Just N. of Florence Crammed Full of Oregon Coast Wonders
Published 10/23/2015 at 5:22 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff
(Florence, Oregon) – In a few short miles, just north of Florence, a massive amount of stunning scenery is packed in tightly. Never a dull moment on this part of the central Oregon coast, which is also where the southern half of the coastline begins. Wonders large and small cram this rather singular stretch.
As you pass southward from Yachats into dazzling beaches made of rocky basalt, after about 15 miles the landscape turns to more soft sand. Then, somewhere just after Carl Washburne State Park, you're traveling above the ocean on high, dramatic cliffs, where a tumultuous sea churns below.
At various spots, rather atmospheric walls made of rock line viewpoints that allow you to look at Mother Nature at her sometimes most unbelievable. Look close, and you may spot hordes of sea lions lounging on the bottoms of these cliffs. Marvel as you try to imagine how they got up those steep, sheer walls.
These paved viewpoints can be especially engaging at night, as well, with fishing boats casting ethereal lights onto the water below. They can at times get quite close, and you can almost watch their whole operation. Or, they simply look like tiny dots moving on the horizon, casting fascinating shades and colors onto the clouds above them.
In this area - almost exactly halfway between Brookings and Astoria - you'll find the Sea Lion Caves (541-547-3111), a longtime tourist attraction in the region, where the great, barking beasts occupy the world's largest sea cave.
Walk to a small viewpoint not far from the main parking lot – or park at the viewpoint itself – and you'll spot a stunning ocean vista through the trees. Here, a giant rock structure or two juts out into the ocean, and one boasts a particularly wondrous gap where it split apart eons ago. It's amazing to think these basalt cliffs, which are some of the hardest rocks around, were eroding by the sea. It boggles the mind to contemplate the millions of years that must've taken.
Next stop: there is also Heceta Head and Devil's Elbow State Park, which includes the magnificent lighthouse, the lightkeeper's quarters (which is a B&B), as well as a unique beach full of captivating rock structures and small sea caves viewable at lower tides. There's a secret sea cave here as well, lurking almost below the lighthouse. It's only accessible at very low tides, however.
From here, the highway twists and turns again and rises once more, this time to incredible heights. You begin to look down on Florence at this last bluff. That cracking rocky cliff sits right about here: a mesmerizing little hidden path cordoned off by a fence meant to keep cars out leads you to its edge. There is much to see, but note it is a section that is for sale, and access could disappear at any moment. It's been for sale for at least a decade, however.
From this little trail, you can look down on the rocky crags below the Sea Lion Caves, and you may notice a massive population of the creatures lounging near the cave's opening. It's mesmerizing.
Continue south until you're at the tip of the central Oregon coast, where Florence begins. From here on out, it's called the southern Oregon coast. More about this area below:
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