20 Best Things to Do in Pacific City, Oregon (2023)
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Are you looking for things to do in Pacific City? You’re in the right spot!
This stunning coastal town offers an array of activities to keep visitors entertained. From kayaking the Nestucca River to sandboarding on the dunes of Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City has something for everyone.
With its temperate climate and breathtaking scenery, it’s no wonder that so many people choose to visit this beautiful destination.
Plus, I’m proud to say that I call this area my home!
So whether you’re planning a relaxing weekend retreat or seeking a big adventure, come check out Pacific City, Oregon!
There are countless exciting and adventurous things to do in Pacific City, Oregon.
Pacific City is a beautiful little coastal town, known for Haystack Rock and its long beaches. About 1 hour and 45 minutes drive from Portland, it makes for a great day trip or a weekend getaway.
It’s the perfect vacation for people who are looking to get outdoors and adventure, or also for those who just want to kick back and relax.
Let’s dive in and see all the exciting things to do in Pacific City!
Things to do in Pacific City, Oregon
1. Walk the Beach at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in Pacific City. This stunning state park offers plenty of activities including beachcombing, birdwatching, hiking, and picnicking.
Its iconic sand dunes are definitely the highlight of the area, so make sure you take a few hours to explore them. Be sure to bring your camera and capture some stunning photos!
Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is a day-use area that’s open year-round.
There is a $ 10-day use fee for parking here, or you can catch a ride here on Pacific City’s trolley during the summer months.
2. Snap a photo of Haystack Rock
Oregon has three haystack rocks off its coastline, and Pacific City boasts the tallest of the three, at 340 feet tall.
Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area offers the easiest, closest access to Pacific City’s Haystack Rock. Haystack Rock is not accessible from the shore.
Furthermore, it is a protected wildlife refuge, which means boats must keep their distance as well.
3. Explore the Tide Pools at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Check out the tide tables and visit Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area during low tide to explore and observe marine life in the tide pools.
Be on the lookout for ochre sea stars, giant green and aggregate anemones, crabs, purple sea urchins, and California mussels.
While visiting the tide pools, please take care not to touch or step on any of the marine life.
4. Climb Sand Mountain at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Ok, I don’t know if anyone else actually calls it Sand Mountain, or if it’s just us. But it is a bit of a mountain. And it is covered in sand.
Whether that’s what other people call it or not, once you arrive at Cape Kiwanda, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!
Climbing Sand Mountain has become somewhat of a tradition for us. If you’re up for the climb to the very tip-top, the best time to go is shortly before sunset.
The views of the ocean and Haystack Rock from here are breathtaking.
Please note that a fence lines the cliff’s edge along Sand Mountain. It’s extremely important not to cross the fence, as parts of the cliff may crumble at any time. If you stay on the correct side of the fence, you’ll be safe.
5. Warm up by a Campfire on the Beach
Watch the sunset on Haystack Rock while sitting next to the warmth of a campfire on the beach. Do not build a campfire too close to driftwood, and do not burn driftwood.
✔️ Note that you must bring your own firewood
6. Go Fly a Kite
There’s nothing more classic than flying a kite on a windy day at the beach. Didn’t bring a kite? That’s no problem. You can purchase one at Cape Kiwanda Marketplace, across the street from Pelican Brewing.
7. Visit Bob Straub State Park
Bob Straub State Park is a day-use park that offers beach access, horse trails, and fishing. Open year-round, there are picnic tables and restrooms.
Bob Straub State Park is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the stunning Oregon Coast.
With its beautiful views of the ocean and lush forests, Bob Straub State Park will provide you with an unforgettable experience.
The park was named after an Oregon governor who was a supporter of Oregon beaches and opposed creating a highway through this area.
We visited the park early one morning to watch the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean.
Although you can see Haystack Rock from here, it is a ways off in the distance.
8. Watch the Wildlife at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge is just ten minutes south of Pacific City. The refuge includes woodlands, mud flats, tidal marshes, and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Find a trail to hike here and keep your eyes open for songbirds, geese, ducks, and deer. This is also home to the threatened Oregon Silverspot Butterfly.
9. Go Fishing in the Ocean
Charter a boat to take you out ocean fishing with Haystack Fishing, located in Pacific City.
They’ll take you out the other side of Haystack Rock in a dory, fishing for salmon, or for bottom fish like long cod, rockfish, and maybe even halibut. You can also go crabbing!
Be sure you have your fishing license before you go. You can purchase a one, two, three, or seven-day license, or an annual license.
🎣 Purchase your fishing license online from Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife.
10. Go Clam Digging
There are good clamming opportunities in Nestucca Bay, about one mile south of Pacific City. These mud flats can be accessed from Brooten Road.
You can go clamming all year round, but plan to go at low tide. Also, be sure to get your shellfish license before you go. You can check Fish and Wildlife’s website for any advisories about unsafe conditions, such as algae bloom or biotoxins in the water.
You’ll need a clam gun or a shovel, some tall rubber boots, and a bucket or basket to hold your clams in. Waders are optional, but nice to have.
Make sure to keep moving while clamming so as not to get stuck in the mud, and always keep an eye on the rising tide. We almost lost a boot to the mud and the tides!
Clamming is a great activity for the entire family. We took kids as young as 7 years old; they did amazing and had a lot of fun!
11. Go Surfing
Pacific City is a popular spot for surfing, but the water is cold here so you’ll definitely need a dry suit. If you don’t have (or don’t want to pack) a dry suit and board, you can rent both at Moment Surf Co., right next door to Ben and Jeff’s, adjacent to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.
12. Attend the Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic & Brewfest
If you like surfing, you’ll want to attend the annual Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic and Brewfest. They just celebrated their 23rd year in 2022 and are the longest-running surf event in the Pacific Northwest.
13. Ride the Trolley
A cute little red trolley offers a free transportation service in Pacific City from May 27th through September 5th. It’s available Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during this time, as well as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
The trolley departs hourly starting at 9 am, then every half hour starting at 11 am until 5:30 pm. There’s also an additional run on Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm.
The route takes you along the main road through Pacific City, from Bob Straub Park at one end of town, to Whalen Island County Park at the other end.
14. Eat Lunch at Ben and Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos
When at the coast, you have to eat seafood at least once. So grab a delicious fish taco or some fish and chips to-go at Ben and Jeff’s for lunch!
For those in your party who don’t do seafood, Ben and Jeff’s also serves burgers, tacos, and burritos.
Plus, they’ve got all the classics on the kids’ menu, like corn dogs, chicken strips, and quesadillas.
Note: they did not have indoor seating available on my last visit.
15. Eat Dinner at Pelican Brewing
Pelican Brewing offers a relaxed atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating and a great, up-close view of Haystack Rock.
Situated adjacent to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, you can eat dinner here while watching the sunset on the Pacific Ocean.
Enjoy their craft beer with a burger, or warm up with some clam chowder at Pelican Brewing’s original location.
16. Nestucca River Kayaking
Kayaking on the Nestucca River is a great way to spend your time. With its gentle current and diverse wildlife, it’s an ideal destination for kayakers of all skill levels.
From beginners to experts alike, there are plenty of areas to explore on the Nestucca River. Whether you’re looking for a calm paddling experience or hoping to challenge yourself with some rapids, the Nestucca River can provide.
Additionally, its breathtaking views make kayaking on the Nestucca River a truly memorable experience – making it one of Oregon’s most popular river destinations!
17. Go for a Bike Ride
Pacific City, Oregon is the perfect spot for an exhilarating bike ride. With its winding roads and stunning scenery, Pacific City offers everything a cyclist might need to have a memorable experience.
The views of the ocean, forested hillsides, and rivers provide an ever-changing backdrop for your journey. What’s more, the terrain is varied enough to offer something for everyone – from gentle inclines and flat sections along the coast to steeper grades in nearby hills.
And with plenty of nearby restaurants, cafes, breweries, and shops to explore along the way, you can make an entire day out of it!
18. Go Hang gliding
Located along Oregon’s dramatic Pacific Coast on the Three Capes Scenic Loop, hang gliders can take in amazing views of the ocean from high above. The wind conditions here are perfect for getting a great ride and having a safe experience.
With miles of sandy beaches and rolling dunes, you can find plenty of wide-open spaces for launching. Equally great are the professional flying schools that offer lessons and assistance with rentals.
19. Three Capes Scenic Loop
The Three Capes Scenic Loop in Pacific City, Oregon is a stunningly beautiful drive that offers incredible vistas of the Oregon Coast. This loop starts just south of Tillamook and follows Highway 101 along Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda before turning back inland.
✔️ Be sure and Check out Seaside along the way!
Each cape offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, with jagged cliffs and long sandy beaches. Along the way, you’ll find picturesque lighthouses, historic fishing villages, and thick forests full of wildlife.
The Three Capes Scenic Loop is certainly one of Oregon’s most scenic drives and should not be missed!
20. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding in Pacific City, Oregon is a thrilling experience, with miles of trails winding through the lush forests of the Oregon Coast Range. The trails here provide unique opportunities for adventure and discovery as you journey across hills and valleys.
Green Acres Beach and Trail Rides is a well-respected place to rent horses for a day of coastal fun!
Where to Stay in Pacific City
I prefer to rent a beachfront vacation home when visiting Pacific City. However, if you prefer the amenities of a hotel, the Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa are adjacent to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.
One of the great amenities of staying at Headlands Coastal Lodge is that they can help you arrange a variety of adventures, for example, bicycling, kayaking, clamming, crabbing, and more.
Or if you’re looking to relax instead, try a yoga session or a day at their spa. You can also reserve a beach wheelchair for the mobility impaired.
Click here to check availability for the Headlands Coastal Lodge
When to Visit Pacific City
Pacific City can get rather busy on warm, long holiday weekends. It’s absolutely beautiful in the summer.
However, I prefer to visit in the shoulder season, around October, as it’s usually less crowded during this time.
You may get some rainy days, but then you may still get a few warm and sunny days in October as well.
Winter can be cold and rainy, but you aren’t likely to see snow! So, if you are up for an adventure, head to the beach and you will likely have the whole place to yourself.
The Oregon coast has a temperate climate, and this part of the Pacific Ocean is generally too cold to leisurely swim in year-round. It’s the sort of ocean you wade in, not the sort you fully submerge yourself in while in a bikini.
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Best Places to Eat in Pacific City
What’s a vacation without great food? You can eat to your foodie heart’s content in Pacific City! These are the best places to eat:
- Grateful Bread Company
- Pacific City, Oregon Coast
- Ben & Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos
- Pacific City, Oregon Coast
- Stimulus Coffee + Bakery
- Pacific City, Oregon Coast
- Oar House Bar & Grill
- Pacific City, Oregon Coast
- Sportsman’s Pub-N-Grub
- Pacific City, Oregon Coast
Things to do in Pacific City FAQs
What rock is at Pacific City Oregon?
Kiwanda Haystack Rock is a large sea stack near Pacific City, Oregon.
Where are the Cape Kiwanda tide pools?
The Cape Kiwanda tide pools are located at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City Oregon.
Can you drive on Cape Kiwanda Beach?
Yes! North of the cape to Tierra Del Mar, and between Pacific Avenue and Porter Point you can drive your street-legal vehicle on Cape Kiwanda Beach.
Final Thoughts about Pacific City Oregon
Pacific City Oregon offers a unique experience for the perfect getaway. From the stunning views of Haystack Rock to the rocky beaches and coastal forests, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, go out and explore, or just spend quality time with family and friends, Pacific City Oregon is the place for you!
Visit now and see what all the buzz is about.