By Charlene S. Mixa
Activities & Sights Along Oregon’s Pacific Coast Byway
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 traveling Oregon’s dramatic coastline starting at Astoria, OR, the northern most town on the Pacific Coast Highway, heading south ending at Bandon, OR.
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. Following the main road in town, we spot the sign for the “Wayfarer Restaurant”. 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. Next, we walk along the beach getting closer to Haystack and dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean. A farmer’s market is opening and 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.
Back on the Scenic Byway, we head to Newport our next overnight stop. Oregon’s coastline is dotted with State Parks and scenic areas. Driving 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. Parking is just off the highway and we take a short trail to a secluded beach surrounded by rocky outcroppings. On this clear day with blue skies the ocean fog rolls in and out as we make our way south to Newport. As the road slowly climbs expansive spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean spread out before us. High above the mighty Pacific waves crash along the shoreline. Under clear bright skies, visibility is many miles of rugged coastline. Breathtaking views are like a picture post card!
US 101 highway passes through Tillamook, OR and by the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. Our 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 take Bayocean Road that hugs 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. Hiking or sliding down to the beach we find a secluded inlet, allowing views only outward to the ocean. The inlet is strewn with huge logs that we crawl over to reach a small sandy beach.
Lunch time is near and we are famished after a full morning of scenic stops, hikes, and a tour. In this sparsely populated area, we find Oceanside is only a few miles. With one road 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 it’s back to the Scenic Byway.
As the highway winds back to the coastline we are greeted with more fantastic views high above the ocean. Approaching Agate Beach 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 and we schedule a 2:20 PM tee time to take advantage of the afternoon rate.
At Agate Beach Best Western in Newport, the super spacious room is excellent with a king bed, a large area with swivel-rocker chairs, tables, and floor to ceiling windows along one wall. The hotel sits atop a hill and overlooks a sand dune beach. For dinner we head to Newport’s Bayfront located on Yaquina Bay with its many restaurants mixed in with commercial fishing warehouses. Roaming the streets to locate a quiet non-touristy restaurant, we opt for The Whale’s Tale. In this quieter restaurant, our meals are excellent. Good choice!
Up early it’s a fun stroll and climb on 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. 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 offering numerous upscale shops. Following a winding path through trees, along holes of the Salishan Golf Course along Siletz Bay we arrive at the Pacific Ocean.
Under clear skies 70 degrees, it’s a perfect day for golf 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 as the temperature drops. On the final holes we bundle up in sweatshirts and windbreakers. Expect and prepare for dramatic weather changes along the Oregon Coast.
The final leg of our Oregon Coast journey is from Newport to Coos Bay. The route provides scenic ocean views on this foggy morning especially at the rugged cliffs of the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. At Captain Cook Scenic Trail we are excited to see the “Spouting Horn,” an “ocean geyser” where a cave has formed and then cracked creating an opening. As the tide comes in, the waves crash into the cave, and the water spews up through the hole creating “the spouting horn”. Catching the tide, waves and geyser at exactly the right time for a “spouting horn” photo is a feat. Hurray! We did 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. On the path to the lighthouse we pass the Haceta Head-Keeper’s House which has been restored to its original splendor and is now a Bed & Breakfast. At the Lighthouse, 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 the charming town of Florence with its array of beautiful flowers, shops and restaurants. Florence is much classier 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 it’s a quick stop at 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.
The Best Western at Coos Bay is our final lodging along the coast. This is a basic hotel room, clean but not fancy or new. With golf scheduled for Bandon Dunes, we decide to get in a round of golf before tackling Bandon’s links style course. On a recommendation from the bartender in Agate Beach we locate Bandon Crossings Golf Course take their last tee time. 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. Luckily for us we have clear skies and mild winds making for an exciting day of golf on this challenging course.
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:
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
For information on museums and parks:
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, w.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/recreation/tripplanning/oregondunes/