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Where are the best places to see nature and the ocean while RV camping at the Coast?

My favorite campgrounds that put you close to the ocean and nature include Cape Lookout State Park on the North Oregon Coast, Beverly Beach on the Central Oregon Coast and Sunset Bay State Park on the South Oregon Coast.

Cape Lookout, west of Tillamook, is beautiful campground adjacent to the ocean and a long stretch of beach. Several miles of walking and hiking trails offer scenic views and exploration of the rainforest. Explore the immediate area with short day trips to Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda.

Beverly Beach State Park is just north of Newport and offers access to a long stretch of beach between Otter Rock and Yaquina Head. Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock, the Otter Crest Scenic Viewpoint on Cape Foulweather and the Whale Watch Center at Depoe Bay are my top stops for exploring to the north of Beverly Beach. The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and lighthouse to the south of Beverly Beach is a must-stop with scenic views, marine life watching and a stairway to a beautiful intertidal area (so plan your visit for a low tide if possible). Other top attractions in Newport include the historic bay front, a unique combination of working waterfront and tourist shops and restaurants. The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport is also very much worth a visit.

Sunset Bay State Park southwest of Coos Bay is located close to a beautiful cove beach and also offers access to nearby Shore Acres State Park and Cape Arago State Park. A hiking trail connects the three State Parks and is one of the great scenic hikes on all of the Oregon Coast. Shore Acres offers stunning view of sheer sandstone cliffs and exciting wave action and the nearby Simpson Reef is one of the best places to watch seals and sea lions on the coast.

Cape Arago State Park also offers great viewpoints and access to another exception intertidal area in its south cove. I would also suggest a day trip to see the beautiful beach at Bandon with stops at Coquille Point and the Face Rock viewpoint for scenic overlooks and beach access.

All of the elevated viewpoints you visit, especially on the Central Oregon Coast, will offer a good chance of seeing gray whales, so keep your eye open for the telltale spouts.

Although these three stops will allow you to see some of the best of the Oregon Coast, you may want to consider another night or two in other areas to catch a few top attractions you miss limiting yourself to these stops. If you are interested in Astoria, Seaside or Cannon Beach, you may want to plan a stop at Fort Steven State Park or private RV parks in Seaside or Cannon Beach. The top beach or nature experiences would be Haystack Rock, where you can see nesting puffins, and Ecola State Park that offers panoramic views, easy walking trails and longer scenic hikes.

Another amazing stretch of Coast you will want to consider spending more time is the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area south of Yachats. There is a Forest Service campground and some private RV parks in this area, though the nearest State Park campground is Washburne State Park. Washburne State Park offers nearby beach access, a hiking trail to the Heceta Head Lighthouse and easy drives to Heceta Lighthouse State Park and the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area attractions like Spouting Horn at Cook’s Chasm and Devil’s Churn.

You’ve also left of an amazing stretch of the South Oregon Coast between Gold Beach and Brookings, but I suggest you save that for your next trip.

Be sure to make advance reservations for campsites, so you are assured of getting your spot in these amazing areas.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on January 20th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

What “characterful towns” can I visit up the Coast after detouring from Ashland?

I would recommend you start your coastal tour in Bandon, one of my favorite beaches and small towns on the Oregon Coast. However, the stretch of US 101 between Brookings and Port Orford is also a beautiful drive and passes through the scenic Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Otherwise, Bandon fits nicely with your interest of towns with character — and it has great restaurants (try The Loft or Alloro Wine Bar and Restaurant). Bandon’s beach is one of the most scenic on the Oregon Coast with many rock formations along the shoreline and just offshore. It’s a great beach to walk or view from viewpoints such as Coquille Point or the Face Rock overlook. If you spend a couple days in Bandon, you could consider a day trip south to Cape Blanco and Port Orford. You could also day trip north to to Cape Arago via the Charleston to Bandon Tour Route. Cape Arago is a must whether you make it a day trip or part of your travel north.

Florence has a great old town and good restaurants, so you may want to spend a night there which would give you the option of exploring the Oregon Dunes and then enjoy a leisurely drive north along another beautiful stretch of coast between Florence and Yachats. I would take the entire day for this stretch with must stops at the Heceta Head Lighthouse and several stops within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area to see Cook’s Chasm/Spouting Horn, Devil’s Churn, beaches, tidepools and views from the top of the cape. Yachats is very small and is less walkable than the other towns on your list, but there are a couple of nice restaurants (Ona is my favorite for casual fine dining).

Newport is a much larger city, but it does have some fun districts that offer the character and restaurants you are after, as well as several must see scenic attractions nearby such as the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Devil’s Punchbowl. The historic Nye Beach district and bay front areas are fun to explore and offer good restaurants (my top recommendations include Local Ocean Seafoods or Saffron Salmon on the bayfront and April’s or Sorella at Nye Beach).

Cannon Beach is also a good choice for walkable small towns with character and good restaurants (including the casual and tropical Castaways and the Irish Table among several good options). Cannon Beach has great beaches and State Parks both north and south with Ecola State Park being a must-see. Cannon Beach hosts a wine and culinary festival (Savor Cannon Beach) March 10-13 that might correspond to your travel dates. Cannon Beach also makes a good base for exploring other coastal towns, including Seaside and Astoria, and their attractions. So, as you were thinking, the towns you have identified sound like they are good choices for you. Consider two nights in Bandon, one night in Florence, one night in Yachats, one night in Newport and two nights in Cannon Beach.

You will want to be prepared for rain, but I would expect that you will experience all kinds of weather and spectacular scenery in any case.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on January 3rd, 2016 - Post Your Answer

Can you suggest a 2-day Oregon Coast itinerary beginning in Brookings?

The South Oregon Coast has many attractions that you could easily spend two days without traveling too far up the coast, depending on how long you want to linger and explore.

DAY ONE: I would save a full day for Harris Beach State Park and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Plan your visit to Harris Beach for low tide and enjoy the tidepools and abundant bird life. There are many stops along the Boardman Corridor that offer easy access to stunning viewpoints and also some great short hikes. For short easy stops, consider Lone Ranch (beach access and tidepools), Cape Ferrelo (short walk to viewpoints), House Rock Viewpoint, Whaleshead Beach (steep, rough road to scenic rock formations and beach), Natural Bridges (short walk to an amazing view), Thunder Rock Cove (short hike to amazing views) and Arch Rock Viewpoint (easy walking paths with dramatic views).

DAY TWO: Otter Point State Recreation Site is a fascinating area just north of Gold Beach with interested rock formations of basalt and sandstone a short walk from the parking area. The drive north is very scenic from there, hugging the coastline to Port Orford. You will likely want to stop at several waysides for the views. If you continue north, make the side trip to Cape Blanco State Park to see the lighthouse at the end of the dramatic cape. If you save time to go as far as Bandon, you will be rewarded with amazing views along Beach Loop Drive. Must stops are Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint and Coquille Point, where walking paths overlook amazing rock formations. The Coquille River Lighthouse can be seen from the south side of the river, or you can cross over and get a close look at it in Bullards Beach State Park.

Brookings to Bandon is only about 85 miles, but there is so much great sightseeing, I can’t image you can do more than that in two very busy days!

Happy exploring!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on December 1st, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Where can we look for agates on the Coast?

Agates are found along many beaches on the Oregon Coast that are adjacent to cliffs and streams. In addition to finding a good location for agates, beach conditions are a critical factor. Typically, sand builds up on beaches during the summer and covers gravel beds containing agates, while winter storms loosen agates from cliff sides and strip the sand off beaches to reveal these deposits. This usually makes November to March the best time to discover significant agate deposits. Your best best in October would be to concentrate on cliff-side beaches at stream outfalls that wash sand away from rocky deposits. Closest to Portland, the beaches south of Cannon Beach would be a good bet. Consider Hug Point (near the waterfall), Arcadia Beach near stream outfalls or Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park where Necarney Creek flows into the ocean. One of my favorite beaches for agate hunting on the North Oregon Coast is the beach at Oceanside on the north side of Maxwell Mountain that is accessed by a tunnel at low tide, though it can be hit or miss depending on sand deposits.

This stretch of Coast, south of Cannon Beach and following the Three Capes Scenic Route (Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda) makes a nice touring route for spending just a few days at the Coast. You can make this trip a loop by driving to the Coast via US 26W to Cannon Beach, south on US 101, following the Three Capes Route from Tillamook, then returning to Portland via OR 6E from Tillamook. You should note that the road north of Cape Meares is indefinitely closed due to slides, so you have to reach Cape Meares and Oceanside by driving through Netarts.

Happy agate hunting!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on October 10th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

What interesting tourist attractions are between Newport and Astoria?

There are many great attractions and scenic areas between Newport and Astoria. My must stops for any trip in the immediate Newport area would include the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and the historic bayfront. If you have at least a couple hours to devote, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is also a must. As you travel north, Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock and the Otter Crest viewpoint at Cape Foulweather make easy stops for great views. I always find the beach north of Devil’s Punchbowl interesting, but especially at low tide.

Whenever traveling this route, I try to take the Three Capes Scenic Route, turning off at Pacific City. If you have time to climb the dune-flanking Cape Kiwanda, the views from the top are inspiring and a great place to watch wave action. Cape Lookout State Park is great, especially if you have time to hike the cape or spend some time on the beach. Cape Meares is an easy stop with a short walk to views and lighthouse. As you return to US 101 N in Tillamook, many travelers include a visit to the Tillamook County Creamery, the visitor center for the home of Tillamook cheese, ice cream and fudge.

Continuing north, the drive is scenic as you skirt Tillamook Bay and pass through small towns. Just past Garibaldi, the Three Graces rock formation at the mouth of the bay entices many visitors to pull over. Past Manzanita, the roadside viewpoints as the highway climbs Neahkahnie Mountain offer panoramic view of miles of coastline where you just traveled. Hikers will want to spend to time in Oswald West State Park, but casual sightseers should consider Hug Point where, if it’s low tide, you can walk around the point to the north to a picturesque waterfall carved out of the sandstone. Highway-side viewpoints offer views of Haystack Rock as you approach the small beach community of Cannon Beach. You can walk to the rock at low tide and explore its tidepools by parking in the Midtown area of Cannon Beach by City Hall. The best views in town are had at Ecola State Park where easy walking paths offer views of the coastline, Haystack Rock and the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. There are also great hiking trails, but at minimum you should also drive the curvy, up-and-down, narrow road to Indian Beach within the park.

Seaside is a unique Oregon Coast experience and the state’s original beach resort town, still featuring family attractions in the crowded downtown including an arcade, indoor carousel, bumper cars and the now nearly 80-year-old Seaside Aquarium. The city is famous for its 1.5-mile oceanfront promenade and the automobile turnaround at the end of Broadway that offer a glimpse back to the early days of travel to Oregon’s Pacific Coast.

As you approach Astoria, history buffs are drawn to Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s encampment from 1806 and, to the west, Fort Stevens State Park where the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale are still visible on the beach. Astoria itself has more historical attractions, most notably the Columbia River Maritime Museum which is along the city’s riverwalk, a fun place to stroll and watch ships on the river.

My list would grow with increased time if you have it to explore this portion of the Oregon Coast, but this itinerary should keep you pretty busy!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on August 30th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

What is the weather at the Coast like in September?

Is is sunny or rainy on the Oregon Coast in September? Yes!

In case my sense of humor does not translate, you should be prepared for rain just about any time you visit the Oregon Coast, though September often offers some of the most dependably sunny weather of the year. September’s high temperatures average in the mid to high 60s f (18.5-20c). Low temperatures average in the mid 40s to low 50s (8-10.5c). Rain showers are not uncommon, though September is one of the drier months of the year averaging 2-3.5 inches (5-9cm) for the month and the chance of rain increases toward late September and October. I recently wrote a story about the unpredictable weather on the Oregon Coast and you might enjoy reading that on the Coast Explorer website.

Mid-September is a very popular time on the Oregon Coast and often, when asked, I will say it is my favorite time of year here. Although there may be fewer families traveling (with children back in school), I would suggest making advance reservations for accommodations, especially on weekends or at popular destinations.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on July 29th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Is Newport worth the trip from Yachats and Florence?

Newport has many great attractions that you might not want to miss. The historic bay front is uniquely interesting, a mix of tourist attractions and working waterfront. The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is on my top 10 list of places not to miss. It’s got a beautiful lighthouse, great views, bird watching, seal watching and beautiful tide pools if you visit at a low tide. The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport is a fantastic facility. Near Newport, Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock is always worth a visit. There are also several great restaurants in Newport. If I chose between Nye Beach and Agate Beach, it would be Agate Beach. Both are pretty much just flat stretches of beach, but Agate Beach is closer to Yaquina Head and more scenic to me. In general, I prefer the beaches away from Newport and concentrate on the other attractions there.

That said, when it comes to where to stay, I do like Yachats because it is close to the amazing Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and Heceta Head. To the north is Seal Rock and you could make Newport area attractions a day trip from Yachats if you don’t check those off your list as you are headed down the Coast. Yachats is a small town with limited restaurants and shops. Florence is a fun town with good shops and restaurants, but keep in mind it is on the river and is not a beach destination.

Washburne State Park and Honeyman State Park (in the Oregon Dunes) are both great parks and campgrounds. Washburne puts you closer to beach attractions like those in and near the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and Heceta Head. I love the hike from Washburne to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The Hobbit Trail is shorter, leading to a sandy beach. Honeyman State Park has a nice nature trail, but beyond that you are trudging through dunes (not a bad thing, but not really a trail). Honeyman is surrounded by dune areas open to ATVs, so as you get further from the park’s core, the more you hear and see ATVs. Keep in mind, Honeyman also has a freshwater lake for swimming too. I hope this doesn’t make your choice harder, but for hiking the dunes, my choice would be the John Dellenback Dunes Trail near the Eel Creek Campground in Lakeside. You really get the feeling of the immensity of the dunes and ATV noise is as minimal as any other area I’ve found. A second choice for hiking would be setting off from the Oregon Dunes Day Use area south of Honeyman State Park. It makes an easy trek to the ocean, at least as easy as it can be walking through dunes.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on July 11th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

What’s an interesting route to Newport? My 9-year-old is a big fan of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

The Newport area is great for kids. In addition to Ripley’s, there is also Undersea Gardens and Wax Works wax museum on the historic bayfront and the fabulous Oregon Coast Aquarium on the north side of the bay. The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is a great place for all ages. It’s a good place to spot harbor seals, observe bird life and it has a vibrant tidepool area accessed by stairway, so plan your visit for a low tide.

On the way to or from Newport you could include Seaside on your itinerary. It is the Coast’s most family friendly city with many family attractions. Your nine-year-old would likely be most interested in the large arcade (Funland), bumper cars, perhaps the indoor carousel and, for sure, the many candy stores. You can feed seals at the small and classic Seaside Aquarium, a much different experience than the elaborate Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. You could then enjoy a scenic drive along the coast to Newport.

If you have the time, you could also consider traveling further down the Coast to Sea Lion Caves in Florence. Newport to Florence is a beautifully scenic drive.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on June 14th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

We’ve never been west of the Rockies! What are the cannot-miss spots in Oregon?

I actually grew up in South Dakota so I definitely want you to have an amazing time. And I am absolutely sure you will!

Highway 101 down the Coast is an amazing drive. I’d highly, highly recommend this over taking I-5 South. There are tide pools, the Goonies House, crabbing, local surf spots, delicious seafood shacks, more tide pools, rocky beaches and caves… ahh. You should definitely check out the coast. It’s unlike the sandy beaches of California and is a lot more “wild.”

My favorite coastal spots are:

  1. Astoria, OR
    • Fort Stevens State Park has a really awesome old shipwreck on the beach and a great campground.
  1. Cannon Beach
    • Haystack Rock is a must-see.
  1. Oswald West State Park aka Short Sands Beach
    • If you want to try your hand at surfing, this is the local favorite.
  1. Tillamook
    • Tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory and taste some amazing ice cream.
  1. Newport
    • Visit Seal Rock, the Historic Bayfront District and Nye Beach.
  1. Florence
    • You’ll want to check out the South Jetty, Honeyman State Park and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area

If you’re heading toward Portland, I recommend:

  1. Angels Rest hike
  2. Eagle Creek hike
  3. Anything in Hood River
  4. Larch Mountain hike
  5. Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain hike
  6. Forrest Park via Wildwood Trail
  7. Mt. Tabor Park
  8. Stumptown coffee
  9. Blue Star Doughnuts
  10. Por Que No?! Taqueria
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What are the best places to take photographs on the Coast?

If enter Oregon at Brookings, you may want to make Harris Beach State Park your first stop, especially if you are there during low tide. Harris Beach is one of Oregon’s seven Marine Gardens that are protected intertidal areas. There are also interesting rock formations and this is a good marine life and bird-watching area. In any case, you will want to save some time for exploring the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile stretch of coast beginning just north of Brookings. There are several great stops. The easiest ones with great scenic bang for the buck include Whaleshead Beach, Natural Bridges and the Arch Rock Viewpoint. If you have time for a short hike, there may be none better than Thunder Rock Cove made a little longer by continuing to Secret Beach.

The drive north to Port Orford is scenic and you will be tempted to stop, but my favorite stops for photography include the Otter Point State Recreation Site just north of Gold Beach and the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. I would take at least a full day in the Bandon area. The beach at Bandon is one of the best for photography with dramatic rocky spires and other rock formations along the shoreline and just offshore. Seals are frequently seen below Coquille Point at Elephant Rock. The Coquille River Lighthouse is just north of town and is worth a visit. North of Bandon, you can follow the Bandon to Charleston Tour Route to Cape Arago – a must stop for photographers. You’ll find it hard to pull yourself away from the amazing views along the paved walkways and hiking trails at Shore Acres State Park. The short hike from Shore Acres to Simpson Reef is one of my favorites. Simpson Reef is one of the best places on the Oregon Coast to observe seals and sea lions. Bring your longest lens for amazing shots. You can also drive to Simpson Reef and then the end of the Cape at Cape Arago State Park for more great views. If it’s low tide, the South Cove is a remarkable tidepool area.

The Oregon Dunes is the next amazing natural area as you travel north. Much of the easily accessed areas are set aside for ATVs, so as a photographer, I prefer places like the Oregon Dunes Day Use Overlook (with dune access) and Honeyman State Park for shooting. The best dunes photography I’ve enjoyed requires hiking the John Dellenback Dunes Trail near the Eel Lake Campground,

I’d reserve another full day for the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Cape Perpetua and Yachats area. There are highway viewpoints of the Heceta Head Lighthouse just past Sea Lion Caves, but it is worth the half-mile hike up to the beautiful lighthouse from the State Park. You could spend days within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, but not to miss are Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well at Cooks Chasm and Devils Churn just to the north. These are best a mid-to-high tides for the most exciting ocean action, but this is great tidepool area too. On cloudy or overcast days, the rainforest trails make a nice option.

As you continue north, I like to check out Seal Rock State Recreation Site. There are scenic overlooks and the beach can be quite interesting especially at low tide. I would save a majority of my time on this leg of your journey for the natural areas near Newport. The Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site offer good views of the beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge and Oregon’s only wooden lighthouse. Just north of town is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, great for scenic photography including a pretty lighthouse and marine life and bird watching. If you can plan your visit for low tide, a stairway leads to another of Oregon’s Marine Gardens, a great place to photograph purple sea urchins. Just north of Newport is the Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area, another must stop. You’ll also want to check out the view from the Cape Foulweather lookout.

If you have time, follow the Three Capes Scenic Route turning off at Pacific City for views of Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout, though the easiest stop for lots of scenic opportunity is Cape Meares with its lighthouse. For the rest of the North Oregon Coast, I would reserve most of my time for the area near Cannon Beach. There’s an amazing viewpoint as you travel north of Manzanita and the highway climbs the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain. Potential stops as you continue include Short Sand Beach, a short walk away in Oswald West State Park and Hug Point – a must stop if its low tide where a picturesque waterfall flows onto the beach just around the point north of the parking area. Cannon Beach itself is home to Haystack Rock, great for tidepools or for framing as a foreground at sunset, along with the rocky spires known as The Needles nearby. Watch the grassy flanks of Haystack Rock for Tufted Puffins. It’s one of the best places to see the colorful birds in the Northwest. Ecola State Park would be my other don’t miss stop. The main viewpoint is fabulous and the Indian Beach area is also amazing.

Lastly, you probably won’t want to miss photographing the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale in Fort Steven State Park as you approach Astoria.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on May 16th, 2015 - Post Your Answer
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