So You Want to Live in ... Neskowin, Oregon

Matt Brown
Towns don't get much smaller&#151or any more neighborly&#151than this one on the Oregon coast.

In seaside Neskowin, homemade front-yard signs read "Slow Down," imploring passersby to stop and smell the ocean. "Time stands still here," says Tom Zellner, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot. "The rest of the world is moving so fast. We wanted to live in a place where the days were long and the distractions were few. The only other requirement was that we live near the water."

Tom and his wife, Rita, combed the coast and finally chose tiny Neskowin (nes-co-WIN). They built their home atop a cliff overlooking a spectacular stretch of beach.

"I'm from Rhode Island, and I'd longed to get back to the coast―but this time, west," says Rita. They moved to Neskowin for its 6 miles of pristine beach, unparalleled salmon fishing, heralded hiking trails, and a calm that exists despite the many winter storms.

At the Hawk Creek Café, Rita and Tom often hook up with pals Mike and Sue Henningsen. Sue says that in Neskowin "when you meet for lunch there's only one place to go. Lucky for us, this café serves some of the best food on the coast." She recently visited Kauai, Hawaii. "My two favorite spots on earth?" she asks. "Kauai and Neskowin. They remind me of one another―the slow pace of life, the friendly people, the natural beauty, and the culture."

Neskowin's cultural scene might surprise some. For a town boasting only 300 full-time residents (the population swells to 2,000 in summer), the arts thrive here. Neskowin Chamber Music brings such talent as Russia's St. Petersburg Quartet to perform.

The nearby Sitka Center explores the convergence of art and ecology. Sitka, part of the Neskowin Coast Foundation, educates locals and tourists about Cascade Head's coastal environment. This Nature Conservancy Natural Area Preserve embraces watersheds and ecosystems vital to this part of the Oregon coast.

The Siuslaw National Forest gives Neskowin its southern border. To the north, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages Neskowin Marsh. With these natural borders, the town is in little danger of expanding. That's the way locals like it.

"Neskowin attracts people who are drawn to nature," says resident Charlie Walker. "It's clear that the people who live here are dedicated to preserving the natural resources."

Locals shudder at the idea of their town's secret being leaked to the masses. Why? "We moved here to escape all the things that happen to a place when it gets good publicity," Rita says. Resident Lauri Weber agrees: "Unspoiled coastline is tough to come by. People willing to trade in city life for calm find this the perfect home."

(published 2004)

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