Traveling the Oregon Coast was a bucket list of mine. I dreamed of the ocean, the rocks, the peacefulness.
Well, I finally fulfilled that dream and spent 5 weeks on the Oregon coast. Here are my ups and downs. Overall, it is an amazing coast and I highly recommend it. If you have the time, I suggest spending more time (as in a whole summer) to see and experience more. Plus, maybe the summer weather will be a little nicer?!?!?
The ocean and beaches.
The state of Oregon allows dogs to be off leash on the beaches. It is up to the local town or city to ban them or enforce leashes. This gave us some amazing times on the beaches for play. It also allowed the dogs some much needed run free time!
The Oregon beaches are mostly quiet and people free allowing for some much needed solitude. I loved morning walks along the beach to start my day. The dogs loved running free as part of the morning exercise routine. Win win.
I also enjoyed a few limited ocean sunsets. More on that later (weather related).
The Oregon coast offers some amazingly beautiful rock formations and vistas along with lighthouses and sea life viewing (possible whale sightings, nesting birds, sea lions, seals). Stop at the viewpoint pullouts and you might be rewarded with some awesome scenery.
Food: fish, craft beer, local dairy, and more fish!
As you can imagine, the coast is full of fishing communities. This makes for delicious fresh fish and crab. Many places also offer chartered fishing boats, if you’re interested in catching your own meal.
What can you catch here? Lingcod, rockfish, tuna and dungeness crabs! I’m sure there are more varieties of fish, but these seem to be the most common.
Brookings/Harbor has a great little harbor area with a few shops, restaurants and fishing charters. There is even a crab boat store down on the docks (open when the sign on the road says so).
Charleston and Coos Bay are known for tuna! There is even a large tuna processing plant in town which cans fresh tuna. Probably the best canned tuna I’ve ever had and served as a nice reminder of this beautiful place.
I was lucky to get some delicious fresh lingcod from a neighbor who had caught it that morning. It doesn’t get much fresher than ocean to table in less than 24 hours. By helping him out, he “paid” us with 3 meals worth of lingcod. Keep in mind it wasn’t expected. The help was offered as a simple human gesture of kindness, but kindness can be rewarded and I was so thankful for it.
Some eating suggestions
Pelican Brewery was also a favorite. The beer was good and the food delicious. It is on the expensive side for food, but so tasty. Try the crab mac n cheese! Yummy! Pelican has restaurant/brewpub in Pacific City & Cannon Beach and the brewing facility in Tillamook.
Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook. They offer tours, tastings, their own items for sale and delicious ice cream i waffle cone. Plus, they are building a BIG new visitor center to be opened in 2018.
Face Rock Creamery in Bandon. This is a small creamery. You can watch the behind the scenes with a huge glass into the processing area. They offer samplings of their own cheese which you can also purchase along with other small, local food offerings and ice cream!
Crabby Cakes Bakery in Charleston. This little local bakery creates sourdough donuts. Don’t ask me how they do it, but they are delicious and often sell out! They also have tasty cookies, cinnamon buns, cakes and some savory offerings! The owner was a nice husband and wife who are very knowledgeable about the area. His wife’s family has been fishing in this town for generations.
Zola’s Pizzeria in Harbor/Brookings. A local pizza shop with a wood fired oven. They have delicious flavor combinations or you can pick your own toppings. You can watch the pizza being made. They also sell lots of craft beer and had a musician on Saturday night out back with a few picnic tables.
Shark Bites, a small, but tasty and inexpensive restaurant in Coos Bay. We enjoyed this little restaurant for some tasty crab cakes. They offer a sandwich, salad or simply crab cake dinner plate among other local seafood items including chowder. The walls are covered with surfboards and coffee burlap sacks. So delicious and they serve up the local 7 Devils brew.
7 Devils Brewing Co. in Coos Bay is delicious on its own. They have a small kitchen which offers up tasty food. I enjoyed the local tuna here. It was super busy with locals enjoying this place, if that tells you anything.
Chetco Brewing Company in Brookings. We didn’t actually visit the taproom, but enjoyed this local beer at another restaurant.
Superfly Distillery in Brookings offers up delicious mixed drinks and some food plates. They make a tasty lemon drop martini!
Hiking, Kayaking & Nature
As I wrote about in a previous post, I really enjoyed hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. Read more about that here.
The South Slough Reserve in Charleston also has some nice hiking trails. Nothing super difficult, but beautiful and you might even see birds or other wildlife here. I saw wild turkey which was most unexpected!
Charleston also offers up nice hiking in 3 state parks on Cape Arago – Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park and Cape Arago State Park. You might even get lucky and see wildlife at Simpson Reef.
Nehalem Bay State Park has a little trail you can hike or bike. It also has a 2 mile each way sand path to a jetty to explore. Nothing too strenuous, but still neat to see.
I highly suggest hiking in the state parks or national forests along the way. Do some research or ask the locals and you’ll probably find something spectacular.
There’s plenty of water for kayaking including bays and quieter spots. I loved kayaking in Charleston, but make sure to time it right with the tide. On my kayak trip I got to see lots of seals up close and personal.
The South Slough Reserve is perfect for kayaking. It’s peaceful, full of wildlife and beautiful. Did I already mention the tide? Keep track of that water or you’ll get stranded. You can either put it in at the bay of Charleston or on Hinch Rd.
Beaches and Ocean
Beaches and beautiful ocean viewpoints are plentiful! You really can’t go wrong with anywhere along the coast. There are plentiful state parks with views and beaches. From the south Harris Beach State Park to Cape Arago to Nehalem Bay State Park. There are so many state parks along the coast and I don’t think any of them will disappoint.
Plus, as you drive the 101 there are lookout points. Stop. Enjoy. Explore.
If you’re into seeing old lighthouses, there are lots of them to see along the Oregon coast. From Heceta Head, Yaquina Head, Umpqua River, Cape Blanco, Tillamook Rock,Coquille River Lighthouse, Yaquina Bay, Cape Arago, Cape Meares and Pelican Bay. While I didn’t make it a point to see all of them, I did get to visit a few.
Which did I see?
I saw Cape Arago, Yaquina Head, Coquille River and Cape Meares. I enjoyed Cape Meares because they also have octopus tree and lots of nesting birds! It’s a beautiful drive along the cape and the perfect place for sunset, picnicking and enjoying ocean views.
Cape Arago was neat, but is not accessible by foot. I also struggled with fog here. It wouldn’t be Oregon without fog and rain, right?
What helped make Oregon so amazing was the wonderful people we met along the way; mostly neighbors in parks socializing over wine and games!
Met a wonderful couple who has 2 avalanche rescue dogs and work as ski patrol and rescue workers outside Las Vegas. We bonded immediately and enjoyed laughs together and sharing life stories. We may or may not have inspired them to go full-time soon. We even made plans to hopefully meet again down the road at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. We’ll see if that comes to fruition. Even if it doesn’t our time together was special.
Social media is also amazing for meetups. A couple that follows along on our journey on Instagram made a comment about our location. I knew they had to be in our park because how else would they know which loop the rig was parked in the state park?!?! Well, it was awesome exchanging stories over a beer on a relaxed sunday evening.
Also got the chance to meet up with friends in Portland for an evening over beer and food. See a theme here at all?? That was amazing and I so appreciate seeing old and new friends alike.
It really is special to meet people on the road and have new social experiences. I love meeting people from all walks of life who offer different perspectives. The stories are fun and sharing a beer or wine over laughs is never a bad thing.
Overall, it was quite a social time and it was so enjoyable making new friends along the way.
RV Parks vs. State Parks
If you plan on staying in private RV parks, it’s expensive.
If you stay in state parks, it can be hard to get sites on the weekends. You won’t have laundry facilities (not that big a deal if you’re near a town with a laundromat). State parks usually only have water and electric hookups, but do usually offer a dump station. All the state parks we saw, were clean and well maintained. Plus, they usually offer trails or areas to explore nature and important to us, walk the dogs.
With that said we did a mix of state parks and private parks. We enjoyed them both for different reasons. This is really a personal preference and you should go with whatever feels right to you and what has availability. Do keep in mind summer on the coast is busy; as you get closer to Portland it becomes busier and more populated. You may be able to get reservations last minute or you may not. All of the places we stayed were fully booked on the weekends and pretty busy during the week.
Highway 101 is a bumpy road in need of repair that really jostled our rig around at times. It is also windy, can be foggy and absolutely breathtaking at times! It’s really a mixed bag, but worth taking it slow and enjoying all it has to offer. It’s all part of the adventure, right? Plus, if the driving got a little stressful, there was usually a lookout point nearby to stop and relax for a bit. They make great picnicking spots as well.
My advice: Don’t plan too many miles in one day. You won’t want to anyways because the towns are fun to explore and the state parks are plentiful. Some viewpoints are large enough for big rigs. Others not so much. Take it slow, enjoy the ride and stop when you can.
Phone Service and Internet
Phone service can be spotty. T-Mobile has terrible service in Southern Oregon, but as you move further north it becomes pretty good. Verizon and AT&T are both decent when you’re close to cities and towns. In the remote areas, there is no cell service.
Like I said we stayed at both private RV parks near towns and state parks and never struggled with internet service with a Verizon jetpack. But our rig has a cell booster which helped a lot in some of the locations.
Rain, clouds and cool temps.
There was way more rainy or cloudy days than sunshine. It definitely got to me, but eventually I accepted it as part of the adventure. The second I saw the sunshine and clear blue sky, I would run outside and take advantage of it! I’m not kidding here either.
I guess I also appreciated the fog and drizzle at times. It is, afterall, what the Pacific Northwest is known for, right? It’s just not for me all the time. Plus, it’s not really fun being cooped up inside. Part of why we live this lifestyle is to be active outdoors often. From what I understand summers are a little more sunny to absolutely gorgeous.
I definitely didn’t like always having to wear layers of clothing, but that’s life. It’s the Pacific Northwest. Don’t forget your raincoat!
Because of the rain and wetness, keeping the inside of the rig dry was a constant struggle. The rig has a little fireplace heater which was almost always running. The vent fans were open whenever it was possible. It’s no easy feat keeping things dried out when it’s 100% humid outside. I would recommend a small dehumidifier, if you can. Otherwise, our towels wouldn’t dry nor would our dishes.
As a photographer, I struggled with the clouds. It was either too foggy to see anything on the coast or it was so bright and sunny with no clouds for any color at sunset. It was a real struggle for beautiful photos. Makes me believe I need to spend the whole summer exploring this awesome coast, so I can go back to areas more frequently when the weather/sky is right.
I struggled with mail delivery. It was our first time using General Delivery for mail and packages which is pretty awesome, but the small post offices are open VERY limited hours. One town had a hole in the wall post office which opened from 9-noon M-F and 9-11 on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t the most convenient, but somehow we made it work. If you plan on getting mail along the coast make sure to check post office hours. No big deal, right?
I personally don’t like the Oregon law of not being able to pump your own gas. I found it usually took longer to get gas because you have to wait on an attendant. However, I found a way around this.
Because I have a diesel truck, the law allows diesel to be filled by its owner. I couldn’t always get away with this, but many times I found it to be MUCH quicker than waiting for the worker. In one circumstance, the attendant arrived just as my pump was finishing. Definitely quicker on my own. I guess this is one of those parts of the traveling lifestyle. Some things you like, some things you don’t.
This is really a minor annoyance and certainly wouldn’t stop me from returning to this beautiful state!
What are your favorite things about the Oregon coast?