Central Oregon Coast Stretch Near Florence Packed with Wonders
(Florence, Oregon) – Between Florence and Yachats, about 25 miles, there's a chunk of Highway 101 that is consistently untamed and unruly, chock full of scenic sights that never cease to create a car full of the slack-jawed. But even the first 12 miles of this diverse drive contain more than a few days worth of exploration.
Just north of Florence it all begins, after about five minutes of driving through forested land where glimpses of the ocean are brief and a bit teasing. The road suddenly begins to rise and you soon find yourself along a winding, ever-steeper ascension, and suddenly the ocean bursts out in front of you.
About here, the landscape changes abruptly to rocky cliffs, and you're almost soaring a few hundred feet above the ocean. Look behind you and you'll see a variety of lakes and dunes dotted throughout the forest you just came from – but you'll see these from above.
A variety of stunning viewpoints occupy this area, including one where you can look down on a curious cliff that has been severed in two. Part of it now sits a ways from its parent cliff, somehow having been eroded away perhaps eons ago.
A rock-lined highway winds around these cliffs in tight curves, sometimes creating a bit of a white-knuckle drive.
Look below and you'll see a bundle of bulbous, irregular shapes at the bottom, where the cliffs meet the sea. Yet these are still graceful, pretty shapes, covered in green and other fauna.
However, look a bit more closely and you'll see a horde of marine-dwelling life down there. Sea birds hang out in huge abundance at the bottom, still quite a ways above the ocean, though it's at least 300 feet away from you. Sea lions also lounge here.
One of the highlights of the area is the sight of the famed Heceta Head Lighthouse. Viewpoints here are always crowded with tourist paparazzi clicking away at the great lamp.
Just below one of the main viewpoints that are used for photographing the lighthouse, you'll see a very clandestine beach, not accessible by any means – except for maybe by boat. This cove beach, directly next to Devil's Elbow State Park - where the lighthouse resides – is often filled with wildlife like sea lions, which gather here comfortably because it's never disturbed by humans.
Just beyond the lighthouse, more forested drives await, but a couple of stunning parks along this portion of Highway 101 allow awe-inspiring beach access.
Soon, on this drive north, you'll encounter Muriel O. Ponsler Wayside, which is somewhat different in composition from other beaches around as it's primarily big, fluffy sands.
Then the landscape again changes to a mix of high cliffs and rock-dotted beaches, often cloistered within their own little coves. The area remains this way the entire 12 or so miles from here to Yachats. Sometimes, like Ocean Beach Picnic Ground above, it's mostly sandy beach with a few rock structures or cliffs bordering it. Others are pure basalt shelves where dramatic wave action is a constant and tide pools abound in serious abundance.
This stretch of 101 is at the top of Lane County, about 150 miles from hotspots like Seaside or Cannon Beach, but within 75 miles of other destinations like Newport and Lincoln City.
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