3 Days in Pacific City

Alisha Roemeling, Guest Author
May 21, 2019

Home to the colorful sandstone formations of Cape Kiwanda, where sandy beaches stretch for miles and Haystack Rock rises 327 feet above the shoreline, Pacific City offers a perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. Just over an hour west of Salem and two hours southwest of Portland on Oregon’s North Coast, Pacific City is a humming little beach town that’s easily explored on foot or by bike. Whether you’re looking for a quick weekend trip with the family, a romantic getaway with your partner or some time with the girls, there are ample ways to enjoy a few days in Pacific City. Here’s how.

Revel in ocean views and upscale Pacific Northwest favorites at Meridian Restaurant & Bar, off the grand lobby of Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa.

 Day 1: Happy hour and a sunset hike

First, get settled by checking into one of four properties, which cater to a range of needs, styles and budgets — from cozy and budget-friendly to roomy, family-friendly, romantic and luxury. At the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, just across the street from the beach, every room offers views of the ocean so visitors can enjoy a view of Haystack Rock from the comfort of the hotel, no matter the weather. A stone’s throw away is Hart’s Camp — offbeat luxury but simple and affordable Airstreams for couples and small families with a private fenced yard, firepit, barbecue and picnic table. (Four of the Airstreams are pet-friendly, so call ahead to book.) Not far away, there’s also an abundance of vacation homes by Shorepine Vacation Rentals, many just steps from the beach, that vary in size and can accommodate up to 16 people. Many of the hilltop homes have panoramic ocean views, from Nestucca River to Cape Kiwanda. Finally, for those looking to indulge in the ultimate in beach-cation, Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa — Oregon’s newest oceanfront lodge — is contemporary, beachfront and ideal for a romantic weekend getaway. The hotel’s spa offerings, private balconies, gas fireplaces and dramatic ocean views make it easy to treat yourself. You can even request a dog-friendly room and bring your pup along too — they’ll have designer doggie bedding and artisan-crafted bowls waiting.

Once settled in, it’ll be time for a nosh. The oceanview Meridian Restaurant & Bar just off Headlands’ grand lobby offers a tasty happy hour, complete with artisan charcuterie boards, sweet and spicy almonds and $3 off wine by the glass from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Still hungry? Make a reservation and dine from the dinner menu to try some of the area’s local seafood offerings, including oysters on the half shell with a champagne mignonette or the Dungeness crab pasta with locally foraged mushrooms. 

Now that you’ve properly fueled, go for a short hike to the top of Cape Kiwanda to catch the sunset. The steep, sandy dune makes up part of the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, where orange, brown and yellow sandstone formations are juxtaposed against the blue Pacific Ocean. With a view of Oregon’s largest Haystack Rock just offshore, it’s worth the short heart-pumping climb. Make sure to stay within the fenced area when climbing to the top.

Pacific City is an Oregon surfing mecca. Watch surfers year ‘round or take a lesson and try it for yourself.

Day 2: Pastries and a day on the water

A full day in Pacific City needs to start with a trip to Stimulus Coffee + Bakery. Whether you’re the early-morning workout or the stumble-out-of-bed-to-the-caffeine type, Stimulus is open early daily with an array of fresh-baked pastries, oatmeal, coffee and other drinks to kickstart the morning. Try the the Beach Bun pastry with a chai tea latte.

Arguably the best part about Pacific City is its easy access to adventure and the expertise of local shops that make it a breeze. Drop into Nestucca Adventures to rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard or purchase fishing gear. If you’d rather stick to land activities, check out a complimentary Linus cruiser or fat-tire bike at Headlands, Inn at Cape Kiwanda and Hart’s Camp and take off on many of the area’s bike paths, some of which go through town. The Headlands’ friendly “adventure coaches” will also have tips on where to ride or how to find other outdoor activities in the area.

End your day with a late-night stroll and campfire on the beach. Pro tip: Purchase firewood at the hotel front desk since driftwood fires are not allowed. Those in search of a new happy place may find it here, sitting around a fire with their toes in the sand, just feet from the ocean.

The hot tub at Headlands’ Tidepools Spa & Wellness offers the ultimate in relaxation after a day of adventure.

Day 3: Spa time and dory boating

Whether you have a long or short return home, make the time to focus on yourself so you can leave rested and refreshed. Headlands guests have full access to the hotel’s Tidepools Spa & Wellness, where you can take a dip in the outdoor hot tub, get a massage or squeeze in some yoga or cardio on the elliptical machine. Guests not staying at Headlands may purchase a day pass.  

If you’re looking for more ocean or beach adventures, head out to sea on a dory boat — perfect fishing for rockfish, lingcod and salmon as well as crabbing. One of the most unique things about Pacific City is where it’s situated along the coastline. Cape Kiwanda to the north and Haystack Rock slightly southwest of shore serve as natural breakwater that shields the area from intense weather and waves. It’s the only place in Oregon where dory boats launch straight off the beach, and makes for an exciting spectacle for visitors. Call Pacific City Fishing to book a trip — all gear is provided.

Before hitting the road, settle down for a casual but indulgent lunch at the original location of Pelican Brewing, a Pacific City staple since 1996 and the only beachfront brewpub in the Pacific Northwest. Sit on the patio and watch the steady stream of surfers; pair a plate of fresh fish tacos with their award-winning Kiwanda Cream Ale. 

Epic sunsets in Pacific City feature Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock — enjoy the sight from a beach campfire or your own beachfront balcony.

If you go:

Weather on Oregon Coast can vary. Expect rain and clouds in the winter months and a mix of sun and rain in the spring. Summer and fall days can be perfectly clear and sunny, with fog or cloud covers often rolling in overnight and burning off in the afternoon. Wind can pick up any day of the year, so layers are best. When playing in Oregon’s coastal areas, keep in mind Leave No Trace principles and keep the beaches clean for all to enjoy. On the way home, have fun exploring the eateries, farm stands and other artisan businesses along the North Coast Food Trail. Or consider traveling car-free to Pacific City so you can truly enjoy the ride.

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