15 exciting things to do in Pacific City, Oregon

15 exciting things to do in 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 minute 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.

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Things to do in Pacific City, Oregon

Walk the Beach at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is a day use area that’s open year round. It offers beach access, fishing, hiking, and a breathtaking viewpoint. 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 (see below for details).

Haystack Rock; Things to do in Pacific City

Snap a photo of Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

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. However, it makes for a beautiful landscape and memorable photos.

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 look out 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.

Things to do in Pacific CIty

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.

Things to do in Pacific City

Warm up by a Campfire on the Beach

Watch the sun set on Haystack Rock while sitting next to the warmth of a campfire on the beach. Note that you must bring your own firewood in. Do not build a campfire too close to driftwood, and do not burn driftwood.

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.

Sunrise at Bob Straub State Park; things to do in Pacific City, Oregon
Sunrise at Bob Straub State Park

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’s picnic tables and restrooms. 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 sun rise on the Pacific Ocean. Although you can see Haystack Rock from here, it is a ways off in the distance.

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.

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 license online from Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife.

Go Clamming

There’s 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 bio toxins 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!

Go Surfing

Pacific City is a popular spot for surfing, but the water is cold here so you’ll definitely need a wet suit. If you don’t have (or don’t want to pack) a wetsuit 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.

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. Although they had a brief break due to COVID, this event is typically held at the end of each summer.

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.

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.

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 sun set on the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy their craft beer with a burger, or warm up with some clam chowder at Pelican Brewing’s original location.

Where to Stay in Pacific City

I prefer to rent a beach front vacation home when visiting Pacific City. However, if you prefer the amenities of a hotel, the Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa is 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.

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.

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.

Avg. high temp51°F54°F55°F58°F62°F66°F70°F71°F70°F63°F56°F51°F
Avg. low temp39°F39°F40°F41°F45°F48°F50°F51°F49°F45°F42°F38°F

Further Reading

Not sure if Pacific City is the right vacation spot for you? If you’re looking for other places to stay on the Oregon coast, Seaside has a classic boardwalk vibe and offers a lot to do. An hour and a half from Portland, it also makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway.

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