The Beautiful Oregon Coast
It's the Coast, Not the Beach
The Oregon Coast: basalt rock cliffs, long sandy beaches and awesome tide pools, colonies of Sea Lions on the rocks, whales spouting off and breaching in the distance and beautiful sunsets. It is magical and in Oregon we call it the coast, not the beach).
I lived in Oregon for 20 years and once spent an entire week by myself camping on the coast from Florence to Astoria. My favorite section is the CENTRAL COAST between Florence and Lincoln City. Here are my favorite things to do and see while there, as well as places to stay and eat.
A Quick Coastal Overview
The Oregon Coast is usually thought of in 3 sections: North, Central and South. Each section is actually a bit different from the others.
The NORTH COAST is popular with visitors from Portland. Astoria, is the northern-most city and is parallel to Portland at the mouth of the Columbia River. There is a beautiful bridge there which takes you to the Washington side. In the northern section you will also find the Lewis and Clark camp and the Tillamook Cheese plant where you can take a tour. Seaside has accessible beaches and lots of activity and is very popular--good for families, but a bit more touristy than I care for. Cannon Beach is a cute little town with very pretty rocky views.
The CENTRAL COAST, which this lens will cover, starts in Lincoln City, which is also very popular with sandy beaches, and ends in Florence, with its nearby sand dunes.
The SOUTH COAST begins at Florence and includes Coos Bay and Bandon, again with some great rock outcroppings, as well as a strong Native American heritage. It is known for its oysters and cranberries. At Brookings, near the California border, you enter into the Redwoods region.
Getting to the Central Oregon Coast
Begin your trip to the central Oregon coast from Eugene. Choose a route that takes you into the city of Florence where you will meet up with Route 101. After exploring the Florence area, head north and you will be entering the Central Coast area. Most people reach the far northern section by way of Portland. If you want to travel the entire coast, I would give it at least a week, so you can take it easy and enjoy yourself.
Click on the lettered points on the map to see the names of the locations.
Places to Stay on the Central Coast
- Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport--My Favorite!
Newport has a small downtown on the bay where the fishing boats come in. The Sylvia Beach Hotel is located on the ocean side of town on Nye Beach and is a cozy, funky, refurbished historic hotel, now B&B, with author-themed rooms and a library.
- Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast
Aaaah...this is quite the place to stay. Recently renovated, this lighthouse keeper's home is very high on the list of great accommodations. The location and view is spectacular. The rooms are luxurious and the food is delicious.
- Terry-a-While Motel
Terry-a-While offers accommodations on the beach between Yachats and Waldport and is a good place to stay if you want to be able to walk right out onto the sandy beach from your room, a hard thing to find. It's functional (kitchens), not luxurious.
- Edgewater Cottages near Waldport
A very popular place. I have never stayed here, but had hoped to and did take a tour of some "cottages". I have friends who have stayed there and love it. The houses offered are very different from each other and can accommodate groups.
Places to Eat on the Central Oregon Coast
In addition to the two downtown restaurants listed here, there are other good eateries in downtown Newport: one is a nice microbrewery. I am not as familiar with many of these new places, so have not included them here, but I'm sure if they are thriving that they are very good.
- Mo's Chowder House
When in Florence, Newport or Depoe Bay, you must eat at Mo's. It is part of the Oregon Coast experience. Don't expect a fine dining experience! It is much like a clam shack on the east coast. You will be seated at long tables with other customers.
- Canyon Way Bookstore & Restaurant, Newport Oregon
Yes, it's bookstore AND it's a very good restaurant, too. Wonderful food and atmosphere and excellent reviews, of late, too.
Guides for Hikes and Walks on the Oregon Coast
I am very familiar with this author who has been writing about hikes in Oregon for many years. You can't go wrong with this book or the next one.
Places to Visit Along the Central Coast
There are many, many spots to stop along the coast of Oregon. So much of it's coastline is public property. Check the tide charts as this will be a factor in what you are able to see. If the tide is minus or very low, you will have great tide pool views. If the tides are high, you should have better wave action and spouting horn views.
- Oregon Coast Aquarium - Newport
Just outside of Newport proper, this is a very nice medium-sized aquarium with some fun-to-watch outside exhibits including otters and octopi. Inside, my favorite display is the jellyfish exhibit--very ethereal.
- Seal Rock
This is a very pretty and interesting stop with a big rock as tall as a hill jutting out in to the sea and good tide pools at low tide. It is located south of Newport.
- Sea Lion Caves
Sea Lion Caves is actually a nice spot. I tend to shy away from the touristy things like this, but you do have a great view of the Sea Lions inside the caves. It is a big echo chamber of Sea Lion roars. It is worth a visit, at least once.
- Strawberry Hill
This is a hard stop to find. It is marked, but comes up suddenly around a bend. If you pass it, turn around and go back. At low tide you can walk out on the rocks, see tide pools and starfish on the rocks and seals lounging nearby.
- Siuslaw National Forest - Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
The entrance to the visitor center for Cape Perpetua is well marked and is on the hill side. In the visitor center you can view the ocean through scopes and they will help you look for whales. You may want to stop here first and get oriented. Cape P
Another long-time local author who is an expert on hikes in the area.
Whales and the Oregon Coast
Whales migrate along the Oregon Coast and head south from December through early February and back north from March through October. For the northern trek, most pass by in March and April, but some do hang around and it is still possible to see whales throughout the summer.
- All About the 'Free Willy' Whale, Keiko
Keiko, the killer whale made famous by the Free Willy movies, was a resident of the Oregon Coast Aquarium in order to rehabilitate him for a return to the wild. I remember watching the special truck which brought him to Oregon. He later died at sea.
- Whale Watching Spoken Here
This is a volunteer guide program for whale-watching during peak gray whale migration. Trained volunteers are stationed at twenty-eight locations on or near the Oregon Coast.
A Good Reference Book for Oregon Coast Travel
The Insider Guides are all very good, I have found. This will give you information on more than just the Central Coast of Oregon. After all, you may want to travel the whole length of this incredible coastline.
Miscellaneous Tips - Just a Few Precautions
- For all you easterners, remember to say "Oragun", not Oregone.
- And Ya-hots, for Yachats.
- Watch out for waves and, as it is said, never turn your back on them. There is such a thing as a rogue or sneaker wave and people die from them every year.
- Be careful to not stand on the log piles as the waves can easily roll them and you will go with them.
- Don't pick up the animals from the tide pools, especially the starfish. Though tempting, when you pick up starfish you tear off their little feet.
- Be careful of the slippery seaweed on the rocks in the tide pools and don't go in those areas with bare feet as the barnacles and mussels will cut your feet.
- In the Northwest it is the "coast", not the "beach" or the "shore".
Well, you have to have one of these, especially if this will be a new experience for you. There is so much to see and you will be very curious about it all, I guarantee.
Simple Joys at the Oregon Coast
Here is a list of other things I have fun doing when visiting the Oregon coast.
- Looking for agates among the rocks on the shore. The best place to look is where there is a small rise of land behind the shore and/or a little stream coming down. Watch for rocks with a sort of semi-translucent quality.
- Looking for fossilized shells. Some beaches have quite a few fossils. They look like a cross between a real shell and a rock.
- Looking for glass floats. After storms, sometimes you can find glass floats, but you will have lots of competition and you have to get out there very early.
- Finding a wash up of Velella Jellyfish on the shore. It is beautiful and they signal soon-to-come glass floats and other interesting debris.
- Watching the fishing boats bring in their catch at the docks in Newport.
- Watching the sun seemingly disappear into the water at sunset.
- And...in the winter months in Oregon when it is perpetually raining in the Willamette Valley (from Portland to Eugene and points south), the coast can be a welcome change. For, often when it is cloudy inland, the coast will be sunny. And if not, well, at least you have a completely different view.
Agates & Velella
More information about 2 of my favorite finds at the coast.
- A "Sail Jellyfish"
A great close-up photo of a Velella by John Harvey.
- Agates of the Oregon Coast...
Rockhound's Guide to Collecting Oregon Coast Agate and 15-20 million year old marine fossils. A site with excellent information on Oregon agates, including many photos and tips on looking for them. It also has links to other sites about the Oregon Co
More Info on the Oregon Coast
- Visit the Oregon Coast - Oregon Coast Visitors Association - OCVA
The Oregon Coast Visitor's Association provides travel and tourism information to those planning a vacation on the beautiful Oregon coast.
- Oregon Coast Webcam
Updated every 60 minutes, this webcam looks out over Agate Beach which is located in Newport.
- The Oregon Coast and Its Denizens - New York Times
A wonderfully-written article by Russ Rymer for the New York Times about a trip taken to Newport, Oregon and his stay at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
If You Are....
If you are a nature-lover, an artist, a photographer, a writer, a hiker, a romantic.......you will love the Central Oregon Coast. I can hardly wait to go back.
If you go, I hope you love it as much as I do.
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