Which cities on the Oregon Coast offer the best natural sites and unique geological features?

There would be many cities, towns and natural areas I would recommend along the 363-mile Oregon Coast for your September birthday trip. Since you like natural areas with unique geologic formations, I’d recommend a visit to the Central Oregon Coast. Newport is centrally located and is one of the coast’s larger towns, but will offer access to great natural areas and attractions nearby. Newport itself features the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium, has nice beaches and an interesting bayfront area that is blend of working waterfront and tourist attractions. Just to the north is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area featuring one of Oregon’s prettiest lighthouse in a spectacular setting at the end of the cape offering panoramic views and great wildlife and marine life watching. A stairway leads to one of the most beautiful and easily accessible tidepool areas on the coast. Just a little further north is Otter Rock, another headland overlooking a unique geologic formation called Devil’s Punchbowl. Also worth a visit to the north is Depoe Bay, the world’s smallest navigable harbor. The town is built right on the edge of the ocean with a seawall where spouting horns send geysers of water high into the air when the surf is up. There is a whale watching center here which is one of the most dependable locations to spot gray whales during the non-migratory times of year.

South of Newport, the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area also offers access to great natural areas and viewing of unique geologic formations. Trails and roadside parking areas offer viewing of Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn, Thor’s Well and Cook’s Chasm, interesting geologic formations driven by the ocean waves. There is a great interpretive center here and hiking trails through old growth Sitka Spruce rainforest.

If you’d prefer to stay in a small town, you could consider Yachats (close to Cape Perpetua), which would make day trips possible to Newport’s attractions and other attractions to the south like Heceta Head (another beautiful lighthouse) and Sea Lion Caves, one of the coast’s longest running attractions with an elevator down to the world’s largest sea cave frequented by sea lions.

There would be other options for your trip in other regions of the coast too. On the
South Oregon Coast I would recommend the Gold Beach area where you could explore the beautiful stretch of coast to the south known as the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This stunning stretch offers viewpoints and access to coastline and beaches decorated with dramatic rock formations. Bandon also offers one of the most interesting beaches with rock formations adjacent to this charming beach town. From Bandon, a day trip to the spectacular State Parks on Cape Arago, southwest of Coos Bay would be a must for you.

On the North Oregon Coast, I would recommend the Cannon Beach area, home to Oregon’s iconic Haystack Rock, famous for tidepools and nesting seabirds. There are nearby State Parks that offer beach access and viewpoints of sea stack decorated shoreline. Ecola State Park is located in the north end of Cannon Beach and Oswald West State Park is located just about 10 minutes to the south. Cannon Beach is another charming beach town known as one of the coast’s more upscale destinations and one of the Northwest’s top art towns.

January 8th, 2013

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About Ask Oregon Expert Gary Hayes

Gary Hayes is publisher of Coast Explorer Magazine and founder of Pelican Productions, Inc, a travel media and marketing company based in Seaside. Gary is a native Oregonian whose earliest memories include working on his grandfather’s fishing boat on the Oregon Coast. An extensively published photographer, Gary now lives in Cannon Beach and loves exploring the Northwest’s dramatic landscapes and capturing its natural wonders. He does clean up nicely though and he may also be found sampling Northwest wines and fine regional cuisine at every opportunity. He is a food and wine writer and is the Executive Director of the SavorNW Wine Awards.

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