I visited a few beaches near Pacific City, OR this past weekend to explore and scout out possible photography locations. In this post, I'll show you Cape Kiwanda, Bob Straub State Park, and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Spoiler: my favorite was Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge!
Cape Kiwanda/Pacific City Beach
Cape Kiwanda is beautiful, but gets pretty busy in the summer. There's a large parking lot for the beach, but that was full with cars lined up 10 deep at all times while I was there exploring. I found parking farther up McPhillips Dr. on the side of the road (careful, there are a couple tow zones marked) and walked down to the beach (about a 5 minute walk). The beach was incredibly busy, and there were people hiking up the dunes as well. The cliffs overlooking the haystack and caves were gated and unable to be accessed.
+ Breathtaking with the haystack rock, cliffs, and tide pool formations at lower tide
- Parking is difficult, crowded
I would absolutely recommend Cape Kiwanda, but would recommend doing very early morning/sunrise, or late afternoon/sunset only, with sunrise likely being the least crowded. To get iconic photos of Cape Kiwanda, we could climb the tall sand dune, or explore the shallow tide pools.
Bob Straub State Park and Beach
Bob Straub is tucked away south of Cape Kiwanda, but is definitely worth a visit. I was surprised to see a caravan of men in Jeeps after hiking out to the beach. It turns out, there's an entry point for cars to be able to drive onto the beach.
Bob Straub has long stretches of beach. I stayed close to the parking lot/entrance because the sand was piping hot. There are sandy hiking trails that loop completely around the peninsula. I don't think you have to walk far to get stretches of beach to yourself, but there's a chance that a Jeep will roll right on through.
I would happily meet clients at this location, especially if they want to do a shoot with an off-road vehicle. There is so much beach that we could easily find a spot with no one in the background or in the water.
+ Secluded, long stretches of beach, easy parking, quick access to beach, hiking trails close by, Cape Kiwanda and cliffs in the background
- Tire tracks in the sand if cars have driven onto the beach, there's a moderately steep climb into and out of the beach, over a small sand dune
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge was easily my favorite spot of the day. The shorter but more prolific trail is through a field of purple and yellow wildflowers, with the refuge overlooking the ocean and Cape Kiwanda.
There's a paved trail from the parking lot to the overlook. There are other trails leading down to the tip of the refuge, which are fun hikes, but not overly scenic. The paved trail is the one I really fell in love with. It's short, quick, and stunning. You have to stay on the paved trail, but there are switchbacks that hide the trails and give the illusion of being in a huge field of wildflowers. Also, as it's a nature preserve, there are tons of birds (even nesting eagles) that you'll hear and see.
+ Easy parking, paved walking trail, overlook platform, wildflowers, ocean overlook, bathroom access
- There are no trails through the wildflowers (you must stay on the path), and there's no shade