Oregon Part 1: Northern Coastline Must-Sees
One of the most exhilarating feelings on the road is the day we cruise into new territory. For us, that typically involves windows rolled down, excitement in our voices, and music bumping as we drive along about to cross a state line or border. We had a memorable last night in Washington but were thrilled to be taking the route into Oregon, a bucket list destination we've both wanted to visit for years.
I have several Oregon posts coming (oh, joy!) as we loved Oregon enough to break it down into three parts. We spent 30 days in the state and with that are way too many memories (and PHOTOS) that are itching to be logged. I'm going to focus on the northern portion of the state first since we entered from Washington and into Astoria. Before I start gushing about this place, I beg you to add it to your bucket list with permanent marker if you haven't already been (Or what the heck, just add it again if you've already been). We visited from mid-September to mid-October and I can't stress enough how great this time frame was weather-wise, tourist-wise, and camping-wise. I can't believe it took me 30-ish years to get here!!! There was so much to see. And do. And I mean, I have been dying to write home about these BEACHES! Alright already, moving on...
Our entrance into the state was a grand one. As Spud twisted and turned alongside the Columbia River in Washington, we could just make out the Megler Bridge in the distance stretching and reaching over the river, connecting the two states. The bridge is just over four miles in length and is the longest contiguous (truss) bridge in North America. We celebrated for the several minutes while crossing over and into Astoria with none other than an old school Sean Kingston mash-up (if you haven't heard it, you should, Yes, we're dorks). At last, we had finally arrived in Oregon!
First Stop: Astoria (home of The Goonies' House)
Hey, you guuuuuys!! I know what you're thinking. No, we did not scope out the Goonies house in Astoria. Initially we thought it would be fun. But then we read how the poor people that live there get bombarded by picture takers and drive-bys, so we thought we'd leave the poor suckers alone. Plus, we'd have had to google the house to remember what it's even supposed to look like anyway.
So we moved on to the first real order of business, lunch. And by that I mean fish and chips. If you want to try a different spin on this classic by-the-beach food, you MUST go to Bowpicker Fish & Chips. They're busy from the second they open (so get there early to avoid long lines!) but it's so unbelievably worth it. The fish is albacore tuna and I can't tell you how mouth-watering good it was. Fish and chips for me will never be the same. Guess I'll have to go back one day!
We struggled to find decent camping (or even an empty driveway) in Astoria and thus checked in to the cheapest hotel we could find. It had a kitchen/bedroom suite with a back bedroom(!) which for us is living large. Especially because there is a door we could close between us and the boys. Privacy! It was a hodge podgey little place with stained chairs but upgraded beds. We felt right at home, making our dinner on the stove as usual. We even treated ourselves with some brownies. We have missed you, oven!
The next day we visited The Astoria Column, a tower perched on a hill above the city. Here you'll find (after ascending 164 spiraling, steep steps) sweeping views in all directions of the Columbia River, the Coast Range, the bay, and Pacific Ocean. It's impressive, really. Parking was $5 and guess who didn't want to pay? If you guessed my husband's name, you're right. In true Chip Keller form he dropped me off (entry is free) so I could meander about in peace and quiet (Little did he know that it was a win for me!) while he drove Spud back down the hill with the boys. The views alone are worth the five bucks (to me).
Ecola State Park
This place was jaw-droppingly beautiful (is that even a word?! Well, it is now.). When I dreamt about the Oregon coast, it would materialize in my mind as this. I'll cut to the photos but stay with me...
Ecola State Park sits between Seaside and Cannon Beach and in my opinion is the most ultimate view we saw along the Oregon coast. There are a hundred more I fell in love with, but this one was my all-time favorite. We chose to come on a crystal clear day because this section is notorious for being windy or rainy making the visibility terrible. I'm sure it's pretty then, but if you really want stunning, head there on a blue-bird, calm day and you will marvel at the sights. I may have even cried a little bit, it's that good.
Parking is $5 (Chip obliged this time. That's saying something, so if you go and are unhappy I'll mail you the $5) and there is no camping. We were so taken aback by the scenery that we decided we couldn't miss the opportunity to see a sunset here. The colors were strikingly different in comparison. As the sun began to dip in the sky, the sea stacks, shore, and layered hills began to match that of the setting sun and deep golden hues ricocheted back to the earth. It's not every day I get watch a sunset alone (the boys had followed Goppee (grandma) down a meandering path). So I let in the sights and sounds around me, waking my senses to their full potential. So often as a mother, I'm too distracted to appreciate a moment such as this. One where I can completely engage in what I'm smelling, feeling, seeing, and hearing all at once. It was a welcome break and I sighed my last deep breath as I heard the boys running back up the hill at full speed, squawking about something just like the seabirds soaring above. My moment of peace was over and I snapped back to reality. Although brief these are the moments that linger with me months later.
You've probably heard of Cannon Beach, and for good reason. It's a beautiful expansive beach with plenty of picturesque sea stacks offshore. But the most recognizable one, Haystack Rock, can be reached during low tide for tidepooling and admiring up close and personal. You may also think you've seen it before, and if you've seen the movie 'The Goonies' then you have. We spent the morning here flying kites, building sand castles, and jumping near the rock like the classy tourists that we are. The town is also delightfully welcoming with decorated storefronts and restaurants with sunny patios trying its hardest to entice you in. And wouldn't you know, the one restaurant we chose to have lunch at (with the sunny "come eat here" vibe), ended up being a total let down. I won't even mention the name because I doubt it will be around for long but it's out there so beware. A good reminder as to why we usually make our own...
Hug Point State Recreation Site is a MUST-VISIT place, and it's only five miles south of Cannon Beach! But a word to the wise, make sure you go at LOW TIDE. I repeat, only go at low tide (or close to it). You can check the times HERE. Once you arrive, head down to the beach and if you're facing the ocean, turn right. Follow the beach for cave exploring, waterfall and rock scrambling, and ocean splashing. The caves were the highlight, we love to further explore the dark and murky abyss (literally, not figuratively). But we also enjoyed clambering up and above the waterfall then following the stream back. Reid explored a little too hard and fell in to the stream, leaving his jeans completely soaked, in typical Reid fashion. So underwear he donned, also in typical Reid fashion. We added that video below because sometimes being a toddler is so tough (and dramatic!). Whether you're a kid, kid at heart, or want to feel like either of those, this place brought out the fun in us all.
Manzanita / Short Sands Beach
We spent eleven glorious days being pampered with bedrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, fluffy pillows, internet, soft toilet paper, and a roof over our heads in Manzanita. We are so glad this area worked out as a sort of "base camp". I was able to work nearly every day, and Chip learned how to surf here (a goal for the trip!). Manzanita is perfect. You should go here too (I know, my list is getting overwhelming but that's Oregon). It was small, quaint, on the beach, had just enough stuff to keep us happy (grandma was in town aka date nights), the people were friendly, the beach was stunning. It was the quintessential small Oregon coastal town and I've sworn to going back annually (at least I can dream!).
Chip's mom even joined us for a week and we felt spoiled having her there to love on the boys and us. We very much enjoyed sharing a part of our Oregon journey with her. I also have to think that she equally enjoyed having us to see AND the sights. Thank you, Goppee for the visit and memories!
Cape Lookout State Park Plus Netarts & Oceanside
Most often we get in a groove and can continue along, seeing places and meeting people, then moving on to the next seamlessly. It's really fun that way (obviously, otherwise how could one survive a trip like this?). But then comes a shift in our plans and our hearts. Staying put for a moment just feels right. One of those places was Cape Lookout State Park and the surrounding area. We got our first introduction to what the Oregon State Parks are all about. Let me tell you, they are INCREDIBLE! They're clean, cheap ($21 per night tent site), ALL have unlimited free hot showers, they're safe, offer beautiful beaches/surroundings, cool campsites, friendly hosts...I could go on. Yes, we love free-camping, finding out-of-the-way sites in state or national forest that are quiet and free (that comes in Part 2 & 3). Sometimes, though, you're in the mood for a hot shower and some company and don't feel like driving the 30-60 minutes (and perhaps gnarly roads) it'll likely take you to find that free spot. At those times, Oregon's State Parks deliver. Coming in the shoulder season also has its benefits, one of which is that we could now show up to any state park really at any time without worry about booking in advance. Show up and you'll get a site. And usually a mighty fine one at that.
Cape Lookout State Park was a favorite situated on a sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful wind blown trees sit on the mounds of sand and steep sea walls rise up to the south. The boys were entertained for hours on end playing with their dump trucks and beach toys each day and evening. We ended each day with a sunset on the beach. We even came across a new Westfalia friend, Dale and Ruby (the van) whom we'd see later in the month at Descend on Bend. One thing I'll never forget here specifically were the "sea whips" that would wash ashore. With these, you could crack them like a whip and also playfully lasso a child's legs together (good for when they're running away and not listening). The memory and sound of belly laughs as Chip would send the whip towards one of the boys and wrangle their legs together will be forever imprinted in my mind. They'd fall to the ground in a laughing fit. It was a riot!
This spot is a great jumping off point for other areas such as the small communities of Netarts and Oceanside. We loved Oceanside Beach State Park where three charming sea stacks sat just offshore (called Three Arch Rocks). But what was most fun was the tunnel we discovered to the far right of the beach that led to a pebble beach with more views of rocks and crashing ocean waves. Classic Oregon, I tell ya.
I'll stop here before this post gets too long but as you can see, Oregon has already won us over. Has anyone else been to any of these places and loved it as much as us?!?
Click here to read our incredible Part 2 post!!!
Thanks for following along! Love,