I had seen the marketing photos and read the opening announcements for this new resort in Pacific City, Oregon but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty that I encountered as I walked through their massive glass and wood front doors. The beauty before me was a well-orchestrated combination of the natural coastal environment and architectural and designer magic. Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa, I was to discover, was one big “wow moment.”
Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa
Pacific City, with its small motels and weathered cedar shake siding vacation homes and iconic view of Haystack Rock, has long been a destination for those who love the outdoors. Pacific City is known as a place to go to relax, enjoy the refreshing ocean air, and the taste of a good brew at the Pelican Pub after an active day. Sunsets can be spectacular and the pastel sunrises when the dory boats are launched can be equally as beautiful.
And so the vacant lot at the edge of the beach smack dab in front of Haystack Rock sat. People treated it like an extension of the dunes. The owners of the property, developers, Mary J. Jones and Jeff Shons knew there would be something special there someday. But they needed to choose the right time and have the right plan for this amazing site. They owned it for years while they developed vacation communities and saw their beloved Pacific City grow as a destination.
As we sat over a lovely breakfast in the light-filled dining room of the resort’s Meridian Restaurant, the story unfolded. Mary and her husband/founding business partner Jeff, talked about how they met the challenge to design something worthy of this naturally beautiful site. “We spent 20 years designing and re-designing the lodge in order to best take advantage of the incredible views of Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock, and the proximity to amazing tidepools and the dune. We wanted to make sure the design fits into the natural landscape which meant using materials like cedar shingles and natural stone.”
They sought out an architect and interior designers that understood their vision. The architecture firm, Scott Edwards Architecture of Portland, designed the new lodge with plenty of wood, windows positioned to take advantage of the views and high-end materials. Mary pointed out that the difficult job of ensuring that when a guest walks through the front door they will be greeted with a view of Haystack Rock. And that was accomplished with a huge window at the end of what became known as “Haystack Hall.” All of the 33 oceanfront rooms have a balcony and views of iconic Haystack Rock, the beach, and the cape.
EDG Design, out of San Francisco, was brought in to design an interior that would both wow the guests and make them feel comfortable. With soaring ceilings and windows that will please any coastal storm watcher, you’d think the lobby and restaurant would lack a cozy feel. But just the opposite happened. The double fireplace and positioning of furniture create separate spaces while maintaining openness. The furniture with textures of leather and rugged fabrics enhanced with faux fur and fanciful accent pillows beg you to stop awhile, read a book or gaze out the window.
The lobby and restaurant spaces are not cluttered. Everything has its place and each decorator accent is there for a reason. It all flows together to create a wow indoor-outdoor space that is clearly high-end and modern, yet not pretentious. The vibe remains coastal casual.
The personal touches of Mary Jones and Jeff Schons are everywhere. They are very proud of features like the “Haystack Rock Wall, “ where they have a rotating show of the work of local artists all featuring the iconic rock. Local art, much of it from nearby Row Boat Gallery, are dotted throughout the resort. Each piece has a story.
And when you visit, be sure and visit the restroom off the lobby (yes, the restroom!). You find a modern European unisex restroom with a very special living wall. Within the locally machined artistic metal frame, you see living plants with trickling water to nurture them. Yet another “wow” detail.
Stay in or Head Out at Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa
While you can get a sense of the beauty of the Lodge by visiting for a cocktail at sunset or a meal of Pacific Northwest-focused cuisine in the Meridian Bar and Restaurant, it’s not until you stay overnight at Headlands that you will get the full benefit of this new resort.
You’ll see the words everywhere… Head Out. Stay In. Either way, you’ll have an enjoyable stay. Let’s say you want to “Stay In.” Of course, you’ll have the view of the beach and Haystack Rock to enjoy from your private balcony. But in my room, I also had a view window looking north on the beach so I could watch the clouds and the shifting sands. I enjoyed the natural feel of the rooms. Wood paneling and softly finished wood floors, along with the comfy furniture gave a warm feeling.
I frequently opened the tall sliding glass door to take photos. It started with the dawn launching of the dory boats from the beach, and then surfers catching waves, hikers on the dunes, and, at the end of the day, the oh-so-marvelous sunset accented with a sliver of a moon and bonfires on the beach.
The bed had a great assortment of pillows and a fluffy white comforter with a specially made Pendleton blanket covering the foot. Smith teas and a special pot as well as Bonavita coffee maker were there to warm me. But what I fell in love with was the “new old-fashioned” soaking tub. Both the massive tiled shower and en-suite tub provided a view of… you guessed it, Haystack Rock!
The room was amenity-rich but I was missing a magnifying mirror. Once I mentioned it, the staff quickly provided me with one. The service was consistently outstanding.
If you “Stay In” you might also notice a few surprising touches in your room… Bluetooth lantern speaker, surfboard and bike racks, high-end toiletries, and cozy bathrobes. But look more closely, you’ll find a small display of living greenery and spray bottle. I later found out that these were local plants from the Nestucca River Watershed. You’ll also be provided with an iPad serving as an alarm clock, tide table, weather station, and access to lodge services.
While you are in “Stay In” mode, you may have a craving for a snack or drink. While you can certainly pre-order an in-room picnic from Meridian, you can also walk down the hall to the Pantry, located on each floor. Here you’ll find a selection of high-end snacks and beverages including Tillamook Ice Cream Bars! Just select what you want, mark it on the form provided, and place it in the box. Very tempting!
Head Out with Your Own Adventure Coach
While staying in is very nice, there is so much to see and do in the area. There is so much that the choices can be daunting. The lodge has a guided adventure program that will lead guests on customized excursions like hiking, crabbing, biking or cuisine focused outings.
There’s no need to peruse a rack of brochures as you’ll have access to sort of an “outdoors concierge.” I met with Traci Still who manages the program. She also works with guests directly. Traci described to me a few of the adventures available to guests. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the area and local guides made me want to try everything!
Imagine this. She can arrange a “Sand Dollar Kayak Tour” where you will be outfitted, instructed on kayaking and taken to a magical place where, when the tide is perfect, you’ll be able to see live purple sand dollars.” The guides even warm you up with hot apple cider.
Remember those dory boats, I mentioned seeing at dawn? Well, the coaches can arrange for you to go fishing from a dory boat with an expert guide. If you like that, perhaps you’d be up for a surfing lesson too.
Others want something a bit more laid back. There are local people who can teach you how to go clamming, tour companies that will take you on a brewery tour, a waterfall tour, or a foodie tour.
After we spoke, Traci was off to make a bonfire for a guest. They were going to enjoy s’mores with their sunset that evening.
We decided on some “light adventure,” I call it. Our morning started with a short drive toward Tillamook. At the turnoff for Munson Creek Falls State Natural Site, we headed toward the woods and a rural road. Signage was good and we drove slowly due to potholes.
This beautiful forest is home to ancient western red cedar and Sitka spruce. An important salmon spawning ground, Munson Creek Falls tumbles 319 feet, making it the tallest waterfall in the Coast Range.
A short trail winds along Munson creek, through moss-laden trees to the waterfall. We found little wildflowers among the ferns and, when the sun shown through the forest, found the effect entrancing.
Later, we headed out for the Three Capes Scenic Loop drive to take in more coastal beauty and do another fairly short hike. We chose the Cape Lookout Cape Trail which is a 4.7 mile out and back trail with stunning views of the water below and rugged Cape Lookout where it meets the ocean. You'll be hiking along cliffs 400 feet above the water below. It’s a popular trail and does include some elevation changes.
We chose to adventure out on our own, but had we wanted some expert guidance, an Adventure Coach would have gone with us. We could have even requested a picnic lunch from Meridian.
Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa Wellness Activities
I had the pleasure of touring the Tidelpools Spa and meeting their Certified Personal Trainer. Whether it is Yoga or a one on one fitness session, you’ll find relaxation and exercise available to you.
The fitness center, classes, and hot tub are available to Headlands guests and cottage owners. For local visitors receiving a spa treatment, complimentary access to the fitness center and hot tub is included the day of your visit.
The large hot tub overlooks The Pelican Brew Pub and beach. There is seating and a fire table to keep you warm. You can even order a glass of wine and just enjoy the view.
Dining at Meridian
You can enjoy seasonal, locally sourced cuisine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Meridian. There are booths for family groups and a beautiful open bar (next to the open kitchen) which seats 16.
The cuisine is defined by what is available in the area. There is a range of vegetarian entrees as well as seafood and meat dishes. We started with a glass of local wine and an excellent cheese platter (we were able to choose the cheeses) with baguette and Northwest berries.
Our server was very knowledgeable and the menu listed the farms and purveyors so we knew where our food was sourced.
My friend chose a Beef Flat Iron steak with king trumpet mushrooms, Oregon black truffle, pearl onion, Yukon Gold potatoes, and bordelaise sauce.
After all that hiking, I was hungry and chose the duck entrée… bergamot, cipollini onion, braised greens, watermelon radish over a smoked broth. The duck was prepared Sous Vide.
As we dined, we enjoyed the ever-changing view and ended the meal with a delightful dessert, a gourmet version of s' mores!
When You Go to Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa
After exploring the lodge and area for several days I knew I must return. It’s only a two-hour scenic drive from Portland. The service was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable so I felt at home. It’s hard to think of a stay any less than a full weekend. There is so much to do, several restaurants to experience (try the Pelican Brewing Company next to the Lodge too), and don’t forget some “Stay In” downtime.
Also on the property are 18 two and three-bedroom condo-style ocean view cottages with full kitchens. Some of the cottages and some of the lodge rooms are dog-friendly. Parking is free and convenient.
I left Headlands feeling like I had discovered the best way to experience the Oregon Coast… in casual modern luxury surrounded by amazing rugged natural beauty. And those professional photos and videos you see on the website and Facebook page? It’s truly that beautiful in real life! If you want to know more about traveling in Oregon, enjoy these articles by Wander writers.
Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa
33000 Cape Kiwanda Dr.
Pacific City, OR 97135
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.