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It's no surprise the coast is a popular Oregon region thanks to majestic forests and sandy beaches. Quaint, historic towns deck the border, offering an array of recreation from exploring world-class aquariums to great seafood – though unrelated. Enjoy 363 miles of diverse terrain and activity from whale watching in Lincoln City to sea lion caves in Florence.
Settled for the purpose of fur trading, the bustling seaport at the mouth of the Columbia River grew into a respectable city during the late 1800s. Take a walking or driving tour and see some of the 400 historic structures still dotting the town. For helpful maps and brochures, stop by the visitor centers, located at 111 West Marine Drive in downtown Astoria (503) 325-6311.
Astoria Column: Built in 1926, make sure to drop by this 125-foot-tall column on top of Coxcomb Hill and climb the interior spiral staircase that leads to an observation deck at the top. From there, you can enjoy an aerial view of the city, mountains and Pacific Ocean. Painted with a mural depicting 14 events from Oregon’s early history, the Astoria Column is a historical treasure.
Columbia River Maritime Museum: Browse more than 30,000 historical objects and visit the museum’s interactive display that includes many shipwrecks that have occurred in “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” Test out your pilot skills for a day with their tugboat simulator and tour the lightship Columbia just outside the museum. Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Oregon Film Museum: Do you have any Goonies fans in your group? Visit the Oregon Film Museum which was an actual working jail from 1914 to 1976, as well as the scene of the famous opening jail break from The Goonies. Celebrate film-making in the state of Oregon any day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 732 Duane Street.
Astoria-Megler Bridge: When the bridge was constructed in the mid-1960’s, it was met with considerable criticism. Called, “a bridge to nowhere”, the four-mile marvel connected the small city of Astoria to a mostly empty shore on the Washington border.
Since its construction, the bridge has saved hours for drivers traveling along the Mexico-to-Canada highway and has offered a one-of-a-kind viewpoint for the beautiful mouth of the Columbia River. It is the longest continuous bridge in the nation and worth the few minutes to drive.
Fort Stevens: The Oregon Coast is full of wonders and history. Of the many historic attractions, several are found in the area of Fort Stevens State Park. The wreckage of the Peter Iredale can be found on a nearby beach and is accessible during low tide. Beware of sharp, rusted edges when exploring. Do not climb.
Other historic landmarks can be found in the area, including Fort Stevens, a very well maintained Civil War fort that offers tours to visitors. Local lakes and trails also offer biking and hiking through the lush vegetation.
Follow US 101 south to one of Oregon’s oldest resort towns, Seaside, is where families have vacationed since the turn of the twentieth century. Of course, the most sought after attraction is the beach where visitors can kayak and swim. Some have jokingly claimed that the town was founded by dentists because of its abundance of candy and ice cream stores on every corner.
Seaside Aquarium: Visit one of the oldest aquariums on the West Coast, the Seaside Aquarium. The new Discovery Center gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with Oregon’s ocean wildlife. View tiny creatures through microscopes or actually touch sea anemones and starfish. Open daily at 9 a.m. 200 North Prom.
Mo’s Restaurant: Many restaurants claim to have the best chowder and they may be right. But, few places can boast a better dining view of Cannon Beach than Mo’s. Built right on the beach, customers are seated at a window that spans an entire side of the building. Outside, diners watch kite fliers and boogie boarders enjoying one of Oregon’s most popular beaches, all with the iconic backdrop on Haystack Rock.
Winter Beaches: It is the quietest season for tourism on the Oregon coast and is kept as a guarded secret that this is one of the best times to visit. Mild temperatures prevail in the winter, but occasionally give way to boisterous storms. Oceanside properties and businesses quickly become a veritable theatre for the spectacular action in the sea. Don’t miss your chance to see the Pacific at full force, especially with the comfort of a warm drink or bowl of clam chowder.
Historic Seaside Promenade: For a nostalgic experience, park the car on any side street near the ocean and walk as far as you like on the Promenade, a two-mile long sidewalk that outlines the wide sandy beach. Benches are available here and there for sitting, or rent a bicycle and ride it down to the beach.
Evergreen forests, broad sandy beaches, clean air, the magnificent Pacific Ocean and a lake at its back door – Lincoln City has it all. Folks from around the country and the world return year after year to soak up the Lincoln City experience.
Jennifer L. Sears Glass Art Studio: At this glassblowing studio your group will have the opportunity not only to see glassblowing in progress, but also experience the art. The studio opened in February 2005, and offers glassblowing demonstrations free to the public, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – excluding a few major holidays. For a modest fee, the artists at the studio will also teach anyone in your group who wishes how to blow their own glass float or make their own paperweight. SW 48th and Hwy 101, (541) 996-2569.
Regatta Park: At NE 14th Street and West Devils Lake Road you'll find Regatta Park. Devils Lake on NE 14th boasts a state-of-the-art playground, plus a boat launch, walking trails, and an interpretive center.
This site represents the closest, most easily accessible example of mature forest in the Lincoln City area. One 400-year-old tree is more than 200 feet tall and 35 feet around at its base. Whether or not you elect to walk the trail, the beauty of this area and its abundant bird life can easily be enjoyed from the picnic tables. Admission to the park is free and includes public restrooms.
Whale watching: Every spring and fall thousands of people flock to the Oregon coast to watch the Pacific gray whales that are on migrations of their own. Some gray whales take up year-round residence on the Oregon Coast. Several remain in the shallow waters off of Depoe Bay, where the nearby feeding grounds are excellent.
Good spots in Lincoln City for spotting whales are at Roads End, the NW 21st Street beach access and SW 40th Street. Many people prefer to see the great gray whale close up. Charter boat companies in Depoe Bay conduct regular whale-watching tours, when weather permits.
The city of Newport resides along the coast and is best known for tourism, fishing, and wood products.
Oregon Coast Aquarium: Most everyone who travels through this part of the coast will plan a stop at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (541) 867-3474; to see where Keiko the orca whale lived for two years before being returned to his home waters off the coast of Iceland.
Both the aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center are located just beneath the Yaquina Bay Bridge at the south edge of Newport. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during summer months and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year.
Lighthouses: The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and Yaquina Head Lighthouse are Newport must-sees. Both lighthouses are open for touring usually from noon to 5 p.m. Yaquina Head’s tower, rising 93 feet, is especially dramatic and views from the tower watch room are available between 9 a.m. and noon from mid-June to mid-September. Its light has remained active since 1873!
Tide Pools: Looking for a homerun with the kids? Challenge them with a checklist of Pacific Marine wildlife and send them to one of the hundreds of natural tide pools along the Oregon Coast. For true tide pool enthusiasts, take the trip north to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a popular pit stop and unique marine formation with premium photo ops and A+ tide pools.
Situated along the river, Florence is a thriving community of approximately 5,000.
Sea Lion Caves: Located 11 miles north of Florence is the world’s largest sea cave. Observe wild sea lions and sea birds in an actual cavern with crashing water and exciting wildlife. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Old Town Florence: The downtown historic district is a pleasant place to stroll and peek into charming shops, galleries, and eateries housed in some of the town’s most historic buildings. Along Bay Street, in Old Town, stop and eat at Waterfront Depot, enjoy great sundaes at BJ’s Ice Cream, or stop in for a cappuccino at Old Town Coffee Company.
Oregon Dunes: Getting tired of the waves and water? Drive a few miles in from Florence beaches and behold an ocean of a different sort. Miles of mountainous sand dunes await in Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Designated areas allow for daring adventures such as sandboarding and four-wheeling. Or just bring a blanket for a picnic and enjoy the endless yellow sandscapes while sipping on a soda and eating a sandwich.
At Reedsport you can walk along reconstructed boardwalks reminiscent of the industrial area that housed canneries and sawmill sheds in earlier days
Umpqua Discovery Center: Learn about the small town’s history at the splendid Umpqua Discovery Center. It is located near the boardwalk at 409 Riverfront Way in Old Town, just off US 101 (541) 271-4816.
Kids enjoy peeking through the center’s periscope for a 360-degree view of the Umpqua River, nearby railroad swing-bridge and jet-boat dock. The center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June to nearby Schooner Inn Café and at the Sugar Shack Bakery.
Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area: If you drive east toward Roseburg, be sure to pull off at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area just three miles east of Reedsport and near the Umpqua River. Over nearly 500 acres, mammoth elk roam for your viewing pleasure. Depending on the time of day, you can find a variety of other wildlife from porcupines to coyotes.
Crabbing: Reedsport certainly isn’t the only place to crab along the Oregon coast, but it is one of the best. Visitors are encouraged to borrow or buy a simple crab pot and drop it down into the bay. Sooner than you think, your bait will have attracted large, delicious crabs and you’ll have captured more than just a unique memory. You’ll have captured dinner as well!
To experience some of the most magnificent scenery on the south coast, detour from US 101 for 10 miles north of Bandon to Charleston and then double back to Sunset Bay, Shore Acres, and Cape Arago, which can be accessed from Coos Bay-North Bend.
Sunset Bay: Among these sandstone cliffs are easy hiking trails for the whole family. At low tide walk out along the rocks on the south side and explore tide pools to encounter sea anemones, crabs, and purple sea urchins.
Bandon is best known for its beaches, cheese, and cranberries. Some 900 acres of cranberry bogs are under cultivation near Bandon, and the community celebrates the Bandon Cranberry Festival each September. Close to the hotel are several places to park and walk down to the beach, including Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint.
Bandon Historical Society Museum: View displays of Native American artifacts and old photos of the cranberry harvest, as well as exhibits of local history. Of particular interest are old photographs documenting both occurrences of the town burning down in 1914 and 1936.
Located at 270 Fillmore Avenue and US 101, near the harbor and Old Town shops and eateries. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (541) 347-2164;
Bandon Dunes Golf Course: Named “Best Golf Resort” by Golf Digest, this picturesque course combines the beauty of rolling greens with the beautiful rocky beaches of the southern Oregon coastline. Other nearby courses have received high acclaims and welcome golfers of all skill levels to enjoy mild temperatures and excellently designed and maintained holes with minimal wait times.