bridges-haystack-brew

The Pelican Pub’s alfresco dining area.

Until then, however, Pacific City remains the kind of Oregon coastal town that provides travelers with just enough for comfort. Those who can’t live without a proper omelette-and-potatoes breakfast, for example, pack the dining room of the Grateful Bread Bakery, where a smiling waitstaff in tie-dyed T-shirts serves up plates of eggs to a steady stream of morning diners. The Pelican Pub, with its award-winning microbrews (including Tsunami Stout and Doryman’s Dark Ale), offers pub fare in a dining room with unadulterated views of Haystack Rock (similar in shape and size to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock, it’s often referred to as the other Haystack Rock).

What Pacific City has in spades, though, and what makes this working town a worthy weekend destination, is natural beauty. Straddling the confluence of the Big Nestucca and Little Nestucca Rivers, the town also fronts eight uninterrupted miles of wind-whipped beach that stretch between Big Nestucca’s mouth and Cape Kiwanda. Should the ocean become too surly, pluckier travelers can rent a kayak from the unassuming Pacific City Sporting Goods & Marina and paddle all the way to the place where the Big Nestucca meets the sea—or pull off into the estuaries near the rivers’ confluence for great birding and leisurely touring.

The emptiness of Bob Straub State Park stretches all the way to the river mouth.

On both mornings during my weekend visit, I rose at 7 a.m. and slogged to the top of Cape Kiwanda’s towering hill of a dune, where I plopped down in the sand and watched the ocean surging and crashing in the cape’s caves below.

Only one beach-user group bested my early morning wake-up call: surfers. Just as the cape protects the dory fleet from too much pummeling, it also creates a calmer ocean surface over which orderly sets of rollers peel into shore. That makes Pacific City one of the best spots for the sport on the coast; the beach parking lot regularly hosts 1970s-era VW vans with pop tops and quivers of boards. For wave enthusiasts, this is an ideal place to set up camp.

If even that seems too much of a scene, however, if you’re looking for a place to truly get away, there are always the dunes and the emptiness of Bob Straub State Park, named after the former governor who, while a state treasurer, successfully fought a plan to route U.S. 101 closer to the ocean. If the plan had succeeded, it would have plowed the highway straight through Pacific City itself. His act of preservation largely explains why this small coastal hamlet, for the most part, remains just that, a fact worth contemplating while walking the park’s five or so miles of beach or, even better, while watching the dory fleet’s return.

Depending on the season, the haul and the willingness of the captain, you might even be able to buy a whole fish direct from the dorymen themselves and then cook that fresh Pacific bounty over the coals of a beachfront campfire, an utterly froufrou-free way to celebrate the end of an easy day in a coastal town that, despite a few flourishes, remains true to its hardworking core.