Oregon Travel Tips: Great Driving Tours of the Coast
(Oregon Coast) - It's no secret Oregon's shoreline provides some of the most stunning scenery in the U.S. Yet it's a big place: some 362 miles of rugged cliffs and sprawling beaches, with almost all of it nestled cozily along the water's edge (Above: Neptune State Park, south of Yachats)..
So, to take in a good chunk of it, a car is your only option.
There are several "auto tour" possibilities that give passengers the best views as you crawl along Oregon's winding, curvy Highway 101. And these also provide a quick shot to the beach, should you decide to make a foot journey. Then, when your calves have had enough of aching from long hikes or strenuous ambles over the strange rocky seascapes Oregon's coast is known for, you can hightail it for your ride and go zooming along your sightseeing way.
Cape Perpetua Auto Tour
Stay straight, and you soon have the choice of taking the big Auto Tour and scenic route, or wind your way up the small mountain to the top. You'll meander through a thick rainforest before ending up back in Yachats.
The tiny, twisting ride to the top provides an enormous reward, however. Here, you've risen 803 feet above the sea and the panoramic view is awe-inspiring - augmented by an atmospheric stone wall encircling the viewpoint.
South of Yachats
This mere 25-mile stretch between Florence and Yachats is filled with numerous tight curves atop high cliffs which create a never-ending cavalcade of amazing ocean views. If the weather is rough, there's plenty to see along this route. And if it's anything but rough, it's among the most pristine and uncrowded sections of all the Oregon Coast.
First up, south of Yachats, you begin the climb towards Cape Perpetua and the Devil's Churn, as blackened basalt shelves meander between you and the sea in various, unidentifiable shapes. For the next 20 miles or so, the road rises and falls, interspersed with rocky landscapes and sandy beaches dotted with boulders and basalt structures.
Some have bluffs and some are fairly flat, but all are rather bereft of human presence. At Strawberry Hill, climb out over a large headland with steps embedded in the rocks and sand, and wander down to a sandy stretch of various colors and textures, where boulders and formations create a kind of labyrinth. Tide pools reign supreme here.
There's the cobblestone surrealism of Bob Creek Wayside, where at low tide, weird mushroom-like rocks emerge that are covered with crusty marine life and starfish. At Rock Creek Campground and Roosevelt Beach, there's sand and small sea stacks, with a patch of basalt that cradles an idyllic, babbling brook. A bit south of there, spots like Muriel O. Ponsler Wayside are all sand, and it's about where the landscape flattens out to seemingly endless beaches.
Just north of Florence, you'll hit the incredible views near Heceta Head Lighthouse and Sea Lion Caves, where a myriad of pullouts allow you to gaze in awe at the wildlife covered cliffs and dramatic waves slamming into bulging structures at the bottom.
From Cannon Beach to Manzanita
The curves begin just south of Cannon Beach, twisting along various bends as you drive past pullouts and spots like Hug Point, Arcadia Beach and Arch Cape that never cease to amaze. Soon, you'll enter the Arch Cape tunnel, which opens up to a brief glimpse of panoramic ocean views, then entering the forests of Oswald State Park. Here, check out the surfing mecca of Short Sand Beach, some wondrous trails, primitive campsites and a couple of hidden beaches tucked along the road.
Just south of all the parking lots, you emerge from the forest with more scenic stunners overlooking the Pacific and the charming burgh of Manzanita.
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