Best Things to Do in Rockaway Beach, Oregon

Rockaway Beach is a quiet city located on the Oregon Coast that’s been a vacation destination since before the highway system was even established. Since the 1920s, vacationers have flocked to Rockaway Beach to enjoy the seven miles of pristine beach. Though many of the Rockaway Beach vacation rentals are oceanfront or offer ocean views, the beach remains relatively uncrowded.

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If you’re looking for the best things to do in Rockaway Beach, then look no further! We’ve compiled a list of our top 12 favorite things to do in Rockaway Beach to help you plan your trip. You’ll find plenty of things to do outside as well as some indoor options for when the weather isn’t ideal.

1) Crab, Fish, and Boat at Jetty Fishery

The Jetty Fishery Marina & RV Park is located in Rockaway Beach, just off Highway 101 across the river from Nehalem Beach. Offering dock crabbing, boat crabbing, clamming, and fishing, Jetty Fishery is a great place for any outdoor enthusiast to spend the day. Don’t worry about equipment, they have you covered with all of the crabbing and fishing supplies that you’ll need. Boat rentals start at $60 for ½ hour and go up from there. Crabbing packages can be purchased for as little as $120, which includes a boat rental and everything you need for crabbing. You may also pay to have your crabs cooked at the Jetty Fishery, although if you rented their equipment then cooking the crabs you catch is free.

For those who don’t want to set sail, both crabbing and fishing can be done from the docks at the marina. This is also a great spot to go clamming, though keep in mind that you will need a shellfish license. There are two different types of clams that can be found in the Nehalem Bay, Eastern Soft Shell and Purple Varnish, both of which can be dug up with your hands or a shovel.

Learn more about the Jetty Fishery on their website.

2) Visit Manhattan Beach State Park

Just off of Highway 101 to the north of Rockaway Beach lies Manhattan Beach, a quiet, hidden gem of the Oregon coast. One of the least-visited beaches on the Oregon Coast, Manhattan Beach is a great place to visit regardless of the time of year. At the entrance, you’ll find a paved parking lot, restrooms, and a trail leading over the dunes and down to the shore.

The beach itself stretches for just over a mile and is far less trafficked than the busier beaches on the Oregon Coast. This makes it a great choice for beachgoers with younger children or large groups, as you’ll have plenty of space to relax. Manhattan Beach is also a great spot to beachcomb, as fewer people means more rocks and shells to go around!

In addition to ample parking and restrooms, Manhattan Beach State Recreational Site also offers picnic tables free for public use. Dogs are also welcome on the beach, so feel free to bring Fido along with you. If you’re planning a trip and need pet-friendly lodging, browse our Oregon Coast pet-friendly rentals.

3) Fish, Crab, and Boat at Kelly’s Brighton Marina

Located in Nehalem Bay, Kelly’s Brighton Marina is another great spot to crab, fish, boat, camp, and more. A great spot for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys a nice breeze and a view, Kelly’s offers something for everyone.

For those who want to try their luck crabbing, Kelly’s offers guided boat crabbing trips starting at $120 for 2 hours, as well as crabbing from the dock with baited crab rings starting at just $15. Whether you’ve never crabbed before or are a seasoned crabber, Kelly’s is a great spot. Rentals are available on-site, and the staff will show you how to do everything including crabbing, crabbing from a boat, driving a boat, how to clean your keepers, and even how to cook them!

Fishing is also great here in Nehalem Bay, which is full of Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout being caught from our docks all the time. You may also rent a boat for just $60 for an hour (plus $25/hour after that) if you want to head out into the Nehalem River. Please note that Kelly’s doesn’t rent fishing equipment, so you’ll need to bring all of your own gear.

Learn more about Kelly’s Brighton Marina on their website.

4) Ride the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

What better way to see the Oregon Coast than a 1.5-hour train excursion along the scenic Tillamook Bay between Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi? Pulled by historic steam or diesel-powered locomotives, this excursion allows you to step back in time and see the Oregon Coast the same way that vacationers would have back in the 1920s.

Not only will you get a chance to see the beautiful Oregon Coast, but you’ll also learn a little bit about the area as well. Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (OSCR) staff tells you the story of the area along the way, giving you information about the wildlife and conservation efforts that help keep the area beautiful.

The Rockaway Beach Depot is located next to the red “Visitor Information caboose along Highway 101, and the Garibaldi Depot is located on the southbound side of Highway 101 in Garibaldi. Riders may board at either depot.
Learn more about OSCR on their website.

5) Go Whale Watching

Whale Watching and the Oregon Coast go together like peanut butter and jelly. December is when whales begin migrating from Alaska down to Baja Mexico, passing right by Rockaway Beach along the way. Depending on when you visit, you might just catch a glimpse of some of the more than 20,000 whales heading for warmer waters in the south. During the height of their migration, as many as 30 whales per hour will migrate past Rockaway Beach.

The best places to watch for whales are those that get you elevated above the water. Some of the best spots to whale watch on the Oregon Coast are Cape Meares, Neahkahnie Mountain, and Cape Kiwanda, which are all a short drive from Rockaway Beach. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to drive anywhere if you’d rather stay in Rockaway Beach. Since the whales tend to travel within 5 miles of the shore, you can whale watch from the beach just fine.

6) Visit Twin Rocks

One of the most famous landmarks along the Oregon Coast, Twin Rocks at Rockaway Beach is two massive rock outcroppings that sit just off the coast. Each rock ridge sits nearly 100 feet high and is made up of mostly sandstone that was formed between 20 and 30 million years ago. At the time of its formation, Twin Rocks would have been totally underwater.

Twin Rocks was originally named Profile Rocks and has had many other nicknames over the years. Some say that the rocks look like a sea dragon, the loch ness monster, an elephant head and trunk, or even a princess. Depending on the angle that you look at it, Twin Rocks can look like any number of things!

7) Hike Cedar Wetlands Preserve

Cedar Wetlands Preserve is a beautiful hiking trail located directly in Rockaway Beach and is perfect for hikers of all ages, skills, and fitness levels. Coming in at just 1.2 miles, this loop trail is a very easy hike and only has about 20 feet of elevation gain. The entire trail is very well maintained and the ground is a brand new elevated boardwalk, making this trail wheelchair friendly.

Cedar Wetlands Preserve trail starts at a small parking lot off of Highway 101, marked by a sign that reads “Welcome to Rockaway Beach.” Directions to the trailhead can be found here. The trail ends with an old-growth cedar tree measuring 154 feet tall and 49 feet in circumference – one of the largest trees in Oregon!

8) Visit Troxel’s for Some Rocks, Gems, and Mini Golf

Troxel’s Gem and Jewelry is a fun gem, jewelry, and gift shop in the heart of Rockaway Beach. Just next door however is Troxel’s Rock Garden, a fun little attraction that’s perfect for kids, amateur geologists, or anyone who enjoys playing a round of putt-putt. The Rock Garden is ever-changing, so if you visit Rockaway Beach each year it may look totally different every time that you come!

Troxel’s Rock Garden currently offers a giant chess board to play along with a full Wizard of Oz themed mini-golf course complete with a yellow brick road. If you like any of the rocks in the garden Troxel’s will let you take them home for whatever price you think is fair! There’s a box outside the garden, and all you need to do is drop in however much you think the rock you like is worth.
To learn more about this super fun, unique, kid-friendly attraction, check them out on Facebook.

9) Go Rockhounding!

Rockhounding, or amateur geology, is super popular out here on the Oregon Coast, and consists of studying and collecting rocks, gems, minerals, and fossils. The reason that rockhounding is so popular out here is that the Oregon Coast is such a great place to find rocks and minerals that have washed ashore.

Agates and jasper can easily be found in Rockaway Beach and along the Tillamook coast, the most common being yellow, green, red, and white. The trick to finding them is keeping your eyes focused on the rocks ahead of you, and also knowing where to look.

To increase your chances of finding a nice rock or gemstone, try to find beaches with exposed rock beds. While agate beds can be found on every beach, they tend to be covered by a few inches, or even a few feet, of sand. Another tip is to search the outdoing tides for rocks that are exposed as the water is heading out to sea. The sunlight will reflect off of the wet rock, making it easier to spot one and scoop it up.

10) Visit the International Police Museum

The International Police Museum is located right here in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, and offers a fun, educational experience for groups of all ages. The museum includes displays that showcase all aspects of law enforcement, including uniforms from around the world, the weapons and tools that have been used throughout the years, as well as highlights women in police history.

The International Police Museum also offers a youth interactive area where children are invited to try on real police gear, get their fingerprints taken, and take a photo with Fred, their lifesize horse mannequin. The youth area is a real hit among kids, so we recommend bringing them by for a quick visit during your stay!

Learn more about the International Police Museum on their website.

10) Try the Local Food

It wouldn’t be a vacation without some great local food! There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at on the Oregon Coast (check out our 10 favorite restaurants on the Oregon Coast), and Rockaway Beach is no exception. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Rockaway Beach, depending on what kind of mood you’re in:

  • Old Oregon Smoke House – Known for its seafood, Old Oregon Smoke House has some of the best smoked salmon and clam chowder around. We recommend trying the oyster sandwich and the crab cakes – you won’t be disappointed. 
  • Pronto Pup – home of the original Pronto Pup location, you can’t go wrong with this world-famous fried hot dog and french fries.
  • Beach Bakeshop – a fun local bakery serving up breakfast, lunch, and of course plenty of baked goods. We recommend trying the Sand Dollars!
  • Upper Crust Pizza – Maybe you’re looking for a good pie to munch on while watching a movie during a rainy day, or maybe you just want some great pizza. Upper Crust has some of the best pies around, just make sure you order ahead as there may be a wait.
  • Schwietert’s Cones and Candy – About as sweet as it gets! Schwietert’s Cones and Candy is a classic candy and ice cream shop, serving up nothing but sweetness year-round.

Whatever you decide to do in Rockaway Beach—whether it’s taking in the local sights, riding along the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, or filling up on some of the local’s favorite restaurants—you’re sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.

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