Throughout the 20th century, families from metropolitan areas regularly spent summers in Gearhart, soaking in the town’s peaceful atmosphere of pristine beaches, quiet streets and small-town charm.
The same simplicity and untamed beauty of nature that appealed to travelers of the past continues to draw tourists to the quaint, primarily residential community today.
Located just north of Seaside — so closely they are occasionally mistaken for being part of the same city — Gearhart has no stoplights and a modest amount of commercial activity, mostly contained to downtown along Pacific Way.
What you get instead of urban amenities and attractions is easy access to the Pacific Ocean and its untarnished beaches and dunes, as well as the joy of being nestled beside the Clatsop Plains in a small community rich with history.
Where to explore
The best part of taking a road trip and stopping in Gearhart is the natural beauty of the area. For such a small city, there is much to explore in Gearhart and just beyond city limits.
There are a couple different ways to access the shoreline. If you drive down Wellington Avenue, you will find a small parking area and a sign that points south to Little Beach and west to primitive trails that wind past a few homes and over the coastal dunes, offering spectacular views of the Necanicum Estuary and Pacific Ocean along the way. The trail and Gearhart Beach can also be accessed on the western end of Pacific Way.
Another option is to head north a couple miles into what is technically unincorporated Clatsop County territory and take Highlands Lane to the Del Rey Beach State Recreation Site. From the small, secluded parking area, you can walk down narrow paths through the rustling dune grass toward the beach to fly a kite, build a sandcastle or wade into the ocean. At this location, you can also take your vehicle out onto Del Rey Beach and drive a few miles either north or south. Just keep an eye on the tides and the consistency of the sand where you’re driving, as it’s common for cars to get stuck on the beach.
In addition to its natural attractions, Gearhart also possesses a cultural gem that is worth exploring: The Trail’s End Art Association’s gallery, located on A Street. The art cooperative has canceled its regular summer workshops because of COVID-19, but the gallery — featuring the work of North Coast artists — is once again open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays throughout the summer.
Where to eat
While Gearhart does not possess the most extensive or diverse dining scene, there are a few inviting places within city limits to grab coffee, a bite to eat or a sweet treat. The Sweet Shop Gearhart, located in a historic building downtown, serves a couple dozen flavors of ice cream, coffee and espresso drinks and homemade pastries. For a more substantial meal, you can try their daily soup and quiche special, sandwiches, grilled paninis or a savory charcuterie plate.
Another hotspot in Gearhart for both dining and entertainment is the joint Fultano’s Pizza/Gearhart Bowl. Happy hour is every Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the restaurant also offers a $6 lunch special on weekdays. Fultano’s Pizza is known for its crunchy cornmeal crust, fresh toppings and specialty pies, such as the Teriyaki Chicken with pineapple or Popeye’s Special, loaded with spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic, feta and sun-dried tomatoes. You can also get a variety of pub staples, including chicken wings, sub sandwiches and burgers.
For your morning — or afternoon — jolt, visit By the Way, a combination coffee bar and gift shop downtown, or Mac’s Micro-Market, which opened in June in the building that housed the beloved Pacific Way Bakery and Café for more than three decades before it closed this spring. Under the same ownership as the previous business, Mac’s Micro-Market is a bodega-style establishment offering sandwiches, baked goods, and coffee drinks, along with groceries, fresh produce and wine.
Places to stay
Besides its numerous short-term vacation rentals, Gearhart has a couple lodging options close to the charming downtown corridor. One is the Gearhart Ocean Inn, a boutique property on North Cottage Avenue that offers studio, one- and two-bedroom New England-style cottages to accommodate solo travelers and families alike. The historic inn is within walking distance of the shops and dining establishments on Pacific Way.
Another lodging option with historic flair is the Gearhart Hotel, operated by McMenamins on the third floor of the cedar-shingled, Cape Cod-style Kelly House on North Marion Avenue. It is the fourth hotel since the late 19th century to carry the town’s name and a connection to the nearby Gearhart Golf Links, which evolved from an informal course created in 1892. While staying at the hotel, you can enjoy libations and delicious comfort food at the Sand Trap Pub on the first floor. The basement of the property now houses the Pot Bunker Bar, the Livingstone’s Room, the golf clubhouse, and space for meetings and events. You can also rent ocean-view and beachfront condominiums from Gearhart by the Sea.
For a more low-key lodging option, consider setting up camp at Bud’s RV and Campgrounds along U.S. Highway 101. The site includes several facilities and amenities, including a small grocery store, restrooms and showers and laundry facilities.