Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.
Mesmerizing, Even Kooky Details of the Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – Sometimes, it’s the details that really matter in your travels.
Oregon’s coast is full of small wonders lurking in the shadows, in hidden spots or even hiding in plain sight. Its alternating broad sands, rocky ledges, soaring cliffs and the occasional bay is a vast, diverse environment that is sure to kick you in the eye immediately upon first sight. But it’s the smaller things that can really make a difference.
Even the time of day can make a difference. The coastline at night is a whole other animal, and worth an entire trip of exploration all its own.
Kooky and Cool Around Oceanside
A few miles west of Tillamook sits a somewhat hidden beach town called Oceanside - a charming burgh that's like a secret slowly getting unleashed.
The centerpiece of this area is the headland, called Maxwell Point. It sports a large crack forming a small cave, with sea-bleached rocks bundled together in front. Amble through the eerie tunnel nearby and find yourself on a desolate stretch of beach, where agates and other flotsam abound.
There's an array of strange structures here, including a series of basalt pointy things – one of which was once an arch. Sometime around 2004, the arch broke in half, leaving another two in a series of black pointy things. Also abundant are a host of caves splashed in the bright greens of various kinds of sea goo, and plenty of slabs that remind you of another planet.
At low tides, that former arch reveals it is hosting whole colonies. To us, it's a geologic wonder. To them, it is home.
One of the state's most enthralling hidden spots lies right next to Oceanside, just west of Tillamook. Look for Radar Rd. along the back road between Oceanside and Cape Meares, and you'll find the refurbished entrance to this stunning beach.
Until a few years ago, the way down here was precarious and slippery, causing many injuries. But locals got together and created this "stairway of 1000 steps."
First, you'll find the bulbous blob at the tide line, resembling the sea stack at Neskowin to the south. Wander here a bit longer, and you may see the waterfall coming from the side of the cliff which hosts the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Legends abound here. It's said that at extreme low tides, there is yet another tunnel visible (like the one through the cliff in Oceanside). One version of the legend says there may be two tunnels here.
Near sleepy Oceanside, you'll find this tiny town with a clandestine beach. Head to the bottom of the main road, and you'll descend a path. An old, sea-battered stairway greets you, looking as if it was ripped from an old ship.
To the south, you see where the sands end. To the north, see the mouth of the bay, the community of Happy Camp, and the haystacks of Oceanside in the distance.
Stunning Spot Without a Name
Just south of the county lines between Lane and Lincoln counties, a ways south of Yachats, sits a beach spot with no name.
The parking lot gives way to a path down to this beach with two personalities: one is a sandy, slightly stony crescent, the other a labyrinth of basalt structures. Where the two parts meet, a small basalt arch stretches over and into the sand. Black, giant, jagged rocky slabs contain numerous fissures or cracks, where the tide can do especially spectacular things (you don't want to be around them at these times, however). Huge logs lie all about, testifying to the dangerous power of the waters here. Or, wander up the secret path overlooking the beach and watch it all from above.
You may even catch sight of ancient Indian shell middens here.
Colorful Sights of Downtown Florence
It may be deep in the heart of Florence and where the boats run back and forth, but its historic waterfront is still nothing short of tranquil.
Things begin along the main road, filled with charming old buildings gussied up in funky, modern colors that take the past and smother it with a modern sense of whimsy. You descend a slight incline from Hwy. 101 and find yourself near the majestic bridge.
Beneath it, you can wander the shore and check out the old pilings. Just down the street, a small park features a romantic gazebo, a bench canopied by trees, with a beautiful view of the river, and access to a viewing dock that's perhaps even more romantic. From there, the Siuslaw River flows past you to the bridge, with various seats provided for viewing - or cuddling.
At the southernmost end, walk the beautiful new Promenade for more picturesque sights, or walk the long, long dock beneath it to examine the life of boaters up-close.
Nocturnal Seaside – and Other Pleasant Surprises
While these beaches are some of the most of crowded in Oregon, there's hardly anything more romantic on the coast than Seaside's promenade, a paved pathway which stretches over a mile from end of Seaside to another and overlooks the sand. Especially at night this place is enchanting, but it has its charms during the day as well.
At 12th Avenue, you're at the northernmost end of the Seaside Promenade. Here, a huge parking lot allows access to the dunes and the northern end of this beach, ending up at the mouth of the Necanicum River and the Estuary Trail.
Walk down about a quarter mile and you'll find the Turnaround, which is close to all the goodies in downtown Seaside (including the "million-dollar walk" of lights, which is also quite cuddle-inducing at night.)
Along the way are plenty of benches for sitting and watching the sunset or just nuzzling up together. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere provided by the beach and the lamplight bathing the Prom after the sun goes down. Or start your own little fire on the sand and take in the sound of the waves.
More beaches and more cottages occupy the southern half of the Promenade. But here it's a little less populated than near the Turnaround, and eventually the wall stops altogether and the path gives way to a pleasant beachside sidewalk.
Between here and the beach are some interesting groves of trees, perfect for playing around in.
Inner Depoe Bay
In the central coast town of Depoe Bay, a massive seawall is the main focus of attention. But more sits just a few steps east. After the main viewing area along the seawall, you'll find another one just below the bridge, on the seaward side of the highway. From there, the walkway wanders beneath the bridge to the bay and the landward side of 101. This is a better option for crossing the street since 101 here is usually a madhouse of car traffic, but it's also a pleasant walk which can yield its own surprises.
This area is lighted at night and can really come to life in its own way then.
At the bay, you'll find yourself amidst the hustle and bustle of the various attractions as well as the businesses and boats making their living here. Seals and seagulls often take up residence in the bay. If you're lucky, you might spot a wild seal doing tricks for scraps of food provided by one of the fish processing businesses just beneath the viewing platforms.
The bay here is known as the world's smallest navigable harbor.
Up on 101, indulge yourself in shopping, the eating of various delights, or wine tasting at the cave-like Depoe Bay Winery.
Cape Lookout’s Magical Moments
There are actually three different hiking trails on this enormous headland, and tons of incredible views along all of them. But the main one - which winds around some five miles - is legendary for its views. Along the way, you'll encounter a memorial to the World War II aircraft that crashed here in the '40s.
The view pictured here is of Sand Beach, which is known as the "other Sand Dunes on the Oregon Coast," and the stretch of sand running between there and the base of Cape Lookout.
There are many such views along this route, but this spot - hidden behind a thick wall of bushes - is nothing short of breathtaking. It's a dangerous one, however, and thus we won't give away its exact location either.
You'll find Cape Lookout just west of Tillamook, along the Three Capes Tour - and immediately south of Cape Lookout State Park
Secret Trail to a Florence Beach
Just north of Florence, the road winds and twists along the steep cliffsides of this always-breathtaking area. Plenty of viewpoints lurk along the side of the road, allowing you dramatic views of the ocean – and eventually a great aerial shot of the expanse of Baker Beach (Look for milepost 181).
But how to get down there?
Well, you could take Baker Beach Road, a few miles down the road, and that will lead you down a sizable trail to the beach, and then it’s another couple miles or so until the beach dead-ends at the cliffs.
It’s found on one of the last turnouts above Florence, where the last of the giant cliffs overlooks the dunes and lakes on the northern edge of town. This one traverses hundreds of yards down a grassy slope, starting at the paved turnout and ending up in a soft dune that dumps you onto this beach that eventually dead ends at the bottom of the last cliff.
Just a tad northward of all this, you may notice a chunk of headland here is for sale – and has been for ten years or more. Someone is selling some prime real estate here: eight acres of clifftop magic that overlooks some of the most spectacular scenery on the entire coast. For some unfathomable reason, it hasn’t sold in all that time.