Every year, my family packs up our Subaru Outback (we’re nothing if quintessential Seattleites) and head to the Oregon Coast. Even though we’ve headed south for a week of beach-y goodness for the past six years, we have yet to discover everything that the Oregon Coast has to offer.
The best way to start your journey to the Oregon Coast is to jaunt off I-5 near Olympia and head down Highway 101 toward Astoria, Oregon. Take the Astoria–Megler Bridge across the Columbia for a fantastic view. Astoria is considered the starting point of an Oregon Coast journey. Stop at the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe for organic baked goods, lunch-fare and delicious coffee before heading out to explore the Astoria Column, the Oregon Film Museum with an entire exhibit on Astoria’s most famous movie, The Goonies along with a stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
If time allows, a frolic at Fort Stevens near Warrenton is well worth it. The fort was originally constructed in 1863-64 during the Civil War as an earthwork battery on the south shore of the mouth of the Columbia River. Visitors can still explore the bunkers. In 1906, the sailing ship, Peter Iredale ran aground on Clasp Spit. The wreckage is still visible today along the beach of the park.
Continue heading south through Seaside, a quintessential beach town. From Farmer’s Markets to Family Camp Outs and the Seaside Carousel, Seaside has something for everyone. There are loads of hiking trails, biking trails and kayaking opportunities from Seaside which also makes it the adventurer’s favorite town.
Further down is everyone’s favorite Oregon Coast town, Cannon Beach. Named after a cannon that landed on it’s beach, the town is a favorite tourist destination. Haystack Rock steals the scene as it towers over the town and inspires dreams of pirate crusades (or reenactments of Goonies scenes for the 80s children). Cannon Beach is packed full of shopping, great restaurants and entertainment. Make sure to stop into Pelican Brewery’s newest location in Cannon Beach for a meal that can’t be beat. For some of the best Salt Water Taffy on the coast, stop into Bruce’s Candy Kitchen where they have been making taffy since 1963.
About two miles outside of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park where visitors can hike, surf and explore tide pools. Indian Beach offers a secluded sandy beach with tons of space to watch the surfers (or even go yourself), check out the tide pools or just lounge on the beach. The protected beach is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Ecola Point offers breathtaking views of the coastline.
Further down the coast lies Manzanita, a quiet and energizing town. This is my family’s favorite destination and is it packed with activity, dogs and great meals. The beach is beautiful and the people, friendly. Beach bikes can be rented at Bahama Mama for a few hours of beach riding and Manzanita Sweets has great old-fashioned candies along with delicious chocolates. The town also hosts a popular Farmer’s Market on Friday evenings.
Tillamook is the home of Tillamook Cheese and a factory tour is a must when one is in Tillamook. The free, self-guided tour provides a close-up look at the making of cheese. The factory is packed full of fun activities for old and young alike and even has scoops of their delicious ice cream available for purchase. You can also, of course, purchase cheese, lots of cheese.
About a half an hour from Tillamook is the Cape Meares Light House along with the Octopus Tree. The lighthouse was built in 1889 and is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in scenery. The view from the lighthouse provides opportunities to see whale migrations in the winter and spring along with seals and seal lions. A short walk from the lighthouse is the Octopus Tree, a uniquely shaped Sitka Spruce tree.
Lincoln City and Newport are some of the bigger town along the coast. The two historic lighthouses in Newport along with the Aquarium make it a popular destination. From October through May, the Lincoln City Visitors and Convention Bureau hides over 2000 handblown glass floats on the beach for its popular "Glass Float Odyssey”.
Florence has soaring sand dunes, boundless beaches and plenty of parks to explore. Rent an ATV and ride the sand dunes. Check out “spouting horn” a blowhole that shoots water high into the sky. Just 10 miles north of Florence are the famous Sea Lion Caves which are a must-visit in the winter.
Coos Bay is almost at the end of the Oregon Coastline but it is not to be missed. The lighthouses, ocean-side parks and Simpson’s Reef (a great place to watch the sea lions), make this a great town. Nearby towns of North Bend and Charleston are so close that the three seem to melt together.
The Oregon Coast offers a new adventure each time you visit it. The abundant activities, wildlife and scenery make it one of the best Pacific Northwest vacation destinations around.