In June my wife and I spent the weekend in Lincoln City, Oregon, for an anniversary trip. It was fairly low-key, and though we’ve been to Lincoln City a number of times before, we’re usually passing through; our last "big" trip there was in 2006. This time around we were able to spend some more time than usual exploring the town.
I’ve said before, Lincoln City is one of my favorite Oregon Coast towns, and it may well be moving close to the number one position. It sits about halfway between Newport and Pacific City, two other towns I really like; it’s big enough to be a destination city but small enough to be charming and quaint; it’s the easiest coast city to reach from Bend and sits at a relatively major intersection of Highway 101 and Route 18 (a connector for McMinnville, Salem, and Portland); the weather is (anecdotally) more temperate than other areas on the Central Coast.
Most of this travelogue entry is going to consist more of random notes I jotted down than any particular narrative.
Lincoln City is funny in that it seems more like two towns than one, due largely to the fact that most of the town is stretched out along Highway 101 and is roughly divided into distinct north and south sections. When the highway hooks east around a promontory, you feel isolated enough so that you think at first you’re leaving the town (if you’re unfamiliar with the area).
The "northern town" stretches roughly from the Lighthouse Square and Chinook Winds Casino area to the Factory Stores; the "southern town" looks noticeably older and houses the Taft Historic District, before Highway 101 curves south and east around Siletz Bay.
Chinook Winds Casino is to a large extent what Lincoln City is known for these days, from a tourism standpoint. We spent some time there, naturally, but didn’t win anything. (Overall I rate their casino experience as "kinda meh".) More interesting was the fact that they were celebrating their 14th anniversary the same weekend we were; not only did they have Billy! Ray! Cyrus! live in concert both Friday and Saturday night that weekend, but they also had a fireworks show on Saturday night that we were able to see from our room overlooking the beach.
(A hint for those foregoing the concert experience but still want to catch some of the live music: in the gift shop, a vent in the back corner pipes in the music from the theater really well.)
Yes, we splurged a bit an got a nice beachfront room for the weekend, at the aptly-named Beachfront Manor Hotel. It was quite nice, and we had a terrific view of the beach and ocean from the deck.
Just up the road from the Beachfront Manor there is another hotel called Surftides, and they have a restaurant on premises named Mist that we checked out. It’s a hell of a neat place—the lounge in particular has a funky ’70s maritime Tiki bar feel to it, with low-backed faux-leather chairs, bench-style seating in one section, a sunken bar, and a central open fireplace with a hammered-copper hood above it. (No torches, though, so it’s not a complete Tiki experience.)
They have good drinks and good pizza and a decent beer selection (for a small coast town)—stop in for happy hour.
At the other end of the day you might want to try Richens for breakfast; they’re a bit pricey but they serve up some of the biggest (no joke) portions of, well, everything on their menu. Seriously, I couldn’t finish my omelet (with bay shrimp and Tillamook cheddar, I think it was), and that’s unusual. And just look at the size of these mimosas:
Yes, those are large wedges of orange on the sides; you almost need both hands to drink these. We ordered them expecting the typical champagne-and-OJ in a champagne glass!
Though the prices were a bit on the high side, don’t expect anything too fancy—they’re a down-home diner with comfort food and no pretensions. I enjoy that sort of place, my wife not so much, so your mileage may vary. (But I recommend it.)
Cognitive dissonance: there’s a restaurant named Lil’ Sambo’s right there on Highway 101, on the north end of town. It’s a pancake house, and even has a statue of a tiger out front with a big stack of ‘cakes and lots of melted butter… yeah, it’s like that. There’s even a Google Street View so you can see for yourself.
We discovered what may be the greatest used bookstore ever (outside of Powell’s): Robert’s Book Shop. We stopped in because I wanted to check it out and it was across the street from a series of quaint gift shops we were visiting; from the street it looks like any run-of-the-mill used bookstore in an older building but it looks promising. You enter, and right away you know you’ve found a gem: the shelves are packed, and spaced pretty close together—two people don’t easily squeeze by each other.
You wander the shelves, checking subjects and picking up the occasional book, when you realize that you’ve reached what you thought was the end of the room (based on how big you thought the store was from the outside), and there’s another large room of books beyond that. And then there’s yet another larger room beyond that. And you wander back the other way and head towards the "back" of the shop and there are more rooms than keep going like the others.
This place was like, five times bigger on the inside that it appeared on the outside, and they’ve packed an astounding number of books into the place, so it feels like you’ve entered a TARDIS. Lots, lots, lots of great books and I could easily blow a day there. If you love books, there is simply no excuse not to visit Robert’s if you’re in Lincoln City.
At the south end of town is the Taft Historic District: a shopping district with a bunch of public parking and beach access. Mo’s Restaurant is located there, and you can get a (free) WiFi signal from the parking lot nearby, in front of the Looking Glass Inn.
The beach from Taft is pretty awesome: it fronts the Siletz Bay and has a real park-like quality to it, the kind of beach you want to bring a grill and several coolers down to and spend the day, with a big driftwood bonfire. (Several groups were doing this, sans the bonfire.) A bit of a walk takes you to the entrance of the Bay where the beach turns into the "real" ocean beach and curves north.
There’s a ton of driftwood and really good beachcombing to be found here. And a lot of people were fishing and crabbing right off the sand in the Bay.
Some warm summer day we’re going to go to Lincoln City and just spend the day chillin’ on this beach, with the afore-mentioned grill and coolers. And maybe a bonfire.
In the older northern stretch of town—you’ll know it when you drive through it, it seems like it might once have been considered "downtown"—the Bijou Theater claims to be the oldest theater in Oregon (their website says since 1937).
In the same stretch of town, close to the Bijou, the Old Oregon Tavern looks similarly historic. It intrigues me, but I’m sure it’s just a seedy old dive bar. Inexplicably the sign has a rainbow on it. (Sadly, I did not take a picture.)
And finally, while walking along that stretch of "old downtown" shopping, I came across the greatest (or most evil?) car ever:
I have some other notes about Lincoln City, but they’ll wait until our next trip. In the meantime, you really should go visit.