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Layers Upon Layers of Oregon Coast: at Brookings, Florence, Rockaway Beach, Astoria

Published 04/08/22 at 07:12 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Layers Upon Layers of Oregon Coast: at Brookings, Florence, Rockaway Beach, Astoria

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(Oregon Coast) – On this sometimes jagged, meandering shoreline the wonders never cease. And the deeper you go, the more layers of marvels you uncover. Or simply spend a little more time exploring one place at random. It's like a true treasure hunt, but instead of booty you'll make real discoveries. (Above: near south jetty of Florence. Photo courtesy Visit Florence Oregon)

These four places are perfect examples of layers upon layers of Oregon coast.

South Coast's Not-So-Secret Beach

At the very southern edges of the Oregon coast, in the last 30 or so miles of it before it all enters California territory, there's a magical stretch called the Samuel H. Boardman Corridor near Brookings. Within that there's a secret that has never really been a secret – it's simply called Secret Beach for some reason. This south Oregon coast wonder doesn't actually have an official name, yet that moniker of Secret Beach simply got attached to it somewhere along the way.


Courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

Maybe part of that is the fact it's not really a beach 100 percent of the time: sometimes it simply does not exist. Higher tides cover it up and the spot just goes away. Secret Beach becomes a cove of watery madness that humans can't get to. Even then, however, some high vantage points let you take in all its breathtaking glory in safety.

Getting here is a hike – several hundred feet worth of rugged trail with the occasional really steep section. Once down here, however (if conditions permit), you'll discover a bounty of mesmerizing crevices, rocky islands and engaging, memorable sights.

Sandy Wonders of Florence

This sizable town at the very middle of Oregon's 362 miles of coastline boasts a vast expanse of pristine beaches, an awe-inspiring bridge, a waterfront full of natural and manmade wonders, and it's the gateway to 40 miles of insanely cool dunes.

Begin at its Old Town, beneath the gaze of the stately Siuslaw River Bridge, to find a cavalcade of historic buildings painted up in funky, fun colors. It's like Americana with the contrast button turned up.

A highlight is Gazebo Park, which features a cozy little gazebo and a small dock on the river behind it - perfect for a romantic moment on a nocturnal walk through Old Town.

Plenty of daylight fun can be had wandering the riverfront and its abundance of old pilings, as well as exploring the area beneath the famous bridge.

Out on its beaches, begin with the North Jetty and its enormous boulders. From there, it's seven miles of sand and dunes to the cliffs south of Sea Lion Caves, eventually melding into Baker Beach and broken only by a stream or two. Some areas are heavy in sand dollars, and it's likely you'll find a whole one around here.

If you love sand, sand and more sand, you'll be in paradise: the National Dunes Recreation Area begins here.

Heceta Beach Rd. will lead you down to the main area, as well as to another dead-end at a beach access a ways north. There are small trails in the brush near this northern access.

For an extra kick, seek out Exploding Whale Park: it's a memorial to the Oregon coast's famed Exploding Whale back in 1970 (although the actual spot where it happened is at the north end of town).

Rockaway Beach

It's a long stretch of town that has a rustic, rough and yet slightly Victorian vibe in many spots. Numerous homes here look like they were built back in the late 1900s when the town was actually a series of resorts bustling with wealthy and middle-class Portlanders. These have often been gussied up in interesting colors or decorated with wacky sea flotsam.

Rockaway Beach makes attempts at being commercial and touristy, but it doesn't always succeed - thankfully. It still retains a sleepy, off-the-beaten-path quality in spite of the copious lodging and a few oddball, curio shops. The main attraction is still the beach, with about seven miles of it in either direction.

The most recognizable landmark on 101 is the main park and access, with the big red caboose catching the eye. This now houses the town's visitor center. The parking lot also has restrooms and a viewing area. During the summer, this beach has a giant volleyball net set up. There are also a myriad of stores nearby.

The other big landmark isn't on land at all. Rockaway is famous for the Twin Rocks - the double rock arches laying just a ways offshore. Twin Rocks creates more than a few surprises (Rockaway Beach Geologic Surprise). Hotels in Rockaway Beach - Where to eat - Rockaway Beach Maps and Virtual Tours

Astoria's Atmospheric Aspects

At the very northern tip of the Oregon coast, one of its most famous towns isn't part of the beach at all. But Astoria does take you to dizzying heights.

It's the coastal town of high places. Coxcomb Hill, where inventors created the beginning of cable TV, hosts the enormous Astoria Column. Already one of the highest points on the entire coast, the Column then juts another 100 feet or so above the skyline, allowing incredible panoramic views of Young's Bay and the end of the Columbia River. Or you can simply wander the lawns of this park to catch awe-inspiring glimpses of that massive span of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which stretches some four miles across the river to Washington.

Simply driving through Astoria's ancient neighborhood streets will get a rise out of you: these can have rather steep, even daunting hills that suddenly soar above it all. Here, however, you'll find the extraordinary, stately Victorian homes in abundance. Hotels in Astoria - Where to eat - Astoria Maps and Virtual Tours


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