Seaside and Gearhart
In between burly Astoria and the boisterous beach resort of Seaside, but a world away from its neighbors in terms of character and ambience, the tiny town of Gearhart (pop. 1,462) was the summer vacation home of influential chef and cookbook author James Beard. Beard’s culinary legacy lives on in the Pacific Way Bakery & Café (601 Pacific Way, 503/738-0245, Thurs.-Mon.), a half mile west of US-101, which offers the coast’s best coffees and croissants, along with four-star lunches and dinners.
A little further down the road and you’ll find that nothing along the Oregon coast can prepare you for the carnival ambience of downtown Seaside (pop. 6,457), one of Oregon’s oldest seafront resorts. Ben Holladay, who built a resort here in the 1870s, included a racetrack, zoo, and a plush hotel to lure Portlanders to ride his rail line to the beach. Come during spring break, or on a weekend during July or August, and join the 50,000 or more visitors wandering among the saltwater-taffy stands and video-game arcades along Broadway, or cruising the concrete boardwalk (called The Prom) along the beach.
Where Broadway meets the beach, a small traffic circle known locally as The Turnaround is marked by a statue and a sign proclaiming the town “The End of the Lewis and Clark Trail.” South of here, between Beach Drive and The Prom, is a replica of the Lewis and Clark salt cairn, where the explorers boiled seawater nonstop for seven weeks to produce enough salt to preserve meat for their return trip east. From the south end of Seaside, you can follow a challenging but rewarding six-mile trail over Tillamook Head to Ecola State Park.
A half mile north of downtown, housed in a wood-shingled old motor court on the banks of the Necanicum River, the Seaside Lodge & International Hostel (930 N. Holladay Dr., 503/738-7911) has dorm beds, private rooms, canoes and kayaks, and an espresso bar. There are dozens of motels and a handful of B&Bs in Seaside, booked solid in summer and serene, verging on lonely, come wintertime. The best breakfasts are served up on Broadway just west of US-101 at the Firehouse Grill (841 Broadway, 503/717-5502). For fish ’n’ chips, head to the south edge of town along US-101, where the no-frills Bell Buoy (503/738-6348) has daily fresh seafood and excellent crab cocktails, best eaten on the outdoor deck overlooking the Necanicum River. There are also pizza places and ice cream stands all over Seaside.
Road Trip Intersection: The Oregon Trail
This part of the Pacific Coast marks the beginning of our Oregon Trail road trip route, which runs east across the country along a combination of US-6, US-20, and US-26.