Traveling Oregon's Dynamic Coast
Sites and actitivies along Oregon's Pacific Coast Byway
Haystack Monolith, Cannon Beach, OR
Rugged mountains, secluded inlets, expansive sand dunes, picturesque sea stacks and the greenest of green forests line the Oregon Coast spotted with small quaint towns nestled just off the highway. The Pacific Coast Scenic Highway, US 101 skirts the coast sometimes just a few 100 yards from the water’s edge. My husband, Richard and I are taking five days to travel Oregon’s dramatic coastline starting at Astoria, OR, the northern most town on the Pacific Coast Highway, heading south ending at Bandon, OR.
Our hotel, the Best Western Lincoln Inn is located on the southern end of Astoria. The hotel is convenient to local attractions. It needs to be updated but the enthusiastic staff and expanded continental breakfast make up for any short comings. In our usual style, in finding local restaurants, Richard asks the front desk clerk her favorite restaurant and she immediately chimes in, “The Silver Salmon.” The Silver Salmon is downtown just a couple of miles. The meal is excellent with each of us enjoying the salmon special. Our waiter recommends the Wayfarer Restaurant for our upcoming trip to Cannon Beach. He says it is the best restaurant in Cannon Beach and has beach views.
Astoria is a fishing town on the Columbia River and only a few miles from the Columbia River Bar. The Maritime Museum in Astoria is our first tourist stop. The museum explains and displays the history and the challenges of the Columbia River as it flows into the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia River, the “Great River of the West”, rises from Canada’s Rocky Mountains and travels 1200 miles through the Pacific Northwest. Its fresh waters meet the salty water of the Pacific just west of Astoria at the Columbia River Bar. With the river’s huge volume of water merging into the Pacific Ocean it creates the Columbia River Bar, one of the most dangerous navigational areas. Unlike other major rivers, the current is focused "like a fire hose" without the benefit of a river delta. Conditions can change from calm and serene to life-threatening breaking waves in as little as five minutes due to changes of direction of wind and ocean swell. Since 1792, approximately 2,000 large ships have sunk in and around the Columbia Bar. Boats going into the Pacific Ocean require special Bar Pilots to navigate this confluence.
The museum depicts the exciting history of the Columbia River, the history of Astoria and its fishing industry. The River Pilots navigate the Columbia River; actually memorizing the river floor to guide barges and ships through the river. Then the Bar Pilots come on board to navigate the vessel from the river into the Pacific Ocean. The Pilot’s feel the most dangerous part of their job is the transfer from the boat to the barge or ship. The pilot’s boat comes alongside the vessel, a rope ladder is dropped over the side, with the boats traveling side by side the pilot jumps, grabs the ladder and climbs aboard. On his departure he jumps from the ladder to the boat. We actually saw pilots doing this many times and were impressed with their agility to quickly move boat to boat.
Next stop is the Astoria Column which has served for over 80 years as a beacon on the Pacific Northwest Coast. It sits in a wooded area 600 feet above sea level on Coxcomb Hill, Astoria’s highest point. Majestic views of the countryside surrounding Astoria are the great Pacific Ocean to the west and the mighty Columbia River to the north. With clear skies and from atop Coxcomb Hill we see the Columbia River merging into the Pacific and Washington state’s coastline on the river’s north side. This is a wonderful 360 degree view. The column displays 14 scenes commemorating important events in the history of Astoria in chronological order. The mural scrolls around the 125-foot-high structure in an upward spiral direction, with the earliest scene at the base of the column. The column is under restoration so the 164-step spiral staircase leading to a viewing platform is closed.
After sightseeing in Astoria, we head south on the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, the main road connecting many towns along the Oregon coast. Bike lanes along the Scenic Byway allow bicyclists to bike the entire 363 miles. As the sun comes out for the day we take the exit for Cannon Beach. Wow, this is a truly charming resort town. The buildings are old and well maintained with flowers everywhere. The narrow streets wind around and along the coast. Houses, cottages, lodges are all jammed and crammed into whatever space is available Cannon Beach possesses a serene, rustic charm. Crossing streets is a challenge as there are few traffic lights. Following the main road in town, we spot the sign for the “Wayfarer Restaurant”. Parking is at a premium but luckily we find a public parking lot across the street. The Wayfarer is a beautiful restaurant with warm rich wood walls and very open décor. Huge windows provide panoramic views of the beach and Haystack Monolith. Our window booth provides a full view of Haystack which is the third largest monolith at 235 feet. We enjoy a tasty lunch and people watching with our beach view and Haystack as the backdrop. After lunch we walk along the beach getting closer to Haystack and dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean.
A farmer’s market is opening and we browse getting the local flavor. The vendors proudly offer samples of their products including smoked salmon, smoked halibut, peaches, nuts and many others. The vendors are warm and friendly, inviting you to sample their foods.
The next leg along the Scenic Byway takes us from Cannon Beach to Newport our second overnight stop. The coastline is dotted with many State Parks and scenic areas. Driving down the scenic byway the road is initially at sea level with scenic views of isolated beaches. High Point Beach State Park is our first stop, with parking just off the highway and a short trail to a secluded beach surrounded by rocky outcroppings. It is a clear day with blue skies yet the ocean fog rolls in and out as we make our way south to Newport. The road slowly climbs to elevations with expansive spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. From above the mighty Pacific waves crash along the shoreline. With the clear bright skies, visibility is many miles of rugged coastline. The breathtaking views are just like a picture post card!
US 101 highway passes through Tillamook, OR and by the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. The self-guided factory tour explains the history of Tillamook cheese and the cheese making process. In the factory we watch as 40 pound blocks of cheese move on a conveyor belt to be sliced into one pound blocks. We sample the delicious cheese and buy some for our afternoon snack.
As the Scenic Highway turns inland, we choose the Bayocean Road that follows the coastline. Heading west out of Tillamook we view verdant dairy farms until we reach Cape Meares State Park and Lighthouse. Decision time. We can go to the lighthouse or take the trail through an old growth forest to the beach. The beach trail it is! The hike starts out gently as it winds through the forest. The tall trees form a high canopy above keeping temperatures cool. The mile and half trail gradually descends as it turns and loops to the ocean. Periodically there is a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean below. Closer to sea level the deep forest foliage changes to bushier high shrubs. The final feet of the trail is a steep sandy slope to a log strewn beach. We carefully climb and slide down to the beach which is a very secluded inlet, allowing views only outward to the ocean. The inlet is covered in logs each well over 30 feet long and over 2 feet in diameter. We climb over the logs to reach a small sandy beach.
Lunch time is near and we are famished after a full morning of scenic stops, hikes and tours. This area is sparsely populated but Oceanside is only a few miles. Arriving on the only road going into town, Oceanside is a tiny town with homes terraced on a hillside cove. Only a few buildings line the short main road and one is “Brewin' in the Wind” a coffee shop with soups, sandwiches and ice cream just across the street from public parking. It is windy and very chilly. The cozy restaurant, a former cabin, is a welcome sight. We enjoy a hearty wrap with fresh organic ingredients and soup. The local literature and post cards educate us on Oceanside and its three sea stacks called the “Three Arches”. After taking a few snap shots of the Three Arches it’s back to the Scenic Byway.
We delight in the beauty of several more scenic stops as the highway winds back to the coastline offering more fantastic views high above the ocean. Approaching Agate Beach our overnight stop, the area becomes very commercial and touristy. The highway is lined with hotels and restaurants. Salishan Lodge and Golf Course at Gleneden, OR is on our way. The golf course is promoted as a championship-style course. We stop and schedule a 2:20 pm tee time taking advantage of the afternoon rate. We arrive at Agate Beach Best Western in Newport, OR. The room is excellent, it is spacious with a king bed, a large area with swivel rocker chairs and tables, and floor to ceiling windows along one wall. The room is twice the size of our room at the Best Western Lincoln Inn. The hotel sits atop a hill and overlooks a sand dune beach.
For dinner we head to Newport’s Bayfront area located on Yaquina Bay. The area has restaurants mixed in with commercial fishing warehouses. We roam the streets to locate a quiet non-touristy restaurant. The Whale’s Tale isn’t busy and the menu looks good. The food was excellent and we are pleased with our choice.
Waking up early we enjoy strolling and climbing the sand dune inlet of Agate Beach. Prior to our afternoon tee time, we take a self-guided tour of the Salishan Lodge at Gleneden, OR. The Lodge is recommended in 1000 Places to See Before You Die. The Lodge is an impressive facility with all the rooms in buildings outside the main lodge, which houses meeting rooms, restaurants, and a warm lobby area. The Shops at Salishan are across the street. We browse these upscale shops and find a path to walk along Siletz Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The path winds through trees, along holes of the Salishan Golf Course and the bay.
The sky is clear and it is around 70 degrees. We opt for shorts for our golf outing at Salishan Golf Resort. The course is in great shape and plays as a championship-style course. The front nine is on the east side of Highway US 101 closer to the Lodge and the back nine is on the Ocean side of US 101. A few holes on the back nine have terrific views of the Pacific. Toward the end of our round, as the sun sinks in the west, the wind picks up and the temperature drops dramatically. Playing the final holes we are bundled in sweatshirts and windbreakers. The weather changes quickly along the Oregon Coast a reminder you must always be prepared.
The final leg of our Oregon Coast journey is from Newport to Coos Bay. The route provides scenic ocean views on this foggy morning. Stops include The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area with rugged cliffs. We delight in the spouting horn at Captain Cook Scenic Trail. The Spouting Horn is an “ocean geyser” where a cave has formed and then cracked creating an opening. As the tide comes in and the waves crash into the cave, the water spews up through the hole creating “the spouting horn”. Attempting to catch the tide, waves and geyser at exactly the right time for a photo of the “spouting horn” is not an easy feat. Hurray! We did accomplish it.
Off we go to explore Haceta Head Lighthouse and the Light-Keeper house. Built around 1894 both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The fog rolls in and out as we climb the path from the parking lot to the lighthouse. The Haceta Lighthouse is a working lighthouse perched on a cliff with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. Climbing the path to the lighthouse we pass the Haceta Head-Keeper’s House which has been restored to its original splendor. The Head-Keeper’s House is now a Bed & Breakfast. At the Lighthouse we are the first tour of the day. Color coded cards are handed out by volunteers to determine your tour. Only donations are accepted. From a height of 205 feet above the ocean floor, the Haceta Head Lighthouse casts its beam 21 miles out to sea. Our guide explains that this is the maximum distance any light can shine due to the curvature of the earth. The Haceta Head Lighthouse is the brightest light on the Oregon coast and the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.
For lunch we take a slight detour into Florence, OR’s downtown area. Wow! This is a charming town teaming with flowers, shops and restaurants. Florence offers much more class than the Newport waterfront. We select The Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House & Zebra Bar where we dine on delicious soup and salad.
From Florence to Coos Bay we visit the Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area which extends for 40 miles along the Oregon Coast. Formed by the ancient forces of wind, water and time, the dunes are like no others in the world. These are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Some dunes are over 500 feet high. With a full day’s drive ahead our tour of the Dunes is limited.
The Best Western at Coos Bay is our final lodging along the coast. We arrive early and check-in to our king room. This is a basic hotel room, clean but not fancy or new. Since golf is scheduled for Bandon Dunes in Bandon, OR we want to get ready for this challenging course links style course. Based on a recommendation from the bartender in Agate Beach we locate Bandon Crossings Golf Course and check in for their last tee time. This is a fun course and it does get us warmed up for our next day’s challenge.
An early morning tour of the Oregon Myrtlewood Factory in Coos Bay educates us on this unique wood. A small area on the Pacific Coast contains the world’s supply of this rare and beautiful wood. It takes over a century for the tree to grow large enough to have any commercial value. We purchase our Myrtlewood Christmas tree ornament and are off to a day of golf at Bandon Dunes Golf Course.
The Bandon Dunes course is perched on a bluff high above the Pacific Ocean. The course unfolds along pristine native dunes where expansive ocean views are revealed on nearly every hole. The course is completely natural and routed through an environment of indigenous vegetation. Beyond breathtaking scenery lies the game of golf in its truest form. This is a thinker's course. Winds are ever-present, and the varying elements create a new experience each time you play. Bandon Dunes requires prepayment for golf, so check in is simple. It is a beautiful sunny day with no clouds or fog which can be known to add extra challenge. We take advantage of the driving range and putting green. We lucked out with a clear day and mild winds. It was cool but not cold. Once our tee time arrives we are at the first hole and introduced to our caddie Lester and playing companions a father and son, Jim and Kenny from the Seattle, WA area and their caddie Lewis. The course is walking only and requires a caddie.
We keep up with the group in front, but it is a 5-hour round. The father and son in our foursome are from Tacoma, WA. The father, Jim, gives us a suggestion for our golf in Tacoma, WA. We planned to play the newly popular Chambers Bay, but he recommends we play The Home Course in Dupont, WA, which is the sister course for the upcoming Amateur Tournament. This was perfect. We did play The Home Course on our trip to Washington and it was fantastic and at a great price.
Following our fun day of golf at Bandon Dunes, we take the scenic route to Charleston, OR. Much to our surprise the road changes from paved to gravel. We trust the signs that took us to the Portside Restaurant in Charleston, OR, where we enjoy a wonderful seafood dinner.
The next morning after doing laundry and enjoying our breakfast at the Best Western at Coos Bay we head east and say a fond farewell to the enchanting Oregon Coast.
For more information on Lodging:
Best Western Lincoln Inn, 555 Hamburg Avenue, Astoria, OR 97103, (503) 325-2205
Best Western Agate Beach, 3019 North Coast Highway, Newport, OR 97365, (541)265-9411
Best Western Holiday Motel, 411 North Bayshore Drive, Coos Bay, OR 97420-2311, (541) 269-5111
For information on restaurants:
Silver Salmon, 1105 Commercial St, Astoria, OR 97103, (503) 338-6640, www.silversalmongrille.com
Wayfarer Restaurant, 1190 Pacific Drive, Cannon Beach, OR (503) 436-1108
Brewin in the Wind, 1610 Pacific Avenue, Oceanside, OR 94134
Whales Tale Newport, Inc., 452 SW Bay Blvd., Newport, OR 97365-4508
Bridgewater Fishhouse Zebra Bar, 1297 Bay Street, Florence, OR 97349 (541) 997-1133
Portside Restaurant, 63383 Kingfisher Rd., Charleston, Oregon 97420 (541) 888-5544
For information on Golf”
Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, 7760 North Highway, 1010, Gleneden Beach, OR 97388, 800-452-2300
Bandon Crossings, 87530 Dew Valley Lane, Bandon, OR 97411 (541)347-3232
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, OR 97411, (888) 345-6008, www.bandondunesgolf.com
For information on museums and parks:
Columbia Maritime Museum, 1792 Marine Dr., Astoria, OR 97103, (503) 325-2323, www.crmm.org
Astoria Column, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, OR, (503) 325.2963, www.astoriacolumn.org
Tillamook Cheese, 4175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR 97141, www.tillamookcheese.com/VisitorsCenter
Cape Meares Lighthouse, (503) 842-2244, www.capemeareslighthouse.org
Haceta Head Lighthouse, www.hecetalighthouse.com
Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area, www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/recreation/tripplanning/oregondunes/
Scenic view on the Pacific Byway
Views as hiking at Cape Meares State Park
The Spouting Horn
Us at Bandon Dunes Golf Course, Bandon, OR
on 29 December 2008.
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