Oregon Coast | RV Travel

RV Travel on America’s Most Beautiful Coast

Mark Quasius
Nov 1, 2012
Photographers: Mark Quasius
Oregon’s coastline is unique and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else. It’s at the base of the Cascade mountain range, which is dotted with both dormant and extinct volcanoes that have literally formed the landscape.
It’s a geographically active place, where the Pacific and North American plates meet up. Here the Pacific plate attempts to pass beneath the North, in a process called subduction. This process of upheaval created the spectacular rugged coastline that is populated with numerous seamounts. Tidal pools filled with colorful sea life can be found all along the coastline while water from the high country crashes over numerous waterfalls as it slashes it way through the rivers that empty into the Pacific Ocean.
Photo 2/17   |   Brookings’ Harris Beach overlook is next to the state park campground and can be accessed by anyone for day use. A path leads down to the beach from the overlook.
Oregon welcomes recreational vehicles, and you’ll find many highway signs with the RV-friendly symbol to let you know where there is adequate room to maneuver. A large number of RV parks are available to suit anyone’s tastes as everything from high-end resorts to basic campgrounds can be found throughout the area. In addition, Oregon’s State Park system is one of the best in the nation and many state parks are found in scenic locations along the coast so you’ll never have a shortage of places to park your RV.
U.S. Highway 101 is the coastal highway that travels the entire length of the Oregon coast passing through numerous seacoast towns along the way. It’s a good road that doesn’t contain any steep grades or other issues that would prevent an RV from traveling it. Each village is unique and interesting in its own right so be prepared to do some exploring within them. We’ll begin our tour at the southern end of US-101 where it begins, at the California border and follow it as it heads north along the coast.
Photo 3/17   |   Seamounts that cover the Oregon coast were created when molten volcanic rock flowed from fractures in the earth’s crust as the Pacific Plate was forced beneath the North American Plate in a process called subduction.
Start at the South

Brookings is the southern anchor point for our tour. US-101 passes by a visitor’s center at the northern end of town which is filled with tons of helpful information and contains a large RV-friendly parking area. Immediately across the highway is Harris Beach State Park. This park contains a nice campground with sites tucked in amongst the trees. It’s tight and not very big rig friendly though, so park any larger RV across the street if you’re over 32 feet with multiple slides. A parking area for day use overlooks the beach below while a walking path will take you down to the beach where tidal pools abound.
As you leave Harris Beach and proceed north you’ll pass a number of overlooks that are part of the Samuel H. Boardman series of parks. Each area has a unique view of the rocky coastline below and a number of hiking trails network throughout the area. Shortly after the Boardman parks have disappeared from your rear view mirrors you’ll arrive at Gold Beach where the Rogue River empties into the Pacific Ocean. The Rogue is a wild river and a jet boat tour can take you up the river through the scenic canyons and over the many rapids that make up this untamed beast. Be prepared to get wet! Beachside camping is available just north of Gold Beach if you are looking for that beautiful sunset over the ocean that you’ve always dreamed about.
Photo 4/17
The next stop is Bandon, which is about 90 miles north of Brookings. Bandon is an interesting town where the Coquille River meets the ocean. A visitor center provides plenty of information pertaining to the area and the city park allows public access to a large area of sandy beach. An overlook from the southern end of town offers a great view of the seamounts along the shore and a wooden staircase will take you down to where you can beach comb among the tidal pools.
The Mid Coast

Leaving Bandon, your next stop will be Coos Bay, a processing and shipping center for the logging operations in the area. Here full services and diesel fuel are available. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area begins immediately north of Coos Bay. These massive sand dunes continue for over 50 miles until the Siuslaw River drainage at Florence. The majority of these dunes are closed to vehicles but a few areas near Reedsport offer ATV and dune buggy rentals for a unique experience as you blast across these towering dunes along the ocean’s shore. For those looking for a more sedentary visit, large tour buggies are available, although playing in the sand never seems to grow old for most people.
Photo 8/17   |   The lighthouse at Heceta Head, built in 1894, is undoubtedly the most photographed lighthouse in the country. It is located in a cove at the mouth of Cape Creek, between Florence and Yachats. Tours are available.
Where the dunes end, the Siuslaw National Forest begins. Forested slopes meet the ocean and a tremendous number of waysides and state parks line this verdant coastline. A nature preserve at Cape Perpetua tells the story of the cape’s unique ecosystem. Following the road through Yachats and Waldport takes you to the harbor town of Newport.
The Northern Coast

Lincoln City is the southern anchor for our northern portion of the tour and is known for its galleries and antique shops. US-101 begins to wind its way inland a bit here as it approaches Tillamook, known for its many dairy farms. In fact, the Tillamook Cheese factory is a big tourist draw where you can see cheese being made. The huge parking area handles big rigs with ease and the nearby visitor’s center can give you directions and maps to nearby sites.
Another interesting stop in Tillamook is the Tillamook Air Museum, which is located inside a World War II blimp hangar. The hangar was used to house anti-submarine blimps and is the largest wooden structure in the United States. It’s now filled with an excellent collection of war birds from that era as well as naval aviation exhibits that allow you to sit in the cockpit of various aircraft.
While at the Tillamook Cheese factory be sure to walk over to the visitor’s center in the parking lot and pick up a map to Oceanside. Oceanside is a short drive away and offers a great beach. Be sure to leave the RV behind though because parking at Oceanside is not overly huge. A hike down to the beach will reveal a large tidal pool area. Just north of the beach is a huge rock escarpment that extends to the ocean and makes it impossible to continue to the beach on the other side. Fortunately a walking tunnel has been dug through the rock that will allow you to walk to the beach on the north side. A number of seamounts are located here as are Cormorant nesting sites. Keep in mind that whenever you beach comb tidal pools to always watch the tidal tables. The best exploring is done at low tide when the waters have receded and left starfish, anemones, and sea urchins exposed. Be very careful not to begin your exploration as the tide is coming in or you may find yourself trapped on some of the more remote beaches.
Photo 12/17   |   The Tillamook Cheese factory tour will let you follow the cheese-making process, and the free samples are always a nice bonus. A well-stocked store handles cheese, ice cream, and other regional products.
The Tillamook Bay area is surrounded by Cape Meares, Garibaldi, and Bay City. This is a big seafood area and the local oyster beds help provide plenty of fresh shellfish. If you can’t find seafood in this area, you’re not looking very hard. Heading north will take you through Rockaway Beach, another seafood haven, as it winds its way up to Cannon Beach.
Photo 13/17
Cannon Beach is one of the most visited places. Its biggest claim to fame is Haystack Rock, a 325-foot-tall monolith rising out of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. At low tide it’s possible to walk out to the rock, which serves as a nesting place for puffins, gulls and cormorants. The tidal pools are among the best found anywhere. Here sea urchins, starfish, clams and mussels are always found clinging to the rock, waiting for the water to return at high tide. The beach is very wide and there’s plenty of room to spread your blanket and grab some rays, start a bonfire, fly a kite, or just watch everyone else go by. The beach is also pet friendly so feel free to bring Bowser along to burn off some energy.
The town of Cannon Beach is known as an artist’s colony and many examples of this can be seen in the shops and galleries. The annual sand castle contest is a popular event as huge sand castle creations with amazing detail are created every June and judged to see who wins top honors. There are some interesting restaurants in the area as well. There’s always a line of customers at Ecola Seafood, where you can grab a quick snack of fresh shrimp, fish, or Dungeness crab cocktail. Pizza ‘a Feta is a popular downtown spot as is Morris’ Fireside Restaurant, for those who want a more traditional meal. For a quick snack while browsing the downtown shops, bakeries and ice cream parlors can always be found.
Photo 14/17
Heading north from Cannon Beach will take you to the end of the road, at least as far as Oregon’s portion is concerned. At Astoria, US-101 climbs a massive bridge that spans the Columbia River as the highway continues on into Washington. Astoria is another interesting town, filled with Victorian architecture. Fort Clatsop is also located here and was the campsite for the Lewis and Clark expedition when they spent the winter of 1805-1806 here. A reconstruction of the fort’s and its cabins has been made and interpretive demonstrations and musket firings are performed on a regular basis. From Astoria you have the option of continuing on US-101 and heading into Washington or taking U.S. Highway 30 to the east towards Portland and the Columbia River Gorge.
The biggest mistake most people make is in not allowing enough time to drive Oregon’s coast. It’s not a day drive. If you want to make time, stay inland and take boring Interstate 5. The many towns on US-101 don’t lend themselves to non-stop travel but you’ll be glad they don’t when you recognize the beauty in this area. Oregon’s coast truly offers the most scenic bang for the buck of any coastal area so be prepared to spend time base camping in a number of areas. The side trips are many and varied and I’m sure you’ll find enough to do that you’ll want to plan a return trip soon to see what you missed. It’s also a very pet friendly area and you’ll find that dogs are welcome in the downtown streets as well as on the beaches.

Sources

Bandon Chamber of Commerce
541-347-9616
www.bandon.com
Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce
800-535-9469
www.brookingsharborchamber.com
Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce
503-436-2623
www.cannonbeach.org
Florence Chamber of Commerce
541-997-3128
www.florencechamber.com
Fort Clatsop
www.nps.gov/lewi
Gold Beach Visitors Information
800-525-2334
www.goldbeach.org
Harris Beach State Park
800-551-6949
www.oregonstateparks.org/park_79.php
Oregon Coast Guides
541-551-1156
www.ouroregoncoast.com
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
541-750-7000
Sea Lion Caves
541-547-3111
www.sealioncaves.com
Tillamook Air Museum
503-842-1130
www.tillamookair.com
Tillamook Cheese Factory
503-842-4481
www.tillamook.com

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