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Free Cheese and Flying Without Lessons: Cheap Adventures in Tillamook

The Oregon Coast is a magical place, filled with visitors earnestly creeping on whales with binoculars, kids enjoying turning purple in cold ocean waters, and beachgoers boosting Shop-Vac sales by unknowingly bringing back obscene amounts of sand in their cars.

It’s a pretty good place to make an affordable trip, too. My parents brought their litter of humans over there every summer when we were little. I’m sure we afforded them plenty of entertainment while we braved the cold waters and tried unsuccessfully to join a flock of seagulls. They managed to create a fun trip on limited means, and I carry on that tradition as an adult.

Tillamook is a great place to visit if you’d prefer to save your money for extravagant things like electricity at home. There’s a fair bit of hiking nearby, including the trail to Munson Creek Falls. It’s only around half a mile with little elevation gain. It’s a good way to stretch your noodle legs after being in the car for a while. The surrounding trees are lovely, and the waterfall is a great payoff for the short walk.

Munson Creek Falls: One outdoorsy place you can can visit on the coast without a hostile sand takeover in your car

One of my favorite hikes ever is the Cape Lookout Trail. It’s around 4.5 miles round trip and runs along a cape that goes two miles out into the ocean. Even with wind whipping into my face, causing me to snack on my hair, I was amazed. At least the salty air gave my locks some flavor! There are a lot of gorgeous overlooks along the way, and the furthest point out is beautiful. When I made the hike, it was around sunset. It could have been one of the prettiest sunsets I’d ever seen. I’m not even sure if Hugh Jackman standing in front of the view could have made it prettier.

I may have tripped over my feet in the darkness walking back, but at least I saw this first.

Another free thing to check out is the Tillamook Cheese Factory. As I write this, they’re currently renovating and will open their new visitors center next summer. Until then, there’s a temporary center. In usual circumstances, the factory is open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas, and you can watch the delicious udder juice product being made. There are also samples, lots of information on the company’s history, and other displays.

Of course, it may be impossible to go there and not want to buy everything. In fact, if you don’t want to buy everything, I’m not sure we can be friends. How dare you? At least with the free hiking and tour, you’ve saved money to buy all the cheese curds and ice cream that can fit in your cooler. (Or, let’s be honest, your stomach.)

A cool place that makes you take out your wallet (How dare they?) is the Tillamook Air Museum. The adult admission is $9.75, but children can get in for much less. If you’re bringing your kiddos, it won’t completely break the bank. If you haven’t photocopied yourself in human form, the admission is very doable. There’s so much to enjoy, including a crazy number of airplanes, vehicles, some fun exhibits, and flight simulators. I personally enjoyed pretending to fly a plane. It’s nice to imagine being in charge of one, rather than being one of the sardines in the back who’s only reward for an uncomfortable flight is a tiny bag of pretzels and inadvertent caresses from your neighbors.

If you get good enough with the simulator, maybe they'd let you fly to the cheese factory to stock up on Tillamoos faster...

Between the hikes, the museum, the cheese factory, and enjoyable views of that ice cold Pacific Ocean, Tillamook is a wonderful place to not go broke. For more tips, watch my Thrifty Trips Tillamook video.

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