While the towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach get all of the fanfare accolades for the Oregon Coast hotspots, smaller towns like Manzanita offer a surprising number of benefits for travels. According to Visit Manzanita, the town operates with what is called a “doughnut hole” micro-climate. What that means is that when the weather is at its warmest, this little city tends to stay clear while other communities deal with fog and rain.
Even if you’re not a beach bum yourself, you may enjoy others doing their thing. The area is known for attracting various surfers, kite boarders and boogie boarders. If that is you, you’ll want to know that the water here rarely gets higher than 60 degrees, so while it looks pretty, you’ll want to don a wetsuit. It is also worth noting that while the breeze off the sand dunes will provide some relief during the summer months, the winds can pick up a bit without warning, so pack along a sweatshirt just in case things get chilly.
In Manzanita, you can surf, play golf, go horseback riding, ride a big trike on the beach or take a walk on a forest trail. You can look for bald eagles and watch for whales. Along Laneda Avenue, you’ll find a nice collection of shops and eateries. Not too many that you’ll get overwhelmed with other tourists but just enough to not get bored. Here’s some of the best things to do in town:
When vacationing, why not learn something new and see the sights at the same time? SUP Manzanita offers stand up paddle board (or SUP) lessons and tours on top of “giant surfboards”. The sport, which originated about 40 years ago in Hawaii, is pretty easy to learn and is a low impact activity.
You can book a private lesson or for a group as large as six. All tours and lessons last between one-and-a-half and three hours in length along the Nehalem River, six miles inland from the ocean. The cost includes everything you need except for a swimsuit! They promise that won’t have to lug anything either. Just show up and you’ll be on your way in no time. You’ll learn all of the basics including effective paddling, safety, balance control and even falling-recovery techniques. Not that you’ll need them. Well, maybe once or twice.
908 Lakeview Dr., Manzanita, OR 97130
If you see someone in town with logo featuring a seagull wearing a crown, you’ll know that they favor the 9-hole golf course, Manzanita Links. The beautiful course offers a tranquil experience with both ocean and forest views. In fact, the course was built on ancient sand dunes a few blocks from the ocean in 1987.
Those who have played have commented on how down-to-earth and friendly the staff is here. The course is fairly easy too. It’s not open on Mondays but they offer discounts to teachers, active military, policemen, firefighters and frontline health care workers every “Thankful Thursday”.
411 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Self-described as your “one stop shop for beach fun”, Bahama Mama’s offers 24-hour rentals of surfboards, skimboards, boogie boards, wetsuits and accessories. They also rent funcycles (you know, those tricycles that you sit low to the ground on), beach cruisers (your regular bike design) and mountain bikes (for trail riding). All of the bike rentals are by the hour and all rentals are first come, first serve.
In addition to the rentals, Bahama Mama’s also lots of kites, Frisbees, smash balls, kites, sidewalk chalk – basically, there’s a lot here to keep you busy. They also carry a large selection of apparel, souvenirs, and sunglasses.
Oregon Beach Rides
Nehalem Bay State Park Day Use Area
34600 Garey St., Nehalem, OR 97131
Boasting of being Oregon’s “best beach and trail ride”, Oregon Beach Rides is ready to take you and your family on an exploratory adventure on the beaches of Nehalem Bay. Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, these horse guides offer mid-morning and afternoon horseback rides for anyone age six and up.
While you stroll along your one or two hour ride by the rugged dunes, you might see an eagle, deer, elk, seals and maybe even a whale if you’re lucky. They have horses of all skill levels including miniature horses (or what we like to call “fun size”) for little riders. Private rides are available as well.
Oregon Beach Rides operated seven days a week in June but they take Sundays off in July and August. Want to know who you’ll be riding with? (We mean the horses.) You’ll find them all on the Oregon Beach Rides’ website.
Nehalem Valley Historical Society
225 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Manzanita, Wheeler and Nehalem, the Nehalem Valley Historical Society operates a museum under the historic Pine Grove Community House on Laneda Avenue. Although only open on Saturdays from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., there is a treasure trove to be found here for history lovers.
Although the exhibits here change from time to time, some of the previous ones have included artifacts from the Beeswax Wreck of the late 1600s, Sir Francis Drake’s (supposed) stop for ship repairs in the 1570s, Spanish galleon trade routes, and the life and times of Mary Gerritse (aka the first female mail carrier of the North Coast).
If a Saturday doesn’t work for you, you can also call to make an appointment another time during the week.
Manzanita Farmers Market
635 Manzanita Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Located at the Underhill Plaza, the Manzanita Farmers Market operates on Fridays from 4:00-7:00 p.m., May through October. Each year, the market features anywhere from 50 to 75 different vendors selling their wares and despite the name, the goods aren’t all grown on a farm.
Some of what you’ll find here include the obligatory fruit and vegetables, pottery, woodcraft, chocolate, jewelry, pastries, paintings, illustrations, prints, wines, stones, vodka, sculptures, plants, apparel, food trucks, henna tattoos, sauces, candles, lotions, beef, lamb, smoked salmon, micro brews, pies, distillers…you get the idea. A little bit here for everybody all incredibly locally made.
Oswald West State Park
41575 Highway 101 N., Manzanita, OR 97130
Not that they’re bragging or anything, but Oregonians tend to agree that the Oswald West State Park is one of the best and scenic parks in the state. The humongous 2,484-acre park encompasses 13 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail which ends (or begins depending on your direction) in Manzanita. Whether you prefer sun or shade, this is a good place for you.
There are 14 trails located in the park. One of the most popular forest trails in the park is the Neahkahnie Mountain via South Traihead. It is 2.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 885 feet. But for those wanting something a little less taxing, you might prefer the Short Sand Beach Trail which is just 1.2 miles in length and an elevation grade of just 82 feet. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll find lots of wilderness to enjoy and take pictures of.
The Short Sand Beach itself can be accessed from the park’s main parking lot by following a half mile trail that sits beside the Short Sand Creek. The picnic area there offers a beautiful view overlooking the beach.
Despite its spooky name, the Devil’s Cauldron Trail is actually quite tame. Just half a mile long, it only takes about 15 minutes to complete, but the views are well worth it. It is a popular hike for birding and running. It is believed that what was once a series of caverns is now a large bowl or “punchbowl” if you prefer. Water rushes in through narrow, underwater openings and splash violently on the rocky walls giving the place the name, Devil’s Cauldron.
144 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
For some, simply being near the beach is relaxing enough. Others need a bit more. Spa Manzanita believes that self-care is sacred or pretty darn close to it. Here, their massage therapists and estheticians will do their best (and mostly like succeed) to relax and rejuvenate through services that include massage, facials, waxing and more.
Choose services ala carte or choose a package of treatments with fun names like Manzanita Beach Time which includes a 90-minute massage, custom facial, hand treatment and a foot soak with hot tea, a glass of wine or even a mimosa.
Cloud & Leaf Bookstore
148 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Located just two blocks from the ocean, Cloud & Leaf Bookstore offers a collection of books “lovingly curated” by a “reader, writer and whiskey drinker.” The shop sells new fiction and non-fiction books for both children and adults.
Open seven days a week, the bookstore often offers author talks, book signings and other literary events throughout the year.
Hoffman Center for the Arts
594 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
The Hoffman Center for the Arts calls itself a place for artists, writer, horticultural enthusiasts and just everyday creators of all kinds. Part art gallery, part school room, the Center serves the artists and those who appreciate them with a variety of gallery exhibitions and classes offered throughout the year.
Dining and Drinking Activities
MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar
387 Laneda Ave. #D, Manzanita, OR 97130
While they offer a nice selection of craft cocktails, food, beer and wine, MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar’s focus is on…well…whiskey. Over 200 varieties of the brown stuff from all over the world can be found here. With both indoor and outdoor seating, it makes for a great spot to hang out regardless of the weather.
Enjoy hearty bowls of MacGregor’s Mac and Cheese (by itself or with smoked salmon or pastrami), lobster bisque or the soup of the week. Or maybe you’d prefer a small plate of mixed olives, a Manzanita pretzel or a fresh, hand-held pie of the day. A variety of charcuterie boards and desserts are available as well.
San Dune Pub
127 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Established way back in 1935, the San Dune Pub looks unassuming with its old, red brick building, but inside it’s a different story. It’s sort of a surf shack. It’s almost feels as if you’re dining on the beach. The tables and wicker chairs resemble outdoor furniture. The wood-lined walls are decorated with a surfing motif. There is a large fireplace to warm up to on chilly nights and there is an outdoor patio for warmer weather.
The 21+ establishment has a reputation (a good one!) for their fish tacos. They even made Thrillist’s list for the top 10 bars in Oregon outside of Portland. Overall, this a pub through and through serving up burgers (15 different types), fish and chips and baby back ribs on Monday nights.
519 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
Located within a weathered old house, Neah-Kah-Nie Bistro is light, bright and elegant inside with golden yellow and light green walls, hardwood floors and mismatched furniture. They have a full bar and outdoor patio dining as well.
Reservations are required for the restaurant which is open evenings Tuesday-Sunday. The bistro specializes in their version of gourmet comfort food from Fancy Fries (Italian truffle oil, garlic and parsley over crispy fries) to Chicken Marsala (sautéed with baby Portabella mushrooms and onions and finished with a creamy Marsala wine sauce). There are choices for land-lubber and sea-folk alike including coconut prawns, calamari, crab risotto, true cod and ribeye steak.
Big Wave Café
822 Laneda Ave., Manzanita, OR 97130
The owners of Big Wave Café believe that food and family go hand-in-hand and that their restaurant isn’t a place to get away, but rather a place to get together. Everything here is fresh and prepared only when you arrive.
Big Wave offers the best in surf and turf dining including seafood starters (like Dungeness Crab Cocktails and Pan-Fried Oysters), specialty salads (the ever-popular Crab Louie and classic Caesar), Steaks (Black Angus New York cut and Snake River Ranch Wagyu Top Sirloin), Seafood (from Halibut Fish and Chips to the Captain’s Platter) and gourmet burgers and sandwiches.