Travel Destinations

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Coastal Vacation: Things to do on the Oregon Coast

Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint Oregon Coast
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint.
The Oregon coast is over 300 miles of sandy beaches and is dotted with coastal towns.  Visitors to the Oregon coast aren’t there to get a tan and swim in the ocean, as it is often rainy and foggy and the ocean water is frigid.  Rather, Oregon coast vacationers are there to see rugged coastline, historic lighthouses, and quaint seaside towns.  We spent three days slowly making our way down Oregon’s coast after leaving Astoria, spending the night at towns along the way, so we could experience the Oregon coasts attractions.


Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock Cannon Beach Oregon Coast
Haystack Rock, home to nesting seabirds and marine life.
Cannon Beach is a popular Oregon coast vacation town with a village atmosphere.  A very popular Oregon coast attraction is found in Cannon Beach.  Haystack Rock is the most photographed rock along the Oregon coast.  Haystack Rock is 235 feet high and is the home of nesting seabirds on the rock and marine life at its base.  Visitors are attracted by the chance to explore Haystack Rock’s tide pools for sea life including fish, crustaceans, sea anemones, and starfish.  Be sure to visit at low tide, though we learned not all low tides are equal.  We missed the chance to see starfish because our low tide was not low enough.  

Tillamook Rock Light Cannon Beach Oregon Coast
Tillamook Rock Light across the waves at Cannon Beach.
Another spectacular view from Cannon Beach is that of the decommissioned Tillamook Rock Light lighthouse.

Three Capes Scenic Loop

Cape Meares Lighthouse Three Capes Scenic Loop Oregon Coast
Cape Meares Lighthouse.
The Three Capes Scenic Loop starts west of Tillamook and passes Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda.  Cape Meares has both the Cape Meares Lighthouse and Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge.  The lighthouse is open to tours April through October.  In the spring visitors can see Common Murres nesting on the rocks and might also spot Peregrine Falcons.  In the winter migrating whales can sometimes be spotted.


Dungeness Crab at Fish Peddler's Market Newport Oregon Coast
My Dungeness crab before the massacre.
Newport is first and foremost a fishing town, which is why Newport is where you want to stop for lunch while driving along the Oregon coast.  We stopped at the Fish Peddler’s Market for Dungeness crab, and it may have been the best crab I have ever had.  A board on the wall lists the boats and boat owners bringing in the fresh catch.  All I can say is when I was done with my crab, it looked like a crab massacre, with broken, empty shells and stray bits of crab stuck to the wall.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Newport Oregon Coast
Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
The oldest building in Newport is the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which was built in 1871 and is located in the Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site.  The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, also in Newport, was built one year later.  The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is located in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area which is in fact outstanding.  There are beautiful views of the ocean and coast from the lighthouse and the offshore islands are another spot for nesting Common Murres.

Common Murres Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area Oregon Coast
Countless Common Murres at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Yachats to Florence

We stayed in the seaside town of Yachats (see below for Oregon coast hotel information).  Between the Oregon coast towns of Yachats and Florence there are two popular stops.  The first is Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon coast because of its picturesque setting.  The second popular stop is the Sea Lion Caves, which is the largest sea cave in the United States and home to hundreds of sea lions.  Just beware that such a large population of sea lions in one place makes for a mighty powerful smell. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse Oregon Coast
Heceta Head Lighthouse.


We included Bandon in our visit to the Oregon coast because Rome would be golfing Bandon Dunes.  The Bandon weather cooperated neither for Rome’s plans to play golf nor mine to explore the town of Bandon, but we still managed to enjoy ourselves just fine.

Since the Bandon weather was a bit miserable, I spent much of my time eating inside.  First I visited Tony’s Crabshack, a little shack in the parking lot along the water, for a crab sandwich. Then I headed over to Face Rock Creamery where I discovered my love for cheese curds.  You can watch cheese cruds being made through the window and sample a number of different flavors, though I prefer plain old unadulterated cheese curds.  After having my fill of cheese curd samples and picking my purchases, I headed over to the ice cream section and enjoyed a creamy berry Umpqua ice cream.

Face Rock Creamery Cheese Curds Bandon Oregon Coast
Mmm, cheese curds.
After filling up with dairy treats I drove around the little town of Bandon to Coquille Point, Coquille River Lighthouse, and Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint.  Given the weather my pictures from that day are incredibly overcast.  The next morning it cleared up considerably so we were able to get a better picture of Face Rock, the town’s most famous rock, so named because it looks like a face gazing up towards the sky.

Face Rock Bandon Oregon Coast
Can you see the face?  (Face Rock is the one on the left.)

Southern Oregon Coast

South of Bandon to Brookings is the southern Oregon coast, which provides some of the best driving along the Oregon coast because in this section the 101 actually hugs the coast rather than being more inland and surrounded by trees as is the case farther north.  There are also a number of southern Oregon coast attractions often missed by travelers who don’t make it this far.

Our first stop along the southern Oregon coast was Cape Blanco where we found the Hughes House constructed in 1898, the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, and the Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery.  It was interesting to note that all the pioneers in the Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery were originally from Ireland.

Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery Southern Oregon Coast
Cape Blanco Pioneer Cemetery is a beautiful final resting place.
As we drove through Port Orford we noticed a sign painted on the street pointing towards the ocean view.  The signs were so big we figured we had to follow them.  We were led not only to an ocean view, but also to Griffs on the Dock Restaurant & Seafood, which turned out to be the perfect place to stop for lunch.  We had a fantastic lunch of Crab Louie for me and lingcod fish and chips for Rome.  This tiny restaurant on the dock also has a gift shop, tackle shop, and museum.

Gold Beach Southern Oregon Coast
Gold Beach.
Driving further south along the Oregon coast we stopped at Gold Beach, a long stretch of beach with numerous rock formations.  While following a road just north of Gold Beach to another lookout we spotted some elk, which are really big and could wreck a car if they wanted.

Elk Southern Oregon Coast
Elk spotting!


The last town on our visit to the Oregon coast was Brookings.  We were really only in Brookings to spend the night before starting the long drive through California back home to San Diego.  But there are two places you must visit while in Brookings.  The first is Brandy Peak Distillery, a micro-distillery producing some incredible brandies.  The other is The Vista Pub.  The burgers are made with grass-fed beef.  My burger was an honest 1/3 pound with jack cheese and grilled jalapeƱos.   The onion rings were made with fresh onions lightly battered.  They also have great craft beers on tap.

The Vista Pub Brookings Oregon Coast Restaurant
The Vista Pub in Brookings makes a fantastic burger.


You don’t have to be traveling with pets to enjoy these Oregon coast hotels, but if you are traveling with pets you’ll be happy to know there are some great pet friendly hotels along the Oregon coast happy to welcome your furry travel companions.

Adobe Resort – Yachats

Oregon Coast Hotel Adobe Resort Yachats Oregon
Our ocean view at Yachats' Adobe Resort.
Yachats is about halfway down the Oregon coast a few miles south of Newport.  We stayed at the pet friendly Adobe Resort, which is situated right on the ocean’s edge.  We stayed in the dog friendly wing in a room with ocean views.  The room was spacious with laminate floors and a balcony, all at an incredibly affordable price.  Behind the hotel is a lovely trail along the rocky water’s edge.  Along this trail is a reminder of the treacherous strength of the ocean, a memorial for two young men who drowned when a sneaker wave swept them off the rocks into the churning water, unable to be saved by the four friends who were with them.

Best Western Inn at Face Rock Resort – Bandon

Oregon Coast Hotel Best Western Inn at Face Rock Resort Bandon Oregon
Our ocean (and wildlife) view from our room at Bandon's Best Western Inn at Face Rock Resort.
The Best Western Inn at Face Rock Resort, while a bit expensive compared to some other Oregon coast hotels, is a very nice pet friendly hotel.  Our room was a large suite that used to be two condominiums.  The suite had a master bedroom, two (two!) bathrooms, a fireplace, a balcony, and a view of the ocean across the street.  Not wanting to leave our charming suite and our view, we ended up ordering pizza from Tony’s Pizza (we were told it was the best pizza in Bandon, especially if Dave makes it) and dined in along with a bottle of Oregon wine from Eola Hills Winery which we bought in the hotel’s gift shop.

Best Western Plus Beach Front Inn – Brookings

Oregon Coast Hotel Best Western Plus Beach Front Inn Brookings Oregon
Brookings' Best Western Plus Beach Front Inn as seen from the beach.
The Best Western Plus Beach Front Inn is another Oregon coast hotel that is right on the water.  While the hotel is pet friendly, they do not allow pets to be left unattended in the room.  Our room was spacious with a Jacuzzi tub with a view out to the ocean.  As we were on the first floor, we had a sliding glass door out to the grass and the beach beyond.

With so many towns, state parks, viewpoints, and attractions along the Oregon coast, you could spend weeks seeing them all.  Whether your interests lie in lighthouses, beaches, or wildlife, the Oregon coast will fill all your desires, and always with an ocean view. 

Travel the World: Things to see along the Oregon coast include rugged coastlines, historic lighthouses, and quaint seaside towns.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.