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A light mist envelopes the tranquil coastal town of Seaside, Oregon, as visitors stroll the sidewalks, gazing into art galleries and cozy cafes. Little do they know, just a few miles out in the ocean, lays an isolated lighthouse with a strange and haunted past.

Oregon's northern coastal towns draw intrepid travelers throughout the fall to spring months, when the chill and rainy weather is often challenging. This generally foggy and gray-skied, ocean landscape adds an appealing singularity for those who walk in peaceful solitude along the water's edge. Moreover, it's a perfect time to explore the scenic state parks and small communities of Seaside and Cannon Beach, without the crush of summer crowds.

Ecola State Park and the Spooky Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

Ecola State Park, located at the north end of Cannon Beach at Tillamook Head, is remarkable for hiking, picnicking and sightseeing. In fact, several movie scenes were filmed at Ecola, such as the emerging pirate ship in The Goonies and the surfing beach, "La Push" in Twilight. The park also overlooks another legendary sight, the spooky Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The now defunct lighthouse, nicknamed "Terrible Tilly," is located over a mile offshore and is often enshrouded in fog. It no longer shines its beacon to warn ships away but serves as a Columbarium (urns holding a deceased's ashes).

In 1879, surveyors approached the 100-foot basalt rock island that was surrounded by steep cliffs and was extremely dangerous to access. Upon arrival of the island, one of the primary surveyors, Master mason John R. Trewavas, jumped from a boat to the island's rocks, slipped off into the ocean, and was never found. The troubles with building a lighthouse in such a precarious location continued. Crews, who had to work for months on the island, almost froze to death from violent storms and had to hold onto deeply embedded tent pinions to avoid high waves sweeping them into the sea. In addition to several deaths, harrowing experiences and ghost ships, it was said that one of the lighthouse keepers went mad from the isolation of Terrible Tilly. Perhaps this was partly due to the reputed unearthly wails that keepers heard, or from ghosts threateningly chasing them down the lighthouse stairs.

For 53-years, the lighthouse pierced the dense coastal fog with its shining beacon until a fierce storm struck in 1934. Huge basalt rocks were thrown up by waves that shattered the lighthouse's Fresnel lens; the lighthouse was finally decommissioned in 1957. However, to this day, it is still reported that an eerie light often shines in the desolate lighthouse.

Cannon Beach for Photographs and Fun

Cannon Beach, located eight-miles south of Seaside, is fun to visit in any weather. For those drizzly days, the town's main street Hemlock provides a plethora of excellent galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants. If you're in the mood to browse for good books, especially on local history, visit Jupiter's Rare And Used Books, located on Spruce Street.

For seashore activities, Cannon Beach is a perfect location, to stroll, play in the sand, explore tidepools, fly a kite and photograph the picturesque Haystack Rock. Make sure to bring your binoculars to watch nesting puffins.

Seaside Oregon: History, Charm, and Joy Carlin

Seaside, Oregon, located 17-miles south of Astoria, is a favorite of Oregonians and visitors. From fascinating history, such as Lewis and Clark's Salt Works and 1920's Promenade to exquisite galleries, antique shops and enticing beach activities, this small coastal community is a fantastic year-round destination.

In this walkable beach town, life takes on at a slower pace. Locals are friendly and like to chat with visitors and shopkeepers don't mind taking extra time to help a customer. This comfortable atmosphere is part of the allure to strolling along the town's sidewalks and exploring the many interesting and intriguing shops. For a bevy of fine art galleries, shops and a large, classic antique mall, wander down Broadway Street from either Highway 101 or from the beach promenade. If you wish to peruse one of the best independent bookstores on the north coast, visit Beach Books, located on Broadway. Owner Karen Emmerling has done a superb job in creating a comfortable environment where you can sit and lose yourself in a story, while the store cat Oz purrs on a nearby chair. Emmerling also offers a wonderful selection of books on local history (lighthouses too!) and the Oregon Coast.

Family Fun, too

For family fun, visit the Seaside Carousel Mall, located two blocks east of the promenade on Broadway. A large carousel takes center stage in the mall and is a delight for kids to ride. In addition, there are several interesting shops to visit including an old-time portrait photograph store, Flash From The Past Old Time Photos and a toy store, Under The Big Top Toys.

The Seaside Aquarium is a perfect attraction for families with school-age kids. Located on 200 N. Prom (just of the beach), the aquarium is small but features educational and interactive exhibits for kids. The wall aquariums house numerous species of fish found in the Pacific Ocean, as well as a giant Pacific Octopus, wolf eels and colorful anemones. Make sure to ask about feeding the seals; kids love it and the seals have a good time too!

Hiking and Kayaking

If you are interested in hiking, take the Tillamook Head Trail. It is located at the Elmer Feldenheimer Forest Reserve. The Trail starts from a parking lot in a residential area (Edgewood Street) off Avenue U. It is a 3.3-mile hike and a fairly easy climb, but be careful as you reach the highest point on the trail and don't slip off the cliff.

River kayaking and canoeing are popular activities in Seaside on the scenic Nacanicum River and Neawanna creek. Both areas are located off Highway 101 and are an easy launch. You may even see bald eagles, as well as blue herons on your paddle. For additional information on hiking, biking, birding and kayaking, visit Seaside Naturally

If You Go

Seaside offers an abundance of superb restaurants that range from the iconic seafood hole-in-the wall spots to the upscale gourmet establishments. Here are a few suggestions for your visit: For the best gourmet seafood and steak cuisine, try Norma's, located on North Columbia. Norma's accolades are touted in top popular dining magazines and when you taste their awesome crab cakes and divine chowder, you'll agree. If you desire a more casual atmosphere, try Yummy Wine Bar & Bistro, located on Broadway. It is a favorite of the locals and a great place to just sit, chat and linger over glass of wine. McKeown's Restaurant & Bar located North Holliday Drive, offers a large menu of seafood (pick your own crab) and steak specialties with several Irish dishes, such as a tasty Shepard's Pie and Irish Corned Beef Melt. For the best no-frills, seafood only spot, visit Bell Buoy Fish And Chips, located on Highway 101. The Bell Buoy is a perfect for a quick lunch and the best fish and chips in town.

Seaside is a great beach destination for families, couples, outdoor enthusiasts and the solo traveler, who yearns for the sanctuary of an endless beach to stroll at sunset. For additional information on Seaside activities and lodging, visit SeasideOR

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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular guest on Travel radio talk shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Photo Courtesy of Michael Costello for the Terrible Tilly Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Remaining Photos courtesy of Patrice Raplee.

Updated: August 7, 2016

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