Saturday, October 11, 2014

Family Trip to the Oregon Coast

Family trip to the Oregon Coast.

After the completion of each baseball season, I am pretty fried and in need of some time away from all types of technology, mainly email and text messages. When the Mariners season came to a completion and we learned we would not be going to the playoffs, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take the family to the Oregon Coast (Cannon Beach) during my first week of the “offseason”.

A couple of disclaimers about our trip to Cannon Beach before I get into some recommendations on where to dine and visit: 
  • Length of Stay - We decided on a short 2-night, 3-day trip since we have two half-pints, ages 3 and 8 months. 
  • Days of the Week - I am not a huge fan of big crowds when I am on vacation, so opted for a Sunday through Tuesday trip. 
  • Budget - We wanted to keep costs to a minimum, so didn’t splurge on our housing option. Kept is simple (and small), but it made for a cozy family vacation.
We left for the Coast early Sunday heading South on I-5 and then West through Kelso/Longview, over the Columbia River into Oregon and eventually Astoria for lunch.
Lunch in Astoria:
If you are looking the perfect pit stop on your way to the coast, I could not recommend Astoria more. Besides the fact it was the backdrop for the movies Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, there are some wonderful dining options. We’ve been to the Rogue Ales Public House before and this time opted for some Fish & Chips from a small boat called Bowpicker. The line was long, but couldn’t recommend the food more, with a generous portion of Fish & Chips for $10 (we split as a family, along with an extra side of fries).
After eating lunch on one of the picnic tables near the boat, we walked two blocks west to Fort George Brewery and Blue Scorcher Bakery. We had picked these destinations out ahead of time, and they were perfect. We picked up a baguette and cookie at the bakery to have for a snack later that night.
The brewery was awesome, and the food menu looked amazing (we already had lunch or we would have gone for one of the pizzas). The settled into the upstairs pub and split pints of their Fresh IPA and 3-Way IPA, and I had some oyster shooters that were fresh from nearby Willapa Bay. Before heading back to our car, we filled a growler with the Fresh IPA (it was a tough decision).

Fish & Chips at the Bowpicker in Astoria.
Heading to Cannon Beach:
We were a little ahead of schedule for our 4 pm check-in, so took a small detour through Seaside before reaching Cannon Beach. This place may be for some, but it just wasn’t our cup of coffee. Seemed a bit more like Atlantic City than a relaxing time on the Coast. I’ll just leave it at this, and let others choose if they would come here (I’ve heard the aquarium is cool and Seaside Brewing looked pretty cool).
Cannon Beach:
I figured it had been about 25 years since I last stayed in Cannon Beach with my family, but we had driven through when we stayed in Manzanita a few years ago. The town is small and does not have any chain establishments, which is pretty awesome. I booked our cottage (I emphasize cottage) through Vacassa and was impressed with the ease of the process. The place we picked was largely based on price, but it was fine for our needs. It was one bedroom, and within walking distance of the beach and all the restaurants.

Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock at sunset.
Where to Eat:
We found a lot of neat places to get food and coffee (very important for us).

  • Sea Level Bakery + Coffee - Probably the highlight of our trip, my wife found this place on the web and we ended up there twice (within a span of 5 hours). Stumptown coffee, handmade pastries, good customer service. Just about a perfect stop if you want a good morning snack. They are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, so plan accordingly.
  • Sand Dune Pub (Manzanita) -  We were not able to visit this time as they are a 21-and-over establishment, but if you are half-pint free, this is the place to go for great food and beer. Manzanita is a small town about 10 miles South of Cannon Beach on Highway 101. I had the Oyster Po Boy last time we were there and it was amazing.
  • Cannon Beach Hardware & Public House - A bar, restaurant and hardware store all in one. Pretty cool concept and pretty good food. We ate dinner here and enjoyed sitting outside on one of the three picnic benches. They had a small, but very good, beer list of mainly local beers and the food was solid. We had split a halibut burger and chicken sandwich, and really liked the onion rings and tater tots. This was very much a cheat meal, as we kept reminding each other we were on vacation.
  • Bills Tavern and Brewhouse - Your average pub food and beer establishment. They brew their own beer, but I had a pint of their guest cider (Atlas from Bend) and Kim had a glass of chardonnay. The menu had the usual burgers, salads and some seafood, but we were still full from lunch, so just had a hummus plate and it was really good. There were 6 tables outside that would be fun for people watching. They also have a location called Warren House Pub that looks like a fun spot for happy hour.
  • Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters - A small coffee shop right next to the Hardware & Public House. We liked this place for coffee and their famous scones. This is the same location as The Irish Table restaurant which we’ve heard is very good as well.

The Sea-Level Bakery + Coffee

The Beach:
One of the main reasons to come to Cannon Beach is of course the beach. We spent a lot of time here, going for a long run and throwing baseballs to my son. We had a double stroller, which made the initial trek to the beach interesting, but once we got on some hard-packed sand it was very walkable. We had sort of an urban hike/run going from the North end of town to the South end of town along the beach (mainly to visit Sea Level Bakery for a second time). The views are amazing, as Haystack Rock is one of the wonders of the West Coast. Spend as much time on the beach as possible, especially taking the time for a sunset or two if you are lucky. Even if the weather isn’t great, a day on the beach is better than a day in the office.

Watching the sunset on our last night in Cannon Beach.
Head South on 101:
If you are looking to get out a bit, head South on Highway 101 towards Tillamook. You can visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory to get cheese and some ice cream. We took the tour last time, but did not make it this time. Pelican Pub and Brewery recently opened a location in Tillamook that looks like is a must-visit for our next trip to the coast.
I am always amazed at the lack of Seafood options when I head down to the Oregon Coast, thinking it would be like Maine with a bunch of lobster shacks (crab/fish in this case) on the side of the road. But there really are not many options (as far as I’ve researched). We have stopped at Jetty Fishery for some fresh crab and they also have clams and oysters it looks like.

The Trip Back:
If you are heading North, I would recommend getting gas at the Fred Myer in Warrenton (likely the best prices). And if we were to do it all over again I would find a way to make a lunch stop in Astoria (Fort George Brewery!!!). We took a different route back, going through Raymond, South Bend and eventually Montesano before heading to Olympia to connect back with I-5. The drive is pretty straightforward, although you could get stuck behind an RV or logging truck if you are unlucky.
Lunch in Olympia:
Before trudging through traffic heading North, we decided to stop in Olympia for lunch. We’ve had good luck with this small town that is the capital of Washington, and can’t recommend The Bread Peddler enough. We’ve had coffee and pastries there before on a trip to Bend, and this time had lunch and it was amazing. We are also hoping to visit Darby’s CafĂ© (featured on the Food Network) at some point.
We already can’t wait for our next visit to the Oregon Coast!

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