Published on 24 August 2023 at 06:08

The Oregon stretch of the 101 follows the Pacific Ocean for most of its 340 mile length. Despite the proliferation of highway strip towns that have marred this section of the route, the natural scenery is still breathtaking, with fantastic sea stacks, and uninterrupted ocean vistas.

We ended the Washington portion of our trip just south of Astoria near Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a picturesque little town set off from the highway on a gorgeous stretch of coastline, made famous by photos of its iconic Haystack Rock. The town is filled with galleries and restaurants and makes for the perfect launching point for your Oregon adventure.

From Cannon Beach the road winds inland through the fertile farmlands of Tillamook County, before returning to the coast near the sleepy little beach town that is Pacific City. There is not much to see here, but the Coldwater Coffee Shop makes a good lunch stop before you hit the overdeveloped strip town of Lincoln City. 

Newport, the next stop on our journey, was originally an old fishing community, and you can still experience that heritage if you visit the harbor district which boasts some wonderful seafood restaurants.  Like most Oregon towns that you drive through, if you stick to the 101, you will be sorely disappointed. However, a short detour takes you to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, where you can enjoy panoramic views and climb down to a rocky cove to photograph basking sea lions. Nye Beach is also worth a visit and has retained much of its Old Town charm.

From Newport the road winds through some lovely little seaside towns and spectacular coastal scenery.  A small bridge just south of the Washburn Memorial State Park marks the turnoff to Heceta Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse keepers cottage is a great accommodation option for your night in Oregon, and is the only way to access the lighthouse (https://www.hecetalighthouse.com/). Your other option is to overnight in Florence. Florence serves as a gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - the 47 mile stretch of coastline south of Florence - and has a charming Old Town with a selection of good restaurants and accommodation options. 

Before hitting the road the next morning, we grabbed a coffee and pastry at River Roasters, our favorite coffee shop in Old Town Florence. Then it was on to Coos Bay, through another overdeveloped stretch of coastline. Thankfully, this is the last you will pass through. South of Coos Bay, and as you enter the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, the drive becomes truly spectacular!

Between Coos Bay and Gold Beach, Bullards Beach State Park is worth a side trip with its access to Coquille lighthouse. And Bandon’s Old Town, along the banks of the Coquille River, is a great place to break for lunch. South of Bandon, Cape Blanco is considered the westernmost point of the United States and offers great views of the coastline and a good chance of seeing gray whales. It is also the site of Oregon’s oldest and highest lighthouse.

The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic corridor incorporates the 50-mile stretch of road that winds between Gold Beach and Brookings. This incredible stretch of coast offers amazing cliff-side ocean views, fantastic sea stacks and arches, hidden coves, and giant conifer forests. Must see stops along the way include Arch Rock Point, Secret Beach, and Natural Bridges Cove. Be aware that all these sights are not visible from the road and can only be reached by a short hike through the trees, which makes them easy to miss.

After a swim at Secret Beach and dinner in Klamath, we crossed over the border into California and headed to our beachside campsite at Gold Bluffs Beach. The Oregon portion of the 101may not have the same unspoiled wildness as the Washington portion does, but when it comes to natural beauty it does not disappoint!

Cannon Beach, Newport, Heceta Head Lighthouse and Cottage, Arch Rock point, Secret Beach

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