Oregon's Highway 101by James Brossard
Sightseeing tips and must-see places for Oregon's highway 101.
Just south of the California-Oregon border are the awesome trees of the Redwoods National Park. Just north is spectacular Cape Sebastian and Boardman State Park, where the RVer travels some 700 feet above the raging sea. There are many great overlooks - a photographer's dream.
Gold Beach is a must stop for us. Here you can board a high-speed jet boat that runs up the wild, whitewater of the Rogue River for 54 miles to Paradise Lodge. The ride is a thriller through very shallow whitewater at high speed with frequent stops to observe the wide variety of wildlife. Lunch is at a rustic lodge where bears and other critters roam. It's and all-day trip and there are plenty of local campgrounds. We usually stay at Irelands RV Park.
I'd also suggest you check out one of the many Myrtlewood factories along the southern Oregon coast. A good one IMHO is in Coos Bay. It will be left on a cross street as you go into town on 101 watch for its sign. If you find yourself on a one-way street, you've gone too far. Make two lefts to doubleback. The sign will now be on your right and much easier to spot. There's a large super market parking lot across the street from the place that can handle the largest of RVs. At the Coos Bay Myrtlewood Factory, you'll find many beautiful wood items - everything that can possibly be made of wood. We've done our Christmas shopping there many years. Nearby is Sunset Bay SP and some very beautiful gardens.
A few miles farther north on 101 is Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, with dunes hundreds of feet high extending for miles along the coast. 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. I recommend you camp at Jessie Honeyman SP just South of Florence. Just North of Florence is the Sea Lion Caves and Hecta Head lighthouse. The Sea Lion Caves are a must stop!
About halfway up the Oregon coast is Depoe Bay, a quaint little town with lots of restaurants, shops, etc. It is said to be "the smallest harbor in the world." It's great fun to watch fishing and tour boats fight their way through the big surf that seems to guards the tiny 50-foot wide entrance to the harbor. There is plenty of viewing sites high above the entrance. There are also great waterfront RV parks here for viewing sea life in comfort.
We've stayed at the Oceanview RV Village in Lincoln City - nice level concrete pads and patios - some with a view of the ocean. It's on the eastside of the highway and right across the road is the "Inn at Spanish Head" - a great place to have dinner and view the Pacific Ocean through huge plate glass windows. When we were there last November, they had a weeklong feature - Maine lobster at a great price.
If you've never visited a cheese factory, I'd suggest you do so in Tillamook. We Norwesters think Tillamook cheese is one of the great cheeses of the world. Also, they have the best ice cream I've ever tasted. There is a little sit-down sandwich shop in the factory where you can have lunch. When exploring that area (and there's a look to explore - light houses, waterfalls, etc), we stay at up the coast a few miles at the Tillamook Bay City RV Park. A few miles further North there's a great restaurant (don't remember its name - ask at the campground) on a curve, high on a bluff over looking the ocean on the north side of Garibaldi.
At the south exit to Cannon Beach, W Warren Way, there's a restaurant right on the beach at which we sometimes eat. Again can't remember the name:-) If one is into lighthouses, it's the place to pick up a T-shirt or sweat-shirt-jacket with all the Pacific Coast lighthouses on it. Also, the middle of June each year they have a world class sand castle competition in Cannon Beach. Competitors from all over the world vie for trophies. We thought we'd take in the competition one year and tried to make campground reservations in December. No luck! It seems you need to make them at least a year in advance. If in the area that week, I suggest you camp somewhere north or south of Cannon Beach and make a day trip to see the sand castles.
The town of Seaside is good stop even if it's a "tourist trap." You'll find all kinds of motels, hotels, restaurants and souvenirs shops. Lewis and Clark had their salt extraction kettles here on the beach. Haven't camped here so wont make a recommendation.
Just south of Astoria is Fort Clatsop NM where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter before returning east. The fort is a recreation of the original and is where the original one was located. Nearby is Fort Stevens State Park. It's a great RV park! A word about Oregon's coastal state parks - you can't go wrong with any of them but they are very popular. Without reservations during June-August, I suggest you stop very early in the day to get your site and then explore the local area. On weekends, use your TL Campground Directory to find a private park.
Across the Columbia in Washington is Fort Canby SP and nearby is the US Coast Guard Station. Here is where they do most of their rescue training - the waters off the mouth of the Columbia are said to be some of the most treacherous in the world. (Do you know that their rescue boats are designed to roll 360-degrees without sinking? Each member of the crew wears a harness and is seatbelted when underway. When on deck, they are tethered to the boat so that no one is lost overboard if the boat should roll.) A tour of the station is well worth the time.