The Wild Oregon Coast, Part 1: The Peter Iredale Shipwreck to Ecola State Park

After 9 years of living abroad, one important thing I’ve learned is that there are some beautiful places on the West Coast! Growing up in California, I completely took the beauty of California, Oregon and Washington for granted. And now that I live abroad, every time I return home I try to discover another part of the United States that I haven’t explored before. This time, I decided to explore the beautiful, wild Oregon Coast. On this trip, we started at the northern part of the Oregon Coast near Astoria and slowly made our way down via Highway 101, stopping along the way.

Peter Iredale Shipwreck

Just outside of the town of Warrenton, in Fort Steven State Park, sits the steel skeleton of the Peter Iredale, a ship that was wrecked over 100 years ago, in 1906. The Peter Iredale was a large 4 mast ship that was bound for Portland through the Columbia River when it encountered heavy winds and a strong current. Although the large ship was run aground at this beach, none of the crew was seriously injured or killed. This wrecked ship became an immediate tourist attraction, and remains so, down to this day.

You can visit this shipwreck either at low tide or at high tide. At low tide, you can get closer to the shipwreck itself, but we preferred going at a higher tide to get the reflections from the incoming waves. And it prevented most people from getting into our photos.

Seaside

Although Seaside wasn’t our favorite Oregon Coast town, we decided to stay here because of its location. Also, because it’s a bigger town, it was easier to find cheaper lodging than in other towns. We stayed at the Starry Night Inn, a cute, little Victorian house converted into a boutique hotel. The service was amazing there, and they always had a nice variety of complementary food and drinks waiting for us. Its central location was perfect – close to Highway 101 and also within walking distance of the main restaurants and the beach.

Now the town itself was just meh. I think if you have a family and primarily want to spend your days on the beach and with games and other attractions, it could be a nice place. Otherwise, it reminded me of any other beach town. There were a few highlights, though…

Beautiful sunset, complete with large bubbles, in Seaside

Being on the Oregon Coast, many of the restaurants here focus on seafood. We had a nice dinner at Norma’s Seafood & Steak, and although it was in a very touristy area, the staff managed to have efficient and friendly service (which cannot be said for another restaurant that we tried to get a table at 😒). The clam chowder (pictured above left) was rich and creamy, and the razor clams (pictured above right) were something new to discover. I’ve had razor clams before, but never breaded and pan-fried.

Although it was a rainy day, we still had to try the “best ice cream in Oregon” at Sea Star Gelato. And it didn’t disappoint.
Highly recommend the Marionberry Pie flavor (Marionberry is a type of blackberry native to Oregon)

Ecola State Park (and the Tillamook Trail)

Since we had done quite a bit of driving the day before, our plans were to take it easy, rest in the morning, and head to Ecola State Park in the afternoon to do a half-day hike to one of their beautiful beaches. As we got into the car, I went to double check the trailhead location on the AllTrails app, and… I found out that Ecola State Park was closed for 2 weeks for construction. 🤦🏻‍♀️

There was one way into the park, however. And that was to hike in via the Tillamook Head Trail (also known as the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail if you’re trying to find it on AllTrails). The out-and-back trail is 12.6 miles round trip from Tillamook Head, just south of Seaside and ends at Indian Beach in Ecola State Park. Since we found this all out around noon, we knew there was no way that we were going to be able to do the entire hike before sunset. But, since it is an out-and-back trail, we decided to start hiking and go as far as we could before turning back around.

The hike started off beautifully, in the midst of the forest, with trees towering above making us feel like ants in comparison.

It’s as if we had stepped into a fairy tale…

Don’t think this was a naturally-occurring message, but cute nonetheless.

We named this the “elbow bump” tree.

The trail was also very muddy, though we fortunately were there during a relatively-dry period. Thankfully there were planks to help us get through some of the muddiest parts.

Although the forest was beautiful and enchanting, unfortunately there were very few viewpoints were we could see the ocean. Here was one of them, after 2 miles in.

After about 4 miles in, we were feeling quite tired and ready to turn back around. But I decided to go a little further to make it to the Tillamook Lighthouse Viewpoint. I wanted to feel a little accomplishment for all of our hard work. Was it worth it? I’ll let you decide…

Yeah, I don’t really think so, either.

If we had continued just about a mile and a half further, we likely would have seen the best part of the hike, with coastal views leading down Indian Beach. But we were running out of time and energy, so sadly we had to turn around here and hike 4.5 miles back to the car.

Although dramatic-looking, these roots became the hardest part of the trail as they were slippery and often covered most of the trail, leaving little place to find stable footing, especially as we became more and more fatigued.

Overall, we enjoyed our walk in the forest along the trees and ferns, but I’m not sure if it was totally worth the 9 mile effort that we put into it. Though since we found out Ecola State Park was closed at the last minute, it truly was our only way to experience the park so I’m glad we did it. If we had found out earlier that Ecola State Park was closed, we could have gotten an earlier start and done the whole trail to Indian Beach. Next time, if Ecola State Park is open, I would like to drive to Indian Beach and do the trail from the opposite direction so that we can see the part we missed.

Our Oregon Coast trip is getting off to a good (though active) start! Coming up next – we’ll make our way down south to Cannon Beach and Hug Point!

Until next time,

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