Rock it in Rockaway Beach

Photo by Paul Hamilton

More than a century ago, an isolated beach on the North Oregon Coast offered the only ocean-access point on a roughly 20-mile stretch of coastline. Approachable only by horse or wagon, the area remained little-known and infrequently visited, that is, until 1907, when a railroad connecting Hillsboro to Tillamook was built by Pacific Railway and Navigation. Along the railroad sprang new towns, and the migration of people and commerce to the coast increased. This led to the founding of Rockaway Beach, soon to become a bustling beachfront resort town.

The railroad became vital to Oregon’s further development when it connected Tillamook to Portland in 1911, followed by a passenger train to Rockaway Beach in 1912. Families were able to settle in for the summers in Rockaway Beach, while the fathers would remain in Portland for work during the week and join their families at the beach on weekends. The train on this popular route aptly acquired the nickname “Daddy Train.” Now, the train’s original Little Red Caboose stands in Rockaway Beach as a reminder of how far they have come as a community and serves as the Visitors Center.

Stretching for seven miles and having 31 points of access, the beach is the town’s main attraction. Kite flying, beach combing, fishing and long beach walks are all in a day’s play. The beach scene is punctuated by two large sea stacks, known as Twin Rocks, which rise from the ocean and, from certain angles, appear as one. One of the stacks is a distinct arch while the other is a solid monolith.

Nearby, Cedar Wetlands Preserve can be reached on a 1-mile hike. The preserve is home to an ancient giant—at 154 feet tall and 49 feet wide, it is one of the largest and oldest western red cedars in the region.

Aside from the natural wonders near this little town, Rockaway Beach has a strip of antique shops, souvenir stores and restaurants to try. Dig for your next thrift find at Trash and Treasures, a local thrift shop that is bursting with the unknown. You will never know what you will find or who you will meet at Trash and Treasures.

Based on the famous character from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Grumpy’s is a popular diner with a popular mascot. The diner is where everyone gets breakfast (think enormous waffles with homemade marionberry syrup); be sure to get there early to avoid the wait. If breakfast is not on your menu, Sand Dollar Restaurant and Lounge might be up your alley. Sand Dollar is a more upscale seafood spot located right on the beach; the menu ranges from local fish dishes to delectable burgers creations, and everything is scratch-made. For a bite of culinary history, stop in at the Original Pronto Pup for, well… a pronto pup. And a must while in town is the Old Oregon Smokehouse for some of the best smoked seafood on the coast.

Rockaway Beach has a large selection of hotels, motels, vacation rentals and campgrounds. For more information about creating your own Rockaway Beach getaway, go to visitrockawaybeach.org. Sorry, dads, but the Daddy Train is no longer running.

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