At the top of my list would be Ecola State Park, just 15 minutes south of Seaside. It offers easy walking paths with beautiful coastal views of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and other sea stacks, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and the capes and headlands miles to the south. It can be a great bird-watching location, too. In September, seabirds will be gone from their rocky nesting grounds, but Brown Pelicans, cormorants, bald eagles and many varieties of woodland birds are common. Be sure to visit the Indian Beach portion of the park, too. It offers some great views of interesting rock formations.
Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach is another must. Again, you will have missed seabirds, like the small colony of Tufted Puffins that nests there, but there are always a variety of birds and many photo opportunities. Plan your trip for a low tide to explore the tidepools. The little town of Cannon Beach is also very picturesque and fun to explore. It is known as one of the Northwest’s top art towns with several galleries and upscale shops and restaurants. Cannon Beach also has a short nature trail that skirts Ecola Creek, a good spot to look for birds and river otters. The nature trail passes the city’s water treatment lagoons that are also good bird-watching locations. Keep your eye out for herds of Roosevelt Elk in these areas; they are commonly sighted this time of year.
There are some nice areas just south of Cannon Beach you will want to explore. There are nice highway side viewpoints just south of town and some State Parks you should consider. I like Arcadia Beach and Hug Point for photography. Both offer access to beaches that are worth exploring. If you avoid high tide at Hug Point, you can walk to the north around the point to a picturesque small waterfall carved out of sandstone. Further south is Oswald West State Park that offers a few options for short walks, as well as longer hikes. The walk from the main parking area to Short Sand Beach is an easy one through rainforest to the beautiful, small cove beach. Further south down the highway, a small gravel parking area offers a short walk to Devil’s Cauldron, a basin of turbulent wave action at the bottom of sheer cliffs. A little further south are several turnouts along the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain offer expansive view of the coast to the south.
For longer day trips south, I most enjoy the Three Capes Scenic Route. The most rewarding location for a short visit is Cape Meares that offers a short trail that circles the edge of the cape, emerging at a lighthouse. You can make a full day of this and also visit Cape Lookout State Park and Cape Kiwanda, then return to Seaside via the US 101.
For day trips north, my favorite stop for photography would be Fort Stevens State Park where the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale can still be seen on the beach. The South Jetty area of the park is known as a good bird watching location.
During your time in Seaside, you will want to visit the estuary just north of downtown. A small park offers easy trails and often good bird watching.
I can think of several scenic tours you might enjoy. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a great choice — lakes, mountains and lots of beautiful forest. Take Highway 26 east through Prineville to the Ochocos — another great backroad through forests. Old McKenzie Highway, Highway 242, is amazing, as is the Aufderheide, Scenic Highway 19. A trip to Crater Lake would be well worth the time, too. Have a great trip!
If you have a rental car, everything you’ll want to do will be easy! There are a ton of great, kid and adult friendly hikes around the area that I’m sure you’ll love.
If you’re looking for vistas and mountain views:
If you’re looking for forested tree tunnels and waterfalls:
If you’re looking for places to ski:
There’s also dog-sledding at Mt. Bachelor! It could make a good day/overnight trip to ski at Mt. Bachelor and then do a dog-sled tour in the backcountry.
My favorite hikes if you head towards Bend:
Also, would you like to soak in some natural hot springs?
If you need any rentals or gear for any of the adventures you’ll go on, I’d highly, highly recommend stopping into the Mountain Shop in Portland. They’re the oldest (and greatest, in my opinion) gear shop in the country.
Have the best time in Oregon!
|Outdoor Adventure, Snow Sports|
Much has been written about finding fossils on the Central Oregon Coast north of Newport. I expect the focus on fossils on this portion of the Oregon Coast is primarily due to fossil enthusiast Guy DiTorrice who freely shares his knowledge. You may want to contact him regarding information on other areas of the Oregon Coast where fossils are likely to be found.
I expect there are many other areas of the Coast where fossils can be found that have been less publicized. According to the Oregon Coast Visitor Association website, the beaches north of Cape Blanco are a known fossil location.
Similar to hunting for agates, fossils are likely to be found on beaches adjacent to rocky headlands and cliffsides. Winter is typically the best season to hunt for fossils as high tides and heavy surf dislodge materials from the edge of the shoreline. It should be noted that by Oregon law, it is illegal to dig or remove fossils from rocks or cliffsides, but a small quantity (one gallon) of “souvenirs” can be removed if found loose on the ground.
I am answering your question while staring at two feet of snow and 10 degrees out…..so there’s no golf being played right now in Bend, the home of some 23 golf courses.
As far as playing golf in the winter, it all depends on what area of the state that is more tolerate to weather and what courses stay open year round. Several Central Oregon courses are open year round, such as Brasada Ranch and Juniper Golf Course. There are also courses open all year round in Southern Oregon and along the Coast. So, yes, you can golf in Oregon during winter — but you might have to drive farther!
I can answer this one pretty well, as one of my relatives uses a power chair and we’ve gone many places together over the years. Are you looking for camping sites? Or parks and natural areas? Here are a few ideas:
Sunnyside Park and RiverBend Park are two very pretty campgrounds on mostly flat ground with lots of paved walkways. Sunnyside is right on the shores of Green Peter Reservoir, and RiverBend is on the banks of the South Santiam River. Both are very easy to get around in when using a chair.
Champoeg State Park outside of Newberg is another good option — a variety of camping options (tent, RV, cabin, yurt) in a mostly flat and level area with paved walking trails. Some of them are formally designated ADA-accessible, but all of them would be relatively easy to get around in a chair. It’s in a pretty part of the Willamette Valley, nearby to lots of great wineries, and has some interesting historic sites within the park.
The Oregon Garden is another great place to visit for folks using chairs — it’s an 80-acre botanical garden (bigger than Buchart Gardens in Canada!) — and the entire place is ADA compliant. There’s also an adjacent Oregon Garden Resort which has ADA compliant rooms you can book for the night.
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.
Of course, you’ll be deep in Wine Country there, and I should encourage you to stop in at one of the bajillion wineries for a drop of pinot — it is definitely worth a stop. As for beer, a couple to put on your list are Golden Valley (McMinnville), one of Oregon’s older breweries and a good one. The long-time brewer there, Mark Vickery, went off and started Grain Station (McMinnville), which should probably be your first stop. Great story, great place — and great beer. Another brewery I love is Heater Allen (also McMinnville), but they focus on lagers so you’ll have to decide whether that fits the bill. (Lagers have finally started to get popular in Oregon, and this brewery is one of the big reasons why.)
A couple other places to note: You might consider driving to Salem to check out Santiam, which is an interesting brewery that does mainly cask ales. It’s unusual and you might find it interesting. There’s also a new brewery in Dundee called Deception. Breweries open so fast in Oregon that I’m falling behind. I still haven’t made it out there. Perhaps you can go and tell me what it’s like.
|Beer, Willamette Valley|
For the most concentrated wine tasting area, stay either in the Yamhill Valley (Newberg, Dundee and McMinnville area, where the majority of the Willamette Valley’s wineries can be found) or in Salem (easy access to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA).
My go-to fun, budget-priced hotels in Yamhill Valley:
McMinnville and Newberg also have some good standard chain hotels:
Near Salem, closer to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA:
|Willamette Valley, Wine|
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.