Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 31, 2015


IMG_1804 Brad Nixon (640x480)

Say “Oregon,” to almost anyone and the response is likely to be:

  1. “I love the coast!” or
  2. “I’d love to see the coast!”

It’s true; the coast of Oregon is dramatic, beautiful, memorable. Let’s go there. Will we cover all 363 miles of coastline in one blog post? No.

You’re welcome.

How to get there? From anywhere in the United States, travel west until a large expanse of water prevents you from driving further. Welcome to the coast. Now what?

Strategy (A): Find a place to settle in for a few days; get sand between your toes and on the sheets, towels and any uncovered food; collect seashells you’ll never take home and scour the local eateries for those perfect (razor clams) (grilled fish) (other treat here).

(B): Start at any point on the coast and follow U.S. Route 101 as far north or south as your time and budget and curiosity allow. Stop when you like. Eat when and where you choose. Stop for every single stand selling hazelnuts, cranberries, myrtle carving or fresh coffee.

At the risk of sounding like your guidance counselor I can only say, “Both approaches have merit.” Match your strategy to your personal travel style. The Counselor and I are fortunate to have used both approaches on separate trips to Oregon. Let’s look at each.

Option (A): Oregon has an extremely diverse coastscape (if there is such a word). There are dunes, wide beaches, sea stacks, craggy headlands, lighthouses, marshes, charming villages, bustling commercial and tourist centers, historic sites. Wait, sea stacks? These:

IMG_1808 - Sea stacks Brad Nixon (640x480)

I’m partial to dunes, and you can see plenty of them, especially in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Oregon dunes Brad Nixon 1946 (640x480)

Two notes on visiting seaside dunes: (1) Consult a map or check locally about actually getting the dune experience adjacent to the ocean. There can be an extensive stretch of dunes between the coast highway and the actual edge of the ocean or even a view of the ocean. (2) If don’t start close to the water, you may need to walk a long distance up and down across loose sand, often at steep angles to get the oceanside dune experience. It’s strenuous and time-consuming.

For a tour of other dune fields in the American west, CLICK HERE.

Once you’ve determined what portion of the coast will be your base, you have a vast choice of accommodations, from rustic beach cottages to spiffy hotels and everything in between. Small coastal villages? Here’s little Bandon and its harbor, on the southern portion of the coast:

IMG_1860 Bandon Oregon Brad Nixon (640x480)

Or, you can base yourself in one of the larger towns, which usually have thriving ports, marinas, lots of shopping, hotels and the daily amenities of regular life, including Newport, Lincoln City and Coos Bay. Everywhere you’ll find cuisine ranging from homemade to haute, and there are trails, parks, overlooks and beaches on which to build an appetite for every meal.

Option (B): Wonderful U.S. Route 101 winds along the coast, and for long stretches you’ll have views of the ocean, dunes and headlands. You’re also going to encounter vast swaths of American roadside clutter and kitsch. Some of it is worth slowing down or even stopping for. The Counselor and I encountered one of the most iconic pieces of American road trivia on our drive. A picture says a thousand words:

IMG_1965 Brad Nixon (640x453)

(If you’re from outside the United States and aren’t familiar with The Wienermobile, I wrote about it HERE).

In addition to stopping at scenic overlooks and seashore attractions during your drive, traffic, speed limits and signals in the villages, towns and cities you pass through are going to keep you at a relatively slow pace. That’s okay; you’re sightseeing, not delivering vaccine to the medical clinic. Just don’t plan to cover fifty miles in an hour. A guideline to follow is that if you’re making time the way you anticipated, you’re not stopping often enough to look at things or talk to people.

I hardly need tell dedicated UWS readers to seek out local food, off-the-beaten track sites and local natives to talk to. After all, that’s why we’ve all gathered here. Sure, you’ll find fast food chains, shopping malls full of national brands (although fewer than you’d expect), and the picturesque is everywhere.

Local food? What about this place for breakfast? The Chalet.

IMG_1959 breakfast at Chalet Brad Nixon (640x480)

Pie for breakfast! Nothing is dearer to the traveling Counselor’s soul. She chose Marionberry:

IMG_1957 marionberry pie Brad Nixon (640x480)

Picturesque? Here’s Charleston Harbor:

IMG_1888 Brad Nixon (640x480)

I love harbors. You see every type of watercraft imaginable sporting impressive booms, rigs, and smacking of that adventurous, seafaring life. I love the vistas of masts and tackle against the sky, and one could devote a lifetime to seeking, finding, painting, drawing, photographing or writing about the tens of thousands of infinitesimal details that constitute the scene.

IMG_1899 Brad Nixon (640x480)

We’re going to keep driving north from Charleston Harbor. Next, let’s stop and walk around Coos Bay.

This post is part of a series about traveling in Oregon. CLICK HERE for the first. Use the navigation below to see earlier or later posts.

© Brad Nixon 2015, 2016

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