The Oregon coastby Jim Brossard
Here is your travel guide for your trip up the Oregon Coast. It was generated from memories, red-lined atlases and travel logs.
When travelling the Oregon Coast, we almost exclusively camp in oceanside state parks. We have found that they are all great - you can't go wrong with any of them. You'll also notice that I mention lighthouses many times. If there was a bumper sticker that said, "I Stop for Lighthouses", I'd put it on the rear bumper of our Saturn. If you're hikers, you have an unlimited number of trails to explore along the coast. I know there's lots that I've missed. We find something new each time we visit the Oregon Coast but hopefully others will add to this and make it a complete Oregon Coast Guide. Note that, to really see the total grandeur of the Oregon Coast, one should do as Russ Mahoney does. He says, "I just move 50 miles and camp for a while as I use the toad to explore."
CAVEAT: We have never traveled the Oregon Coast in winter. Our trips of late have been only in spring and fall. Things will probably look different on your trip. Also, if it is really stormy, you may want to look for more sheltered campgrounds than some of the ones I've identified. I consider only Bullards Beach, Sunset Bay, Honeyman Memorial, Beverly Beach and Fort Stevens to be sheltered from the sea.
Happy RVing, Jim.
Just a few miles north of the CA-OR state line is Brookings. I recommend Harris Beach SP, a few miles North of town, as your base camp to explore the area. The park's campground is located high above the Pacific. It has a secluded sandy beach and spectacular views of the rugged coastline and offshore rocks. The Oregon Coast is a beachcomber's paradise, with a variety of bottles, boxes, kegs, lumber, and Japanese glass float deposited along the beaches. Rock hunting is also productive, with a variety of precious and semi-precious gemstones being found. The state line area has a naturally mild climate. Winter temperatures range from lows in the 40s to highs in the 50s. Normal July temperatures range from the low 50s to the mid-60s. About 90% of the Easter lilies sold in the US and Canada are grown here and in nearby California. Azalea City Park has many, many native azeleas, some are 300 years old and extremely large, on its 70-80 acre grounds. The best time to visit the park is in April and May when the azeleas are in bloom. Recommended places to eat are the "Great American Smokehouse and Seafood Company" and "Smuggler's Cove." GAS&SC is our favorite and is located on 101, 1-2 miles south of the Brookings-Harbor Shopping Center. Smuggler's Cove is a close second and has an ocean view. Going south on 101 from Harris Beach SP, take the first right after the bridge and keep right until you see the ocean and restaurant.
Continuing North is spectacular Boardman State Park where your RV will travel some 700 feet above the raging sea. There are many great overlooks - Pistol River is just one example. All are a photographer's dream!
Gold Beach gets its name naturally. In the mid-1800s, Placer miners worked the nearby beaches. It was a must stop for us with the children. Here you can board the "Mail Boat" that runs up the Rogue River for 54 miles to Paradise Lodge. It's a fun ride through very shallow whitewater at high speed with frequent stops to observe the wildlife. Lunch is at a rustic lodge where various wildlife can be spoted. The kid in you will love the ride and the adult in your will love the scenery. It's an all-day trip; however, I'm not sure they operate in the winter. Call 1-800-458-3511 for info. Along the "Rogue River Trail" are 7 lodges, spaced an easy day's hike apart. At day's end, you can slip off your day pack, shower, dine and sleep in a nice bed. In the morning, have breakfast, pick up a lunch and enjoy another day on the trail. You can get a ride back to Gold Beach on a jet boat from any of the lodges. When staying in Gold Beach, we camp at Ireland's Oceanview RV Park. For eats, I suggest "Nor'wester Seafood" west of 101, just South of the bridge. They serve seafood, steaks, chicken, pasta plus lamb chops - Janet loves lamb!
About 55 miles north of the CA-OR state line is Port Orford. It is the most westerly incorporated city in the lower 48. If you like lighthouses, you should stop at Cape Blanco SP (5 miles north and 5 miles west of Port Orford) and check out the historic 1870 Cape Blanco Lighthouse. It is the most westerly lighthouse in the lower 48 and Oregon's oldest continuously operated lighthouse. You can drive almost right to it. Other special attractions in the park are the historic Hughes House, which was constructed in 1898, and the remnants of a cemetery and former church site used by the Hughes family and other settlers of the time. This park, besides regular RV sites, also has a horse camp with corals.
Bullards Beach SP is just north of Brandon. To reach it, watch for the Bullards Beach SP sign immediately after the bridge. I believe it's the 2nd left. Bullards Beach is another beachcomber's paradise - a variety of bottles, boxes, kegs, lumber, and Japanese glass floats are often found. Rock hunting is also productive here, with a variety of precious and semi-precious gemstones being collected. Onshore breezes in the afternoon make for fine kite flying. Brandon calls itself "The Carnberry Capitol" of Oregon. Large cranberry bogs can be seen throughout the area. Brandon's Historical Museum, located in the old city hall, is small but worth a visit. It is located right on 101 where the highway goes east-west through town. The museum has many historical artifacts, displays, and pictures of the area's pioneer and Indian past. One block North of the museum is 1st St. There are several fine restaurants on it - "Harp's on the Bay" and the "Wheelhouse" are two. If you continue west on 1st and keep right the street becomes Jetty Rd. On it, across the harbor's mouth from the quaint Coquille River Light, you'll find the Brandon Boat Works, my favorite Brandon restaurant. The beach south of the river is totally different from that north. A drive along Beach Loop Rd will reveal giant sea stacks which serve as rookeries for many bird species. On the beach, sandpipers, etc, dart along the edge of the surf. Stop at Face Rock Viewpoint to view a unique sea stack.
A must stop is Sunset Bay SP west of Charleston. To get there, you take 101 north from Bullards Beach SP for about 6 miles to W Beaver Hill Rd. Go NW on Beaver Hill for about 6-7 miles to Seven Devils Rd, then NE on Seven Devils for about another 6-7 miles to Charleston. In Charleston, you take a left onto the Cape Argo Hwy. Sunset Bay will be on your left in about 3 miles. Sunset Bay SP is on my "favorite campgrounds list". The campground is in a wooded valley across the highway from a wide sandy beach which is sheltered from the ocean by high sandstone cliffs. What makes it a "favorite" is the three day-use SPs immediately to the South and the Cape Argo Light. Shore Acres SP has a glass-enclosed shelter with 180-degree view of spectacular coast. A unique garden is also located on the park grounds. Can't say what they'll look like in winter. Next door is Arago SP. Because of the excellent ocean view, the Coast Guard and Army used it as a radio station and lookout during WW2. Simpson Reef View Point is an ideal place to observe seals, sea lions, and other sea life on the offshore rocks. The highway ends at Cape Argo SP where trails lead to tide pools which are said to be some of the best on the coast. I know our children sure enjoyed the tide pools. The Cape Argo Light can be seen from lots of places but the best spot for a photo IMHO is from Lighthouse Beach just north of Sunset Bay. A great high point to see the entire area is from Coast Guard Tower. With your toad, go through Charleston and turn left on the last road before the bridge, Boat Basin Rd. Take it for about half a mile watching for a small sign saying "Coast Guard Tower." Go left up the unmarked road to the top of a high bluff overlooking the Coos Bay bar. A great spot to watch the fishing boats and freighters come and go. Kingfisher Dr is off Boat Basin on the right before you get to the Coast Guard Tower sign. For an excellent meal with a great waterfront view, take Kingfisher to the Portside Restaurant. They specialize in fresh seafood but also serve fine steaks.
To get to Coos Bay/North Bend and 101, just follow the Cape Argo Hwy north. "The Oregon Connection - The House of Myrtlewood" in Coos Bay is our favorite Myrtlewood factory. To reach it, turn right when you hit 101 and head south, staying in the right lane. In about 2.5 miles, 101 will turn left. You go straight a very short distance and make a right at the "T." You're there! There's an Arby's fast food parking lot across the street that can handle the largest of RVs. At The House of Myrtlewood, you'll find many beautiful wood items. They also have a nice short tour on which you can watch the woodworkers do their thing. Ask inside how to get onto 101 going north before you finish shopping. About 5 miles north of North Bend on the west side of 101 is another fine "Myrtlewood Factory." The gift shop has everything in Myrtlewood and you can also tour their factory.
From North Bend to Florence, 101 skirts the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area for some 40+ miles, with dunes hundreds of feet high. Many overlooks are available for viewing the dunes and the ocean beyond. You can also rent dune buggies at many roadside locations to explore the dunes and ocean beaches up close - great fun.
About 1 mile SW of Winchester Bay, on a high bluff, is the Umpqua Lighthouse. Take a left on Lighthouse Rd to reach it. Russ Mahoney says, "Winchester Bay, near Reedsport has a great city RV park on jetties in harbor." (We have to camp there one of these years). From Reedsport, take OR-38 east for about 3 miles to the MUST SEE "Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area". In February, you should see 100-200 magnificent Roosevelt elk in the fields on the south side of the highway. If you have run out of time, heaven forbid, OR-38 is IMHO the best route between 101 and I-5. About 10 miles north of Reedsport on 101 is the Oregon Dunes Overlook where a boardwalk will take you to viewpoints overlooking the dunes.
Honeyman Memorial SP (160-165 miles N of the CA-OR stateline), another favorite, is about 3 miles south of Florence on Lakes Cleawox and Woahink. Lake Cleawox is on the west side of 101 and Lake Woahink is on the east. We always camped in the Lake Cleawox section. Honeyman makes a great base to explore the Dunes/Florence area. In the summer, there are many places nearby along 101 to rent dune buggies to explore the miles of dunes along the coast, many are 100s of feet high. Florence's old town has been restored and definitely worth a stroll - many shops and waterfront restaurants. The Darlington Botanical SP is about 3-4 miles north of town, just east of 101. An interpretive trail goes through a bog where the rare cobra lily grows. It's carnivorous - lures insects with its nectar and traps them. This plant blooms in early summer but is worth seeing any time. North of Florence bout 7-8 miles is the Sea Lion Caves, a MUST STOP. Haven't been there in winter, so don't know how many will be in residence. Go down the elevator into the caves to see them as well as get a beautiful picture of Heceta Head Lighthouse framed by a cave entrance that is reached by some stairs inside the caves. For a close up picture of the lighthouse, stop a mile or so up the road. Watch for its sign, make a left, park in the parking lot and take the short hike to it.
About 5 miles north of Yachts (25-30 miles N of Florence) is Beachside SP. Like its name suggests, the campground is right beside the beach. This is nice small state park has 30 or so sites - great for beachcombing and kite flying. Waldport is another 4-5 miles north. At the south end of the bridge over Alsea Bay is an interpretive center which covers the history of the Oregon Coast plus the coast highway and its bridges.
Newport is probably Oregon's premier, year-round, coastal resort destination. That's why we haven't stopped there except to see the lighthouse. It's about 15 miles north of Waldport. If you want to check out Newport, there are two large SPs in the area - South Beach and Beverly Beach. The South Beach SP entrance is about 2 miles south of the Yaquian Bay Bridge. It would be a good base to use to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium (USA's largest walk-through Seabird Aviary) and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Both are about a mile north of the campground, a short distance east of 101. At the northwest end, of the bridge is the historic Yaquian Bay Lighthouse within Yaquian Bay SP. Beverly Beach SP is located about 7 miles north of Newport on the east side of 101. About 1 mile north of town, west of Agate Beach, is the Yaquian Head Lighthouse. To reach it turn west from 101 onto Ocean Dr. You can drive right to the lighthouse.
About two thirds of the way up the Oregon coast (about 225-230 miles N of the CA-OR state line) on Highway 101 is Depoe Bay, a quaint little town with lots of restaurants, shops, etc., and what it calls "the smallest harbor in the world". It's great fun to watch fishing and tour boats fight their way through the big white water that surrounds the tiny 50-foot wide entrance to the harbor. Depot Bay considers itself the "Whale Watching Capitol of the World". There are plenty of viewing sites from high above the entrance. We've never camped there, just lunched, but Ralph Peters recommends "Pirates Cove" at Depoe Bay, OR with campsites on a bluff right above the ocean.
Lincoln City is about 11 miles north of Depoe Bay. Two years ago, looking for a quick "port in the storm," we turned into Ocean View RV Park (some sites have peek-a-boo views) and discovered the Inn At Spanish Head. Great place to enjoy a fine meal while watching the stormy sea through large plate glass windows. Their van even came across the street to pick us up and then deliver us back "home" after dinner.
Cape Lookout SP is some 12-13 miles SW of Tillamook. Since most of what you want to see is south of Tillamook, it is a good ocean side base from which to explore the area. To get there from the south, turn left about 3 miles north of Beaver onto Sand Lake Rd. It'll become Cape Lookout Rd in about 5 miles. Total distance from 101 to the campground is about 11 miles. From the campground, I recommend you visit Cape Meares SP, Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum and Munson Falls. Cape Meares SP is home to the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the Octopus Tree. This iron lighthouse is about 40 ft high but its light is 200+ ft above the sea. The Octopus Tree gets its name from its candelabra shape. It's a Sitka Spruce thought to have been shaped by Indians thousands of years ago. The Cheese Factory is on the northside of town on 101 on your right. We Norwesters think Tillamook cheese is one of the great cheeses of the world. Take the short self guided tour. There is a little sit-down sandwich shop in the factory where you can have a snack. Also, they have the best ice cream I've ever tasted. South of Tillamook on 101 about 2 miles on the left is the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum. The museum houses its collection of airplanes in a huge wooden hanger. This hanger is considered to be the largest all-wood building in the world and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. When we first visited here there were two but one burned down a few years ago. During WW2, the Navy patrolled the Pacific Coast with blimps hangered in these tremendous wooden hangers. About 5 miles further south on 101 is the turnoff (left) to Munson Falls. This falls is more than 250 ft high, highest in the Coast Range. The short hike rewards one with a spectacular view of the falls. About 3-4 miles south of the falls turnoff is Sand Lake Rd (right) which will take you "home." The best food we've found in the area is just north of Garibaldi - some 8-9 miles north of Tillamook. Leaving Garibaldi, you climb a bluff. At the top, on a curve to the right, look for a restaurant on you left. Its very nice and has great food but strangely I didn't note its name in my travel log.
Continuing north from Tillamook, you'll pass Nehalem, Cannon Beach and Seaside on your way to Fort Stevens SP. We've never stopped at Nehalem but Nehalem Bay SP, located on a spit separating the Pacific from Nehalem Bay, is on our "to do" list. Cannon Beach is so named because part of a US Navy schooner, including its cannon, washed ashore there in the mid-1800s. It has miles of broad, sandy beach with many sea stacks just offshore worth a look. The "Wayfarer Restaurant", just off the Sunset Blvd Exit, on the corner of Gower and Pacific, is a great stop for lunch and beach pictures. We park the motorhome and toad in a large lot just north of the restaurant. Radar Rd, right 1-2 miles north of Cannon Beach, takes one to Ecola SP and great views of the Cannon Beach coastline. A 1/2 mile trail to Bald Point will reward one with great pictures of Tillamook Rock upon which stands the Tillamook Light. It's Oregon's northernmost lighthouse. The town of Seaside is good stop even if it's a "tourist trap". Lewis and Clark had their salt extractions kettles here on the beach. Wouldn't take the motorhome into town. Suggest you come back after getting you site at Fort Stevens for dinner at the Shilo Restaurant at the promenade turnaround. At the intersection of 101 and Broadway, is the best information center on Oregon's coast. Stop and get info on what you've missed so you can see it when you return next year. Broadway goes west to the promenade turnaround. Seaside's "prom" is a broad concrete walkway, some 2 miles long along the beach, with decorated sea wall and lamp posts. It's on the Seaside beach that Lewis & Clark set up kettles to extract salt for their return trip.
To get to Fort Stevens SP, Oregon's largest, continue north on 101. At the Perkins Rd intersection, make a left and an immediate right onto the Fort Stevens Hwy. Watch for Ocean Beach Hwy, which becomes Ridge Rd. I believe it's the 2nd left. Follow it, watching for the Fort Stevens signs. Don't worry if you miss the turn, just continue on the Fort Stevens Hwy and watch for Fort Stevens signs. It's the long way, but better than trying to make a U-ee with the motorhome and toad. Fort Stevens SP is a good base for visiting Fort Clatsop (Lewis & Clark's reconstructed winter headquarters), Astoria and Seaside. Take a walk west a mile to see the wreck of the "Peter Iredale," a British sailing ship. Also, investigate Fort Stevens. It has the distinction of being the only US fort to be fired upon by a foreign power since the War of 1812. The Japanese sub did no damage and was not fired upon because it was out of range. Fort Clatsop is located were the original was, just south of 101, on the way to Astoria. In town, the Astoria Column provides a panoramic view of the Columbia River's mouth and its environs. Also, Astoria has many fine old homes built in the late 1800s. Pick up a "Walking Tour of Astoria" from the visitor center.
This file was created entirely from a 3-part series of messages posted on the RV Forum by Jim Brossard.