2 Days in Tillamook

Visiting Tillamook and wondering what you might do after you’ve conquered the hour-long line for a waffle cone at the Creamery?

The cheese factory may get all the hype, but there’s much more to do in and around this small Oregon town! Here are some of the many ways you might spend your time.

Go to the Beach

Tillamook is just a short drive from dozens of beaches: Oceanside (above), Happy Camp, Rockaway, Netarts Bay … you’ll be spoiled for choice. The water won’t be warm, but the walking is great — and if you’re lucky, you’ll hit low tide at just the right time to see all sorts of sea creatures.

Dive Into Local History

The Tillamook County Pioneer Museum feels like a local history museum, a natural history collection, and someone’s very-well-organized attic all in one. You can see all sorts of things here, including a recreation of the spruce stump in which Tillamook’s (sadly racist) first white settler and teacher lived, the winner of best in show from the the Rural Industrial Modelers’ Congress, Victorian clothing, barbed wire samples, old maps, and old rooms.

As a second-floor surprise, after learning about history and lumberjacks and the fishing industry, you’ll find a room of taxidermied wonders. In 1955, an ornithologist by the name of Alex Walker was engaged to curate a natural history collection here — so there are birds, insects, mammals, rocks, and dioramas galore.

None of this looks like it’s changed much since the museum left Mr. Walker’s charge in 1975, but who cares? It’s a fascinating (and sometimes jaw-dropping, for a variety of reasons) collection.

Visit the Largest Clear-Span Wooden Structure in the World

This is Hangar B, a former US Navy blimp hanger that now houses the Tillamook Air Museum. Beyond the building itself, which is huge and fascinating (it once held eight blimps!), you can tour a variety of airplanes and aviation-related stuff.

Celebrate Fabric Arts

The Latimer Quilt & Textile Center isn’t big — it’s in an old schoolhouse, so it’s pretty much the opposite of Hangar B — but it’s charming. There are just four rooms: one for weaving, one for quilting and other crafts, a small gift shop, and a space for rotating exhibits. If you can catch a show there, you might see something special.

Tour the Shortest Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

That’s it: stumpy, adorable Cape Meares Lighthouse. Built in 1890, it’s all of 38 feet tall, but it does have a real claim to fame: it boasts one of only two eight-sided Fresnel lighthouse lenses in the US (the other is at Makapu’u in southeastern Oahu). If you want to go inside, note that it’s only open from 11-4 every day.

Cape Meares is an Oregon State Scenic Viewpoint, so there are good walking trails with excellent signage about the wildlife you might glimpse there. If you visit in the winter and early spring, you might be lucky enough to see migrating whales. Otherwise, you’re likely to catch a bunch of birds (bring your binoculars) and perhaps a sea lion or two. In any case, you’re sure to have wonderful views:

It’s also worth taking a short walk from the parking area to see the Octopus Tree, a many-limbed Sitka Spruce.

As a side note, if you like that t-shirt, it’s from Tillamook’s Salty Raven, a store that crafts and sells “seriously cool goods” downtown.

Have Lunch at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company

It’s not clear to me that the Blue Heron makes too many cheeses, but they have a killer gift shop with all sorts of great food products and knick-knacks. They also offer an excellent sandwich menu, outdoor picnic tables, and a petting area.

Take in a Movie at The Coliseum

For brand new blockbusters shown in renovated 1920s glory (complete with purple seats), look no further than Tillamook’s independent movie theater on Main Street.

See a Parade!

The June Dairy Parade is small town fun at its best: floats and fire engines and bookmobiles, cows and tractors and horses. You’ll have to time your visit very specifically to catch this event — it only happens on one weekend in June every year — but what entertainment! I came away with fistfuls of candy, a sticker that said “I met a REAL princess today!” (from the Oregon Dairy Women), and big smiles.

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