A Haven for Out of the Way Vacations on the Scenic North Coast
Manzanita, Oregon is known for its laid-back atmosphere and talented artisans, as well as its proximity to mountain biking, fishing, boating, and jaw-dropping vistas.
Nestled at the southern base of Neahkahnie Mountain in scenic Nehalem Bay is one of Oregon Coast’s quietest resort towns. With a full-time population of about 600 residents one commercial street and less than 1 square mile to its name, Manzanita is anything but a bustling tourist attraction.
And for many who visit this town each year, that’s one of its best qualities.
Comprising largely of vacation rentals and attractive bungalows, Manzanita is located halfway between Tillamook and Seaside. That makes the little town even more tempting for weekend visitors who are looking for a seaside getaway where they can kick back, veg, and still get time to kayak, hike, or fish.
According to legends of the Coastal Indians (probably the Nehalem Clan of the Tillamook Tribe), Neah-Kah-Nie (often spelled Neahkahnie) Mountain is seen as a sleeping warrior, waiting to be awakened. In the tribal language, “Ne” means “place of” and “Ekahni” means “supreme deity.” Neah-Kah-Nie = “the place of the supreme deity.”
The mountain, which juts 1600 feet above the beach, plunges into the sea at the north end of Manzanita Beach, bifurcating the beach and causing fog and clouds coming in from the north to be redirected out to sea, to come aground again around Rockaway Beach. This is why Manzanita is often known as “the banana belt” of the North Oregon Coast.
Take a drive north on Highway 101 from Manzanita and stop at any of the pull-off overlooks for spectacular views of Manzanita, the Nehalem Bay Area, and, on a clear day, Rockaway Beach and the Twin Rocks arches. The largest turn-out (Neah-Kah-Nie Wayside) has plaques with information on the area, and during whale watching seasons (spring and winter), there are volunteers available to help you spot whales and to explain their migratory habits. Look for the sign “Whale Watching Spoken Here” (and bring your binoculars).
On a clear day, a hike up the mountain is highly recommended for an experience that is both physical and spiritual. The view is stunning beyond description. The hike is approximately 3 miles round trip, with a 900-foot elevation gain. The trail is located off Highway 101 just south of Oswald West State Park on the east side of the highway. Look for the brown sign with a picture of hikers (between mileposts 41 and 42) and turn east onto the gravel road. Approximately 0.4 miles up the road is room for a few cars to park (there is a “Trailhead Parking” sign). The trail starts at the gray post to the left of the parking area.
The Origin of Manzanita’s Name
Manzanita’s name, which means in Spanish, “Little Apple,” doesn’t refer to the sweet fruit, although given Manzanita’s size, the diminutive might fit. According to Manzanita resident Gene Dieken, the town is named after a local plant (bearberry, or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) a cousin of a hearty bush that is normally found in dryer, mountainous California. An example of the Manzanita’s version can be found outside the library – a centenarian that is 8 feet tall.
Lodging, Restaurants & Attractions in Manzanita
The town of Manzanita has a large selection of motels and vacation rentals within a short walk to the beach. Laneda Avenue, Manzanita’s main street, features gift shops, specialty foods, and other unique attractions. Salt and Pepper Stationery caters to Manzanita’s small but lively artist colony. Art galleries and private studios are peppered throughout the Manzanita area.
Restaurants range from fine dining at the Terra Cota Café on Manzanita Avenue, to the casual and enterprising Left Coast Siesta on Laneda Avenue. There is also a wine bar on Laneda for those who enjoy sampling Northwest varietals.
Nearby State Parks and Camping
For many who come to sample Manzanita’s ambiance and comfortable restaurants, it is the town’s proximity to state parks and camping that is its biggest draw. Manzanita is sandwiched between two popular coastal parks: Nehalem Bay State Park, with camping, yurts, trails, a horse camp, and easy access to the beach; and Oswald West State Park, famous for its daytime amenities, such as access to wildlife viewing and excellent trails through old-growth forests.
Oswald West is also home to the impressive Neahkahnie Mountain. For breathtaking views, visitors can hike up a trail leading from the beach. At an elevation of 1,634 feet/498 meters, Neahkahnie Mountain is not the tallest peak in the Oregon Coast Range, but its height gives an impressive view of Tillamook County’s coastline. Neahkahnie also offers some superb mountain biking when the weather is clear.
Attractions Nearby to Manzanita
Other attractions around the area include:
- Water activities: Nehalem River, southeast of Manzanita, famous for kayaking, canoeing, and salmon fishing. A boat ramp just off of Highway 101 between the towns of Nehalem and Wheeler (just south of Manzanita) offers easy access to the Nehalem River.
- Scenic drives: It is easy to get caught up in the splendor of the coast and never see the backcountry. The Nehalem Valley, just off of the Nehalem Bay estuaries, just south of Nehalem, provides beautiful views of Tillamook County’s fertile dairy farms.
- Wine tasting: Highway 53 skirts along Nehalem River, and is also home to Nehalem Bay Winery, a regional winery with a broad selection of varietals. The winery is open for tastings and events during the summer.
Directions to Manzanita via Highway 26 & Highway 101
From Portland: Take Highway 26 west to Highway 101. Head south to Manzanita, approximately 16 miles. From Tillamook: Follow Highway 101 north to Manzanita, 49 miles.