If you’re addicted to travel photography on social media like us you’ve probably seen a lot of epic waterfall pics taken in Oregon USA, this is because the state is home to around 238 falls. That’s a lot of waterfalls! And with all of these beautiful falls around everyone tends to forget the beautiful coastline which has just as much to offer in the way of epic scenery as its inland sister. As we travelled south down Highway 101 from Washington we discovered some great places. We were actually quite surprised to discover not only that sea stacks are actually extremely abundant on the west coast, there are loads of beaches with quite unique and individual stacks, we also found some amazing towns and communities we would never have visited if we hadn’t been travelling down as we did.
So we’ve compiled a little list of our favourite towns and spots we stopped at along the way. This list is not exhaustive by any means but is hopefully a good starting point.
Fort Stevens National Park – Once a military base the park is situated on the northern most coastal tip of the state and encompasses around 4,300 acres. We arrived at the park one afternoon and immediately set out to find the historic shipwreck we had found mentioned when researching the area. When entering the park everything is quite easy to find just keep your eye out for signage. A few parking areas do charge a daily fee but if you stop in at the ranger station on the way in you can find out more.
Heading past the ranger’s station take the next left after the lake (there was no sign indicating the ship wreck when we were there). Follow the road to the first car park, the wreck is only about 20 meters from this.
Known as the ‘Peter Iredale’ the ship ran ashore in October 1906, all that remains is its hull which over the last 100 years has been slowly deteriorating. The wreck looks really cool on the beach and at low tide you can even walk right up and through it. Take a packed lunch and spend some time taking in the views.
Seaside – After spending the night close to the beach in Gearheart we began travelling south again. Stopping in the cute seaside town of the aptly named “Seaside” we were in search of our morning coffee hit. We didn’t have to go far to find a brew at Beach Day coffee shop just down from the beach on the main drag. Coffees in hand we started to make our way around the adorable 1920s promenade and town centre which feature many buildings with that early 20th century style. We sat on the promenade for a good hour people watching and taking in the views of the lush forest headland to the south. Keep your eye out as you drive into town and spot the welcome sign which is cutely styled in a ‘seaside’ theme.
Cannon Beach – Just south of Seaside lies Cannon Beach and the Ecola State Park. Just on the city limits as you enter from the north the Park turn off will be on your right. The road is quite windy and narrow in parts, we did see a sign at the start of the road which did indicate no trailers should be taken down the road and I think this is a good suggestion however we still did see a number of people with trailers in tow. As you enter the park keep driving straight to the main car park on the headland only about 100m from the ranger booth.
There is a day use fee of $5 to park your car within Ecola and no parking on the road up as it’s too narrow.
The headland has some amazing views of Cannon beach and the haystack below. There is also a really great walk from this car park across to Tillamook Lighthouse lookout. The walk takes you through some amazing scenery, forest groves, headland lookouts and beaches. The walk takes about 2hrs one way and can be a bit strenuous at times with the uphill sections but well worth it once you get to the lighthouse lookout. From the lookout you can see the small lighthouse sitting upon a solitary rock off shore. As the area is somewhat isolated there is plenty of wildlife to watch especially the local Bald Eagles hunting in the air currents.
When we were visiting however the path about 10mins into the walk between Ecola Point and Indian Beach (the two car park options) had been completely washed away by a storm and subsequently the trail is closed in this section. There was no sign to indicate the closure on the Ecola side and we were unaware until getting to a sign at the site of the slide. We refused to turn back though and decided to find a way through, we would not recommend this however as it was quite tricky, there was a lot of mud and it took an extra 40mins on top of the 2hrs, instead either walk via the road or drive to the second car park at Indian Beach (turn right at the ranger booth) and start from there. The entire Park is absolutely amazing and one of our favourites on the coast, if you are in the area visiting Cannon Beach definitely head over and check this place out!
The village town of Cannon Beach just below Ecola State Park is most famous for what is known as the ‘Haystack’ a rather large sea stack perched on the beach. The town itself is also an adorably quaint village and worth a wander around. If traveling like we did in a van/camper just note that you are not allowed to sleep in your vehicle (“camp”) within the city limits. We found this out the hard way when at 3am in the morning a very friendly police officer knocked on our window. In our defence we didn’t see any signs driving in and the officer admitted that there are actually a very low number of signs warning you of this fact and they were working on getting more signage in the future…a bit too little too late for us however.
Pacific City – we happened upon the small seaside village (not really a city as the name would suggest) as we travelled south from Cannon beach. As you enter along the 101 on your right is the local Pelican Brewery and to the left an awesome coffee spot called Stimulus. We decided to pull over and have a coffee/internet break and ended up staying in town for around 3 hours. From our view of the water at Stimulus we saw a number of whales passing along the coast for the summer migration. The whales are generally Grey Whales migrating up to Alaska and are best spotted late March to early June and can be viewed all the way along the coast.
The beach here had actual sand! A lot of the beaches we visited were mostly pebble or a really thick grain of sand. The beach also seemed quite popular with a number of surfers whom we saw sitting out past the break. We walked down the beach to the headland where there were a number of rock pools to explore. A nice little stop for a few hours.
Face Rock Park (Bandon) – Getting its name from you guessed it a rock that looks like a face. It’s actually quite remarkable and once you see the face in the rock you can’t believe how much it looks like, well a face! It’s mesmerising. The rock is part of a Native American legend where a girl and her pet kittens met an evil sea spirit and were all turned to stone, you can read the legend in full on a plaque on the headland.
While we were visiting a sand artist had been carving patterns into the sand below the headland during low tide, quite a nice surprise as we didn’t even know Face Rock existed until we pulled up. The views of the area are great and if you make your way down to the beach at low tide you can explore some rock caves but be careful you don’t get stuck with the incoming tide.
Port Orford – A quiet little town we may have over looked had it not been for a huge need to stop and spend a few days in the one place off the road. The town in passing may not seem like much but if you take the time to scratch the surface you’ll find some gems underneath. The Camp Blanco RV park for instance is probably the loveliest RV park we’ve stayed in with the friendliest people. The park is small but very clean and has some amazing showers! It has a wonderfully neighbourly feel with Jeff the owner giving us help with anything we needed, places to eat, hiking trails and even which mechanic is best in town (J&D Auto, so so good!). Jeff while running the park also has a hidden talent at making a mean ‘Everything Sauce’. Big Mac’s Everything Sauce is a bit of a local treat and can be put on basically anything, we absolutely loved it.
While in town we got to talking to a couple parked next to us who very kindly offered to take us crabbing down at the local port. We found out that at the start of the Crab season you could get your daily quota (12 crabs per person, you do need a fishing license) within an hour and the area has some of the best crab in the state. After throwing a lot back (you can only take male crabs over 6inches) we ended up going home with 4, not too bad considering we were crabbing on the tail end of the season.
The Port Orford port we were crabbing from is actually quite unique, being one of only six ‘dolly docks’ in the world. Each day the commercial fishing boats are lifted off the dry dock and into the water by two enormous hoists, it’s really cool to see all the boats sitting on trailers all lined up on the dock.
While down at the port see if you can spot the town’s resident sea lion named “Mumma” by locals. She loves to swim around the dock and eat any unwanted fish thrown into the water by the fishermen. The port also provides an awesome backdrop for sunset pictures of the rugged coastline.
While in the area don’t forget to visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse about a 20 minute drive north of town. We visited just before sunset so unfortunately the lighthouse was closed but during opening times you can actually go up and see the light up close. It looked pretty good from the outside though and the views of the coastline were awesome. We were able to make some dinner in the car park by the cliffs and watch as some storm clouds rolled in.
In town there are quite a few restaurants and bars to eat at but our favourite was Red Fish where we had some of the best oysters ever! They were so fresh and had delicious, yum yum! The restaurant is a reasonable priced and has some great views of Battle Rock and the beach below. Next door to the restaurant is a beautiful art gallery owned by the same family, where local artists display and sell their work. You could take a little piece of Port Orford home with you.
There are so many good places to visit on the coast it’s hard to put them all in one post. Hopefully this has given you a bit of inspiration to not go chasing waterfalls and instead maybe also check out Oregon’s beautiful coastline.