Oregon Coast 2015: Cape Meares and Wine


After we filled our tummies at Pelican Brewery, we were ready for an afternoon of sightseeing!

Cape Meares State Park

Next we headed to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. It was built in 1890, and has a first order Fresnel lens – it is 38 feet tall.  It is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon, and is constructed of bricks made on site, with iron plates covering them.  It originally had two keeper’s houses, which were connected to the light by a 1,000 foot boardwalk. The mechanism had to be wound every 2.5 hours!  The oil houses were removed in 1934 when the light was electrified – it was deactivated in 1963.

The Cape Meares Light - built in 1890 - 38' tall

The Cape Meares Light – built in 1890 – 38′ tall

There was talk at the time of demolishing the light, but public outcry caused the light to be turned over to the county. Sadly, during the period when the light and its keeper’s houses were vacant, there was a significant amount of vandalism to both, and in the end, the houses had to be torn down. All four bull’s eyes in the Fresnel lens were stolen too – but three have since been recovered. The tower was opened to the public in 1980.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the vandals. In January 2010, two drunk young men visited the lighthouse and took several potshots with a gun, breaking 15 of the lighthouse’s windows and significantly damaging the historic lens – damage to the lens is estimated to be more than $500,000 to repair.

The good news is that the men were dumb enough to also fire at and damage the nearby Coast Guard Station, which made their offenses a federal crime. They were caught and convicted, and the judge gave them an interesting sentence. In addition to $100,000 in restitution, the men were sentenced to 48 days in jail, which were served 16 days per year for three years – coinciding each year with the date of the vandalism.

We were able to tour the lighthouse, and see the damage to the lens. It breaks my heart when people don’t have respect for the historic treasures of this world. On a positive note, the tower of the light offers phenomenal views of the ocean and the nesting seabirds.

The view at Cape Meares - perfect for watching seabirds or the annual whale migration

The view at Cape Meares – perfect for watching seabirds or the annual whale migration

A closer look at a Cormorant colony

A closer look at a Cormorant colony

After the lighthouse, we also checked out the Octopus Tree at the park. It has no central trunk, instead having multiple branches that extend outward for as many as 16 feet before heading skyward. No one really knows why it grows this way, but assume that the strange phenomenon was caused by people. Native Americans consider it a sacred tree, but it is different than other Native American marker trees found throughout the United States, which are thought to be directional path markers.

The Octopus Tree

The Octopus Tree

The tribes in the area say that it was shaped in order to hold a canoe with the body of a tribal member, as a part of their funeral service.  However it was shaped in this unusual way, it sure is neat to look at!

Nehalem Bay Winery

There’s a funny story about this place. I have long made it known that one of my favorite wineries is Chehalem Winery in the Willamette Valley – I have blogged about their wines numerous times. My girlfriend Allysa took a vacation down the Oregon Coast a few years ago and texted me one day saying that she was at Nehalem Bay Winery. I responded, “Have fun! Take pictures!” which she apparently thought was odd, since why would I want to see pictures of a place that I had visited often?

Well, once she got back she mentioned having visited “Camille’s favorite winery,” and in the conversation that followed it became clear that there was a mix-up between Nehalem and Chehalem – I can’t imagine why! I had to tell her that I had never been to Nehalem Bay Winery! Since then it has become a running joke, and I can now tell her I have visited Nehalem Bay.

Nehalem Bay Winery

Nehalem Bay Winery

Nehalem Bay has a Bavarian style tasting room, and a line up of about a dozen grape wines and half a dozen fruit wines. They have been in business since the 70s. I really liked Nehalem Bay’s fruit wines, but I thought their grape wines were just ok.

I got to try a new grape too – Niagara – I didn’t like the wine at all! It was really sweet, which is a characteristic of the grape (after all it is predominantly used to make grape juice), but it had a very high alcohol smell too (some compare the smell to diesel fuel – but I didn’t get that from this wine). Jon enjoyed some of their reds though, so they really do have something for everyone. The owners served us, and they were warm and friendly.

Back to the Beach

After our visit to Nehalem Bay, we headed back to camp for a spaghetti dinner, and of course, smores… Paired with a lovely Nehalem Bay Cranperé wine, a light, sweet blend of Cranberry wine and Riesling. The evening activity was a couple mile bike ride with my brother, sister in law and all the kids. We had a lot of fun riding down the 2 mile bike loop around the campground.

We were also greeted with the most fabulous pink sunset – we missed seeing the sun go down but when I saw the pink in the sky I ran out to the beach with my camera in hand to catch the lingering light in the most gorgeous pink hues. It was one of the prettiest sunsets I have ever seen!

A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

A stunning sunset at the Nehalem Bay Campground.

Have you ever camped on the northern Oregon Coast?  What did you see and do?

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3 thoughts on “Oregon Coast 2015: Cape Meares and Wine

  1. Pingback: Ciao 2015! | Wine and History Visited

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