Summer Escapes: A Long Weekend in Manzanita, Oregon
Families traveling to the Oregon Coast often halt before reaching Manzanita, heading instead to towns with aquariums or kite-flying festivals or an abundance of salt-water taffy.
Manzanita doesn't specialize in those classic seaside attractions. But it has drawn me back every summer for 10 years now because of its relaxed, family-friendly nature. It's become too popular to strictly call it a hidden treasure, but it's still a quiet haven with a 7-mile sandy beach and just enough lattes and other amenities to keep everyone happy. Once we arrive, we rarely have to move the car until leaving town. Everything – park, ice cream shop, bookstore, tennis court, beach, bike rentals, farmers' market – is within a few blocks.
Just after sunrise, long walks down the white sand yield perfect sand dollars. Later in the morning, the adults can relax with their books while the kids build sand castles or dip their toes in the chilly water. The beach is flat and boasts long, straight stretches; even toddlers can't quickly vanish from view.
When the wind kicks up the sand in the afternoon, our kids walk to the small but versatile city park, picking blackberries by the roadside all the way.
If long, lazy days in the same place aren't your style, or if older kids chafe at the smallness of the town, Manzanita is also a great base for day trips. One warning: Bring cash or checks to Manzanita, as some of the businesses don't take credit cards. Some are also closed Monday through Wednesday, depending on the season. Chalk it up to just another quirk of vacationing in a still-small town.
The Sunset Surf Motel, 248 Ocean Road
It's timeworn, but it's right across the street from the beach and the views can't be beat, so long as you ask for an ocean view in the Budd building (best is the corner room, #202, with its wraparound windows). The kitchenettes make for economical meals, and the staff is friendly. Kids like dipping in the small outdoor pool (open June through September; call for exact pool opening dates) when the beach gets too windy. 800-243-8035. sunsetsurfocean.com
Bread & Ocean, 154 Laneda Ave. This bakery rivals the big-city best, selling fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and breads, salads, and gourmet sandwiches at lunch.
Marzano's Pizza, 60 Laneda Ave. This pizza joint is solidly good for dinner.
Manzanita Mudd Dogs, 58 Laneda Ave. At lunch, also check out the vacant lot near the beach for this hot dog cart, complete with bright green Chicago-style relish.
Picnics, Snacks and Groceries; Stop in at the amazingly well-stocked Mother Nature's Natural Foods Co-op at 298 Laneda Ave. (grass-fed beef, organic apples), or Manzanita Grocery & Deli at 193 Laneda Ave. (hamburger fixings, Ben & Jerry's).
Three miles north of town, this is a popular hangout for windsurfers. The Neahkanie Mountain Trail, a 3-mile round trip with some steep switchbacks, provides good exercise and a view of Manzanita Beach (our 7-year-old was fine with the steep grade).
Tourist-heavy Cannon Beach is an easy trip, 14 miles north, but we prefer to head 30 miles south to Tillamook, where both adults and kids get a kick out of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Big glass windows overlook the vast floor where "cheese trains" zip blocks of Cheddar around to be trimmed, sliced, weighed and wrapped by a mix of humans and mechanical aid. The massive, busy gift shop sells cheese curds and other edibles, and there are a couple counters selling mammoth Tillamook Ice Cream cones.
If your crew includes a train-crazy child, head about 35 miles south from Manzanita to ride the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, a darling and verrrry slow steam locomotive that takes a five-mile round trip between Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach ($20 adults, $12 kids ages 3-10).