Tillamook Coast Life Blog
Welcome to Wonderful Wheeler
By Brian Cameron
As part of the north Tillamook Coast’s Tri-Village area, Wheeler boasts a long history in culture, industry, and small-town appeal.
Learn about the local logging history, enjoy a curbside coffee at The Roost, or launch your boat in pursuit of Dungeness crab from the Nehalem River. Enjoy the iconic sunsets from the Salmonberry Saloon or rent a kayak to explore the Nehalem estuary and see all the coastal flora and fauna that make up the Nehalem Bay Estuary.
If you blink you might miss Wheeler, but don’t let its size fool you into thinking it lacks interesting things to do.
In 1911, Wheeler became a crucial industrial stop when coastal rail service was extended from Portland. However, the series of fires known as the Tillamook Burn collapsed the industry and Wheeler’s industrial-boom days were behind it.
Presently, Wheeler is home to approximately 400 people and is situated between the Nehalem River valley and the coast range mountains right on Hwy 101.
Located right on the bay itself, the Salmonberry Saloon will open in February 2018.
Formerly the Tsunami Bar & Grill, the newly owned, renovated, and restored Salmonberry Saloon offers a great dining experience on the Tillamook Coast. Specializing in locally sourced culinary cuisine, the Salmonberry Saloon features a fine dining experience with a deck overlooking the Nehalem River channel that feeds into the bay. Enjoy tended drinks at the bar or bring the family into the dining room for a memorable dining experience that is everything-Wheeler.
HANDY CREEK BAKERY AND CAFE
The Handy Creek Bakery and Cafe is a coffee shop, restaurant, and bakery all in one.
Located at the north end of town, the establishment offers a wide variety of baked cookies, cupcakes, desserts, and larger products like wedding cakes and cakes for special occasions.
They also provide top-notch breakfasts complete with classic options like omelets, eggs over easy, hash browns, bacon, biscuits and gravy, and other early morning delights.
Or if you simply want a cup of coffee, then sit back and enjoy the view of Highway 101 and the amazing view of the Nehalem River Valley.
RISING STAR CAFE
Located off the main drag (by about one block to the east) is the unassuming Rising Star Cafe.
Specializing in lunch and dinner options, the Rising Star Cafe is owned by Ron and Pepi, who chose to move to Wheeler ten years ago.
Ron is the head chef and gets to hone his skills garnered in the cooking industry with over 35 years experience in the kitchen.
Serving locally sourced, organic ingredients whenever and at all possible.
Inside the Old Wheeler Hotel, The Roost is a cafe that provides fresh coffee and espresso drinks. They also boast a breakfast menu that fulfills that morning hunger.
Enjoy the view of the bay and river below.
WHEELER BOAT LAUNCH AREA
If you’re looking for a spot to satiate your inner sportsman, then consider the public access boat launch and parking are right in the middle of town.
The public boat launch is small, but its size is made up for convenience. You can ramp your boat down to the brackish waters of the Nehalem River estuary, drop some crab pots, or cast a few lines in to go after that famous salmon everyone talks about.
While you’re at it, pull up to the dock and have lunch at the Salmonberry Saloon and once you’re done make sure and take a few minutes to explore downtown Wheeler as it’s literally right in front of you. There is a small restroom facility and the nearby Wheeler Waterfront Park offers great daily outdoor picnic options. To find the boat launch, head west from the center of town on Rector Street, directly in front is the boat launch.
KAYAK THE NEHALEM
Whether you’re renting, taking part in a guided tour, or bringing your own: kayaking is central to outdoor activities available in Wheeler.
Use the public boat launch area if you bring your own boat or rent one, but you can also arrange a guided tour or have them offered as part of your stay in Wheeler.
If you’re new to the sport, a guided tour might be a good option as the guides are well trained and qualified to handle almost every situation on the water.
For this option, consider Kayak Tillamook and their variety of tours, which include the lower Nehalem river and bay.
If you already know the ropes and just need a boat, then consider Wheeler Marina. They have every kind of kayak including tandem, singles, doubles, touring kayaks and canoes. They also sell kayaks, in addition to offering crabbing gear, boat rentals, and fishing tackle supplies.
If you stay at Wheeler on the Bay Lodge, you can take advantage of free kayaks available to everyone who stays there.
As always with kayaking, it’s important to always wear a safety vest as well as be aware of local weather and tidal information.
WALK BOTT’S MARSH
Located just northwest of Wheeler is the beginning of Bott’s Marsh.
Claiming a long history as a sensitive ecosystem, the marsh is home to a wide variety of resident and migratory birds, frogs, fish and mammals that frequent the tidal wetlands.
Efforts to protect the marsh are undergoing finalization and currently, there are no official trails through the marsh area. Bring your binoculars and bird ID guides to make a trip of it and enjoy an untouched area of the Tillamook Coast. There is a railroad that passes parallel to Highway 101, so please use caution in the area.
To access an unofficial parking spot, check out the lower area at the north end of Marine Drive which runs along the highway in Wheeler. Walk until you reach the area where the highway passes over the rail on an elevated bridge. Turn around and enjoy the walk back to the car.
NEHALEM BAY WINERY
The Nehalem Bay Winery, Tillamook Coast’s only official winery, has a knock-out selection of locally made wines.
The grapes the winery uses are actually grown in the Willamette wine areas and are shipped over the Coast Range Mountains to be made into a variety of wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay.
The Nehalem Bay Winery started off making solely dessert wines such as peach, blackberry, marionberry and more, which they still offer and happily specialize in.
OLD WHEELER HOTEL
If you have a penchant for history and want to experience a night along the Tillamook Coast, then look no further than the Old Wheeler Motel.
This small motel is a blast from the past and over the years the numerous owners have made sure to keep it as true to its original form.
Constructed in 1920 to cater to the timber-boom, the Old Wheeler Motel was a cornerstone of the small community.
In 1940, the boom had come and gone and the motel fell into harder times. Eventually, it was purchased by Dr. Harry Rhinehart and turned into the first Rhinehart medical clinic.
Recently, the building was purchased in 2009 by Katie Brown who continues to bring this authentic Tillamook Coast gem to life for the visitors every day. Brown features fine quality rooms with great picturesque views of the bay.
WHEELER ON THE BAY
Families love the all-inclusive Tillamook Coast experience at Wheeler on the Bay.
Featuring a variety of themed rooms to stay in, the lodge is situated right on the water in Wheeler. Visitors can get connected to whale watching excursions, local and regional kayaking, bike rentals, hiking trails, sightseeing tours and more. They also offer people a chance to rent a boat and go fishing and crabbing. Take the family on the trails of Nehalem Bay State Park just across the bay and use this awesome local location as a basecamp for exploring the coast.