The Oregon Coast is a treasure trove of charming little towns you’ve never heard of. But once you see them, you’ll never forget them. You round the corner on a gorgeous stretch of highway where the waves are breaking on a broad, lovely beach that’s just begging you to get out of the car to take a walk. And lo and behold, here’s the perfect little town with cafes, shops and a historic hotel. Wheeler (pop. 414) is one of those sweet finds. Located on Highway 101 just south of Manzanita on scenic Nehalem Bay, Wheeler turned 100 in 2013. This former timber town is the perfect stop on your fall coast road trip.

Shop and stroll: Old Wheeler Antiques & Collectibles is an art deco bonanza, and Wheeler Station Antiques is a browser’s paradise. Shop for jewelry, pottery and baskets at Trillium Gallery. Find one-of-a-kind jewelry and clothing at Cultivation and quilting supplies at Creative Fabrics. Take a walk in Waterfront Park, a one-acre open space with amazing views of the bay, Neahkahnie Mountain and the river estuary (It also has what might be the state’s cutest public restroom.).

Winter birding: Nehalem Bay, Alder Creek Farm, Nehalem Bay Sewage Ponds (really) and the Nehalem Fish Hatchery are excellent spots to view fall migratory birds as well as overwintering birds like mallards, wigeons, kites and hawks. Visit for details.

Dig it: The river estuary by Wheeler is a great spot to dig for soft shell clams. Wheeler is also near a rich stretch of rich razor clam territory on the North Coast. For tips on digging and information on permits, check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Spend the night: Stay at the beautifully restored Old Wheeler Hotel right downtown. First built in 1920 during the timber boom, the historic building has been lovingly restored. Charming and quiet, the hotel’s rooms have beautiful water views. Enjoy dinner at Rising Star Café, called a “a piece of heaven” by residents who say the chef serves up the freshest local seafood.

About the Author: Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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  1. don gubelman says…

    the entire coast of oregon is just one eyeful after another with the friendliest people i’ve ever met. i’ve been in 49 states and oregon is still my favorite. put it on your bucket list…you won’t be sorry.

    Written on November 7th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  2. linda doerfler says…

    We were planning to go on the Lewis and Clark Quilt Shop Hop and visit our last shop in Wheeler. I saw the article and we decided to eat lunch at the Rising Star Cafe. It was an absolute delight. Not only was the food amazing, the staff was friendly and welcoming. I recommend a stop at this fun little cafe to everyone!

    Written on November 13th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  3. Marion Main says…

    i had the pleasure of visiting Wheeler and staying at the Inn…the most charming, homey, interesting place I have ever stayed at…the beds were comfy, the rooms cozy and warm despite the wind and rain, the Innkeeper totally charming, and the breakfast warm and wonderful….a definite must!!! The town held so many treasures including antiques, quilt shop, unique jewelry and more!

    Written on November 18th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  4. Kathy G says…

    My husband and I spent a weekend in Wheeler a few years ago and got lucky because there was a Oyster Feed to benefit the Fire Depts at the waterfront park. It was fun! Beautiful place, lovely people.

    Written on November 21st, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  5. Rick McKamey says…

    We have traveled the Oregon coast as well as inland Oregon many times over the years but have never spent time in wheeler. This past summer we drove thru and finally realized it however we have watched into the west a few times in the past couple years and in fact it was that movie that directed our attention to it this year. Unfortunately we had a planned trip in front of us that left no time to spend there. It will however be in our next visit to Oregon.

    Written on November 25th, 2013 / Flag this Comment

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