According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.8 square miles (10.0 km²), of which, 3.7 square miles (9.7 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (2.86%) is water.
The Nestuggas were one such tribe, that had previously been encamped just north of Pacific City near the town of Woods. While they had noticed the smoke for several weeks, but were surprised one morning as the bright flames flickered atop the crests of the surrounding hills and rushed down on them. The Nestuggas fled by canoe down the Big Nestucca River to the ocean, and took refuge on the half-mile wide bare sandspit between Nestucca Bay and the ocean. After several weeks the fires were ended by a heavy rain, but the devastation had been complete: The forests were gone, and the game found to be charred crisp or cooked in the water they had sought refuge in.
Nestucca Bay was a rich fishing area, allowing the Nestuggas to survive despite the destruction of game. However, beginning in 1854 settlers began arriving in the Tillamook Valley, and by 1876 Chief Nestugga Bill and the 200 remnants of the small tribe were relocated to a reservation on the Salmon and Siletz River.
Many early pioneers arrived via sea going steamers, others arrived from across the mountains. The town of Woods established itself as a depot for the new arrivals and a source of supplies and trade for the settlers. In 1886 the Linewebber and Brown cannery was started to take advantage of the plentiful fish in Nestucca Bay, shipping 12,000 cans of salmon a year and providing an economic basis until 1926 for the region, along with logging and dairy farming. The area also became a "vacation" destination for Oregon Trail pioneers from the midwest, whom had never seen the ocean.
In 1893, Thomas Malaney platted the town of Ocean Park (now Pacific City) directly across the river from Woods. When a flood in 1894 wiped out the first lots, Malaney moved the town south to higher ground. The Sea View hotel (later renamed Edmundes Hotel) was built around 1895 to service vacationers from the Willamette Valley. Other buildings and campgrounds were established for visitors, and Ferry Street was "paved" with wooden planks for automobiles.
The town gained its modern name of Pacific City in 1909 to avoid confusion with the Washington town of Ocean Park. By 1926, overfishing from gillnetting had left the bay depleted of salmon, so commercial harvesting was stopped and fishermen switched to surf-launched dories; over time due to commercial fishing vessels, the Dory Fleet dwindled and today only a few recreational fishermen keep the tradition alive. Tourism in the 1920's became the mainstay of the economy, lasting until the depression of the 1930's. An airport was built to attract barnstormers and aviators, and other roads and bridges were opened.
There were 485 households out of which 13.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.8% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.55.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 16.1% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 17.6% from 25 to 44, 35.0% from 45 to 64, and 27.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 53 years. For every 100 females there were 96.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.1 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $33,250, and the median income for a family was $55,368. Males had a median income of $26,042 versus $26,250 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $25,819. About 8.4% of families and 7.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.8% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.