The Oregon Coast in Seven Days
Our road trip along the Oregon Coast began as we drove through Brookings to get to the Sam Broadman State Scenic Corridor. We couldn’t do all the hikes, but the online brochure helped us identify the easy ones with great views, so we hit the Whaleshead Overlook, Natural Bridges and Arch Rock on our way to the Pacific Reef Inn at Gold Beach. Our room was wonderful with a balcony overlooking the water where we could relax in the two rockers and watch the waves and the light show.
We had planned to experience Jerry’s Rogue Boat trip, but we changed plans and saved that for another trip. Instead, we stepped into the past and visited the Prehistoric Gardens located in an old rainforest. The garden is the dream of Ernie Nelson who did all the research and created all the sculptures, although he did have some help. (The dinosaurs were created based on the findings at that time.) He opened his dream garden to the public in 1955, a dream that grew to include 23 life-size dinosaurs based on the knowledge at the time. The Brachiosaurus alone took four years to complete. The rainforest setting is a perfect backdrop for the large prehistoric beings with signage explaining the dinosaurs and the plants. We never knew what beast would greet us around the next corner. At the end, we realized we had missed two dinosaurs but, we found out that, as perhaps happened in real life, they had been “killed” when a massive tree fell on them.
The Prehistoric Gardens
We tried to find Otter State Park, but the exit led us down an increasingly less paved and bumpy road before we decided going further was not a good idea. Instead, we stopped at the Mary D. Hume wreck on our way back to town. The boat has a long history from the time it was launched as a steamer in 1881 to carry goods between the Rogue River and San Francisco to its time as a whaling vessel, to life as a tugboat, a fishing boat, and a towboat. When the Mary D. Hume was given to the local historical society, she had served longer than any other boat in the Pacific coastal service. Now only her remains are visible as she slowly sinks into the waters where she served for so long. Conveniently located in the same parking lot is the Porthole Café where we had a bowl of clam chowder before visiting the museum/gift store alongside it in the Jerry’s Rogue Boat area.
After an afternoon of catching up, we had an excellent dinner at Spinner’s which was in walking distance from the hotel, then back to the room to enjoy the outside show.
On the road again! This day our first stop was in Bandon which is perhaps best known for its outstanding golf courses. Of course, to get to Bandon, we had to share the road with massive logging trucks as we wound our way around the coast. The scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and sea stacks that rise dramatically from the ocean made the drive an incredible trip.
Our stop in Bandon was not at a golf course or even at a casino but, instead, a cranberry bog. I had pictures of television commercials with farmers with their waders standing in water as they harvested their crop. Guess what?!? What we saw was true to that picture. Dennis Bowman, a fifth-generation cranberry farmer, gives tours of the cranberry harvesting process. We were fortunate that his nephew was harvesting early so Dennis invited us to meet him at one of the bogs. He carefully explained the process and answered all our questions. We had a great experience watching the harvest!
Near Coos Bay we left the 101 for OR-540 for a picnic then on to Cape Arago Scenic Drive. We stopped at the pullout to take photos of the lighthouse before driving further to Simpson Reef to see the hundreds of seals and sea lions. (If you go further to Cape Arago North trail you can walk down to see the sea lions and seals from a different angle. Since it was a steep walk, we chose just to watch these fine animals from the Simpson’s Reef Overlook.) We drove on to Florence and then to Yachats where we found Overleaf Lodge and Spa, our stop for the night. We drove to Ona’s for an amazing dinner of oysters on the half shell, homemade sourdough bread and clam chowder.
The view from our room was spectacular which was even more enjoyable with the breakfast that Overleaf brought to our room. (Because of Covid, they only provided room service.) After a breakfast of pancakes, banana coffee cake, spinach frittata, fruit, and homemade granola, we rolled ourselves to the beach for a brief walk before heading to Devil’s Churn, Thor’s Well and the Spouting Horn, which was my favorite. These three natural wonders highlight the strength and beauty of the ocean waves. (Check high tide times for best times to visit.) There were many trails calling our names, but the Rangers were great to help us as we considered the wisdom of trying them. We always appreciate Park Rangers knowledge and helpfulness.
We continued our journey to Newport for our stay at the Hallmark Resort. We made the most of the rainy day with a trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We were excited to be out of the rain inside the facility—until we realized that most of the aquarium was outside! We hurried from covered spot to covered spot before entering the building for some dry time looking at exhibits. The Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline exhibit and artwork gave a fascinating insight into paleontology. We were ready to call it a night and dry out by the time we were through with the aquarium.
Thankfully, the sun was out the next morning, so we walked to Yaquina Bay lighthouse and then drove to Publix pier. The pier was busy with people fishing for Dungeness crabs and fish. Everyone was very friendly and answered questions that we had. We went into the Rogue Brewery at the end of the pier, but there are no tours. We were intrigued by the ads for the beerquarium, but the cashier said it’s just a gimmick—no kidding—with beer bottles in front of window showing ocean.
Our next action was to drive to Yaquina Head lighthouse. (Yes, there is both a Yaquina Bay lighthouse and a Yaquina Head lighthouse.) The paved walk was an easy way to approach. Afterwards we took the Otter Crest Loop to the Devil’s Punchbowl followed by a nice break of ice cream and coffees at Cliffside Coffee and Sweets and the Flying Dutchman winery. (Check out the back patio for scenic picnic tables and a large barrel with a seat is perfect for lovebirds. You’ll have a barrel of fun!).
We headed to Depoe Bay. We did not stop at the scenic view because there was no available parking, but we found a lone parking space later on and walked across the city’s bridge to see the world’s smallest harbor—or at least one of the most difficult to enter. On our way back to the Hallmark Resort in Newport, we stopped in the Nye Beach area to explore the many interesting shops and restaurants. We had dinner at Georgie’s Restaurant which had excellent seafood soup and steak.
And on our way to Tillamook! Our first stop was at the Devil’s Punchbowl for another look at this natural wonder. The level of water actually seemed lower even though it was closer to high tide. This visit the sun did break through the clouds to highlight the red strata in the punchbowl rim. We had to have another cup of cappuccino and hot tea at Cliffside Coffee and Sweets and then a restroom break at the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl State Park before heading to Tillamook on the 101. Even though 101 in this area is not labeled scenic, we enjoyed the drive through green valleys and small towns. The road passed over many fast-flowing streams, creeks, and even rivers. Signs told us that elk could be crossing, but the elk were definitely hiding.
Tillamook held multiple great surprises and disappointments. The Tillamook Air Museum was an amazing surprise. The museum is housed in Hangar B, which was built in 1943 to house K-Class airships (blimps). The blimps were 252 feet long and 80 feet in diameter. Hangar B, which contained blimps is too big to be imagined! The wooden building, one of only 7 left in existence, is over 15 stories tall. There are too many aircraft and vehicles displayed for me to list, but the hangar also displays an Air Raid Shelter, miniatures of different vessels, and a WWII museum. The visit was fascinating. (Do wear a jacket if it is cool outside. The building is not heated and holds in the cold.)
Next on our day’s agenda was a stop at the Blue Heron French Cheese Co. to see how they make brie and to eat lunch. We were disappointed to find that they no longer make cheese on the premises, nor do they have any displays showing the process. Lunch was still an option until we found out we couldn’t get a cheese plate because they were out of their own brie. Oh well….
Tillamook Creamery was our next stop. The line for ice cream was out the door so we headed in and up to the main area to learn how they make cheese and watch them packaging it—very interesting. On our way out of the building we were given an individually packaged cheese and a yogurt—great treats and a wonderful introduction to Tillamook Creamery’s products. (They also have a snack bar with cheese curds, grilled cheese, mac and cheese and a cheeseburger!) We stopped at Pelican Brewery for a late light lunch of Tillamook cheese curds and roasted Brussel sprouts—excellent!
Cape Meares State Park was our last stop before heading to Cannon Beach for the night. Be careful to follow the signs to Cape Meares (Hwy 131) instead of relying on GPS since the road our GPS wanted us to take was closed. The Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest on the Oregon coast at 38 feet, but its location and strong Fresnel lens ensured that it was very beneficial for sailors from 1890 to 1963. From the parking lot there is a paved path to the lighthouse and another to the Octopus Tree, a Sitka Spruce surrounded by legends. Was the shape made by nature or did Native Americans form it in this inverted octopus shape to hold their canoes that carried the dead? Whatever story you choose to believe, it is fun to walk up the path to see it.
And on to our last stop of the trip—Cannon Beach and our hotel the Surf Sand Resort for two nights. The convenient location made it easy to walk to breakfast and dinner and enjoy the beauties of the beach, especially the Haystack (think The Goonies) and the surrounding tidal pools. We had our first dinner at Driftwood Restaurant.
We used Cannon Beach as our base for exploring Astoria, also. Our first stop was at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park to visit Fort Clatsop, the recreation of the fort designed by Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark duo.
The Park Ranger at the fort was in character and answered questions as though he was a resident of the fort during Lewis and Clark’s adventures. (I’m not certain that the residents wore masks during the 1805-1806 time when they were there, but we appreciated the safety precautions.) The fort and the museum gave an interesting perspective of the famous explorations.
We started our visit to Astoria at the Astoria Column, a 125-foot landmark built in 1926. The column itself serves as the canvas for a mural that spirals up to the top and shows the history of Oregon. We did not climb to the top, but we enjoyed the panoramic views from the mountain top. We also bought two gliders, the old-fashioned balsa wood ones. Previous visitors through whatever they wanted off the top of the column which often resulted in injuries to those below. Now, the gift store sells gliders that visitors are encouraged to sail.
After enjoying the views, we drove down to Astoria’s Riverfront and easily found convenient parking for lunch and then a self-guided walking tour of the Riverfront and historical sites around town. We visited Captain George Flavel House Museum for a look at the lifestyle of Astorians in the 1880s. We could not leave Astoria without a visit to the Old Clatsop County Jail which now serves as the site of the Oregon Film Museum, especially The Goonies, a film that has never lost its attraction for audiences. We enjoyed walking around the rest of the downtown area and visiting boutiques, many of which featured beachy-type souvenirs and necessities.
Back to Cannon Beach to walk along the beach and watch the sunset where we were excited to see the green flash for our first time ever! (We hope it’s not the last time to see this rare phenomenon.)
Our final day before returning to reality. We walked into town for a wonderful breakfast outside Lazy Susan Café where we had our last Marion berries, this time in delicious scones, along with other luscious foods. We wandered around the shopping areas and made a brief visit to the Wine Shack to sample Puffin Wines. (Don’t worry. The wine is not made out of puffins!)
We drove to Ecola State Park to look out to sea at the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, a place that deserves its name of Terrible Tilly. The lighthouse took two years to build and has a history of death, including its later use as a columbarium, a building for holding cremation urns. The lighthouse now serves as a nesting place for seabirds and sea lions. We were able to see Indian Beach were Sacajawea first saw the ocean and where Lewis and Clark’s men found a whale that provided them meat and fuel.
We had dinner at the Castaway Restaurant which is written up as a laidback beach bar, but the indoor atmosphere and food belied our expectations. We ordered lobster bisque, salad, and the crab ravioli, each of which was brought out as a separate and luscious course. The timing and service were impeccable.
We spent the rest of the day further exploring the beach and watching the many activities going on, from ballgames, to weddings, to a puppy running crazily in an unwanted winter outfit. The bonfires provided by the hotel were beacons for guests as night fell on our final night in Oregon before driving to Portland for our morning flight home to get ready for our next adventure.