THE OREGON COAST - IN THE SLOW LANE
Whale watching, jet boating, sand dune scaling, beach browsing, and guzzling 'razors'; we never tire of Oregon's 575-kilometre coast.
It all begins over the Columbia River, crossing the 6.4 kilometre Astoria-Megler Bridge. The world's longest continuous truss bridge, it's a fittingly dramatic entrance to a histrionic coast.
We skirt around Astoria, preparing to meet "Terrible Tilly". Tillamook Head wrecked 2000 ships until the lighthouse was built in 1881. Now she threatens to wreck as many cars, as stunned motorists experience her stark beauty full in the face. This coastline is first and foremost about gawking, and Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach, is the perfect place to pull over and practice: mists twist up from Pacific wave crests, which in turn shatter on a silky expanse of beach and shaggy pinnacles like Cannon Beach's super star, Haystack Rock, a 72-metre monolith. We head to the Wayfarer Restaurant, where we can digest the view while tucking into our first razor clams of the year.
We've only gone 48-kilometres.
Eventually, we wind inland to Tillamook - and dessert. Tillamook Cheese sets the gold standard for fromage, and ice cream.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the building we now pass is the largest wooden structure in the world - a WW II Blimp Hangar. Amateur aviators will be agog at the old warplanes here. The flock of 'war birds' includes a SBD Dauntless dive-bomber.
Next we dawdle over the hills to Lincoln City, heading for the Inn at Spanish Head. We ask for room 331. Recently renovated, the compact suite with its tiny kitchen and a bed has a balcony that seems practically in the sea. Down on the beach we chase tumbling clumps of sea foam, then retire to our balcony to guzzle California bubbly and watch others making similar fools of themselves.
Next morning's first stop is 24-kilometres away. Time for grey whale watching at Depoe Bay. Claiming to be the world's smallest navigable harbour, it's accessible only at certain times of the tide. The locals call the experience 'shooting the hole.' If you're up for it, book with Tradewinds and get the whole zen: spotting whales up close, catching salmon or rockfish, and losing your breakfast in the frequently rough seas.
Just 21-kilometres on, and we cross Yaquina Bay Bridge, the first of five ornate bridges with art deco touches, built in the 1930s. Ahead is Newport. We pull into South Beach State Park for our second night, book a yurt, and stretch our legs along one of the many trails before heading to the phenomenal Oregon Coast Aquarium. Its Passages of the Deep, a suspended underwater acrylic tunnel, is a crowd stopper.
On day three, it's 37-kilometres to Yachats, a little village with big festivals. We turn up at their mushroom fest in October each year to enjoy guided forest mushroom walks and later, fabulous fungi food.
Then we cover 26-kilometres to the cliff hugging Sea Lion Caves. Stopping here is also a yearly ritual for us..
By mid afternoon we pass a few 'hitchhiking' dunes. When we reach Florence, smack dab in duneland, we book a yurt in popular Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.
A stop at Bullards Beach State Park for some lighthouse loitering starts our fourth day. We spend an hour at Coquille River Lighthouse, watching the river clamor out to sea and the marine traffic clamber in, and then it's time to warm up in nearby Bandon. This historic old town is chock-full of interesting buildings, and the home of Bandon Coffee Café, brewing the best java on the coast.
Trundling on another 50 kilometres to Port Orford, with stops en route to revel in the waterfront vistas, we end our day early at Gold Beach. Mail jet boats depart from here, and this 6-hour back-country adventure is pure frontier. We in book at the Tu Tu'Tun Lodge on the Rogue River's north bank and wait for our 'ship' to come in; it stops in front of our luxurious lodging.
After a late start on day five, we head out of Oregon. Harris State Park Beach in Brookings is a must stop for pelican spotting-flocks trolling past us their gargantuan bills agape. A perfect place to give our budget a break and book another yurt. Later we'll take our wine glasses down to the beach and toast the most spectacular sunset on the Oregon Coast. I know, it's still only 11 A.M. but what's the hurry?
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