The Indoor Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) - As winter sets in and the coast becomes a colder, more rainy place where it sometimes seems there's as much wind as there is ocean, it's often only the most hardiest of souls who can be found on the beach. Indeed, at this time of the year, the coast can easily shift between torrential downpour and mellow, semi-sunny day in minutes.
And what if you’re caught in nature’s onslaught on a weekend jaunt to the coast?
Don’t worry; there are still plenty of places to hide from the weather and plenty to see there. Here’s just a few up and down the coastline:
History in Tillamook
This town swells with two major repositories of history: the Tillamook Pioneer Museum and the Tillamook Air Museum.
At the Pioneer Museum, you can explore an old courtroom converted into an enormous natural history display featuring insects, animals, eggs, nests and fossils. There’s a blacksmith shop, a replica of great-grandmother's kitchen, cheese making equipment, everyday objects from the past like old washing machines, and much on the fascinating history of the region. 2106 Second Street. Call: (503) 842-4553.
You can’t help but notice the Air Museum when you travel on 101 just south of Tillamook: the big jet plane perched on a pole at the corner of Hangar Rd. is the first major giveaway. Take that road, and inside you’ll find such awe-inspiring items as a PV-2 Harpoon, a 1934 Bellanca Air Cruiser, a PBY-5A Catalina and even a Bf-109 Messerschmitt.
But as if that wasn’t enough, you can see the last of two wooden hangars that housed blimps as large as 252 feet long. The two were finished here in 1943, and then the blimp patrols (called K-ships) were decommissioned in 1948. The second hangar burned down suddenly in 1992.
The aviation wonders here never stop. And the Museum is the site of numerous special events for pilots during the year. 6030 Hangar Rd. Call: (503) 842-1130.
For more indoor fun - but the kind you can eat in the end - don’t pass up the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Here, you can see why this area (nicknamed “Tillamoo” County) is known for its dairy products firsthand. From the viewing platform you can see how cheese is made in various stages. After this informative and fun tour, you can take some of these goodies home with you at the gift shop, or check out the ice cream parlor (where, during the summer, they serve some 2800 ice cream cones a day). 4175 Highway 101 North. Call: (503) 815-1300.
The big aquariums in Newport are no secret: the fabulous Oregon Coast Aquarium and its glass tunnel underneath the sea, as well as the impressive, sprawling Hatfield Marine Science Center which allows you to really dig into the scientific side of things.
But did you know Seaside has one of the oldest aquariums on the west coast?
At the Seaside Aquarium, check out a 20-ray starfish, a wolf eel, the deadly moray eel, a sand shark prowling the seabed, or the big octopus lurking in a large tank, with its many freaky limbs and its giant, pulsating head. There are numerous kinds of crabs on display, along with Pacific and Atlantic lobsters and the Chinook Salmon. Explore an intertidal zone complete with tide pool life, see a Tiger Rockfish search for prey, or check out the enormous whale skeleton out front. There are numerous skates that were raised here, after being found as mere eggs washed up after a storm.
Loads of freaky, often colorful and even spiny fish inhabit these tanks.
Plus, playing with the seals has been a favorite here decades. You can feed them and watch them do kooky tricks.
Plenty of old historic signs and ancient articles about the facility dot the building, adding to the levels of mind-expanding fun.
Talk about a family operation: the Seaside Aquarium is still run by descendents of its founders back in 1937. On the Prom, Seaside, Oregon. 503-738-6211.
Often, it’s shopping that comes to mind when the weather turns on you. And there are few better places to go treasure hunting than Newport’s historic bayfront district.
Here, it’s easy to go darting in and out of the rain between shops and eateries. And if things let up for a while, you’re within a few steps of the beautiful Yaquina Bay and numerous docks where you can take in the view. In the meantime, tons of galleries, clothing shops, curio shops, food stops and various attractions fill this seemingly endless street of fun.
But for a really interesting time that’s completely indoors, check out the world-famous attractions at Mariner Square: the Undersea Gardens, Wax Works and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Each of the three museums keeps their own hours and different admission charges, but you can fork out a certain amount for all three. And if you go that route, where else can you take a walk beneath the waves, see startlingly real wax replicas of various movie stars and historical figures and get an eyeful of some of the weirdest factoids in the world? 250 Bay Blvd. Call: (541) 265-2206.
Sea Lion Caves
If you’re in the Florence area, there’s a legendary place where you can descend 208 feet to the world’s largest sea cave and observe loads of Sea Lions in their natural habitat.
Sea Lion Caves, a few miles north of Florence, is home to wild stellar sea lions during the whole year, but more during the fall and winter. During the summer and spring, they breed their young outside the cave on the rocks surrounding the area.
The cave itself is a fascinating trip back in time. It was formed some 25 million years ago when a lava flow cooled into the basalt rock that is now the cave. At one point, a weakness in the rock turned into a crack, then allowed the sea to eat its way into the basalt over the millennia and make the cave. You can still see the original fault running through the cave that started it all. 91560 Hwy. 101 N. Call: (541) 547-3111.