Breathtaking scenery, quaint towns, and one-of-a kind discoveries await as you enjoy the wonders of Oregon’s highway 101 along the Pacific Coast.
Begin in Astoria, the northernmost city in Oregon and the oldest American settlement west of the Mississippi. Explore at your leisure the lovely scenery at the mouth of the Columbia River. Ride the Astoria Riverfront Trolley to learn the history of the town.
See the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Uppertown Firefighters Museum. Climb the 164 steps of Astoria Column, a towering landmark dating to the roaring twenties; even if you do not climb it, the views of Astoria and Young’s Bay are spectacular from there. Observe ships and boats as they cross the Columbia Bar, the most dangerous ocean-to-river transition in the USA, due to the permanently high waves created by the outflow of the Columbia River. The South Jetty viewing platform at Fort Stevens Park in nearby Hammond is the best place to see this phenomenon from the safety of land. At Fort Steven’s Park, walk the beach and see the impressive wreck of the Peter Iredale, a big ship that was overcome by the tricky waters here, more than 100 years ago. For accommodations, the deluxe cabins at Fort Stevens are a great option. The Canary Pier Hotel is a unique stay thrust out over the water on a pier, with a great view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the hotel has two vintage cars to take you into town for dinner if you wish. The Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express also get high praise as does the quaint old Hotel Eliott. Hungry? Visit Drina Daisy for Bosnian cuisine such as Burek and Bisanski Gulas; or sample Bridgewater Bistro for a nice view and great food. The fish and chips at Bowpicker are worth standing in the very long line for. Arnie’s Café in Warrenton offers breakfast all day, try the Hobo scramble, the strawberry waffle, or the giant cinnamon roll with a blizzard of powdered sugar.
Gearhart is a seaside town that has old world charm with its cluster of interesting buildings, a school, a fire station, shops and restaurants. Off the beaten path, it also offers great golfing and a chance to stay in a rebuilt vintage style golf clubhouse, the McMenamins Gearhart Hotel, where the beach is a short walk away. Seaside is all about the prom and the main street. It is a smaller version of beach destinations of a century ago, with rides and arcades, t-shirt shops and rental bikes. The small seaside aquarium is popular with visitors. You can also go paddle boating in the Necanicum River. Pig N’Pancake is one of the dining choices, as is Bee Bop Burgers. The artist community of Cannon Beach has a gorgeous beach with Haystack Rock being its most photographed feature. For a rare, pricey dining treat have a meal at the EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School, where the chefs prepare and describe your three course meal plus dessert. Nearby is Ecola State Park with its Indian Beach, and Short Sands Beach at Oswald West State Park, reached by a trail through old growth forests. You can see surfers at both of these beaches. Cannon Beach has a cluster of shops and restaurants, including a Christmas shop. Fultano’s Pizza is ranked high.
Manzanita is a somewhat off the radar beautiful beach town, and many of the locals would like to keep it that way. Go, by all means, if you like great scenery, endless beaches, and calm and quiet relaxing with the dunes and the surf. It is a haven for artists and writers. And the town is just steps from the beach. Stay at coast cabins or the ocean inn. Dine at Blackbird or Vino Manzanita Wine Bar; don’t miss the Bread and Ocean Bakery. In Wheeler the main attraction is Old Wheeler Antiques, specializing in Art Deco era items especially furniture and Art Deco Lighting. Go out of your way for a meal at the cozy blue Rising Star Café. Rockaway Beach offers strolling on seven miles of sandy beach, you can also take a steam engine ride and poke into the shops for antiques or newer treasures. Garibaldi, at the northern end of Tillamook Bay, is known for the Garibaldi Maritime Museum. It is also know for the fabulous doughnuts at Bayfront Bakery and Deli.
Tillamook is all about the outdoor features between the hiking trails, and kayaking. See the war-bird collection at Tillamook Naval Air Museum. Foodies will enjoy Blue Heron French Cheese Company and Tillamook Cheese Factory, as well as Pacific Oyster, Debbie D’s Sausage Factory, Tillamook County Smoker, and Werner’s Gourmet meats. From Tillamook take the “Three Capes Scenic Loop” visits the three capes and is often considered the best portion of the Oregon coast for scenery. Begin at Cape Mears, where the lighthouse is only a stroll from the parking area and you get super views. Continuing south, stop at the turnouts for picnicking, hiking or enjoying the scenery. Approaching Cape Lookout, enjoy the spot where hang gliding happens. At Cape Lookout sample some of the hiking trails. Cape Kiwanda offers huge dunes for climbing and getting a panorama of the coastline.
Oceanside is just off the Three Capes Scenic Route and offers the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge. At the north end of Oceanside Beach, is a tunnel through Maxwell Point you can take at low tide to get to Tunnel Beach on the other side and then, around the next point north, Agate Beach. Proceed with caution, and watch the tides so you don’t get stranded. Netarts is a quiet spot for those who want peace and serenity. Pacific City offers galleries featuring well known Oregon artists. You will enjoy dining at The Grateful Bread Bakery & Restaurant, there. Lincoln City was named Kite Capital of the World by “Kitelines” Magazine. See the Drift Creek Covered Bridge, Devil’s Lake State Rec. Area, Pendleton Outlet, and Alderhouse Glassblowing, the oldest glass blowing studio in the Northwest. The Bay House offers Siletz Bay-side dining serving such tempting fare as Columbia River Chinook Salmon with Zuchinni-Sweet Corn Hash and Fingerling Potatoes. Depoe Bay has been called the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast”.
Newport boasts Oregon’s second oldest and tallest active lighthouse at 93-feet-tall. Visitors enjoy the historic Bayfront as well as Nye Beach. April’s at Nye Beach offers a range of farm to table options of chicken, beef, seafood and pasta entrees. The Bayfront is a working waterfront and also offers shops, galleries, chowder houses, restaurants, and fish processing plants, all in vintage buildings. The first railroad to reach the Oregon Coast did so at Seal Rock. The town dates to 1887. At Waldport the noted landmark is the Alsea Bay Bridge, finished in 1991. Adjacent to the bridge is the Visitor Center, with displays about the history of the area. Yachats is a nice spot for beachcombing and tide-pooling. See the Cleft of the Rock lighthouse. At Cook’s Chasm take the easy paved trail to see the spouting horn of water, at high tide. Florence is a charming old former mill town. At Reedsport see the Umpqua Lighthouse in the state park of the same name; it has been sending out its red and white flashes since 1894. North Bend boasts the handsome McCullough Bridge, with its green arches that are like driving through a cathedral.
Coos Bay is the biggest town on the Oregon Coast. Cape Arago State Park offers great views of the coastline and wildlife. The Sea Lion Cave is the largest in the world, so named because there, the wild golden Steller sea lions and their black pups take shelter. Shore Acres State Park is also a remarkable place to explore. A converted Art Deco period post office building, the Coos Art Museum is a pleasure to visit. Vintage shopping options abound, including Leafs Treehouse Antiques & Collectables. Places to stay in Coos Bay include the Best Western Plus and the Red Lion Inn. For dining, sample Little Italy or Benniti’s. For a treat, try Cranberry Sweets.
Charleston is a fishing center located at the mouth of Coos Bay. Bandon is home of the cranberry bogs, along Highway 101. It is also home to the Alloro Wine Bar & Restaurant, try the crab chowder and halibut cheeks, the salad with duck confit or the home made ravioli. When you are in Port Orford you are in the western-most city in the continental USA. It is also a very pleasant place to stroll, see the shops, have a meal and enjoy a town that has eight art galleries. Gold Beach is called ‘Natures Adventure Center’. From fishing for Chinook Salmon to riding horses on the beach at sunset, Gold Beach has a full range of possibilities. It is one of the top five windsurfing locations in the world.
Brookings is your final destination on the Oregon Coast Drive. This is the perfect place to see a wonderful floral display in season at Azalea Park, amid thirty-three acres of native azaleas. Visit the Chetco Valley Historical Society Museum in the Blake House built in 1857; it holds a collection of 19th-century Oregon pioneer life. You can also see the largest Monterey cypress in the state on the museum grounds. Harris Beach State Park features offshore sea stacks, including the largest island on the Oregon Coast. Enjoy a succession of gorgeous viewpoints; go to Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor’s 12 miles of rugged coastline, with pocket beaches, sea stacks, and Arch Rock and Whaleshead. For a sheltered beach, go to Thunder Rock Cove. Take Indian Sands Trail to see sculpted sandstone as well as coastal views. Dine at Black Trumpet Bistro for the warm spinach salad and Chicken Carciofi; the Art Ally Grill with its rack of lamb and Steak Oscar; or the Oxenfre Public House the flatiron steak with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts and crème brûlée garnished with blueberries. Sunset is fabulous at Cape Ferrelo, and a ideal end note for this never to be forgotten Oregon Pacific Coast drive.