Where to go when visiting the Oregon Coast?
December 30, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

For anyone who has traveled or lived on the Oregon Coast: Planning a special vacation for my best friend and I driving the coast of Oregon. Looking for suggestions on places to visit, places to eat or listen to music, and of course places to stay.

Planning the first real vacation in too many years with my best friend of 33 years. We want to drive the Oregon Coast and visit interesting sites along the way. Our goal is fun, laughter, relaxation and a digital log of the trip and our antics. We love food, wine, beautiful scenery and odd markets, one of a kind unique store owners with stuff you've never seen, wonderful dining overlooking the ocean, yurts, hotels, bed and breakfast, museums, beaches, cliffs, great massages, amazing music, outdoor concerts etc...Also we will need to rent a car and we prefer something with the top down.

The budget is flexible I'll take all suggestions and price ranges for now.
posted by gypseefire to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (24 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
There's a great cafe, Roseanna's, in Oceanside. It's classy food but a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Great ocean views and very fresh seafood and a diverse menu.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:54 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

When are you planning on going?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:07 PM on December 30, 2010

You must go to the Sylvia Beach Hotel ! Two-story library, author-themed rooms, short drive to the Newport aquarium, and just a few steps from the beach.
posted by verbyournouns at 8:09 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

http://www.sylviabeachhotel.com/; I'm not so great with links.
posted by verbyournouns at 8:10 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

OK, seriously, I just stayed last week at "The Tides" in Seaside and it was the best vacation I've ever had. GORGEOUS weather watching, oceanfront rooms 75 feet from the water, cute town, cheap rooms, fireplace.....I almost hate to recommend it as it was so great and I don't want it to get crowded.
posted by tristeza at 8:17 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Should have added - the rooms at the Tides are more like 1 bedroom apts than rooms - they're really big and have full kitchenettes so it's way better than a hotel.
posted by tristeza at 8:18 PM on December 30, 2010

The sea lion caves are pretty great if you like sea lions and big dank caverns with loud waves crashing in.
posted by Ventre Mou at 8:58 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just came back from a week in Seaside. The weather was crappy---which was what I expected from the Oregon coast in winter---but Seaside was nice. We stayed in a fantastic vacation cottage. Seaside has some nice mostly kitchy shops and a cute aquarium---feeding the seals was mostly worth the price of admission.

We visited the Tillamook cheese factory in Tillamook Oregon. I'm not sure it was totally worth the 2 hours of driving time, but watching the factory package the cheese was very cool.

If you're willing to venture out of Oregon, I've spent a lot of time in Long Beach, Washington, just over the Columbia from Astoria, and I'd say if you like one-of-a-kind stores and beach kitsch, you really should try to make time to visit Marsh's Free Museum. 5 cent Mechanical fortune tellers and Jake the Alligator Man---how can you resist? (plus, there's lots more fun beach shop stuff, and the allure of the World's Longest Driving Beach. )
posted by leahwrenn at 9:00 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love the Yachats Inn, especially the South Front and North Front units. Not glamorous, just cozy, with a lovely lovely view. Yachats is fun for kicking around for a day or two. There is a really excellent used book store there, pleasant day hikes, a blow hole, and Sea Lion Caves.

If you have never been to the Oregon Dunes, please make a point of going. Take a walk out on them. And if you have the chance, take a couple of hours and rent an ATV to go dune cruising. It is wonderful fun. The dunes are awesome.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out Fort George brewpub in Astoria.
posted by matildaben at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2010

My husband and I drove every mile of the Oregon coast last summer and learned very early on that if there is a little look out sign with a camera on it.. you must pull over. You will come across more lookout areas than you thought possible but the camera ones.. geez.. amazing.

I'm assuming you are going in the summer? If so you will come across many people doing bicycle touring. Bring a bell to ring at them as they struggle up the hills - they'll appreciate you trying to make them feel like they are in the Tour d'Oregon. If you are a healthy sort, perhaps take a day to bike around yourself.

I really like Newport. I really like beer. These things are related. Go to the Rogue brewery and take a tour then get lunch upstairs. If you like dark beers, get a "snickers" - 1/2 choc stout and 1/2 hazelnut brown and all amazing. Before you hit the road again, you can sober up at the Oregon Coastal Aquarium - which is nicer than you'd expect for a lil' aquarium and right down the road.

If you can swing it.. and if there is availability.. you can try to spend the night at the Inn at the Haceta Bay Lighthouse. You'd need to make reservations early. There are some nice trails around there that aren't long (but also aren't exactly flat.) It's right by the Sea Lion Caves area.

Canon beach is a "must see" for most people..historic and all that.. but I'd rather spend my day at the Oregon Dunes. If you really want to see BIG ROCKS on the beach and want a few less folks (it's farther from Portland,) go to Bandon. We did not go to the zoo thing that was there but I kinda wanted to go.. How random is that place??!

Way far south is Gold Beach.. and that's where the Rogue river hits the coast. It was super pretty but we only stopped for lunch there. The entire Rogue river area has tons of activities - some rafting areas and lots of trails for hiking. Any interest in learning to fly fish? This would be your chance. Lots of places offer group lessons.

Oh - are you driving N or S? Out of Portland? In the summer there will be many people like you.. traditionally, they drive S. You can head out of Portland to the N and hit Astoria and see the Goonies sites then go down the coast. When you get far south (maybe even Crescent City in CA), head back up inland.. If you find you have time, you can take a big detour over to Crater Lake which is really gorgeous (and if you are taking a trip to pretty much look at pretty things, it's a worthwhile side trip.) You really won't see anything like it again. It's in the middle of nowhere but oh so different.

As I said, we really just drove so I don't have more to offer - but I really mean it - if it has a camera, pull over. Make that the only rule. Hope this helps!
posted by adorap0621 at 10:16 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I will second Sea Lion Caves, free cheese at Tillamook, and Long Beach and its crazy museum. The first two were always places that we hit on the way up the coast, and I recently went to Marsh's this summer. It's nuts and awesome.

Hm, will you guys be anywhere near Ashland? Even if you're not going to a play, it's a cute town, nice shopping.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:16 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've stayed at a few of the state campgrounds along the coast and more than once have stayed in a yurt. They're awesome! You get the nice cozy feeling of camping (picnic bench, fire pit (smores!), etc.) and the comforts of modernity (heat(!), electric lighting, card table, comfortable beds). Here's some details on their website.

A small piece of advice if you do go yurting: If you happen to arrive late and giddy with your friend, and you happen to not notice if you are close to any other campers, DON'T stay up all night playing cards and swearing like pirates. Because while yurts *feel* like cabins, they are far from soundproof. In fact, they are the opposite of soundproof. You might get a very stern reprimand from the camp host that the family of five, who the morning light might reveal are within spitting distance from your cozy but oh so not soundproof yurt, were not amused. [A single shush would have been more than enough. If only we knew!]
posted by funkiwan at 12:46 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tillamook Air Museum
posted by partner at 10:19 AM on December 31, 2010

For eats, I highly recommend Moe's in Cannon Beach. Incredible views of Haystack Rock and great food. Norma's in Seaside is also really good.

Cannon Beach is just gorgeous. Sure, it's the touristy spot...but I still recommend it. If you go this time of year, there is literally no one there. We drove out on a whim a couple weeks ago and we had the entire beach to ourselves (of course, it's really cold).

Astoria is home to the Goonies house, which you can visit.

I'm not one for factory tours, but Tillamook Cheese Factory is pretty interesting, and the free cheese - including really fresh curds - is delicious.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:47 AM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

In Coos Bay -- The Egyptian Theatre if you drive through on Friday or Saturday evening you can see a classic film in this preserved 1927 movie house on highway 101 south in downtown. Across the street is the Shark Bites Cafe -- surfers serving good food (fresh cut fries). Seaplane Rides at the docks on 101 north downtown. And a nice Art Museum, also downtown. South of Bandon on 101 is the Washed Ashore Project (at Art 101) -- people who collect plastic from the beaches and turn it into giant sculpture. Old Town Bandon has restaurants, a nice book store, kitchy shops and a big boardwalk along the water and boat basin. Cape Blanco north of Port Orford is stunning on a sunny day. Stop at the Hughes House while you're out there. In Sixes there is a funky junk shop hidden in the Grange Hall. Its worth a look just for fun.
posted by partner at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Waterfront Depot restaurant in Florence has fantastic food for reasonable prices. We had a seafood dish there that was recommended by our B&B keeper up the coast - something along the lines of crab encrusted halibut, maybe? - that was likely the tastiest thing I've ever eaten in my life. The town also has a pretty cute little main street that you can wander up and down if the weather's nice.

nth-ing Sea Lion Caves and stopping at every scenic waypoint you come across. I kept thinking they would get boring, or that we'd gotten the gist of what coastal oregon views had to offer, but every time is was something new and awesome.
posted by vytae at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2010

A few things off the top of my head:
-Nthing the joys of staying in yurts
-Manzanita and Yachats are among my favorite places to stay on the northern coast (they have small business to explore but don't feel too overdeveloped or touristey)
-Nice hikes on the northern coast: Neahkahnie Mountain, Tillamook Head (with old military bunkers and backcountry camping shelters!), Cape Lookout. This book is awesome if you like hiking.
-The Nehalem River Inn has one of the few shmancy-foodie-type restaurants on the coast, and it is freaking delicious
-near Florence there's a roadside grove of carnivorous pitcher plants! And yes, the dunes are awesome.
posted by introcosm at 1:08 PM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a fan of the Sea Lion caves because you have to pay to get into them, and they are smelly and loud. I'd much rather go to the Historic Bayfront in Newport and walk onto the pier next to the Undersea Gardens to watch sea lions. I can watch them forever for free, they are loud and silly and always there. Just be careful walking when you are walking from your car to the pier because it is a working harbor, and they'll be loading seafood off of ships with fork lifters and such. Also it may smell like fish. I usually bring guests here, and then drive over the beautiful bridge to the other side of Newport to go to Rogue for a beer. The Oregon Aquarium is very much worth it, especially if you get a super rainy day and want to do something interesting.

While you are at Rogue, ask to become a member of Rogue Nation, and you get 10% off your beer (it doesn't cost anything to join, so why wouldn't you do it?). There's also distillery tours at Rogue and beer tours (although you walk through the mash tuns and such on the way to the restaurant, so I've never done the beer tour).

In Depoe Bay, about 10 - 15 miles north of Newport, I love to eat at Tidal Raves. If you are on a budget, try to get here for brunch or lunch, as they serve a similar menu for less. I love bring people here about 30 minutes before dusk, as it's right on the water (I often see grey whales as we are eating) and then you get to watch the sun sink over the Pacific as you eat. They've introduced me to many good Oregonian wines here that I hadn't noticed before elsewhere. The service has been excellent every time I've been there. The few times we weren't able to get a reservation, we just walked in and waited - it never took more than 10 or 15 minutes to be seated. They must reserve a number of tables for walk-ins.

If you stay on the central coast, Sylvia Beach is fun, especially the Mark Twain room as it opens to the ocean and has a fireplace. If you are lucky, you will get one of the cats to hang out in front of your fire or on your toes for a bit.

We more often stay between Newport and Depoe Bay at the Inn at Otter Crest. You can walk down to the beach between Devil's Punchbowl and Inn at Otter Crest (although please be very careful in winter if you do this and go during low tide and watch for sneaker waves). They have a nice outdoor hottub and pool too. These aren't beach front, but if you ask for one with a view, the views are dramatic (the inn is on a cliff). These are condos that are managed like a hotel so the decorations vary, but we've had a lot of luck with them (and they have wood burning fireplaces too).

More than anything, I love to start at one part of Hwy 101 and just drive up to the other side, stopping often along the way to explore. I need to spend more time in Astoria again - we've mostly been there to take guests to the Astoria column and to see the Goonies houses / sites. Astoria has a really nice Rogue Public House too, out on the water at the end of a wooden pier.

Tillamook Cheese Factory is a great break in driving - go for fresh cheese curds, or ice cream, or even just a bathroom break and watch them make and packaged the cheese.

There are also some really nice short hikes along the coast, even in winter, so look some up if you are in the mood to get out for a walk (incredible views). Oh! If you do drive on 101 in the central part of the coast, make sure to take the Otter Crest loop, which runs north to south, even if that's not the way you were going - it's worth a short detour for the views and to drive though the ferns and trees on the way out of it. It will loop back to 101, and you'll only be out 15 minutes or so, but you will see beautiful views.

I try to get to the coast once per month, so I know I am missing a ton of things. I'll post later if I think of some really good things to explore.
posted by ugf at 3:24 PM on December 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh! In case you go in summer (the park is closed in winter), go see the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a ship that sank in 1906 and is slowly being reclaimed by nature and the sand. You can walk right up to it, really cool. There's a lot less there now than when I would go as a kid in the 70s.

Feel free to send a MeFi Mail to me if you have any questions. I'm much more familiar with the central and northern coast, as most of my time on the southern parts were when I was a kid so I've mainly just driven through the southern coast as an adult.
posted by ugf at 3:28 PM on December 31, 2010

Best answer: Re-reading your question (I'll stop, I promise :), for a super awesome massage, treat yourself to a facial or massage at the Spa at Salishan. I was just treated to one for my birthday, and it was fantastic! I only had a half-day to enjoy (we had plans to be at a vineyard in the afternoon), but I definitely want to go back to spent the entire day.

If you get a facial or massage, you get access to the whole spa - so go early and plan to stay after if you can. There is a women's side, a men's side and an everyone side. The women's side has a private hot pool with a rainshower (clothing optional), and the everyone hot pool is open air to the bay which was fantastic and private. I really didn't think they could live up to the ads I saw from them, and wow, I'm such a fan now. There's also a great room with an open wood fireplace with lots of views and lounge chairs. My sister and I have definite plans to go back and just hang out in this room for hours reading one day.

I have no idea how much price-wise it compares to other spas, I've only been to a very few of them! My sister, however, goes all over the US and the world to spas, and she said that this was without a doubt in the top three in quality for her (she dinged them points for not serving lunch, but they have tea and cocoa and such).

We stayed at Salishan (wow, comparatively inexpensive in winter too), and had a long wonderful dinner (they have a great winelist) and then wandered up to their lounge to hear a band and have a few more drinks. Nice to do everything right there and not worry who was going to have to drive. Really loved it, it was a great birthday I won't forget.
posted by ugf at 3:39 PM on December 31, 2010

Response by poster: Wow you guys really outdid yourselves! Thank you so much. I'm not sure when I want to go either summer or fall...suggestions? I don't want it super crowded but I don't want to be the only 2 in the yurt at night either..I'm a chicken lol.

I loved your stories, memories and suggestions...Loved the yurt story about being quiet...thank you I'm the loud one! good advice for me.
posted by gypseefire at 12:33 AM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've gone to the coast mostly in summer and it's great because even though the water is circa 40 degrees (F), the beach is warm and there are loads of open air restaurants and things to do outside. You can run out of the water right into an art gallery or ice cream stand! I recall the yurts in summer being in demand but not obnoxiously loud/crowded. The other poster is right; they were fairly quiet. You didn't see how many people were tucked away in them until the next AM!
posted by ShadePlant at 7:52 AM on January 2, 2011

Also, if you want to go in the water for any length of time, bring or rent a wetsuit. I'm used to swimming in Lake Michigan and Superior and I thought I wouldn't need a wetsuit... Hah! Brr!!
posted by ShadePlant at 7:53 AM on January 2, 2011

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