The Oregon coast, especially the quieter places far from the go-kart rides and carousels, is a great getaway destination any time.
One of those quieter places is Manzanita, an oceanside village of about 650 permanent residents. It’s a 5½-hour car ride from Snohomish County.
If you like Cannon Beach, 15 miles to the north, you’ll like Manzanita. You might even prefer its smaller footprint and lower-key vibe.
The main street through town, Laneda Avenue, invites strolling and dropping into shops and boutiques. There’s 7 miles of ocean beach to walk, and one of the most beautiful state parks on the coast lies just north of town.
Our traveling party recently spent the better part of four days in Manzanita, our favorite town on the Oregon coast.
THURSDAY: We rolled into town just after 5 p.m. A bit worn out from the long road trip, we opted for excellent pizza and Caesar salad from takeout-only Marzano’s Pizza Pie (60 Laneda Ave.), snagged some beer from the cramped but well-supplied Manzanita Market (193 Laneda Ave.), and relaxed in our rented house a block from the beach.
Speaking of lodgings, Manzanita offers no giant high-rise beachfront hotels (hooray!), but plenty of small inns, cabins and vacation rental houses, from humble to high-end. At $160 a night, and in condition that can be charitably described as “lived in,” our three-bedroom, two-bathroom house definitely rated as humble. Higher-end lodgings include the stylish Coast Cabins in uptown (read: closer to U.S. 101) Manzanita, where my wife and I stayed on an earlier visit.
FRIDAY: A member of our party raved about the breakfasts at the Big Wave Cafe (822 Laneda Ave., near U.S. 101). Alas, we were greeted by a sign on the locked front door announcing that breakfast no longer was being served due to “a staffing issue.” With an hour to kill before the cafe opened, we loitered up and down Laneda, noticing some damaged buildings and shorn trees from a freak tornado that hit the town in October 2016.
Happily, the lunch options at Big Wave included a breakfast special. If you’re in the mood for lunch, the cafe definitely has a way with seafood — the halibut in the superb fish and chips was cut that morning, the owner told us.
Suitably fueled, we took a long walk on the beach with our two canine traveling companions. Manzanita is a dog-friendly place, and every pooch we encountered was obviously enjoying themselves, off- or on-leash. Even the yappy toy breeds and the hulking unaltered pit bull we spotted were clearly happy-go-lucky.
One of the shops on Laneda Avenue, Four Paws on the Beach (144 Laneda Ave.), is devoted to dogs (OK, there’s a cat section, too). We browsed the selection of high-end canine merch, including cannabis dog biscuits. The packaging says the biscuits help with pain but don’t make Fido high. They also cost $45, so we opted for a $10 pouch of grain-free salmon thingies to take home for our pooch.
Speaking of cannabis, there’s a posh dispensary right next door to the Big Wave Cafe. Apparently, Oregon doesn’t demand that its recreational weed shops be hidden away in industrial parks on the edge of town like Washington does.
Oh, and one more thing about the beach: If you’d rather not walk, you can rent fat-tired beach bikes or even ride horses. A horse rental service, Oregon Beach Rides, operates out of Nehalem Bay State Park south of town.
We must have been living in the moment like our dogs, because we neglected to make Friday-night dinner reservations at one of Manzanita’s finer restaurants, including Blackbird (503 Laneda Ave.) and Neah-kah-nie Bistro (519 Laneda Ave.). Sizing up our predicament, the hostess at the bistro sent us down the street to the venerable San Dune Pub (127 Laneda Ave.), where the kitchen staff rocked out beer, burgers and fries in short order.
SATURDAY: The third day was devoted to exploring Oswald West State Park just north of town. It’s criss-crossed with easy trails that meander through old-growth and mature second-growth hemlocks and cedars. We followed a pretty sandstone-lined creek to Short Sand Beach, a popular spot for surfing. It looked like at least 100 surfers were riding the modest breakers on the sunny September day of our visit. Another sizeable pack of dogs raced to and fro on the beach.
Oswald West, named for the Oregon governor who believed that the beaches belong to everybody, also includes trails to the 1,600-foot summit of Neahkahnie Mountain, which towers over Manzanita. Happily, Oregon state parks are free — no Discover Pass nickle-and-diming is required.
We ended our day with cocktails and appetizers at MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar (387 Laneda Ave.), a sweet spot that opened just a few months ago. The charcuterie and pate plates, the service and especially the liquor selection were all top-notch, and a most worthy vacation splurge.
While there, we met a couple who had to evacuate their home in Hood River, Oregon, due to wildfires. We couldn’t imagine a more comfortable place to be a refugee.
SUNDAY: Alas, it seems that Manzanita might have a bit of a breakfast problem. On Saturday, we drove down to the neighboring town of Nehalem and waited about 45 minutes for run-of-the-mill fare. On Sunday, we tried a bakery-type place in Manzanita, and waited about 45 minutes for a bland breakfast sandwich. Our recommendation: Buy breakfast makings and cook in your rental house or cabin.
After a final stroll through town — we made a contribution to the local economy at Unfurl (447 Laneda Ave.), which offers a well-curated selection of women’s and men’s clothing, but we passed again on the $45 cannabis dog biscuits — it was time to hit the road.
We’ll be back. It’s our favorite town, after all. The dogs like it, too.