Exploring the oregon coast is always a voyage of discovery, and when one's mission is Christmas shopping, it becomes a quest reminiscent of a treasure hunt, each shop as distinctive as its owner. We are pleased to share with our readers a selection of unique establishments where you'll find unusual gifts for everyone on your list. Enjoy!
Columbia River Maritime Museum Gift Shop
The Columbia River Maritime Museum Gift Shop offers a phenomenal selection of optics, binoculars, magnifying glasses, and spy glasses. Also popular are handsome coffee table books about the Columbia River and the shop's extensive jewelry selection, mostly the works of regional artists.
"We have all kinds of magical things. There's a lovely nautical antique globe as well as bookends and Christmas ornaments with the antique globe theme," says gift shop manager Blue Anderson.
Astoria artist Bill Dodge's colorful, whimsical scenes of Astoria and the Columbia River are always a favorite. The images are available as prints and puzzles. "Another distinctive gift is a line of beautiful salmon skin wallets in brown tones and black," says Anderson. The shop is open every day except Christmas from 9:30 A.M. to 5 P.M. and other times by special arrangement. (503-325-2323; www.crmm.org)
Jewelry by Sharon Amber
"Sharon is a local artisan who has a love of nature that she expresses in her art and her materials," says Lianne Thompson, manager of Jewelry by Sharon Amber at Sandpiper Square, 172 North Hemlock, on the second floor.
Sharon Amber has been creating jewelry for 33 years and opened her gallery 20 years ago. “I do some things you won’t find anywhere else,” says Amber. “There is one common thread throughout my work—a sense of movement. I love pearls and colored stones, big ones and small ones, but I go for the quality, the most vibrant colors.”
Amber works with white and yellow gold as well as black basalt pebbles that she picks up on the beach. She carves designs and also does inlays with opal, moonstone, and pearl.
Amber unveils her fall/holiday collection during the Stormy Weather Arts festival, held annually at Cannon Beach the first weekend in November. An artist reception is November 3, from 5:30 until 9 P.M. (877-777-0609; www.sharonamber.com)
"We’re just like an old-fashioned five-and-dime store," says Sue Jelineo, co-owner of Hal's Emporium with her husband John. Hal's has 3800 square feet of floor space filled with a fascinating assortment of items.
"We have themed things like lighthouses and mermaids," Jelineo says. "This year, chickens were a big gift item. We have bug things, garden art, and a fun selection of books." The store is a popular place for birders and has an impressive nautical department with all kinds of ship models. One section of the business is a dollar store.
Hal's Emporium is right on Hwy 101 by the only flashing orange light in town, where the road makes a right angle. When asked, "Who’s Hal?" Jelineo responds, "Hal sounds like the guy next door. You can find anything you need at Hal's."
The Jelineos have a sister store in the Portland suburb of West Linn that is managed by their daughter. (503-368-5885)
Blue Heron French Cheese Co.
Give friends who love gourmet foods something to celebrate with a festive gift basket loaded with Oregon wines, Blue Heron’s famous Brie cheese, and a sampling of scrumptious truffles.
Blue Heron offers more than 120 varieties of Oregon wines and a huge variety of gourmet foods, Northwest salad dressings, jams and jellies, James Gang Wild West Barbecue sauces, a huge selection of mustards, cheese balls, and handy seasoning packets to create sauces, spreads, or dips in a hurry.
Blue Heron also offers a collection of hard-to-find old-fashioned products such as Kookaburra Liquorice, Scharffen Berger candy bars, and Clarke's Teaberry gum.
Visiting Blue Heron is a treat for the entire family. A delightful petting zoo is sure to entertain the kids, while adults enjoy browsing the gourmet food and Oregon wines and wandering through the gift store. Everyone can savor a lunch of homemade breads, soups, and salads at the Blue Heron Deli. (800-275-0639;
Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center
Visitors can taste cheeses and take a self-guided tour at this 98-year-old farmer-owned cooperative. Afterwards, literally get lost in the huge gift shop, which has a reputation for being one of the most diverse on the Oregon Coast.
There's cow- and farm-themed gifts galore, jewelry, toys, collectibles, cards and books, and a huge collection of seasonal decorations.
In the gourmet and groceries shop, visitors find Pacific Northwest seafood, meats, jams, sauces, and candies. Don't forget to visit the Fudge Counter, with a mind-boggling16 flavors to choose from. Next, it's on to the ice cream counter, where you can forget about those on your Christmas list for awhile. (503-815-1300; www.tillamookcheese.com)
Pacific City Gallery of Art
Featuring more than 120 artists, most of them in the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific City Gallery of Art is an ideal place to find an extraordinary holiday gift for that special person. Everything here is one-of-a-kind.
Glass jewelry is an ever popular gift item, says Jean LaBlue, who owns the gallery with husband Rick. Especially popular are the glass items designed with brilliant dichroic glass, one of the hottest materials being used by artists today. One popular artist layers together several colors of the dichroic glass. "She makes a pendant this way and it looks like a collage," says LaBlue. Along with jewelry, the gallery offers all kinds of glass paper weights, and lots of sea creature figurines like star fish and hermit crabs.
"Our prices range from $20 to $3000 or more," says LaBlue, who guarantees shoppers can find a distinctive gift at a reasonable price. Popular pottery items include teapots and little sushi plates and bowls. (503-965-7181; www.pc-gallery.com)
Chinook Winds Casino Gift Shop
"We carry one of the largest selections of Amy Brown Fairies, nearly everything the company has to offer," says gift shop manager Nicky Peterson of the popular fantasy images, dolls and night lights, to mention only a few.
The shop is also known for its extensive collection of authentic Native American jewelry and craft items and its selection of healthy Soy Basic candles, especially popular with people who suffer from allergies.
Another charming collectible line is Painted Ponies, and for fun over-the-hill gifts, don't miss the hilarious line of Coots and Biddys. The shop also carries clothing with the Chinook Winds logo as well as fashion lines of women's dresses, coats, and tops. (541-996-5969)
Visitors are drawn to the upscale window displays of the little shop on the corner at the Nye Beach turnaround. Toujours Boutique could be anywhere, the eclectic selection of clothing exudes an international flair. The staff, however, is delightfully small-town friendly.
"For holiday dressy parties, we always carry lots of elegant, hand-beaded jackets with metallic threads running through," says owner Kathy Cleary. The shop offers a comprehensive selection of women’s wear from casual to business to festive evening attire.
Toujours presents a fashion show at the annual Festival of Trees, December 7, this year. "We start with snuggly, daytime winter wear," says Cleary, "then we move into business and evening attire and the show's finale is our breathtakingly glittery, beaded holiday ensembles."
Footwear aficionados attest that the selection of designer shoes here is way above and beyond the average stock found along the coast. (541-574-6404; www.toujoursboutique.com)
Fashions By The Sea
Shoppers looking for gifts with pizzazz for the vivacious woman in their life better head for this lovely shop with flags flying out front, about three miles north of town on the west side of Hwy 101.
This truly fashionable haven features ensembles ranging from dressy to casual. Lines like Karen Hart, French Dressing, and Tribal hit the spot and keep customers coming back to the shop owned by Florence Cornwall and daughter Crystal Smith.
Women with adult children appreciate the fit of Not Your Daughter's Jeans. Another popular American-made brand is By Taylor with the signature patch at the base of the zipper on their shirts.
A gift of comfy sheepskin-lined slippers with hard rubber soles has been known to generate an appreciative hug. The popular Camille Beckman hand therapy creams and lotions can be found here, as well as the fun jewelry by Wild Bryde and the Eugene-based Jody Coyote. (541-547-3095; www.fashionsbythesea.com
Like "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens," holiday shoppers are likely to find a whole bunch of favorite things at this inviting shop.
One cannot resist stroking the colorful and playful Whimsi-Clay cat figurines (along with a few dogs and other animal friends too). Jim Shore's Heartwood Creek figurine collection exudes handcrafted quilt and folk art textures. The Donna Sharp collection of distinctive quilted handbags is a source for lovely gifts.
Owner Kathy Grimes has filled her shop with numerous gift items that impart warm, fuzzy sentiments, things one instinctively picks up to give to special friends. Candlelight Greeting is a little ceramic book with a birthday cake-size candle with sentiments such as Happy Birthday or Thank You. Give someone special a personalized scented candle, picture frame, or coffee mug. For only $5.95, an ideal stocking stuffer is a pocket magnifier that lights up. (541-902-7901)
The Wren's Nest
This enchanting shop is a feast for the senses. It is tucked in Mapleton's small shopping district along Hwy 126 east of Florence.
Let your nose lead the way through this wonderland of fragrance and feel-good potions with names like Woodland Bath Champagne and White Sage Bath Gel. Richly scented soy candles, healthy and long lasting, and an extensive selection of gourmet teas creates the perfect ambiance.
Expect to see all kinds of inviting cottage décor and items for the garden like planters, accent pieces, adorable bird houses, and even a special Gardener's Soap for grubby hands and feet.
Skilled proprietress Wren Smart is delighted to fashion a custom gift basket for that special someone on your Christmas list. (541-268-6992; www.thewrensnestonline.com)
In this Central Coast town, the local pharmacy is also the favorite place to find gifts. Using the slogan,"You'll love what we have in store for you," Leslie McLain works to live up to that promise with a store full of gifts for everyone on the Christmas list and holiday home decor as well.
Always popular is the jewelry hand-crafted with semi-precious stones. From Central America comes a line of newly arrived hand-woven fabric handbags in rich earth tones. From the same company come scarves with a native motif.
New this year is the flat wallet, four by six inches, that folds to only one-half inch deep. It's handy for the traveler and fits nicely in a handbag.
The store is known for its quality faux pine and fir branches with seasonal berries and flowers. There are themed Christmas decor items for lodge homes, for the horse lover, and for the beach cottage. "We have wind chimes for the gardener and lovely gourmet teas," says McLain, who owns the business with her pharmacist husband. (541-271-3631)
Dunes Coastal Living
Home decor, oodles of gifts, and all kinds of handsome shoes for both women and men, this delightful store offers ideas galore for that special someone this holiday season.
Owner Barb Bennett is especially excited about the cute little themed gift boxes that contain recipe cards and a companion CD. For example, the Caribbean theme package provides recipes for tropical salsas and dishes like Mango Shrimp with Calypso and Reggae music. The selection of themed boxes includes Chocolate Bliss, Wine Tasting, and Tea and Holiday, to mention a few.
For men, Bennett carries three cookbooks published by prominent Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas along with his "Rub with Love" brand meat sauces. (541-266-0276)
The Cobbler's Bench
The aroma of leather still greets visitors at The Cobbler's Bench, a tradition in Bandon for nearly 30 years, but this holiday season, shoppers will notice someone is missing.
Founder Wolf Daniel Braun retired the end of October, leaving the store in the capable hands of sons Peter and Stephen.
Known for its quality outdoor apparel, The Cobblers Bench offers the biggest selection of Woolrich clothing in southern Oregon. The store also carries several brands of fine western boots such as Tony Lama and Dorado and comfy shoes like Aerosole and Bruno Valenti.
Native American jewelry is a big draw, featuring works from many tribes and some pieces by area artist Shirley Lincoln, a Karok Indian known for her shell work.
The store is located on the first floor of the historic Masonic Lodge, one of the few buildings to survive the devastating fire of 1936. (541-347-9012)
Home accessories and gifts galore, something to enhance every home environment is what this store is all about. Seaside Peddler is among the Boardwalk Shoppes at the Port of Brookings Harbor.
Prominent gift and home accessory companies such as Fitz & Floyd and Arthur Court mingle with one-of-a-kind treasures created by local artisans like Grandma Nancy, who produces vintage pillow hearts and Humpty Dumptys that have been featured in Country Living magazine.
"A lady named Laura makes pillowcase dresses for little girls ages one through five, and we carry Gold Coast Soaps made by a local craftsperson," says owner Suzie Alaimo, who opened her eclectic shop about three years ago.
"We have lots of nautical theme gifts and accessories because nautical is really big here," she adds. "For example, we offer a great line of fisherman-themed Christmas ornaments, night lights, throw pillows, and decorative flags." (541-469-9680)