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Road trip along the Oregon coast

The Oregon 101

Road trip along the coast

Oregonians never say they are going to ‘the beach’, but rather ‘to the coast’. Dramatic rock formations rise from the tumultuous sea and fog envelopes the beaches. Starfish wait patiently in the tide pools for the ocean to return for them. A road trip along the Oregon 101 is filled with rugged beauty.

Hit the road
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The water is far too cold to swim, the weather is often too cloudy to tan and the happy beach vibes are few and far between. The Oregon coast is windy, rocky, cold and rugged so don’t even bother to pack your bathing suit. Nevertheless, a road trip along this wild coast is a truly unforgettable experience. Nature reveals itself in all its glory and facets. Go whale watching, hike through wild forests and clear your head on the vast endless beaches.

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Cannon Beach

Mighty monoliths

From Portland it takes just 90 minutes to drive to the coast. Your first stop is the popular Cannon Beach. The imposing Haystack Rock rises proudly from the turbulent sea. Monoliths are quite common along the Oregon coast. For fantastic views of the bay head uphill to Ecola State Park.

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The town of Cannon Beach is small but quite charming. Take a stroll and peruse the art galleries and boutiques on Hemlock Street. Sample the regional delicacy of ‘sea foam with dark chocolate’, a sweet concoction made with egg whites and brown sugar syrup.

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Tomas Nevesely

Newport

Lighthouses and whales

The idyllic town of Newport is only a 2.5 hour drive from Cannon Beach. Nestled at the mouth of the Yaquina River, the town boasts two lighthouses including the largest one in Oregon, Yaquina Head. Head over to the historic harbour to buy freshly caught fish.

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The biggest attraction in Newport is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Filled with numerous water tanks, interactive displays and impressive collections of exotic fish, sharks and sea turtles, this aquarium is one of the most spectacular in the United States. Newport is also the best place to spot whales along the shore.

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A little further away near the visitor’s centre, you will come to another rugged natural attraction, the Devil’s Churn. This narrow inlet has been carved out by the waves and pulls the sea water into a narrow gulley that pushes it out the other end creating a spectacular maelstrom. A truly devilish sight.

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

A devilish attraction

Drainpipe of the Pacific, the gate to hell, gaping sinkhole… Thor’s Well has many nicknames. This natural wonder is located in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and is perhaps one of the most beautiful spots along the Oregon coast. The sea seems to disappear into a large hole and is expelled with relentless force. Thor’s Well is actually an underground sea cave that allows water to flow in and out. Most of the action happens at high tide.

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Oregon Dunes NP

Towering sand dunes

Then suddenly… sand! Oregon Dunes National Park is a unique area. Enormous wind-carved sand dunes rise more than 150 metres above sea level. The dunes extend between Florence and Coos Bay over a distance of around 80 kilometres.

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A dune buggy tour is the most spectacular and efficient way to explore this vast region. You can either take an organised tour and let the driver show off his incredible hair-raising driving skills on the high dunes, or rent your own buggy for a more peaceful ride.

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Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo

Bandon

Go crabbing in Bandon

The next stop is the picturesque village of Bandon, which is packed with dozens of restaurants and a classic boardwalk. However, the real attraction is the beach, a natural wonder of incredible rock formations. Rent a fatbike and ride out among these enormous monoliths at low tide. Each rock has its own name, but Wizard’s Hat has acquired world fame since it went viral on Instagram.

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Golf fans will also enjoy Bandon. The Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is known for being one of the most beautiful golf courses in the United States. For an ocean-themed meal, head to Tony’s Crab Shack. In addition to ordering from the huge menu, you also have the option of catching your own crab from the pier. For a small fee, Tony will clean and prepare your crab dinner.

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TIP

Colourful tide pools

The low tide reveals countless tide pools along the beaches. These small natural pools filled with sea water are home to brightly coloured starfish, anemones and other intriguing sea creatures. The best time to go tide pooling is one to two hours before low tide. It is forbidden to disturb the sea life in these pools so absolutely no touching! ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’ is the motto here.

TIP

Colourful tide pools

The low tide reveals countless tide pools along the beaches. These small natural pools filled with sea water are home to brightly coloured starfish, anemones and other intriguing sea creatures. The best time to go tide pooling is one to two hours before low tide. It is forbidden to disturb the sea life in these pools so absolutely no touching! ‘Take only photos, leave only footprints’ is the motto here.

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Harris Beach State Park

To the California border

The best for last: the most breathtaking stretch of road lies between Bandon and the California border. Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean where the vastness of the sea is very humbling. 

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Going further you will finally come to the most southern park along the coast: Harris Beach State Park. This place has an almost otherworldly beauty. Choose from dozens of trails or explore one of Oregon’s 7 Marine Gardens: here you can fully observe the tide pools.

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KLM

iFly Magazine

May & June 2018

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