As part of our active week here at Nehalem Bay we decided to gawk & eat our way south for a few big day-trips. As it so happens Tillamook, OR is only around 20 miles from us. It’s nestled in another large bay surrounded by more dramatic capes and offers a whole bunch of extra sightseeing PLUS (and here’s the rub) it’s the home of Oregon cheese. Awesome! We checked the forecast (which is totally useless on the coast, but we’re suckers for it anyway) and decided to target the sunniest days of the week. Full days of rays and guaranteed belly-pleasing eating -> gotta be perfect, right? Well, here’s how we fared…

Cheeese, Cheeeeeeese Yes Please!

The Blue Heron Cheese Shop

The Blue Heron Cheese Shop

Cheese is one of my absolute favorite food-groups. If I were ship-wrecked on a desert island I do believe I could live on cheese, and if you were to give me a glass of vino to accompany I might believe I had landed in heaven. Tillamook has a long history of cheese-making, dating back 100 years to some of the very first farms on the OR coast. These farms endure today so you pass many pleasant pastures and grass-fed dairy cows on your way to town, a sure testament to preservation of the local art. I was very excited to sample the curdled and fermented goodness at both Tillamook Cheese and Blue Heron. These two spots are the largest in town and we toured them both in the same day. We passed time learning the history, watching the factory workers and sampling the cheesy stuff. Our impressions? A bit too “touristy” for our tastes, probably expected given the popularity, but a fun excursion nonetheless.

The Plane, The Plane!

Paul admires a Douglas DC-3

As part of our cheesy day in Tillamook we took a side-trip to what became a wonderful & unexpected bonus surprise -> the Tillamook Air Museum. Whereas we found the cheese factories somewhat overrun and kitchy, this place was a gem, presenting aviation history at it’s finest. The museum site is the original hanger for one of the 10 Blimp Bases that operated on the US coastline in WWII. It covers 7 acres and claims to be the largest free-standing, clear-span wooden structure in the world! Inside this impressive building are more than 30 fully restored warbirds, simply stunning specimens of their time. We spent several hours just walking around the huge machines and gawking at their shiny reflections. This is a “must see” in the area and definitely tops our recommendation list.

The massive Air Museum hanger originally housed 8 Blimps

The massive Air Museum hanger originally housed 8 Blimps

Find A Quilt, Learn Some History

One of the many cool barns on the Quilt Tour

One of the old barns on the Quilt Tour

Another rather cool discovery on our cheesy day was the Tillamook Quilt Trail. Despite the name this has nothing to do with bits of stitched fabric, but is actually a self-guided driving tour of some of the most historic barns and buildings in the area. It’s a pretty fun little drive, and spotting the buildings with the “Quilt” blocks is really quite neat. You can pick-up a map at the Air Museum or the local Chamber of Commerce. Do it and find your quilt!

Scenic Three Capes Drive -> A La Fog?

The Three Capes Drive Map

Three Capes Drive really deserves it’s very own blog post, it really does. This lovely drive meanders 40 miles along the coast south of Tillamook covering three (wouldn’t you believe it) fabulous capes -> Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. It’s beautiful, amazingly scenic and provides some of the best views of the northern coast.

Just to be sure we got the most out of it we chose the very sunniest of forecasts to go see it, the day absolutely guaranteed to be 100% clear….which of course meant we were absolutely guaranteed to be disappointed. It was not rain, nor hail that blinded our view but FOG. Yes, that dense and intimate collection of hygroscopic particles with which we are so very well acquainted from our many years in San Francisco. I should have known, of course -> The best days in-land are almost always the foggiest on the coast especially by the bits that stick out (e.g. capes…duh!). But we are fog-lovers and not easily deterred so we decided to do the drive anyway. Why not, eh?

A Dory Boat landing at Kape Kiwanda. That's Haystack Rock in the background.

A Dory Boat landing at Kape Kiwanda. That’s Haystack Rock in the background.

We arrived at the southernmost point of the drive in perfect sun, and as soon as we crossed west to Pacific City we were enveloped in fog so very thick we missed the town and the cape altogether the first time around. We drove back (thank you GPS) and did manage to glimpse a short lifting of fog around the area where the Dory Boats launch. Pretty cool sight to see these nimble and unique boats launch and land on the beach, despite the grey.

The fog makes from some eerie hiking

The fog made for some eerie hiking

Our second stop was a 5-mile hike to Cape Lookout, a (supposedly) amazing hike along the cliffs to a (so-I’ve-been-told) wonderful view at the end. Despite the complete lack of panorama, we embraced the weather and basked in the fogginess of it all. In fact, it was rather eerie to hike through the trees and see the cliffs drop off almost vertically to a grey haze with the crash of waves somewhere beneath us. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Our last stop actually provided us the first views of the day. Cape Meares is topped by the shortest lighthouse on the coast and still has an original (albeit damaged from vandalism, sadly) first order Fresnel lens. And here, finally, we saw a tease of what we had missed. A fully-clear view across the capes to Three Arches Rocks and the coastline beyond. Quite the nice ending, especially with a lighthouse to top it off.

View of Three Arches from Cape Meares

View of Three Arches from Cape Meares

So there you go…our rather full and exciting week on the northern coast comes to an end. We’ve absolutely adored our time here and are already scheming to come back. After all, I’ve got to see those Capes again (and write another blog post)! Next stop, Newport, OR and the central Oregon Coast.

P.S. Three Capes Drive and Cape Lookout Trail is entirely paw-friendly and Polly was along for the ride. The Lighthouse doesn’t allow dogs inside, but you can hike to the structure and take turns doing the free tour while doggie waits outside.

The Tillamook Cheese Factory

The Tillamook Cheese Factory

A wonderfully restored MiG-17

A wonderfully restored MiG-17

More foggy goodness

More foggy goodness

Cape Meares Lighthouse, short and stout

Cape Meares Lighthouse, short and stout

The "mini-Guppy" at Tillamook Air Museum

The “mini-Gumpy” at Tillamook Air Museum

Gazing inside the Fresnel Lens at Cape Meares Lighthouse

Gazing inside the Fresnel Lens at Cape Meares Lighthouse

56 Responses to Can You Say Capes, Quilts, Planes & Cheeeeese, Please? – Tillamook, OR

  1. Karen says:

    I camped at a campground near the air museum at the end of the little runway. So I enjoyed watching little planes and helicopters taking off and landing! It was delightful!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      We went to check that spot out when we were visiting the museum. Kind of a cool, “hidden” place and the $10 price can’t be beat. Really convenient for all of Tillamook.
      Nina

  2. Gaelyn says:

    Love to eat the cheese but could do without the over touristy factory. On the other hand, what would the Oregon coast be without fog. Glad you got a few teaser glimpses.

    The aquarium is interesting in Newport and I think there’s a really good Brew Pub I can’t remember the name of.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We do buy/eat a lot of Tillamook cheese and it was fun to see it being made, but the “tourist” factor was definitely a bit much for us.
      Thanks for the tip on the aquarium in Newport…we went today & it was great!
      Nina

  3. Gunta says:

    We can’t call it the Bandon Cheese Factory any more because of Tillamook, but Bandon has its cheese factory back! AKA Face Rock Creamery. Also tilting toward enticing the tourists, but I think you’ll like it.

  4. dawnbmoore says:

    When It’s hot in the Willamette Valley (most of the summer) the coast always has morning fog. Glad you got to see some of the scenery sans fog. I’m looking forward to hearing about the coast south of Newport–not very familiar with it. Happy trails!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, it used to be the same thing when we lived in San Francisco. Summer was always the foggiest time. I should have known, of course. It’s a good thing we like all that foggy stuff :)
      Nina

  5. Janet says:

    Can’t beat cheese and airplanes to make for a good day!! The Air Museum looks like a great little find, thank you for sharing. I am playing with google maps to create a map with markers for all the places we are reading about and wish to remember. Then putting a link back to the blog post that reviewed them. Easier said than done, but when I am more comfortable with it, I’ll post it. Kind of surprised that for a google product, it’s not as user friendly as I’d like. But, I got the Air Museum on there!!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      The google maps do take a bit of doing. If you want something easier just for your own use I highly recommend Microsoft Street & Trips. It allows you to have the maps on your computer (off-line) and put in pegs for anything interesting you’d like to do. I learned about it from another RVer who used it to track all his “want to go” locations.
      Nina

  6. Tom says:

    Glad to hear the hanger is still doing well. I enjoyed the same tour your doing a few years ago. Plan to make it back again and I always buy Tillamook products when I can get them. I think of happy cows whenever I think about that place.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s such a fabulous museum. We were really blown away by the quality of the restored aircraft in there. Plus the hanger is pretty impressive all on it’s own!
      Nina

  7. You just took me back to last June. We loved Haystack. We waited till the tide went out and walked as far out as we could. What a neat site to see all the ocean life come alive. The Ranger even had a lens on the different birds. Great experience.

    • libertatemamo says:

      You might be thinking of Haystack Rock up by Cannon Beach (which is the most popular one and the one you can access at low tide). The place by Cape Kiwanda is also called Haystack Rock, but you can’t get to it at low tide. Both are definitely worth seeing!
      Nina

  8. placestheygo says:

    We were very disappointed in our visit to Tillamook last summer. Way too touristy! When we were there many years ago, I believe we were almost alone and the cheese sampling area was huge bins of all kinds of curd. So much nicer. As a matter of fact, the parking was so packed that we left and visited the Air Museum and returned later in the day.

    Too bad about your weather on the Cape tour but the fog did make for some great photos. You always make the most out of any situation. I love your enthusiasm!!

    Thanks for always presenting the bright side:)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah, the parking lot was packed when we were at the Tillamook Cheese Factory too. Just a bit too over-run for our tastes. I can see it being fun for kids & families though.
      Nina

  9. Lisa says:

    The Tillamook cheese factory was fun when I was a kid, but I know I’d have the same reaction as yours today.

    I too, don’t mind the fog. Makes for some moody views and nice cool hiking!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Indeed…we welcome the fog. Brings back many fond memories of summer in San Francisco. I always loved watching the afternoon fog roll-in and envelop the city!
      Nina

  10. We too visited the Tillamook factory when we were visiting my brother a few years ago – agree about the tourist factor. I was pretty grossed out by the long lines of people reaching their hands in to grab the free cheese samples. So we passed on the cheese, but we did try the ice cream. It was good, but it was so heavy we both felt sick after eating it!

    We also visited the Cape Meares lighthouse on the same trip!

  11. Have always loved the Oregon Coast, and love your descriptions of your experiences. Haven’t visited Blue Heron (yet) but we are in Oregon right now, and expect to be for — how long, we don’t know. Our summer is free for exploring! Maybe we’ll see you along the way.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh cool! Let us know if you end up down by Bandon while we’re hosting there. We would love to see you. Blue Heron is also quite kitchy, but has a more “country” feel to it. You can buy lunch there and there’s a nice, grassy outdoor area where you eat. They also carry a nice selection of OR wines.
      Nina

  12. Rick says:

    Beautiful part of the coast. Of course it is all beautiful here on our coast. If you were going to be in Lincoln City one of my favorite hidden activities is checking out Alderhouse Glass Blowing Studio. I will leave you the link if you have any interest.
    http://www.alderhouse.com/Homepage/Home.htm

    • libertatemamo says:

      You know we noticed several glass-blowing places as we drove through Lincoln City and I was immediately intrigued. Thanks so much for the link!! That’s definitely something I’m going to have to put on “the list” for when we go back through that area.
      Nina

  13. Amanda says:

    Oh cheese…yum! Too bad you had to share the tour with all those other folks. We did the 5 mile hike to Cape Lookout last fall. It was a bit foggy, but we did get some great views of the water below. Are you going to stay at Cape Lookout State Park? It was one of our favorite SPs in OR.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We aaaalmost stayed at Cape Lookout, but ended up extending our stay at Nehalem Bay SP instead. We did check out the campground (did a drive-through) on our Three Capes Tour and I can see why you guys liked it so much. It’s a bit “tight” for our rig size, but we did see beach-front sites that could fit us. A spot to try next time we’re in the area!
      Nina

  14. Charlotte says:

    More things to put on my Must See & Do List for OR! We love cheese too & will be sure to visit & taste. I loved your foggy pictures. Some of my most fun hikes have been in the fog. It does damper the panoramic views but adds a totally different element you don’t get with blue sunny skies. Folks that stay inside when the weather is not perfect really miss how awesome Mother Nature truly is! I look forward to your next stop.

  15. Ralph says:

    There is so much to do and see on the Oregon Coast. Such a special place that pulls at your soul to return again..and again!!

  16. If you haven’t passed it again, there’s a marvelous restaurant/deli out of the pier right off the highway in Bay City. Best fried oyster sandwich I’ve ever eaten! LOVE to follow your travels!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the tip! Missed it this time around, but will have to check it out next time we’re in the area.
      Nina

  17. elevenfootrv says:

    You will love Newport — don’t forget to stop by the “Home of the Dingbats Winos and Riff Raff Tavern on Bay Blvd — Rogues Ale Brewery on the bay —Nye Beach is also a fun place – no one ever blogs about it but the Chowder Bowl has the best Clam Chowder!!! Have fun– I miss the Oregon Coast!!

    Jenny J in TN

  18. Rowanova says:

    While you continue along the coast you may want to check out the Oregon sand dunes. Coos Bay and Winchester Bay are two areas with the biggest, or some of the biggest dunes. I think Coos Bay sand dunes is the largest of the various dune areas. It’s really quite unexpected to any one unfamiliar with their existence.

    Always something more to see and do on the coasts of WA. and OR.

  19. The ice cream at Tilalamook was by far the best I ever had. We hit all the places you are covering now except the Quilt Trail. And yes at Cape Lookout, the view is awesome except during our time, no fog yet mud and mud and more mud made it very challenging to continue on but we had a view. Thanks for the memories and Im sure we will be back out there.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Too bad we missed out on the ice cream. We thought about it, but then decided against it (why??? who knows!). We did also get a bit of mud on that hike, but it wasn’t as bad as your experience!
      Nina

  20. Dave says:

    If you make it back to Tillamook you might enjoy the short trail to Munson Creek Falls just south of town. Easy walk along well marked trail and the water fall was nice. We enjoyed the air museum too…a real gem of a place.

    Dave (Marcia and Bubba and Skruffy)
    GoingRvWay.com

    • libertatemamo says:

      I saw that hike on my map, but we didn’t get around to doing it. Another one to add to “the list”.
      Nina

  21. Donna K says:

    I must be a true Oregonian cuz I think Tillamook cheese and ice cream is the best ever. Easier to get it at Fred Meyer though than to go to the factory (tee-hee!). I like your foggy pictures!! Hope you have fun in Newport and enjoy exploring the central coast.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We do eat a lot of Tillamook Cheese in our day-to-day. It’s a great “everyday” kinda cheese. Of course now the Bandon location has re-opened I’m excited to try that too.
      Nina

  22. We stayed at Beverly Beach SP recently. Very convenient to Newport and also Depoe Bay. Took a Zodiac whale-watching tour out of Depoe Bay, but didn’t see any. However, did see one from dining room at “Tidal Raves”, catchy name, eh? Fine dining very reasonably priced, plus ocean view!

    • libertatemamo says:

      We stayed at Beverly Beach 2 years ago. Liked the park, although we got rained out several days and so didn’t get to see as much as we wanted. Hoping to (maybe) make it to Depoe Bay from our current spot.
      Nina

  23. […] ← Can You Say Capes, Quilts, Planes & Cheeeeese, Please? – Tillamook, OR […]

  24. For those of us who rarely see fog, it gives a really great element to the scenes. But it is too bad you couldn’t see all you wanted to.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Sure does. I was bummed we didn’t get the views, but I sure enjoyed the eerie feeling of the fog too.
      Nina

  25. LuAnn says:

    I believe we caught a bit of sun, along with a bit of fog, when we came upon Haystack Rock. Wish we would have known about the Quilt Tour when we were in the area. We had hoped to see a dory landing as well, as had been told about it by one of my commenters, but alas not to be. Happy trails to the two of you. :)

  26. hobopals says:

    I was lucky on my trip in 2010. Nothing like Tillamook ice cream! The best day, however, was when Jack and I spent a sunny weekend in Pacific City watching the activity on the beach and the dory boats going and coming. I’d get lunch from the Pelican Brewery and sit in the sand and watch–Jack had a blast running around. That area has very special meaning to me. My husband was stationed in nearby Hebo at a radar site on Mt. Hebo as a very young man. The young men stationed on the mountain hung out in Tillamook and Pacific City. They had a hill car that they coasted to the bottom (I used to know the number of curves coming down – over 100), then the car would get towed back up to give others a lift down.

    • libertatemamo says:

      What a cool story! Thanks so much for sharing! We were lucky we got to see quite a lot of Dory boats the day we went, despite the fog. I’ve never seen boats launch and land like that on the sand. Pretty amazing stuff.
      NIna

  27. […] And airports??? Yes, I’m not kidding. There is a wonderful little gem of a campground right by the old Tillamook Airport for $10/night. Quiet, green, spacious and almost no-one goes there. Plus you’ll be steps from the museum and cheese. […]

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