When food lovers think of Tillamook, they likely see visions of cheese. At least, that was what we dreamt about and drooled over each time we talked about our pending voyage to Oregon.
What we didn’t know, however, is that we’d experience much more than the inside of the cheese factory. In fact, our trip to this coastal town gave us a peek at a backyard full of hard-working equipment, and just down the railroad, the sites and smells of a dairy farm quickly transported our conversation back to the economy of our hometown in Central California.
That’s right, just down the railroad.
In Tillamook, where miles upon miles of tracks once sat unused, there now exists a unique way to tour the town while pedaling off those Tillamook ice cream calories. The Oregon Coast Railriders is still one of the most talked-about adventures among our tribe and there are plenty of reasons why. These pedal-powered rail cars transport passengers to some of Oregon’s most beautiful and compelling scenery.
Reason 1: We got to play on the tracks!
Growing up in an agricultural community, it wasn’t uncommon to arrive late to an appointment after a long stop at a train crossing. Trains were a part of our upbringing. We knew which neighborhoods heard whistles every night and where the tracks overlapped. Our hometown even has a mural of a train and a restaurant in a train car that’s called The Whistle Stop.
Most importantly, we all knew the rule: Don’t play on the tracks. We grew up with that instruction and passed the warning to our children. Imagine our delight when we discovered that not only could we safely play on the tracks in Tillamook, but we could also ride on them!
Although It was a lot of fun to be a bit rebellious though, it did feel odd at first. We were assured that the ride was safe and that the tracks are still serviced, which makes them all the more accessible and fun to ride.
Reason 2: Everybody is welcome!
It isn’t uncommon that we discover an offbeat experience in a new town and just as we get pumped to go, we find out that there are age limits. That was not the case with the Oregon Coast Railriders!
As long as you are physically capable of pedaling a bike, you can ride! Just keep in mind, parents, that if you intend to take young children, you’ll likely be the only ones who can reach the pedals. Be sure to eat an extra helping of oats that morning and take lots of water to stay hydrated!
The only limitation is the weight limit. Be sure to check their FAQ page for those details.
Reason 3: There’s magic back there!
Okay, so maybe you’re not the see-behind-the-curtain type of traveler. Perhaps you enjoy to keep a bit of mystery and don’t want to ruin your experience by finding out what’s beyond your immediate view. We understand this, but in the same breath, we must beg you to reconsider at least this one time.
Riding the rails in Tillamook doesn’t spoil the magic of the town. In fact, it’s an encore of beauty.
We rode through coastal estuaries, pastures and dairy farms. We rode behind the Tillamook Creamory, which offered an interesting view into the world of cheese making, and we pedaled over historic trestles. We even got to stop at an intersection where a train crossing lowered and chimed on our behalf. The kids loved that part!
Two of us were fortunate to share a four-person Rail Rider with one of the tour guides. Talk about an educational experience!
Reason 4: It was a great workout!
We pedaled for 12 miles! That might sound daunting, but because there was so much to see, the two hours flew by. The seats are unlike normal bikes. They have full backs and bottoms and are adjustable. Comfort is not sacrificed, which makes the workout all the more accessible for all body types and heights.
It is worth mentioning that the ride does take some work, but the views far outweigh the effort. Each Railrider has four seats and four sets of pedals, and they are all equipped with places to hang your backpack and cupholders for water.
Reason 5: It’s a great lesson in engineering!
If you have children in your family who love to tinker and build, or who are interested in how things work, this adventure is full of discovery. The Railriders were fabricated to fit perfectly on the tracks and the material of the wheels is quite interesting to look at up-close.
The ride that we took was six miles one way, then six miles back. When it came time to turn around, the equipment was rolled onto a turntable that rotated each Railrider off the tracks, then back on and facing the opposite direction. It was a lot of fun to watch this happen! Our children’s eyes were locked on the platform and we had a lively discussion about the mechanics of the operation.
An extra fun bonus of turning the Railriders the opposite direction was that our family went from being the engine of the bike train to the caboose! Though we pedaled back the way we came, our views were totally different. We also no longer had the luxury of setting the pace, so there were a lot of giggles about mom and dad’s tired legs that were slowing down on the ride bike.
If you’re in need of a budget-friendly place to stay in Tillamook, check out the Port of Tillamook Bay RV Park. For $15 per night, we had access to potable water in a grassy area that was surrounded by fields and trees. Even better, the campground is a short drive to the bay. That price is a steal for such a unique and well-equipped location!
The price alone made our camping spot great, but sleeping next to an active runway of the Tillamook Airport elevated our experience to the next level. On our first night, we saw a Coast Guard helicopter take off. It was quite an exciting start to our stay!
Just around the country corner, and within sight of the campground, you’ll find the Tillamook Air Museum. This is yet one more way to see Tillamook in a different way. The museum is inside of a wooden hangar, and if you’ve got any aviation enthusiasts in your family like we do, it will leave you in awe. The sheer size of the hangar is impressive, but once you start your tour of planes, helicopters, blimps and vehicles, you’ll be transported back in time.
I was overcome with gratitude for our veterans during our tour, and found it to be an inspiring and educational visit for our entire family. We went for the planes but learned far more that day than we ever learned in school about the equipment used in World War II. It was the perfect way to see a sampling of Tillamook’s history up close!
Though we would never encourage you to skip the Tillamook Creamory, or to overlook the ice cream, we do hope that you’ll take time to see the area from a different perspective. And if you love cheese, check out world-class Rogue Creamery. Sometimes the most interesting parts of a town aren’t the places where tourists gather, but the spots where a little effort and an open mind can pay off with great rewards.
Nearby Good Sam parks:
- Tillamook Bay City RV Park: The new owners at Tillamook Bay City want to give you the best camping & exploration experience on Oregon’s North Coast. They’ll share the top spots to crab, bike, hike, fish & sightsee. Bring your RV or rent an RV or Yurt.
- Netarts Bay Garden RV Resort: Bring your boat or rent one of theirs. Set your crab traps, dig for clams, go fishing in Netarts Bay or nearby Tillamook Bay.
- Port of Garibaldi RV Park: Camp is just steps away from the harbor in Garibaldi on the magnificent bay, in the heart of a working waterfront.