You won’t feel like a tourist in this quiet beach town—which is of course the reason to visit.
DRIVE TIME: 1.5 HOURS
Find it on the map
SAVE FOR A SINGLE ice-cream shop—Pop’s Sweet Shop, which serves 20-plus flavors of Tillamook ice cream—Gearhart is devoid of tourist trappings. And that’s precisely why this tiny beach town is so appealing. Long a second-home haven for wealthy Portlanders, some of whom built their mansions in the 1920s (cedar-shingled homes near the beach today start at around $1 million), Gearhart (pop. 1,095) is a genteel beach community, one where Mercedeses rank as the car of choice and lawns are primly manicured. What the town lacks in standard tourist attractions, however, it more than makes up for in natural surrounds: The four-mile beach is among the best on Oregon’s northern shores for its headland views and absence of crowds. And with no big souvenir stores to trigger a crazed shopping spree, relaxing is the only thing you’ll need—or want—to do. —LH
Friday, 6 p.m.
Check-In: Gearhart Ocean Inn
There are no ocean views at this inn. It’s in town, just across from the burg’s only restaurant. Nonetheless, the 1941 hotel is a worthy base: Its 14 suites got a face-lift last winter, which lent the place a Cape Cod feel (albeit with a motel twist). Plus, you can steam your own clams in the kitchenettes, an added bonus that explains why the sign regularly reads, “No vacancy.” $100–$165; 800-352-8034; www.gearhartoceaninn.com
Saturday, 8 a.m.
Head for the Beach
Before you can glimpse the Pacific, you’ll need to ford an expanse of dunes, which means finding one of the trails cut into the beach grass and trundling your way over the sandy hillocks. Far from being an inconvenience en route to beach bliss, the views of the sun-kissed dunes and Tillamook Head beyond may persuade you to take a little extra time finding your way. The locals apparently knew this would happen. They’ve installed benches along the paths where visitors can survey the seascape at their leisure. Once you do reach the shore, you’ll have ample beach-towel real estate to choose from: You’re standing at the south end of a four-mile stretch that’s uninterrupted by impassable headlands or coves. Pull out a book and lose yourself for a chapter—or the entire thing.
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Necanicum River Estuary
At the south end of town, in a pullout near a cul-de-sac on Wellington Street, you’ll find an unmarked trailhead that only locals know about (until now). Here, a short spur through the trees delivers you to the the Necanicum River estuary, where, depending on the tide, you’ll spot shore birds aplenty feasting on critters they pull from the mudflats. Keep trekking over the western dunes to reach the point where the river spills into the sea, and you might spot a flock of pelicans that tend to hang out on a shallow sandbar off shore, seemingly enjoying the view of the horizon just as much as you are.
Saturday, 6 p.m.
Dinner at Pacific Way Bakery & Café
The Pacific Way Bakery & Café chefs may not take culinary risks (the menu leans toward beef tenderloin and French dip), but the dining room is still packed most weekend nights. Perhaps that’s because the restaurant makes up for any lack of experimentation with charm. The farm tables are hand-built, and the café retains the cozy architecture of the 1929 boardinghouse it once was. Go ahead and have that extra glass of Archery Summit wine: Your hotel is just across the street. No one will cite you for walking tipsily in the moonlight. 503-738-0245; closed Tue, Wed
Sunday, 8 a.m.
Gearhart Golf Links
Even back in the 1890s, patrons of the (now-defunct) Hotel Gearhart played golf on the town’s modest green. One of the oldest courses on the West Coast, the Gearhart Golf Links got an update in 1999, but the course architect retained the former spirit of the place: The links-style course undulates with the landscape, and British-style pot bunkers are the hazards to avoid. The 1940s-era clubhouse, the Sand Trap, burned down in 1998, but the new Sand Trap, operated by McMenamins, features historic photographs of early Gearhart golfers on the walls. Play a round, then tipple a little on the deck or down in the Pot Bunker Bar, where you can relive your day, or, depending on how you fared, forget it altogether. $50–$60 per round; 503-738-3538