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.
The Oregon Coast That Whizzes By
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) – When you run a media company on the Oregon coast, one that covers about 180 miles of it, it’s your job to zip up and down that range quite often.
Such is the curse of being editor of BeachConnection.net, a job that requires you to go to the coast, and then run around beaches, eat at great restaurants and sometimes stay at lovely hotels in that upper half of the coastline. It’s intoxicating, hypnotizing and a pain in the ass all at the same time.
My life truly is a beach. And what I see on almost a daily basis would pop the eyes out of almost every visitor.
Things could begin in Yachats, and often do. Often, I’ll meander along the rocky shoreline on those side roads that hug the ocean barriers, watching briefly the waves roll in on the bay, or the massive display of spray and foam as big breakers smack the basalt slabs that populate most of Yachats’ beach.
From there, it’s usually a quick drive through the northern end of town, past the various rolling vistas and sandy stretches that are typical of the highway between Yachats and Waldport, through sometimes eerie tunnel-like forests of bent-over trees that have twisted from years winds raging from the west.
Seal Rock is a blackened blip outside my car window, with its series of basalt structures blocking the waves and yet causing them to punch the rocks with splashes of white, grey and blue.
A forest and various cliffs block the view most of the time here, until you get to the bridge at Newport, which can be a windy endeavor, even on the seemingly calmest of days.
Below, two vigorous sandy tracts hug the bay mouth, dotted with dunes and the promise of lots of beachy fun.
Nye Beach and its many eateries, wine sampling possibilities and old friends often makes for a distraction, or I continue flying past gorgeous vistas of hundred-foot cliffs overlooking beaches of pristine sand, until the climb of Cape Foulweather and its many nearly aerial views of the ocean.
Depoe Bay’s commercial side glares brightly on the east side of the highway with its myriad of kooky shops and eateries, now often draped in pirate paraphernalia because of that town’s affection for those legends. But on the other side of the highway lie rugged bunches of basalt where the sea crashes with wild abandon and an abundance of whales waiting to be spotted. Sunsets often explode here as well.
North of town, various spectacular wave spots give way to more forests, until you breeze into Lincoln City and its long, drawn out commercial district which cloisters a bevy of beautiful beaches, unseen from the highway but mesmerizing if you take the time to slow-poke through the various beachside neighborhoods.
From there, the highway enters the Nestucca Valley, glimpses of Cascade Head and the forested canopy sometimes referred to as the “corridor of mystery.” This eventually leads you to a rolling highway that occasionally provides enormous glimpses of the vast ocean, in between massive hills often dotted with elaborate homes.
Pacific City is a half hour drive from Lincoln City. As you approach the town, the gargantuan Haystack Rock pops into view in the far distance, way beyond the trees and streams that fill the miles still between you and the surf. A really trippy optical illusion happens here: this mysterious looking object appears on the horizon, and appears to move very slowly over the tree tops. It doesn’t really come into full view until you’re well into Pacific City.
I usually don’t take 101 straight up to Tillamook, but instead zip past Pacific City, the flat beaches of Tierra Del Mar, and the thick forest canopies of the road that snakes its way to the junction where you have to decide whether to continue on the Three Capes Loop, or head east towards Tillamook. I believe this route is a bit shorter than taking all of 101, and even at night it’s a better view.
On Tillamook Bay, things get really interesting, especially at night. Often I’ve driven around the bay after dark, with the faint glow of Garibaldi’s giant “G” on the hillside, and seen wisps of clouds floating in the air at various elevations – looking so much like a colony of giant ghosts just hovering in the bay. It almost only seems to happen here, in quite that way. It’s spellbinding.
Rockaway Beach is just a few miles away at this point, and its southern end allows brief glimpses of a closer view of the massive twin rocks, as they peek out from two or three beach accesses that can be seen from the road. If you walk the beach at this end, they are closer to you than anywhere else, and they appear looming – almost threatening. It’s not hard to imagine them suddenly coming to life and stomping their way up the beach and into town like some bad Godzilla flick.
The Nehalem Bay dashes in and out of your eyes between here and Wheeler, appearing through the trees as you round this eight-mile stretch of forest. Always, my first glimpse of this little town is like the sun coming out to me – no matter how drizzly the weather. This esoteric place hoards more interesting secrets and legends than its mere six blocks allows you to see while driving through here.
Through Nehalem and into Manzanita I go, and I’m home – at least for a bit. Neahkahnie Mountain looms over this place like a protective mother, and there are times I believe its ancient, forested bluffs are exactly that. Always, the first sight of the ocean crashing and making a raucous at the end of Laneda Ave. sends some new electrical pulse through my heart.
Often, I just drop my stuff off and keep heading north, past the winding tract that curves around Manzanita, and that yellow street lamp that makes the mountain look like a mystifying, glowing mass just hovering in the night sky when viewed from the beach below.
Around the next bend is a brief glimpse of the cove at Short Sand Beach, where I’ve seen unbelievably large wave formations come barreling in like Japanese movie monsters during stormy periods. Through more thick forests of Oswald State Park and out of the Arch Cape Tunnel, the next few miles give way to this tiny delight, where the dense trees tease you with minute hints of the ocean, and whatever craziness it's up down there. Sometimes you can just see it churning like mad, smacking the beaches of this village. Others, it’s a graceful, pristine lady, with dainty waves lightly washing in beneath clear, blue skies.
The road quickly rises and you’re looking at ocean
vistas now, whose features – like massive rocky forms or headland
formations - whoosh past with troubling speed. You want to linger and
take each one in.
All this leads to Cannon Beach, a place where you’re forced to drive slowly and lazily, if you get off the highway and wander into town. This is quite often one of my destinations. Frequently, it’s also one of my last stops before I head back to my Portland pad. I’ll meander to a rather secret access on the extreme southern end, and even if I’m wearing a suit from the previous day’s work, I’ll roll up my pant legs, take off my shoes and wade in the surf. Even if it’s winter; even if it’s at night. After dark, I especially have this spot all to myself, with its rather diminutive sea stack (no doubt a pretender to the throne of Cannon Beach’s monolith, also called Haystack Rock). The things I’ve seen here at night still amaze me.
Seaside is another start or end for me. It’s here where I simply barge in on the ocean geeks at the Seaside Aquarium, chat them up about stuff going on around the beaches or simply joke with manager Keith about Star Trek or some other goofy thing. Aside from the myriad of social calls I make, where I annoy lots of friends at work in the tourism business, I’ll wander the beaches – day or night. After dark, the city and the promenade are illuminated in this always-ethereal way, with chunks of the air glowing because the mist gets lit up by street lamps. Again, I’m the only dork wearing a suit and walking the beach barefoot, bouncing around the waves and sucking in the sky and surf into all sorts of regions of my psyche, oblivious to what anyone else may think about this sight of an aging hipster with spiked, pseudo-punk rock hair in a business suit, without shoes, playing in the water.
From Yachats to Seaside, or vise versa, is a regular route to me, and I love the fact these exquisite sights often whiz by. It’s the best commute in the world. But no matter how many times I whisk up or down 101, like any tourist, I can’t resist my inner beach bum. I eventually have to stop and smell not the roses, but the surf.