One of the northernmost towns on the gorgeous Oregon Coast, Tillamook lays along the southeast edge of Tillamook Bay. Though most of us associate the name Tillamook with the cheese that made it famous, the town is named after the region’s Indigenous people, who lived in the area until the start of the 19th century.
A great destination for history-buffs and cheese-and-wine lovers, Tillamook’s best asset is, however, its natural setting. Its unique geography, including the coast, the confluence of three rivers, the Tillamook, Trask, and Wilson, and forested areas inland offer spectacular scenery worth exploring.
Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, several locations on our list are closed. Be sure to check online before visiting.
Things To Do In Tillamook
Given its gorgeous setting, history, and dairy farm, you’ll find something to do in Tillamook, no matter your interest. The beach and the nearby forest offer plenty of hiking and sightseeing opportunities, while the rivers add kayaking or paddleboarding into the mix.
If you are interested in history, you’ll find a historic lighthouse, the world’s largest wooden hangar and air museum, and a pioneer museum here. If it’s the cheese and ice cream you are looking for, you have the famous Tillamook Creamery to tour. The following are only a sample of things to do in and around Tillamook during your long weekend getaway.
Explore The Beach On The Bayocean Peninsula
The closest beach to Tillamook is on the Bayocean Peninsula. To drive out to it, take the Bay Ocean Road, past the cattle farm, and along a narrow strip of road on the Tillamook Bay. At the end of the road, you’ll have access to one of the most secluded and pristine beaches on the Oregon Coast.
The beach was once the site of an oceanside resort community named Bayocean, with homes, cabins, restaurants, and a large hotel, all swallowed by the ocean. If you walk down the beach, you’ll find signs and markers that show where the original buildings stood, but other than that, all you see is sand and ocean.
Visit Cape Meares State Park And National Wildlife Refuge
Named after John Meares, the first known captain to sail the Tillamook Bay, the Cape is home to the largest colonies of nesting seabirds on the continent, the famous octopus tree, and the shortest lighthouse on the coast.
Stop along the trail and watch the seabirds on the sea stacks along the cape. Walk out to the cape’s edge to the preserved historic lighthouse, the shortest on the coast. Before leaving, take the short trail through the woods to the famous octopus tree, the largest Sitka spruce on the coast, with its branches radiating upwards from the base.
Drive The Three Capes Scenic Loop
Take a few hours or a full day to drive the 40-mile-long Three Capes Scenic Loop, one of the Oregon coast’s most dramatic stretches. Connecting Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, the scenic loop passes through nearly every geologic and natural coastline feature. You’ll find rugged rocks and towering sea-stacks, sand-dunes, secluded beaches, and spruce or Sitka forests to explore. Stop often and enjoy the sites. If you spend a full day on this road, stop for lunch at Oceanside or Cape Kiwanda.
The road starts and ends in Tillamook, so you can drive it in either direction. If you visit Cape Meares in the morning, start the loop here, using it as your first stop. Or drive down the coast to Cape Kiwanda on Route 101 and get on the loop driving north from there.
Hike To Munson Creek Falls
Tumbling an impressive distance of 319 feet, Munson Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall of its kind in the Coast Range. To see it, drive to the Munson Creek Falls State Natural Site, and take the short trail winding along Munson Creek leading to a panoramic view of it.
You’ll walk in an old-growth forest, surrounded by ancient western red cedar and Sitka spruce trees. Natural landmarks on the trail include one of the country’s tallest Sitka spruce trees, towering over 260 feet above the surrounding landscape. Though you won’t get very close to the falls at the end of the quarter-mile trail, you’ll have a gorgeous view of them.
To get to the trailhead, look for signs a few miles south of downtown Tillamook. You’ll find a picnic area in the park but no bathrooms.
Learn About The Surrounding Forest At Tillamook’s State Forest Center
Drive inland, away from the coast for a few miles along Oregon Highway 6, to reach Tillamook State Forest Center, one of the most comprehensive outdoor forest-based learning centers.
The indoor exhibits share stories of life in the forest, from the Tillamook natives, early homesteaders, and explorers, to the people of today. Many of the exhibits deal with the devastating Tillamook burn from the 1930s and 40s, and the reforestation following it, helping visitors understand the sustainable forest management used today.
Walk outside through a dramatic pedestrian suspension bridge across the Wilson River. Past it, walk one of the interpretive trails through the woods and along the river.
You can also climb a 40-foot replica of a fully functional forest lookout tower featuring an exhibit of the lookout’s living quarters.
Visit The Tillamook Air Museum
On your way back, you can take the turn off Highway Route 6 to visit the Tillamook Air Museum. Housed in the world’s largest wooden structure, the giant Hangar B, originally built for a blimp, the museum is worth a stop. The U.S. Navy built two of these hangars during WWII in Tillamook, but Hangar A was destroyed in 1992 in a fire, leaving the one housing the museum alone.
Showcasing collections of rare historical aircraft along with wartime and aviation artifacts, the museum offers a peek into the wartime history of Tillamook. You can also access it either from Highway 101, just south of town.
Learn About History At The Tillamook County Pioneer Museum
To learn more about the area’s history, visit the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum in downtown Tillamook. Founded in 1935, the museum showcases displays that focus on the history of Oregon’s Northern Coast.
Their collection ranges from prehistoric pieces — including indigenous artifacts of Native Americans, the Tillamook among them — to items connected to the region’s transportation, dairy, maritime, and military histories, to a collection of Oregon birds and animals.
Take A Cheese Tasting Tour At The Blue Heron French Cheese Company
Stop at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company for a sample of gourmet cheeses, including their famous Blue Heron Brie, taste some of Oregon’s best wines, or have lunch at their deli. You’ll have a choice of fresh-baked breads, homemade soups, famous cheese samplers, and salads.
If you are visiting with kids, they will enjoy the small petting farm, while you can browse the gift store to pick up your favorite cheeses, gourmet foods, or other merchandise.
Dine At The Pelican Brewery And Taproom
You’ll find one of the most popular restaurants in Tillamook, The Pelican Brewery and Taproom, in the center of downtown. Offering a wide selection of brews and meal choices, the pub specialties include beer-battered fish and chips, fish tacos, and hamburgers. They also offer vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options if you ask.
Take A Tour Of The Famous Tillamook Creamery
You probably don’t want to leave town without stopping at the famous Tillamook Creamery for some ice cream or a tour of the cheese-making facility. The largest tourist magnet in Tillamook, right on the main road through town, the creamery is always busy. But if you don’t mind the crowds, you can get some of the best ice cream on the coast here, featuring unique flavors like huckleberry, marionberry, or Oregon cherry, besides the classic favorites.
You can take a self-guided tour of the farm exhibit and viewing gallery to see how they make their cheese. You can also sit down for lunch here, especially if you are fond of cheese-based meals.
Best Hotels In Tillamook
While exploring Tillamook and its surroundings, you have plenty of choices of hotels, Airbnbs, cabins, yurts, and camping opportunities in the area.
You’ll find cabins, yurts, and camping opportunities in Cape Lookout State Park, just south of town, along the Three Capes Scenic Loop. Staying in the park is a great way to spend plenty of time on the beach and hike the surrounding areas.
If you prefer a bed-and-breakfast, rent a tiny house with a private deck, barbecue, and individual garden in the Sheltered Nook On Tillamook Bay. Dog-friendly, with a view of the forest, and perfect for birdwatching, you’ll find it a few miles north of Tillamook.
You can also rent an entire house if you are visiting with a larger group in the tiny village of Cape Meares, at the foot of the cape. Make sure you get your groceries in town or drive in to eat since you won’t find anything else here other than the homes.
You also have plenty of hotel choices in town, such as the highly-rated Ashley Inn, with easy access to everything in town and Tillamook creamery.
Summer is the best time to visit Tillamook, August being the busiest time, but also the best for the weather; Early June is colder but less crowded. Early fall, September to mid-October, is a great time to visit if you plan on staying inland and hiking through the forested areas, but be aware that it rains a lot.
No matter when you go, make sure you bring a raincoat, light jacket, and long pants since even in the warmest season, you might see rain and cooler temperatures. And make sure you have comfortable walking shoes.