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The Rugged, Untamed Twists and Turns of One Part of Central Oregon Coast

Published 02/27/22 at 5:32 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Rugged, Untamed Twists and Turns of One Part of Central Oregon Coast

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(Yachats, Oregon) – Between Yachats and Florence, there's something like 20 miles of secret beaches just hiding in plain sight. The road twists and turns tightly, even to a white-knuckled degree at times, but also metaphorically. This stretch is chock full of surprises amid the sharp turns, and if you're feeling the need to hurriedly keep on going on your trek north or south without a single stop, you shouldn't even bother with the coast. Go home. Give up. This section is that good. (Above: Neptune Beach)

In fact, this whole stretch cannot even be explored in a full day. These spots are just a sampling.

At the very top of Lane County, just a few miles north of Bob Creek, you'll find Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint. Actually, there's two parts of it. The southern section is lodged in the middle of forestland and rather easy to drive past if you're not looking carefully. Here, there are picnic tables, restrooms and a sandy beach that changes into a series of craggy, rock landmasses. Continue walking south to stoop in wonder over tidepools or watch the tides smack the rocks and emit a shower of ocean spray.

The northern section appears almost immediately after the county line, and there's no real sign on the highway. It appears to be an unmarked beach access, but it's one of the central Oregon coast's wildest little treasures. See the Upper Lane County Virtual tour and the section beginning at Neptune Unnamed Access.

At Bob Creek Wayside, you'll find more tidepool creatures than humans by far. Many emerge mostly at lower tides, clinging to an array of oddly-shaped rocky blobs that sometimes resemble mushrooms, or other indistinct shapes that seem more at home on a Yes album cover. Its southern end really contains the wild stuff.

Also at this end, there's a pair of sea caves. First, you'll encounter a small one next to a huge boulder that creates a sort of arch by leaning up against the cliff. On the other side of the arch, there's a sizable sea cave that allows you to walk inside and check out the freaky debris deposited there by the tides. Water is dripping from the top and it gets a little dark, so watch the slippery stuff. You probably don't want to amble around the weird shapes at the very end of the cave, because that spot can get dangerous.

As you pass from Yachats into dazzling beaches made of rocky basalt such as these, 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.

The central Oregon coast begins to shift like crazy as you drive southward.

At various spots, rather atmospheric walls made of stone line the viewpoints which allow you to look at Mother Nature at her sometimes most unbelievable. They almost look like old castle walls. Make sure you stop at even just one of these (you're just south of Heceta Head Lighthouse at this point) and peer down. At times you can 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.

In this area - almost exactly halfway between Brookings and Astoria - you'll find the Sea Lion Caves, a stalwart tourist attraction in the region since the '30s, where the great, barking beasts occupy the world's largest sea cave. It actually has that distinction with the Guinness Book of World Records.

There's also Heceta Head, which includes the magnificent lighthouse, the lightkeeper's quarters (which is a B&B), and a unique beach full of captivating rock structures and small sea caves (at lower tides).

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