs directly towards the beach.
First things first, we visited Manzanita Coffee Shop for some coffee and treats. I got a plain coffee and a maple/chocolate donut to share with Danny and Forrest. Danny’s mom bought a cinnamon roll muffin that was delicious and I will absolutely try to replicate. The coffee was really good as well.
Then, we explored all the shops. There were some really fun ones. I found a dress that was covered in a periodic table print—it was, however, $80. Again, like most tourist-y shops, the prices were a little wild. However, it was fun to look. We specifically had fun in Toylandia, a toy shop where we bought Forrest a Buzz Lightyear kite (which was cute, but not the best for actually flying a kite) and a mini kite (which actually worked quite well).
We originally planned to eat lunch at the Winery at Manzanita, but all of us were still full from our treats, so we decided to wait until later. However, their food looked very good and they sold s’mores to roast over fires on the patio.
There were a few things I wanted to do that we didn’t get around to. Unfortunately, Forrest got sick on day two or three of our trip (I noticed him slowing down and being really cranky, then he was awake all night with a fever); once he started feeling better, I got sick. We headed home a day early so I could recover before diving back into work. (Confession: instead of resting, I’m writing this post the afternoon after we got home. I’m sorry, Danny.)
We wanted to visit Astoria, which is a place I’ve heard so much about, but never really went! We also wanted to take Forrest to the aquarium and never got around to it. Lincoln City has outlet shops that I always love to visit. We just never got around to it, plus hanging out with the sound of the ocean felt much better for me and my mental health at the moment. I did find myself getting cabin fever after a few days (what can I say? I’m very easily bored!)
There’s always next time, after all!