Oregon state, with its many and long sandy and rocky beaches, makes its coastline accessible to the public, unlike in my home state of Washington, where people can own the shoreline, so no-trespassing signs litter the beach (that said, there is much pretty to see in Washington). But in Oregon, as my wife and I drive along Highway 101 through Newport, Waldport, Yachats, Florence, and Reedsport—we’re greeted by state park after state park, all places where we can stop, take a short walk to the shoreline, revel in the ocean view, picnic, and often walk the beach.
Placing our trailer at the Waldsport KOA for a few days, we explore the fishing town of Newport with its fishing boats and chowder houses, and sealions huffing on the dock, and we tour the wonderful aquarium where, at the aviary, we see for the first time tufted puffins up close.
Near Newport, the Yaquina Head lighthouse (a conservation area administered by the Bureau of Land Management) not only serves up a beautiful view of the ocean, it also adds offshore rocks crowded by common muirs and Brandt’s cormorants that show surprising civility to one another (no shoving seen). Binoculars are a good to have here.
Because lighthouses are on points of land (placed so sailors of yore could easily see the light from 20-miles out) the ocean views are unobstructed, far, and beautiful. A walk up Salal Hill, adjacent to the Yaquina Head lighthouse, makes the already sublime ocean view even better.
Another coastal vista—but at elevation, so with more of the rocky coastline visible—occurs after a short drive up a hill that overlooks Cape Perpetua (near Yachats). It’s drizzly, breezy day, and we realize that our current panorama of green Pacific Ocean and dark green forested hills would be even more far-seen on a sunny day—but still it’s spectacular.
A stone gazebo built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s perches at the top of the hill. We’ve encountered CCC-built trails, bridges, and benches throughout the West’s national parks, monuments, and recreations areas that were built by depression-era men, many from cities or towns in the East and Midwest, who were for the first time in the West, living and working in such spectacular natural scenery—and getting paid. The information poster at the gazebo quotes one CCC man who says the CCC saved his life.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, near Florence, Oregon, provides another spreading view of the Pacific Ocean, as does Cape Arago, near Coos Bay. The Umpqua River lighthouse near Winchester Bay is not on the ocean’s edge anymore, because of shoreline changes, but the informative tour of the keeper’s grounds by the knowledgeable tour guide fills our intellectual eyes and ears.
Winchester Bay State Park surprises us a bit, for it had been just a point on the map where we could park our trailer, and we know nothing about the area before we arrive. But it turns out to be a pleasant, open, grassy area beside the Winchester Bay marina, and from the park it’s an easy and relatively traffic-less bike ride to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. I awake early, stay quiet so as to not wake my wife, and then I bike to the Dune’s beach. There (before the ATVers have finished their breakfasts and started their ascents of the dunes, which are across the road from the beach), the seagulls and I enjoy the sand and the waves—and I pen this piece.
A beautiful view from a lighthouse is a recurring theme during our Oregon shores trip. Per a poster I pick up, I learn that lighthouses are spaced along the coast from the Washington through Oregon to California (as listed below)—and they’re available to visit:
Lighthouses of the Oregon Coast (from north to south, and with what towns they’re near):
— source: A poster made by Nature’s Design Photography (www.lighthousecollectibles.com)
- North Head and Cape Disappointment (Long Beach in Washington state)
- Tillamook Rock (Seaside)
- Cape Meares (Tillamook)
- Yaquina Head (Newport)
- Yaquina Bay (Waldport)
- Heceta Head (Florence)
- Umpqua River (Winchester Bay)
- Cape Arago (Coos Bay)
- Coquille River (Coquille)
- Bandon Light (Langlois)
- Cape Bianco (Sixes)
- St. George Reef and Battery Point (Crescent City in northern California)