After we left Olympic National Park, we continued three hours down Hwy 101 to Seaside, Oregon. The rest of Washington was pretty nondescript, although we caught our first couple glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. We crossed the mouth of the Columbia River across the magnificent Astoria-Megler Bridge which kinda wigged me out at one end…I don’t like heights.
We arrived in Seaside, Oregon in the evening. I had booked a hotel right on the beach with an ocean side first floor room.
The kids were in heaven.
They played in the sand and in the water for 3 or 4 straight hours…until it was dark and they were shivering. The water was freezing. I couldn’t stand to have my feet in it for more than about 3 minutes, but they didn’t care. The surf lured them in, a constant playmate. Seaside is a lovely little town with a boardwalk right along the beach. That night we strolled along it to get ice cream. People were walking and bicycling and fires were popping up on the beach. We stopped and chatted with a group, keeping warm around their bonfire as the night grew cold.
The next morning we left Seaside and drove about 15 minutes to Cannon Beach where the famous Haystack Rock sits. The kids were happy to again walk and play along the water’s edge. The water was so cold that a Ranger actually came up and warned us that the water was 53 degrees and to be careful. And there were surfers out that day. Maybe those wet suits have built in heaters.
After extracting the kids from the beach once again, we continued another hour down Hwy 101 to our next delicious stop – the Tillamook Cheese Factory. We walked through and saw how the cheese was made and packaged, enjoyed various cheese samples, and ate some really good ice cream.
A few words about the Oregon Coast in general. We were cruising the famous Hwy 101. It traverses 1500 miles from near Seattle all the way to Los Angeles. Also known as the Pacific Highway, the Oregon Coast Highway, and the El Camino Road, it’s only two lanes until northern California. It runs through quaint towns, over rugged cliffs, past blackberry bushes, along countless beaches and eventually through the Redwood forests in California. Hugging the Pacific coast most of the time, the entire Oregon coast is public and easily accessible. Magnificent yet charming.
Anytime we felt like it we pulled over and walked along a beach, or watched waves crash into the rocks, or ate wild blackberries which were growing thick all along the coast.
Looking back over our entire 10 day vacation, driving down Hwy 101, especially along the Oregon coast, was actually my favorite part. So beautiful, so diverse, so spontaneous. Here are some random coast pics from that day.
We stayed that night in Yachats, Oregon…population 700. I found out later that the town made a US Ten Coolest Small Towns in the USA recently. It is indeed quaint, sitting right on the rocky Oregon Coast along Hwy 101. We stayed at the Dublin House Motel, a cheap turquoise motel with a fake red lighthouse attached, but with a brilliant view of the setting sun over the Pacific Ocean out our window.
The rocky coast in Yachats was perfect for tidepooling. I had researched and knew that low tide would be ~ 7 am the next morning so we headed out early. The craggly gray rocks were endless. The ocean crashing into them relentlessly. At low tide there are pools of water trapped in the hollows and crevices of the rocks. Some of these pools were teeming with life. We set out exploring. It was tricky going as far out into the ocean as we could knowing that each crash of waves brought the tide a little higher threatening to strand us on a rocky island. We hopped and scrambled toying with the surf until we found what we were looking for.
After we had explored the tide pools, we sat on the crag and watched the tide come in. The waves crashed steadily into the rock advancing ever so slowly. But as we sat, we watched as tide pools and rocks became part of the ocean again. The spray increasing until we finally had to leave our perch. Before we left the rocks we were privileged to see two seals playing in the ocean nearby. I think they would have liked to warm themselves on the rock had we not been there.
We continued south, Hwy 101 hugging the coast tightly in this part of the state. The road would climb steadily until the forest was thick to the left and the cliff falling sharply to our right, the ocean crashing below us. I commented more than once how easily it would have been for us to drive right off the cliff as there were not always guardrails. The road twisted and turned with at times merely inches of asphalt between us and certain death. But then the road would descend again until there was beach once more.
We stopped at Cape Perpetua, a typical forested headland rising 800 feet above the ocean. Walking around we caught phenomenal views of the Oregon coast and the ocean. Heceta Head Lighthouse is a working Oregon lighthouse that earned a brief stop. We ended our drive of the coast with a stop at some of the Oregon Sand Dunes. They can be 500 feet high and seem out of place after so much forest and rocky shoreline.
The Oregon Coast had greatly exceeded my expectations. Such a diverse and beautiful part of the country. Now we would head inland for our one major detour off Hwy 101. Next stop…Crater Lake!