Cruising the Oregon Coast Highway, along Oregon’s Tillamook Coast, coastal mountains covered with conifer forest rise to the east. Wetlands, waterways, estuaries, beaches, and the Pacific open to the west.
This is a water world, where fishing fleets and pleasure craft are sheltered in harbors and colorful marinas. Working boats go out and return with the tide hauling a catch of oysters, crab, shrimp, salmon, albacore, halibut, steelhead, lingcod, and more.
Passing by towns with names like Otter Rock, Agate Beach, Seal Rock, Yachts, and Dune City give hints of the local scenery. A historic railway carries passengers along its scenic route.
Small towns dot Hwy 101. Each has its own version of history, nature, food, and libations. The area is easy going. Folks are friendly, and there is plenty to do. Try these, I loved them all.
Tillamook Air Museum
Drive south of Tillamook and visit the Tillamook Air Museum. This monolith is the world’s tallest standing wood building, measuring 1,072′ long by 296′ wide, and 192′ tall. There are 7-acres under roof.
In WWII, it was the home to K-Class Airships – blimps. Seventeen airship hangars were built in the US during the war. Only seven remain, but Tillamook is the only one open to the public. The museum shares a detailed view of the role blimps played during the war and the somewhat unusual jobs carried out by men and women in the military.
Located in the corner of the seven-acre, blimp-hanger is Steve Schramm’s lifetime collection of WWII battle scene dioramas. If you are a WWII battle nerd, this will be your happy place.
Aircraft of all description are on display inside and outside. All are open and invite you to touch, climb aboard, and explore.
Parking is free, and admission is $10.50 with discounts for active military, veterans, seniors, and children. The gift shop has souvenirs that Avi-Geeks will adore. Plan on lunch or a coffee break in the snack bar.
Cheese, cheese and more cheese
Tillamook County is a happy home to numerous dairies and creameries.
Tillamook Cheese is the place most cheeseheads go to. Complimentary cheese tasting attracts folks from around the globe. An old-fashioned ice cream parlor, cheese, wine, cider, and other local food products are offered in the gift shop.
Try Blue Heron French Cheese Company for cheese, food, and wine tasting. Gather picnic necessities here to take to the beach later. Deli salads, sandwiches, meats, fruit, crackers, sweets, and condiments are available.
Tillamook Coast maritime history
Garibaldi Maritime Museum tells the captivating maritime history of the Tillamook Coast. The museum is beautifully curated. Many exhibits include films with a comfortable seat while viewing. Expert docents are available to lead tours of this outstanding small museum.
Take the train to Rockaway
Take the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach. Perfectly restored steam trains hug the coast and chug across wetlands.
De-train in Rockaway Beach. Wander around the colorful shops and take a stroll on the wide sand beach before re-boarding and heading back to Garibaldi.
Explore the Port of Garibaldi
Explore the docks and marina in the Port of Garibaldi. There are commercial and sportfishing boats. The commercial catch is processed in sheds and packing plants.
Garibaldi Marina is an excellent place for picnic food. Fish markets sell raw, smoked, and prepared fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters. Sidewalk shrimp or crab cocktails are popular snacks. At the Spot, have your fresh catch cleaned and fresh crabs boiled. The Spot sells fresh seafood, tackle, bait, and a fish story or two.
Say hello to a fisherman coming in for the day. Ask about the catch or boat. The Tillamook Coast fishing industry works hard at sustaining the catch for future seafood lovers. They are glad to share their story.
Eat lots of Tillamook Coast seafood
Pacific Oyster is a colossal oyster processing plant. Throughout the day, tons (literally) of oysters come in from the ubiquitous oyster farms. View the shucking room from behind a glass wall. This is hard work in cold, wet conditions. You’ll appreciate the cost of oysters on the half shell after a visit here.
Bay City Fish Peddler, a restaurant and oyster bar, is in front of the oyster plant. You won’t go wrong ordering any of the seafood dishes on the menu. I encourage you to try any oyster dish or something from the raw bar to start your meal.
Oyster stew is perfectly prepared with cream, butter, and ‘just shucked’ oysters. Prices are very good for the Peddler’s hook-to-mouth freshness and top quality.
Fisherman’s Korner Restaurant is on the Garibaldi docks. Diner favorites and award-winning fish and chips bring locals and visitors back for more. I am a captain’s platter lover and enjoyed every morsel of local seafood, crisp fries, and crunchy coleslaw. The Korner’s breakfast is cooked to perfection and offered all day. Everything is fresh and exceptionally well prepared. Service is welcoming and prices are reasonable.
Tillamook Coast basecamp
There is lodging of every kind along the Tillamook Coast. Camping on the beach or in the forest is available for tents and RVs. Hotels, motels, and B&Bs are plentiful. If you are considering a vacation rental, you’ll find loads of oceanfront condos offered. They will range from generic and straightforward, to luxury units with top-shelf amenities.
My recommendation for an authentic Tillamook Coast experience is Kendra’s River Inn. Make it your home base. Oregon-casual surroundings like fireplaces, comfy overstuffed chairs, lots of books, exceptional bedding, and Nehalem River views are unmatchable.
Six individual rooms and suites at this historic inn take you a bit off the beaten path into the lovely roadhouse operated by the incredible Kendra. Her cooking is legendary. I spent some time with her in the kitchen one morning, what an experience. Breakfast is for guests only; lunch and dinner are open to all.
Check-in and hang out for the rest of the day. Borrow a kayak from Kendra and explore the Nehalem. Roy Creek Park is 1.25-miles southeast of the roadhouse. Head out on foot or cycle and get lost on a back-country road. Wildlife is abundant, bring a camera.
Portland (PDX) is the closest international airport.
A car is needed for this trip. GPS is suggested for navigating the backroads. From the airport, drive west from Portland on Hwy 26, then south on Oregon Hwy 53. Your first stop, Kendra’s, is southeast of the small town of Nehalem on Hwy 53. From Kendra’s, it’s about one mile to Hwy 101.
Explore the Tillamook Coast
Go get lost in the rivers, wetlands, lakes, beaches, forests, lighthouses, marinas, and small-towns just asking to be discovered.
This quiet, unspoiled area is a center of maritime life on the Tillamook Coast. It’s a beautiful place to discover where your seafood comes from.
The Tillamook Coast is waiting for you to drop by. For more things to do, places to stay, and lip-smacking eateries check with Visit Tillamook Coast.
Photos & Video: Mary Charlebois.
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Where is the Tillamook Coast?
Tillamook is located west of Portland off the Oregon Coast. It is known for its many things to do and see, a popular tourist attraction.
How long does it take to drive from Portland to Tillamook Oregon?
Driving from Portland, Oregon to Tillamook, Oregon takes approximately one hour and 25 minutes, if you drive the shortest route non-stop. This is a distance of 56.8 miles. If you follow the scenic OR 6 route the distance is 73 miles.
Where is Tillamook Cheese from?
Tillamook cheese originated in Tillamook, Oregon, at the original production facility at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Tillamook cheese is an American cheddar. The visitor center at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, now called the Tillamook Creamery is open, hosting more than 1.3 million visitors a year!
How did the name Tillamook in Oregon originate?
The Tillamook is a native American tribe from the north-west Oregon Coast area of Tillamook. Tillamook is from the native American Chinook tribal language meaning “people of Nekelim or Nehalem”. Nekelim or Nehalem is a word meaning “place where people live”.