The Wild Oregon Coast, Part 3: Cape Meares to Tillamook

This is Part 3 of the 3 part series on our trip to the Oregon Coast. For Part 1 (Peter Iredale Shipwreck to Ecola State Park) click here and for Part 2 (Cannon Beach to Netarts) click here.

My initial idea for our Oregon Coast road trip was to start from North to South, driving the whole length of the Oregon Coast. As I did more and more research, I found out that that would have pretty much been impossible in just 5 days. After our first 3 days, we had barely made it 1/3rd of the way down! But knowing that this was our last full day in the area, we just had to make the best use of the time we had. From our Airbnb in Netarts, we spent our day exploring the Three Capes Scenic Drive area and then ended our day in Tillamook.

Cape Meares

cape meares welcome sign

Our first stop was Cape Meares, the northernmost cape of the Three Capes Scenic Loop. During certain times of year, you can see migrating whales, sea lions and other marine mammals. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife other than birds, but we were able to catch the other two highlights of Cape Meares.

cape meares lighthouse

The first highlight is the Cape Meares lighthouse. It’s not very big – in fact, it’s actually the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, but its position on a high cliff and its powerful Fresnel lens (made in Paris, France!) can be seen from more than 21 miles away. There’s a little display area in the lighthouse that talks about its history, including how they hauled the massive lens 217 feet up the cliff by a wooden crane in the late 1800’s. Amazing!

cape meares coastal views
Beautiful coastal views along the easy walk to and from the lighthouse

The second highlight of Capes Meares is the unique Octopus Tree…

looking at the octopus tree

The Sitka Spruce tree is native to the Oregon Coast, but what makes this Octopus Tree unique is that it has no central trunk. It’s estimated to be 250 to 300 years old, but its origins remain a mystery. It’s unknown whether natural events or Native Americans gave this tree its unique shape. Regardless of its origins, the growth of this tree remains a natural wonder today.

octopus tree

Jacobsen Salt Company

Our next stop was to a salt company. Yes, a salt company. Although I’ve already explored salt cultivating in France, I was curious to see how they did it on the Oregon Coast. Jacobsen Salt Company is the first company to harvest salt from the Pacific Northwest since the 1800’s. Seawater is pumped from the Netarts Bay to the small plant, where it is filtered and reduced through a complicated process that you can find here (there’s also a fun Somebody Feed Phil Portland episode on Netflix which includes a visit here).

jacobsen salt co
A small shed where they sell Jacobsen Salt products with the Netarts Bay (the source for their salt) in the background
varieties of salt at jacobsen salt
It took lots of self-control to avoid buying one of everything.
salt byproduct at jacobsen salt

Cape Lookout

Our next stop south was to the second cape of the Three Capes Scenic Drive, Cape Lookout. We did another hike, the Cape Lookout Trail. This hike is about 5 miles out-and-back, but thankfully I read the reviews on AllTrails that the second part of this hike was muddy. Very muddy. Signs at the beginning of the trail and past the midway point told us the same thing. So we took this as a sign and only went halfway (which wasn’t muddy at all). The views were absolutely gorgeous!

walking along the trail
fern wall
First time seeing a wall of ferns 😍
ferns growing off trees
There are so many ferns on this trail that they’re even growing off the tree
coastal views

coastal view from cape lookout
The trees and ferns clear for views of the coast at certain points along the trail

Tillamook

As the name implies, there is a third cape along the Three Capes Scenic Drive, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to continue on. Why? Well, it was because we wanted to leave some time to explore Tillamook. I’ve always associated the name “Tillamook” with cheese and there’s good reason for that. The Tillamook area is well-known for their dairy farms, and Tillamook Creamery, right in the heart of Tillamook, produces 170,000 pounds of cheese each day. Tillamook Creamery is a popular tourist destination, where a free self-guided tour will tell you more about how their cheese is made.

tillamook creamery entry
Flower, the award-winning show cow, greets visitors to Tillamook Creamery
tillamook cheese production
There’s a nice observation area overlooking cheese production and packaging. I recommend coming during weekday working hours so you can see the production process in action (sadly we were a little late on the day of our visit).
tillamook cheese
Of course, the gift shop has plenty of Tillamook cheese and other local products for sale.
lunch at tillamook creamery with cheese curds and grilled cheese sandwiches
We had lunch at the Tillamook creamery which included a Caesar salad with cheese curds, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and fried cheese curds (notice a theme here? 🧀😏).

After our late lunch, we stood in a massively long line (about 45 minutes) for the famous Tillamook ice cream. Honestly, I found their ice cream kind of ‘meh’. It was creamy, but lacking in flavor. Definitely not worth waiting in a super slow, long line.

And now… we’ve saved the best for last. Another specialty of the nearby Netarts Bay are their oysters. Although we’re quite experienced in having oysters in France (3 highlights being in Cancale, Cap Ferret and the Ile d’Oleron), I hadn’t really tried fresh Pacific Coast oysters before. We chose the right place to try them at JAndy Oyster Co. JAndy Oyster Co. has been sustainably growing oysters on the Netarts Bay since 2012, but they only recently renovated a garden nursery in Tillamook to serve their fresh oysters along with other fresh seafood and drinks.

jandy oyster co restaurant
The Oyster Bar at JAndy Oyster Co. This was around closing time, hence the lack of people, but this place was absolutely packed when we first arrived. There’s also a nice outdoor area around the garden nursery.
fresh oysters and shrimp cocktail
Fresh juicy oysters in the front with a tangy shrimp cocktail behind
bbq oysters
This may be seasonal and weekends only, but they were doing barbecued oysters in the garden while we were there. These were oysters with hot sauce, butter, crab and cheese. They were just as amazing as they looked.

And that’s it for the Oregon Coast! We definitely only just touched the surface of this beautiful, wild area, and we could easily have spent another week seeing what else the coast had to offer. But it was time to make our way back down south and we chose to do so while taking a detour to another beautiful location – Crater Lake! That post is coming up next.

Until next time,

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