Towns don't get much smaller—or any more neighborly—than this one on the Oregon coast.

By Paige Porter
May 13, 2004
Matt Brown

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

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

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

At the Hawk Creek Café, Rita and Tom often hook up withpals Mike and Sue Henningsen. Sue says that in Neskowin "when youmeet for lunch there's only one place to go. Lucky for us, thiscafé serves some of the best food on the coast." She recentlyvisited Kauai, Hawaii. "My two favorite spots on earth?" she asks."Kauai and Neskowin. They remind me of one another―the slowpace of life, the friendly people, the natural beauty, and theculture."

Neskowin's cultural scene might surprise some. For a townboasting only 300 full-time residents (the population swells to2,000 in summer), the arts thrive here. Neskowin Chamber Musicbrings such talent as Russia's St. Petersburg Quartet toperform.

The nearby Sitka Center explores the convergence of art andecology. Sitka, part of the Neskowin Coast Foundation, educateslocals and tourists about Cascade Head's coastal environment. ThisNature Conservancy Natural Area Preserve embraces watersheds andecosystems 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 NeskowinMarsh. With these natural borders, the town is in little danger ofexpanding. That's the way locals like it.

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

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

(published 2004)