Oregon’s Central Coast
Highway 101 runs for almost 75 miles along the central Oregon Coast. Buckle up and prepare for a beautiful ride; the wild landscape along the windswept shores is ever-changing, from the vastness of the Pacific to the denseness of the lush woodlands. Each scenic overlook offers up a different scenic snapshot. Public parks and beaches can be found every few minutes, offering up recreational opportunities of all types. When you’re ready for a taste of the coast, stop to stroll around one of the charming seaside villages, like Yachats and Florence.
Lincoln City brings beachcombers to its 7 miles of plush, sandy beach. Go clam digging, play in tide pools, work on your tan or catch a dazzling sunset from shore. If you’re in town during June, build your own kite and fly it at the Summer Kite Festival. From mid-October to May, local artists participate in Finders Keepers, which involves the placement of thousands of beautifully crafted glass floats on the beach for you to find. You can also check out glass-blowing demonstrations and create your own masterpieces at the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio year-round.
Outside of Lincoln City, Devils Lake is a popular spot for water play, with one of the world’s shortest rivers (the D River, a mere 120 feet long) connecting it to the Pacific. Instead of massive expanses of waters, Oregon’s tiny tide pools just might provide the most interesting way to have fun on the water.
An amazing spot for viewing wildlife is the Whale Watching Center near Depoe Bay. While whales can be spotted from the Oregon Coast any time of year, winter is especially magical as thousands of migrating whales pass by on their way to Mexico. This free facility provides prime viewing platforms and educates guests. Depoe Bay is also great for fishing. Nearby reefs support thriving populations of striped perch, rockfish and lingcod, while the offshore waters abound with salmon, albacore tuna and halibut.
About 5 miles south of Depoe Bay lies Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area, named after a massive cauldron formed by collapsed sea caves. The wild waters whirl like a washing machine. Further into the sea, waves entice surfers to ride on the water.
Undersea World in Newport
To learn more about the wildlife of this region, head to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Walk through a clear underwater tunnel, with sharks, sting ray and fish swimming overhead. Touch sea anemone and explore tide pools, get an up-close view of an octopus, or watch the sea otters romp.
Seafood, Wines & Blossoms
One of the Oregon Coast’s preeminent events is the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival. Held each February, it attracts 25,000 visitors annually to sample food and wines. Yaquina Bay’s South Beach area fills with tents from as many as 150 vendors, representing the best regional vineyards, eateries and artisans. Sample Newport’s signature crab, sip wines from across the West Coast and enjoy the sounds of live music. In May, rhododendrons burst into bloom along the Oregon Coast.
Newport’s Coastal Delights
Newport is a charming fishing town that will win you over with marine creatures, alluring scenery and ocean adventures. Meander along the waterfront to meet herds of barking sea lions. The area is also home to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet. Back near the shore, walk around the tide pools teeming with vibrant starfish, sea anemones and crustaceans at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
Make Your Way to Mo’s
Don’t leave town without slurping down Mo’s famous chowder or dining at Local Ocean Seafoods, a restaurant and fish market that serves up scrumptious seafood with a stellar view. South of town, the stunning Yaquina Bay Bridge crosses beautiful Yaquina Bay. The bridge’s Art Deco and Modern design motiffs are sure to please architecture buffs.
Travelers along Oregon’s coast quickly become accustomed to sea stacks — vertical columns of rocks on the beach caused by wave erosion. The largest of the area’s sandstone-supported sea stacks, Elephant Rock — named for its uncanny resemblance to an elephant — is flanked by dark igneous surf-pounded rocks that rise some 20 feet above the ocean. This wild and foreboding setting forms a rich habitat and prime nesting ground for myriad sea bird species including cormorants, brown pelicans, bald eagles, gannets and gulls. Set aside some time to stroll past these amazing giants.
Near Waldport, drop a line in the Alsea River, which runs from the coastal mountains and enters the Pacific at Alsea Bay. Nab salmon, steelhead, trout and more. Paddlers seeking a calm, inland experience can enjoy the waters of Beaver Creek at Brian Booth State Park, also close by. Known for its tranquility, this park lets visitors experience an Oregon landscape that differs from the wind-swept coast.
Delightful Drift Creek
One of the most popular hikes in the Siuslaw National Forest, the Drift Creek Falls Trail takes hikers though a coastal forest of fern, alder and maple. The destination is an impressive 240-foot suspension bridge that spans the dramatic Drift Creek Falls. You can view the cascading 75-foot waterfall (best seen in the spring or fall after seasonal rains) from above (on the bridge) or take the trail to the base of the falls where there’s a picnic table carved from a tree.
Unwind in Yachats
Feel your stress melt away in Yachats, a romantic town nestled on the shore, with the Coast Range peaks forming a dramatic backdrop. Time slows down here, giving you a chance to revel in beachfront strolls, bird-watching, fishing, golfing and winter storm watching. Art galleries, shops and delicious seafood restaurants round out your experience.
Just 2 miles to the south is Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, the highest overlook accessible by car on the Oregon Coast at over 800 feet above sea level. Part of the Siuslaw National Forest, this area is worth a visit for its postcard-worthy sights — powerful waves colliding with the shore, soaring trees peeking through coastal fog and headlands as far as the eye can see. The Yachats 804 Trail is a popular hiking choice, running almost 2 miles along the rocky shore.
Where Hobbits Lurk
To truly experience the magic of Oregon’s coastal landscape, get a Middle Earth perspective. The Hobbit Trail takes hikers through verdant woodlands filled with lichen-covered trees and lush ferns. At one point, you’ll pass through a hobbit-size tunnel before emerging onto a secluded beach. Look closely at the dunes — you might see carved troll-like faces staring back at you.
Florence’s Old Town has a similar history and vibe, welcoming visitors to the Port of Siuslaw. Local galleries, shops and cafes make this the perfect place to ramble, all while enjoying views of ships in the harbor. For over 100 years, Florence’s Rhododendron Festival has celebrated these spring blossoms each May. This event includes a car show, 5K race, street fair, carnival and the crowning of “Queen Rhododendra.”
Hear Them Roar
Since 1932, the Sea Lion Caves attraction has surprised and delighted visitors. This huge grotto along the Pacific Ocean provides shelter for hundreds of sea lions. Visitors ride an elevator 200 feet down to sea level to observe these massive creatures in their natural habitat.
The trail to the Heceta Head Lighthouse shouldn’t be missed. The Heceta Head Lighthouse is the brightest on the state’s coast and is known as an architectural gem. The trail to the lighthouse ascends a few hundred feet, but it’s worth it for the views down the state’s south coast.
Quintessential Coastal Experiences
The central Oregon Coast is defined by the natural landscapes found where the Pacific crashes to the shores. A quintessential day should involve experiencing this scenery as a backdrop to adventures. Take a walk along a windy beach and take the time to appreciate the natural beauty. Here, the ocean is too cold for proper swimming, but the magical sound of waves lapping the sands will let you know you are someplace special. If the tide is out, take the opportunity to explore the flora and fauna of the tide pools. Head out for a whale watching excursion to get closer views of these giant mammals.
When your stomach rumbles, it’s time to sample the coastal cuisine. This region is known as Oregon’s “Chowder Belt.” Warm up with a heaping bowl of clams and potatoes swimming in a creamy broth. If you’re up for catching your own entrée, try your hand at crabbing. Almost anyone can nab these crustaceans. Rent some crab rings, and ask a local expert where to go. Before long, you’ll be hauling in heaping piles of Dungeness crab. All you’ll need is some heat and some butter for a delicious meal.
Surprisingly, oysters were one of the driving forces in development along the central Oregon Coast. In 1852, a schooner became stranded near Yaquina Bay during strong storms. As the crew ventured out, they discovered bountiful oyster beds in the bay. Within a decade, two oyster companies were formed, bringing settlers to the region. To this day, oysters are a staple in restaurants along the coast, allowing visitors to sample this regional delicacy. Shipping oysters out from the coast became a big industry in the 1800s. Towns like Newport grew, with booming marinas along the shore. Today, Newport’s historic Bayfront is a thriving gathering spot, with colorful storefronts just beyond the boardwalk. Aside from tourists, Bayfront also attracts sea lions, whose barks fill the air, never letting you forget you’re close to the sea.
For More Information
Oregon Tourism Commission