Weekend Trip: Beachcombing and Swinging Through the Trees in Lincoln City

Things don’t change much around these parts, yet, paradoxically, new surprises abound.

BEACH VIBES: Taft Dock in Lincoln City. (Cody Cha Photography)

This feature is part of Oregon Summer, WW’s new and detailed catalog of adventures waiting for you across the state and over the Columbia River. You can find it now in more than 1,200 locations—newsstands, bars, restaurants, hotels, grocers, convenience stores—across the Portland metro area.

Unlike most Oregon coast towns, no single characteristic sums up Lincoln City.

When you think of Seaside, the carnival-like boardwalk, bumper cars and taffy stores undoubtedly come to mind. Tillamook? The cheese factory and cow pastures. Cannon Beach? Art galleries and extravagant vacation homes.

Lincoln City is tougher to nail down because it is a 7-mile-long community made up of six distinct districts, five of which were independent municipalities before they were incorporated in 1960. That’s why Roads End, at the town’s north tip, looks and feels so very different from Taft to the south.

The latter offers a glimpse of the area’s rich history, from the oldest bar to a museum packed with relics that illustrate how hard life was for early settlers brave enough to homestead next to the Pacific. The former, however, is a gateway to nature and home to Chinook Winds Casino. Smack dab in the middle is Oceanlake, a hodgepodge of kitschy shops selling shell-covered gifts, candymakers and fishmongers.

Things don’t change much around these parts, yet, paradoxically, new surprises abound. Salishan Coastal Lodge, just outside city limits, is still known for its beautiful, bayside golf course, but now adrenaline junkies also seek out the property’s recently installed Aerial Park. The resort’s shops will likely always display pricey works of art. However, there’s also a 3-year-old brewery drawing a younger crowd. Strong drinks and cigarette breaks remain standard at the nearly century-old Snug Harbor, but right across the street sits Lincoln City’s first food cart pod, which opened in 2022.

Be sure to make enough time to explore it all—the old and the new—along these 7 glorious, long miles of shoreline, which are unlike any other in the state.

Salishan Coastal Lodge. (MichellePearlGee)

Friday Night

Play Like a Kid and Drink Like an Adult

Most people who are entertained by flashing lights and loud chimes will wind up at one of the casino’s slot machines. But you can have a similar sensory experience without the risk of dropping hundreds of dollars by heading to a more modest gaming palace. Game Over Arcade (2821 NW Highway 101, 541-614-1150, gameover-arcade.com) is packed with more than 100 vintage and modern standup cabinets, pinball machines and amusement park classics like Skee-Ball and Down the Clown. Since the owner’s collection extends beyond the games on display, new offerings are occasionally rotated in. Though we hope he never touches Tapper, an addictive Budweiser-branded machine that allows you to play bartender. Once you’ve run out of quarters, order a pizza from Gallucci’s (2845 NW Highway 101, 541-994-3411, galluccispizzeria.com), which will deliver its hefty pies directly to the arcade.

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Dinner, No Tourists and a Comedy Show

When Lincoln City’s Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks disbanded in 2015, it practically ensured the club’s historical lodge was destined for the backhoe since the city considered the 60-year-old structure a loss. However, the 35,000-square-foot building is still standing thanks to a former Elks member and contractor who gave it a new lease on life as The Beach Club (2020 NE 22nd St., 541-418-5468, thebeachclublc.com). The refurbished nautical-themed bar is once again a popular gathering place for locals, though tourists not so much. Consider that a plus. While the rest of the valley dwellers are lined up in restaurant lobbies, you’ll be on your second Boneyard RPM while tucking into some crispy crab cakes. Bonus: Portland comic Amanda Arnold hosts Tsunami Comedy in the event room, recruiting talent like Nariko Ott, Todd Armstrong and Jeff Dye.

Sleep Among the Trees

When you check into Salishan Coastal Lodge (7760 Highway 101, Gleneden Beach, 541-764-3600, salishan.com) just south of Lincoln City, you get more than a map and a room key. The clerk will inform you that your stay plants one tree in a naturally deforested area. It’s a practice applied at all Soul Community Planet properties, the resort’s parent company, but feels particularly relevant here since the hotel appears to have sprouted organically among the alder and spruce. The woodsy aesthetic is no accident. Native Oregonian and developer John Gray designed Salishan in the mid-’60s to reflect the natural landscape, and brought the outside in via stone floors; ceiling beams and accent walls made of locally sourced lumber; and an abundance of natural light. The result is a 250-acre retreat that feels like an elaborate tree fort hidden deep in the forest.

Drink Smokin’ Cocktails

Before retiring to your room, ascend to The Attic. Unlike its fictional counterparts, there’s nothing creepy stashed away in the lodge’s top floor, but you will find a bit of magic in the form of smoke, fire, and cocktails that change color. A handful of drinks on the menu make good use of a mini-flame thrower, including Fog in the Forest, a botanical blend of St-Germain, rye whiskey and Prosecco garnished with a sprig of smoldering rosemary. If gimmicks grab your attention more than pyrotechnics, opt for the Hocus Pocus. Once you pour a seemingly clear shot of alcohol into a martini glass, also filled with transparent liquid, the concoction goes from colorless to orange to blush pink.

The Aerial Park.

Saturday Morning

Eat a Lumberjack-Sized Hash Brown Breakfast

The best breakfast joint on the Oregon Coast is now actually located along the Oregon Coast. Otis Cafe (4618 SE Highway 101, 541-994-2813, otiscafe.com) had for decades operated about 5 miles inland in the tiny town it’s named after, but a kitchen fire in 2019 gutted the building. Otis Cafe reopened on the south end of Lincoln City last year, allowing it to more than double its original shoebox-sized dining room. Be warned, though, that seats fill just as quickly. Beyond its popularity, the hit-you-like-a-brick Original German Potatoes also remain unchanged: hand-peeled and shredded spuds studded with onions and smothered in Tillamook white cheddar. The portions here would satisfy a lumberjack, so unless you plan to fell trees all day, a half or even a quarter order of hash browns will do.

Go Climb a Tree

Salishan has long been revered for its 18-hole, Scottish-style links, but if you thought golf was the only outdoor activity here, then you haven’t been exposed to the property’s recently expanded playground. The Aerial Park, operated by the Adventure Collective (7755 Highway 101, Suite A2, Gleneden Beach, 541-961-7140, theadventurecollective.co), actually places guests in the stately trees they’ve been admiring. But before you can tackle the giant jungle gym in the sky, participants must harness up and learn how to use the smart belay system.

Should you misstep or lose your balance on one of the wobbly bridges, the only thing keeping you from plummeting to the forest floor is a set of dual connectors called CLiC-iTs. An introductory Ground School course allows participants to practice hooking and unhooking (one belay always locks when the other is opened), then it’s up a flight of stairs to what looks like an Ewok village had the furry creatures been lousy at building tree-to-tree paths.

Sure, there are a couple of sturdy spans, but most of the 20 obstacles are a series of swaying broken platforms, tightropes or suspended planks no bigger than a swing that test both your core strength and courage. No one will force you to complete them all, but don’t miss the vertical climb to the 70-foot Crow’s Nest, or the Lily Pads, where you swing from platform to platform using a series of ropes—the closest you’ll ever get to completing an Indiana Jones-style adventure.

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Come Back to Earth With a Beer Flight

Beachcrest Brewing (7755 Highway 101, Suite E5, Gleneden Beach, 541-234-4013, beachcrestberwing.com) didn’t open in the Salishan Marketplace specifically for people walking back from the Aerial Park, but its location sure is convenient for anyone whose still-trembling legs require some liquid assistance. When Matt and Amy White launched the brewery here, it actually marked the beginning of the revival of the mothballed shops. And as the marketplace has grown, so has Beachcrest. What started in December 2018 as a bare-bones taproom fed by a modest, 3-barrel system has evolved into a colorfully decorated pub with a 7-barrel brewhouse that’s taken over the neighboring storefront, and a fire engine-red pizza oven that began churning out pies in May. Pair your tropical-sweet Siletz Bay Hazy at Squatchsami (7755 Highway 101, Gleneden Beach, 541-272-7066, squatchsami.com) with scratch-made clam chowder doused in Texas Pete hot sauce—a dish so hearty and comforting, it prompted one local to declare she abandoned making her own version of the stew.

Devil's Lake.

Saturday Afternoon

Picnic on the Spit

Even though you could drive to Salishan Spit as a guest of the resort (all roads here are private), a walk is a much more pleasant way to reach the sandy outcropping. Behind Salishan Marketplace, follow signs to the nature trail, tiptoeing past serious golfers (in collared, tucked-in shirts and forward-facing hats if they’re following the dress code) before disappearing into a grove lined by salal bushes and tall, feathery grass. You’ll soon spill out onto a miraculously empty beach covered in a mosaic of colorful pebbles and driftwood—some of it already constructed into forts. For a little more exercise, continue a few miles down the spit, where dozens of harbor seals like to loll. Or take a seat on any of the large boulders and turn the outing into a picnic by purchasing a backpack stuffed with cheese, charcuterie and fresh fruit from Salishan’s Provisions Market.

Paddle to the World’s Shortest River

The Loch Ness Monster may get more publicity, but the mysterious creature inhabiting Devils Lake sounds just as sinister. According to Siletz lore, a fleet of Native warriors crossing the water at night was suddenly pulled beneath the surface by a set of giant tentacles. Now it’s said that boating through the moon’s reflection there will send a haunting chill down your spine as a warning. So, to avoid pissing off any local kraken, shove off in daylight and make your way toward another water landmark, the D River, which is thought to be the world’s shortest.

When traversing Devils Lake in a paddled-powered vessel, put in at Regatta Park (2700 NE 14th St., 541-994-2131, lincolncity.org/departments/parks-recreation), where there are few motorboats churning up wake. From there, glide south past homes with well-manicured lawns and docks—you’ll begin mentally ranking them for an imaginary Airbnb stay. Soon, the waterway begins to narrow and the vegetation thickens. If it’s a classic day at the coast, fog will push in, and as you navigate through swampy inlets filled with reeds and water lilies, it feels as though you’ve somehow rowed to the Louisiana bayou. Once you get close to a bridge carrying Highway 101 traffic over D River, which flows a mere 120 feet into the ocean, turn back. The water is typically too shallow for kayakers to continue.

Oregon Summer Guide (Cody Cha)

Make Magic Potion

At The Cheeky Cauldron (1640 NE Highway 101, 541-614-0693, thecheekycauldron.com), all is chaos. On any given weekend, the Harry Potter-themed cafe is overrun with fans of all ages, at least half of whom are simply milling around gawking at a mural of Diagon Alley and artfully displayed bottles with labels like “Nargle Repellent” and “Manticore Venom.” “We just dropped $150 on potions, like a bunch of idiots!” a woman said laughing as she headed for the door. The reservation-only high tea service is currently suspended due to supply and labor shortages, but The Cheeky Cauldron is planning to add more potions classes to its schedule, allowing Muggles to become wizards for the day.

Build a Buffet at LC’s First Food Cart Pod

Food cart pods have been fixtures in Portland for years, but until two years ago, mobile vendors weren’t allowed in Lincoln City. Fortunately, the city council gave its stamp of approval to kitchens on wheels, making way for the community’s first village of pint-sized purveyors. The Pines Dine (5040 SE Highway 101, 541-921-5077, thepinesdine.com) opened in stages this year, launching initially with one cart before adding more in spring, and finally holding a grand opening for the main dining hall in late May. Inside the permanent structure, you’ll find Vin & Brau, the bar, which serves wine-based cocktails and beer. Like any good pod, this one boasts a wide variety of cuisine, including Puerto Rican soul food, sushi, smoked meat sandwiches and Nepalese dumplings. Tackle as many carts as possible, creating a bizarre yet delicious buffet.

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Tour a Two-Story Time Capsule

For whatever reason, Oregon has never attracted a flashy, modern amusement park. We prefer our attractions to be modest in size, old-timey in ambience and a little weird when it comes to the theme. Enter Pixieland, the 1890s-set park that opened north of Lincoln City in 1969. Though the site was demolished in 1983, six years after it closed because lousy weather led to spotty attendance, you can still view some of the sprite-emblazoned memorabilia at the North Lincoln County Historical Museum (4907 Highway 101, 541-996-6614, northlincolncountyhistoricalmuseum.org). Once you’ve absorbed the take-home lesson “never build an amusement park on the Oregon Coast,” tour the rest of the time capsule. The first floor is devoted to pre-1900s artifacts, like logging equipment, pioneer appliances and a massive collection of Japanese glass fishing floats. Upstairs reflects the town during the 20th century, with displays about pre-motel camping lodges, the Green Onion 5-cent bathhouse and the Redhead Roundup, a carnival and beauty pageant that ran for 10 years, attracting 25,000 visitors at its peak.

Saturday Night

Hike a Heavenly Trail

Distance: 5 miles Difficulty: Moderate Start Point: A Northeast Devils Lake Boulevard cul-de-sac in the Roads End district Elevation Gain: 1,131 ft

There is a hulking hill that dominates the view in the northern part of Lincoln City that, until recently, few people outside the local population knew was crisscrossed by a patchwork of paths leading to two stunning grassy overlooks and an impressive pinnacle called God’s Thumb. Why has the network of old road beds and trails lain largely undiscovered? The answer lies partly in the strange setting where you’ll start this hike: a failed development that the city purchased, allowing for a trail easement and the posting of maps to help keep visitors off private land.

The first clearing comes several miles in after you ascend a ridge. The Thumb lies straight ahead—a sage-colored knob that’s as far as you can get on this outcropping without tumbling into the ocean. Formed tens of millions of years ago, what’s now a gnarled mound was originally part of a basalt dike. Waves will continue to whip away at the formation until nothing but a sea stack remains. With a spectacle so inspiring its name suggests that even the Almighty admires the view by extending an approving digit, any hiker would be happy to call it a day. But there is one more location offering a different panorama: The Knoll, another grassy expanse where elk make their beds at night. From here, the entire city is on display, including Devils Lake, which from this vantage point looks more like a pond.

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Press Your Luck

Sadly, Chinook Winds Casino (1777 NW 44th St.,888-244-6665, chinookwindscasino.com) has not brought back Disco Bingo since it resumed operations after several pandemic closures. There are few scenes more delightful than an enormous hall filled with grandparents rocking glow necklaces, jamming to Kesha, and wielding 10 daubers at once. However, regular bingo sessions are back seven days a week, and it’s one of the most affordable forms of entertainment at the venue. There’s beer to purchase, the free soda fountain never runs dry, and Winners Circle members receive a complimentary lucky duck.

Snuggle Up at the Coast’s Oldest Bar

Not even an out-of-control pickup can take out Snug Harbor (5001 SE Highway 101, 541-996-4976, snugharborbarandgrill.com). When a driver rammed into what’s billed as the oldest, continuously operating bar on the Oregon Coast last December, photos of the wreck indicated the 1930s-era building could be doomed. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t severe enough to condemn the Snug, as locals call it, and in late April, the truck-sized hole near the entrance remained temporarily boarded up. Inside, however, it’s business as usual. It’s the type of place where stiff drinks fuel conversation and all-day breakfast plates are a steal. The multilevel back patio that extends to the roof is one of the best semi-secret perches in Lincoln City to catch a sunset.

Peruse a Wine List as Thick as a Phone Book

The Bay House (541-996-3222, thebayhouse.org), Lincoln City’s fine-dining beacon that overlooked Siletz Bay for 41 years, may have relocated, but it didn’t lose its stunning estuary views. The AAA Four-Diamond restaurant now occupies the former Cedar Tree room inside Salishan. Expect the same impeccable service, along with water-facing windows, white tablecloths and flame-burning candles.

The traditional dining room may sound stuffy, but the food is anything but. During a recent dinner, the chef sent out an amuse-bouche in the form of a vial filled with glow-in-the-dark, neon-green tea accompanied by a savory churro encrusted in Parmesan. The highlight combined the last gasp of winter produce with the first haul from spring harvest: a blackened halibut served with pumpkin risotto, butternut squash and a swipe of pea puree. Check in on the progress of the neighboring Wine Cellar, which is undergoing renovations, allowing the Bay House to add to its vast bottle collection, which includes the only French Laundry wines you can get outside of Napa and a $20,700 Romanée Conti.

Sunday Morning

Down Mugs of Bloody Marys in an Former Mortuary

Some people like to start their Sundays with a quiet, relaxed brunch. Others, apparently, prefer to kick off a traditional day of rest with ear-splitting classic rock and bloody marys in Oktoberfest-sized steins. Should you find yourself in the latter camp, snag stage-side seats at Seadogs (560 SW Fleet Ave., 541-264-8205). The bar is the latest business to occupy the Eventuary, a former mortuary with a scandalous past: It made headlines in the ‘80s after police discovered the owner had not been cremating bodies but instead stacking them in the garage “like cord wood,” as the local newspaper put it. Today, the robin’s egg blue, churchlike structure is filled with quirky décor that will make you forget all about its sordid history. Bring cash and your patience—Seadogs doesn’t take cards, and you may go an entire set without being acknowledged by staff. But, hey, at least there’s free music!

Tap Into Your Inner Chihuly

There are still beaches with buried treasure. The term “buried” is used loosely—Lincoln City’s tourism bureau wants you to discover the colorful glass floats it scatters across the shore. However, those who’ve never found a free orb should consider making their own. The Lincoln City Glass Center (4821 SE Highway 101, 541-996-2569, lincolncityglasscenter.com) allows almost anyone to wield a blowpipe within a few feet of a 2,100-degree furnace.

During the 30-minute session, you’ll get to choose the colors and object you want to make (besides floats, there are hearts, votives and fluted bowls). This being my first time, I stuck with a classic orb. My glassblower spread out what looked like small, rainbow-hued rocks on a workbench, then grabbed a pipe and took it to the furnace, which glowed bright orange. He dipped the far end inside to gather glass, then took it to the bench, and together we rolled it in the color shards. After that, it was back and forth between another heating chamber called the “glory hole” and a metal stand known as a “yoke” as I constantly, and slowly, rotated the pipe.

Due to ongoing concerns about COVID, no traditional blowing is allowed. Your guide will use a foot pedal to slowly inflate the ball with an air pump, shaping it with a wetted wooden block that forms a steam jacket. To finish, a customized stamp is placed on the bottom, and your creation cools overnight in an annealing oven. It’s an eye-opening process that requires dexterity and caution—one I’d choose any day over stumbling across a float in the sand.

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Get Your Crab to Go

There’s almost always a crowd outside of this little red-and-white market on summer weekends. It’s a sign that Barnacle Bill’s (2174 Highway 101, 541-994-3022, barnaclebillsseafoodmarket.com) is stocked with the freshest fish around—many of the offerings were swimming in the ocean just hours earlier. Before you leave town, fill a cooler with as much seafood as possible (the Dungeness crab meat is superb on a Benedict). There’s a reason why the market says it has gone unchanged since 1949: That’s apparently when it reached honest-to-goodness perfection.

Oregon Summer Guide

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