Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Oregon’s Glorious Coast

By Charles Shugart, Jr.

Continuing south, you pass through Seaside, Oregon's oldest, largest ocean–side resort. And then it's on to Cannon Beach for a look at offshore Haystack Rock. At 235 feet tall, it's one mighty monolith. Cannon Beach offers numerous art galleries and shops. You might find some real treasures. If not, browsing and window–shopping is always fun. At the north end of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park, a splendid sightseeing and picnicking spot and the beginning of the Tillamook Head Trail, which wanders along cliff edges and through old–growth forests of Sitka spruce and western hemlock.

Driving along the edge of Tillamook Bay, you soon spy the cheese factory of the same name. Take the tour. Buy some cheese. Then take Three Capes Drive to Cape Meares, with its lighthouse and Octopus Tree, and then on to Netarts and Cape Kiwanda, where you can park and walk 300 yards to the Cape itself. You might spot the dory fishermen launching their small boats on the sand. Oceanside is also interesting, but long RVs can get tied into knots easily there.

Rejoining 101 south you come to Lincoln City and the D River, the "World's Shortest." Depoe Bay is touted as the world's smallest natural harbor. Down the road is Devil's Punchbowl, with a blowhole that is very much like a geyser.

In Newport, find your way to the Old Town Waterfront and wander around. It's a real fishing port and has several good things to do, including having a meal at one of the seafood restaurants. Watch the sea lions on the wharf and listen to them roar. Make sure you visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium on the south side of the bridge.

At Yachats there is a National Forest Visitor's Center. Nearby, take the short drive to the top of Cape Perpetua for an incredible view. Further south you've got Heceta Head Lighthouse view spot–just beyond the tunnel. It's from here that many fantastic Oregon lighthouse photographs are taken.

A couple of miles further and you come to the Sea Lion Caves. Take the elevator 200 feet down into the cave itself. It is a unique experience. There isn't much light, so photography is difficult. Flash does no good, so turn it off and take extra shots, maybe some will come out all right. If not, the topside gift shop sells postcards.

In Florence, you're only halfway down the Oregon Coast, and you've already had dozens of special opportunities to experience the amazing scenery. From Florence all the way south to Coos Bay you'll find the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Just beyond Reedsport is Winchester Bay, a few hundred yards off 101. The RV park sticks out into the bay and is a prime spot for over–nighting. Probably the best thing to do around Coos Bay is to take a drive to the harbor of Charleston. Then continue on to Shore Acres and Cape Arago. Then take the cutoff to 101 heading south. Consult you map for this paved shortcut.

South of Coos Bay is Bandon, with its old harbor district, art galleries, and the scenic drive along the cliffs to Face Rock and friends. At low tide, these are among the most special of Oregon's many "haystack" rocks, especially if you're walking on the sand. Further south is Port Orford, the westernmost town in the 48 contiguous states. It has a deep–water port and was important for shipping until recent declines in the timber industry. Parking on the bluff and looking down is, though, as stunning a view as ever. Further south still is Gold Beach, at the confluence of the Rogue River with the ocean. Drive or take a sightseeing boat trip up the Rogue. Of course, the river is famous for its fishing.

Then you're on to Brookings, coastal Oregon's most southerly city. Winters are very mild for the latitude, and 70 degree summer temps are quite comfortable. Azaleas and rhododendrons fill people's yards in early summer. Many commercial flower species are grown nearby. Especially numerous are Easter lilies–80 percent of the country's supply comes from here. Brookings Harbor is a busy place, with many boats moored to the docks. The RV park at the harbor entrance is ideally located.

South of Brookings you leave Oregon. But that's not so bad. Among its many wonders, the Golden State of California has coastal redwoods – the tallest trees in the world. And they begin at the Oregon border.

Oregon Coast Trip Tips

For RVers the trip should take an absolute minimum of three days. A full week would be much better. And if you fall in love with the Oregon Coast as I have, repeated trips through the years will reveal new and marvelous discoveries every time you make the journey. If you're driving a long rig, be aware that exploring some of the side roads might present difficulties turning around. Of course, when you disconnect and go sightseeing locally, it's never a problem–yet another reason for motorhome owners to tow a car or pickup.

Some of my favorite places to over–night, disconnect and go exploring:

  1. Astoria area: I like to go looking for picturesque Victorian houses, but Astoria is hilly and some of the streets are narrow, so I always disconnect to go exploring. There are several other interesting things to see outside of town, including Fort Clatsop. And, of course, the State of Washington is just across the toll–free bridge. A full–day excursion to the end of Long Beach spit is always fun.

  2. Newport area: Mostly I like time here to explore local roads that go inland a few miles. Some were the main coast route before construction of the large bridges. I especially like the road along the edge of Yaquina Bay to Toledo. At low tide you might see a hundred great blue herons and great egrets probing the mud flats.

  3. Coos Bay/North Bend: I usually stop at the Indian Casino on 101 for a couple of days and explore Charleston, Cape Arago, and the old highways a few miles inland.

Words of caution: don't explore the dirt roads of coastal Oregon. They're logging roads and some are still in use. Few driving events are more exciting than coming around a tight corner on a dirt road that's 12 feet wide – and encountering a logging truck coming downhill and aiming straight at you. Also take note, you can get lost on logging roads far easier than you might imagine. Even if you've bought a Forest Service map, the numbers and roads on your map often don't correlate with the numbers and roads that are actually out there.

Oregon is mostly green because it mostly rains. The only aspect that's ruined visually by cloudiness is the picture–perfect blue sky. So don't look at the sky; look at everything else. If it rains, dress for it and forget it. Surprisingly, however, it doesn't rain that much in summer, although the wind does blow.