Tillamook Creamery is a popular stop for tourists visiting Oregon. Located on the northern coast, the factory is very visitor friendly. Here you can learn about making cheese and view the process from large windows above the production floor. In addition, there are a number of exhibits and fun facts throughout the building. Other activities include sampling cheese, checking out the gift shop and eating in the dining hall. Seeing everything and having a meal can take several hours and we did just that during a busy afternoon one weekend.
We hit the cafe first before it got too crowded and the menu at the order counter was of course very cheesy. Mark had macaroni and cheese and a grilled cheese sandwich. I tried the tomato soup with cheese curds mixed in. They were both good. I ate some of Mark’s mac-n-cheese and thought it was prepared pretty well. A variety of other cheese related items can be ordered here such as tempura fried cheese curds and cheddar cheese fries. After lunch it was time for ice cream which may be the most popular item. It seems everyone was walking around with a cone or cup of Tillamook ice cream. I think their ice cream is good, but in my opinion they don’t seem to put as many mix-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, candies, etc.) as two of my favorite ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs.
I wasn’t sure if we would see anything happening on the factory floor during our visit, but we were in luck. On our self-guided tour we saw where milk is brought in through pipes, the stainless steel mixing vats and the different stations where the cheese is processed.
From several windows we saw the process of cutting, weighing and then patching the cheese. Each block must meet a certain weight requirement, so those that are too small get patched with extra slices of cheese.
We viewed other sections including the heat shrink area which uses a machine called the “Blue Octopus” for fast vacuum-sealing and the quality control area. It was interesting to see a metal detector to be sure something not on the recipe didn’t make its way in. (We saw this again later at the Bob’s Red Mill grain tour, but that is another post). After our tour was the tasting section which was my least favorite part of the factory. It was small with only about three different cheeses to try and the pieces were tiny. I guess this is understandable as they have so many people come through on a daily basis.
I love factory tours and seeing how things are made so I thought this one was definitely worth a visit. Actually, this was our second time here although it had been years and before they built the new Visitor Center in June 2018. I thought the design of the new building was beautiful and very roomy for the 1.3 million visitors the factory gets each year.
As can be expected, there is lots and lots of cheese for sale in the gift shop but we left without any. We love cheese, in fact we could probably eat it every day. But, cheese is not the most healthy thing so we don’t buy it all the time. Plus, there is plenty of Tillamook for sale in most major grocery stores.
After our “cheesy” visit we drove a different route back to our campsite in Pacific City. The “Three Capes Scenic Route” was supposed to be a not to be missed drive along the coast and it started just south of the town of Tillamook. And what is a “Cape?” It is a large headland that extends out into a body of water. Our first stop was at Cape Meares which has Oregon’s shortest lighthouse at only 38 feet. The lighthouse does have a commanding spot 200 feet above the ocean on a headland.
There are several trails for visitors to walk and see the scenic vistas from the Cape.
Besides the lighthouse, Cape Meares also has one of the largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon called the “Octopus Tree.” This tree measures more than 46 feet in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and estimated to be 250 to 300 years old.
The question is how did the Octopus Tree develop such a strange shape? It could have been natural events, but one legend is the tree was used for ceremonial purposes by local tribes who forced or trained the branches into a horizontal position to hold canoes and other ritual objects. Evidence points to Native Americans living on the shores of Cape Meares and placing their dead in canoes.
After leaving Cape Meares our scenic drive took us south past Cape Lookout where we stopped briefly at the State Park located there. And then on to the third Cape of our route – Cape Kiwanda which I wrote about in my last blog and where our campsite was located.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more to come!