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, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.
Wild Rides of the Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – There’s always something riveting about a good flight above the ground, whether it’s in an airplane, a jetliner or a helicopter. But on the Oregon coast, it’s a special experience, filled with the eye-popping sights only the Pacific Ocean can provide.
Yet this isn’t the only way to get your adrenaline pumping on Oregon’s coast. There are dozens of charter boat and whale watching businesses that line the shoreline. There are horse rides to be found in Neskowin, Nehalem Bay, Cannon Beach and especially in the Florence area. A variety of bus tours are cropping up these days. And who can resist a “rocket ride” on a speedboat that zips around Newport’s bay at one heck of a fast pace?.
There are some stunning options to get your thrill on, as well as a few more relaxed means of waterside repose.
Copters on the Coast
Taking a helicopter ride is probably one of the more obvious delights - in any locale. But one insanely cool excursion on Oregon's north coast has something a little different, with several curious sides and surprises to it. If you want a glimpse of major Lewis & Clark landmarks, a peek at some sites from a cult movie classic as well as an eyeful of other natural wonders, Seaside Helicopters hands it over with great gusto.
Pilot/owner Gary Turel is a comforting and personable presence in the helicopter as he zips around the shores of Cannon Beach, the peaks of Tillamook Head and above the resort town of Seaside at about 100-plus miles an hour. First, you don the headset with the microphone system, enabling you to speak with Gary and he to speak to you, he does a few checks, and you’re into the wild blue yonder above the coastline.
With a bubble window to the world below, you feel yourself ever so gently lift upwards, a sensation similar in some ways to easing up in an airplane, but in a helicopter there's definitely that spine-tingling feeling of rising faster. It's exhilarating to say the least, with the tilt of the aircraft pulling you against its quick upward ascension.
In no time, you’re up over the back of Tillamook Head - a 1300-foot-high, forested headland. Gary points out its sheer cliffs from this side, spots where elk congregate and even the small bald spot on top of the mountain that is a Lewis & Clark monument. It was here - some two hundred years ago - that William Clark, Sacagawea and a few others hiked over the headland to catch sight of a beached whale in what would become Cannon Beach.
Most incredible is approaching the tip of Tillamook Head as Gary points out a rocky arch sitting offshore called "Goonies Rock," which was featured in the movie "Goonies." Remember that scene near the end where the kids took a key and matched it to a rock structure with a hole in it? That rock is now named after the movie, visible from Indian Beach. Seeing it from above, however, in the context of everything around it from this viewpoint, is a bit mind-altering. It reminds you how tiny and insignificant we humans can be.
Depending on the trip you purchase, Gary may then swing around to the south from here, allowing you to shoot shots of Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock, Crescent Beach, Indian Beach and the top of Ecola State Park. These landmarks are enormous when you're there, up close. From above, they are diminutive and puny.
From there, you swing around again, head north over Tillamook Head, and he shows you that rocky shoreline beneath the headland that can't be seen any other way. At this point, Seaside is in full view, as are the shores of southern Washington and hints of Astoria. Then it's back to the landing pad, with a zoom over the adjacent Seaside Family Fun Park and its numerous fun-tastic possibilities (www.seasidefamilyfunpark.com, 503-738-2076).
Perhaps ten or 15 minutes have gone by. It's hard to tell. Apparently, most rides run about 10 minutes or so, beginning at $35 per person, with options including the Cannon Beach run, a nature/wildlife run, Seaside-from-above or other combinations.
He's had several marriage proposals happen during the flights, including one memorable excursion where the man and his friends had scrawled a huge "will you marry me?" in the sands of Seaside. She emphatically squealed "yes," says Gary.
You'll find Seaside Helicopters and the Seaside Family Fun Park just south of Seaside. Gary still makes some runs during the winter and early spring - mostly on weekends - when those famous, beautiful, dry days hit. Generally, it's considered closed during these months, and doesn't really start up with an eye on a full schedule until spring break. However, one secret about the Oregon coast is that February tends to have a run of sunny, warm days (much warmer than inland), so you may get lucky and have a chance to grab a ride then or on other days the weather seems cooperative to flight. Hwy 101, S. Seaside. www.seaside-helicopters.com. (503) 440-4123.
In Newport, US Helicopters is the new kid on the block, having just started these high-flying sojourns last year. Pilots take you over various points on the central coast, depending on one of nine packages available, including the local Newport tour, Yaquina Head and Otter Rock, a tour that takes you from Newport up to Depoe Bay, or various routes that bring you south, over South Beach, Waldport and even all the way down to Yachats. One tour takes you to Lincoln City as well, and there’s a rather spendy option for a sunset tour.
Prices on these packages range from about $40 per person to $250, depending on the length and how extensive these tours are. You can rent out the copter for special occasions at a little over $1000 an hour.
Their new season just started in March, so look for them in the skies above the central coast now. They are based out of South Beach, in Newport. 541-867-4140. unitedstateshelicopters.com
Horsing Around on the Nehalem Bay
If a horseback ride is more your speed, Northwest Equine Outfitters – in the Nehalem Bay area – lets you ride a beautiful steed as you wander the beaches and spit of Nehalem Bay and Manzanita.
Wende Farris, owner and operator of Northwest Equine Outfitters, provided a ride to a BeachConnection.net writer a few years ago. That writer had a certain hesitancy about saddling up on the great, beautiful beast, so Wende matched her with a red roan quarterhorse named Tara. This was a nice, easy, horse to ride, and the correspondent had a wonderful time.
Wende has been providing this service for 10 years, contracting with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to have her stables in the park. She has provided rides for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the mentally and physically handicapped, and for businesses. There are a variety of options offered, including rides that run anywhere from one or two hours to half a day, to even a full day. Two hours will run you about $90 per person. The half-day jaunts for $220. There are also private rides and sunset rides. Any special event (anniversary, birthday) can be incorporated into a ride.
Many businesses reserve the half-day rides with regularity, and come back again and again. For $200 per person, it is an extraordinary adventure.
Along with a ride on the beach and the bay, where the seals lounge, Wende takes you up to a lookout area where you can see the whole peninsula, bay and ocean.
The horses are tied up by the bay, while a boat arrives to pick up the riders and takes them across the bay where a meal of freshly cooked oysters and crab await. Another boat ride returns the riders, and the horses get back on the trail for a return home.
The day trip incorporates sunset and begins near Tillamook, then takes you to some high mountain spots, and gets you some fancy dinners along the way.
Wende provides some surprises along the way, which can’t be given away here. As BeachConnection.net’s Tobi put it: “Wende has quite a sense of humor.”
Northwest Equine Outfitters opens up for the main three weeks of every spring break season – roughly late March through early April. It’s then open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Even in the off-season, rides can be had by appointment.
Northwest Equine Outfitters is not only open seven days a week but the rides go on, come rain or shine.
Call Wende at (503) 801-RIDE for reservations or for questions. You can make reservations on the website: www.horserental.occybercafe.com/horse.shtml.
Marine Discovery Tours
While Newport and nearby Depoe Bay have dozens of charter rigs and whale watching jaunts available, perhaps the most famous of all of them is Marine Discovery Tours in Newport.
Their flagship is the Discovery, a deluxe 65-foot excursion boat with seating inside for 49 and two levels for viewing. But they also run the Oregon Rocket, an inflatable speedster that seats 16 and zips along the bay and rivers at 45 mile per hour.
Aboard the Discovery, you get narrated ocean and bay cruises with naturalist guides that start at the dock along the Historic Bayfront District and end up somewhere out in the ocean, where whales are almost as likely to come up and investigate you.
The seas can get a bit choppy for the uninitiated on even the calmer days, and those with a penchant for motion sickness will have to shore up with the pills or patches, but it’s an engaging hour or two out on the seas just beyond the beaches of the central coast. It’s filled with informative talks by guides and a host of adventures, like the great beasties coming right up to your boat to get a better look at you.
They are curious creatures and that much more lovable because of it.
Meanwhile, you get an unusual glimpse of the shoreline from the ocean’s viewpoint – which is always startling and surprising.
The cruiser comes with cutting edge audio-visual features, such as a big screen TV for viewing microscopic marine life, satellite locator maps and nature videos. Seating inside and outside is comfortable and allows you to be at ease no matter what the weather.
Daily cruises are offered, although subject to seas and weather conditions.
For a bit more adrenaline, their “Oregon Rocket” combines scenery, sea life and speed for one exhilarating ride. You’re given a warm floatation suit and goggles (it’s all so James Bond), and then you set out on a wild journey along the bay and river, as well as in the ocean. The best months for this are May through September. Rocket Prices: $35/adults and $20/youth (ages 8-16).
345 S.W. Bay Boulevard. Newport, Oregon. Rates vary. 800-903-BOAT (toll free) or 541-265-6200. www.marinediscovery.com.
Newport By Bus or Seaside by Streetcar
For something a little less frenetic, you can kick back and relax as one bus company takes you around Newport. Newport Tours offers its "Introduction to Newport" sightseeing tour, highlighting the attractions and history of Newport and the surrounding area. There’s even free pickup and delivery at most of the lodgings in the Newport area. Tour times are Monday through Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. On Sundays, they happen at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Adults are $20; seniors over 65 are $18; children under 12 are $15. Under two years is free. Child car seats must be provided by adults, however. 866-574-0076.
Seaside has a particularly cozy bit of time trippin’ charm with its colorful streetcar. This blazing beauty – actually a bus that resembles a rail-driven specimen - roams the streets everyday during the summer months, and on weekends in the spring and fall. For two bucks, you can ride throughout the town all day. (503) 861-7433.