Oregon’s central coast is the most diverse when it comes to wildlife and scenic views.As you meander up or down Highway 101, the scenery changes quite a bit. You will drive through dense forests which give way to incredible Pacific ocean views, marshy bogs, and expansive grazing fields. Here you will come within very close proximity to….and probably even get to view…sea lions, whales…and cows.
Wait, what? Yes, milking cows, to be exact.
Hwy 101 runs tantalizingly close to the unending expanse that is the Pacific Ocean…this road truly skirts the edge of the earth, but then just as you’re getting used to the breathtaking view, the road snakes back inland, where vast, tree-spotted fields and the occasional cow herd can be seen. Many of these cows lend themselves to the making of world-famous Tillamook cheese (and ice cream!). In fact, the Tillamook cheese factory is our first stop.
Technically, the farming community of Tillamook is considered more northern Oregon coast, but here is where I started by 2-day central Oregon coast journey. I simply couldn’t forget to stop by the Tillamook Cheese Factory! It’s a family favorite. As of late 2017, they are doing a major renovation, so the main visitors’ center is closed. But they have a temporary one set up, where you can still view exhibits on how those wonderful cows give us the gift of cheese, milk and ice cream! Cheese samples can be had, along with a cafe and a bountiful gift shop for all things Tillamook! Their brand-spankin’-new and improved visitors’ center opens in Summer 2018, where a self-guided tour will take you to the heart of the action. You can see first-hand the cheese-making process, and view assembly lines where thousands of bricks of cheese are created and packaged.
This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of town. But please don’t blink, because this is whale watching central! Unlike most whale watching spots where there is a small window of opportunity, whales can be seen here readily 10 months out of the year, as they migrate up and down the west coast. Stop by the whale watching center and sign up for some epic wildlife viewing! Gray whales are the most commonly sighted, but humpbacks, minkes, orca and sperm whales can also be seen.
My main purpose for this beach weekend was to take part in ‘Finders Keepers’, to visit the beaches here and try to find a glass float. This was during Veterans’ Day weekend, and local ‘glass float fairies’ were charged with hiding 50 red, white and blue floats along the 7-mile stretch of beach. It was a cold, windy and raining weekend, so needless to say, we only spent about an hour combing a 1-mile stretch of beach. And we came up empty-handed. But we saw others looking for floats as well, so we were not alone. Go here to read more about Lincoln City’s glass float events.
There is a large casino here if you’re into that sort of thing. Lincoln City’s main drag is long and full of wonderful, kitschy shops, great restaurants and beaches galore. And speaking of glass floats, you can visit http://www.jennifersearsglassart.com/ the glass art studio and even learn how to blow your own glass!
About a ½ hour’s drive south of Lincoln City is Devil’s Punchbowl State Park, located in the Otter Rock area. One of the shining examples of the unique features of the Oregon coast, Devil’s Punchbowl is a natural outcropping of rock jutting out from the coastline that forms a ‘bowl’ where waves wash in a churn. During high tide, the scene can be quite spectacular. Otter rock’s beaches are a haven for surfers.
This is a really nice, seaside town, located smack dab in between two of Oregon’s lighthouses. I recommend strolling the waterfront at SW Bay Ave. Grab lunch or dinner at any one of the many restaurants, and watch the boats come and go. Do a little gift shopping, then walk the pier and view the sea lions hanging out right below you! The famous Oregon Coast Aquarium is here and not to be missed.
Click here for —> Sea Lions Movie !!
Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay Lighthouses
Yaquina Head Lighthouse is on the northern end of Newport. A short walk up to the lighthouse affords a spectacular view of the Pacific. Definitely, stop by the Interpretive Center as you exit Hwy 101 towards the lighthouse. It’s one of the better ones I’ve visited, with exhibits and films chronicling the storied history of the lighthouse and the area in general.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is located atop a bluff at the head of the Yaquina River, this lighthouse seems more like a colonial house that a regular tall lighthouse. I was impressed looking out onto the water and surveying the long jetty leading the ocean to the river.
Among the best places to do whale watching on the Oregon coast. Just north of town is the majestic Cape Perpetua, and to the south is the Oregon Dunes Recreational Area. Check out my article on one of the best places to stay on the Oregon Coast, along with some sightseeing highlights.
So much to do, so much to see…
With this many diverse activities, the central Oregon coast is a marvel unto itself. When finding things to do on the Oregon coast, you should consider including some or all of these stops on any Pacific Northwest road trip. I found myself very inspired by the incredible wildlife, the hiking and camping opportunities, and the ability to spend a relaxing vacation, no matter what mood suits you. Rugged and simple? Yes. Picturesque resort towns? Yes! Nature lovers’ paradise? Double yes! History buffs and sea-faring adventures? Of course! This stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline answers the call of a romantic getaway, a family holiday where the kids can make lasting memories, or a solo traveler’s playground. The choice is yours…