Where (PNW) should I head to see big rocks sticking out of the ocean?
September 29, 2017 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Oregon coast? Washington? California? I've decided that a short (3–4 days) getaway would be just the thing to clear my head and sort of shrug off some of the past year. I'm thinking about the Pacific NW, specifically the coastline, but know nothing at all about it—except that it's beautiful and doesn't require a passport. That's a pretty good start. In fact, it might be the whole story.

I usually go to NYC to look at art in the fall, but this year I need a change of habit, so I'm going to switch it up and head west. Outside of pictures/movies, I've never seen that part of the country, and it sounds lovely. I don't even want to see it all—I just want to go someplace where I can chill on my own and see some cliffs and big rocks out in the ocean. Maybe take a picture.

Note that I am not interested in climbing rocks—I simply want a killer view. People have said Oregon and Washington to me, but I need an actual destination. Please help me find a great place to just be. And stare.

It has to be reasonably accessible from an airport; I do not drive, so there will be no rental car.
I could either mildly rough it—think cabin with electricity and wifi, not tent and bucket—or do a nice hotel; not too picky on accommodations (said the city girl).
Would prefer not to be eaten by wild animals.
Would love to see some sweet trees, but I don't want to hike uphill to do it (still healing from some surgery and don't want to get super physical, but walking a few miles on flatter land = great.)
Female, traveling alone.
Aside from airfare, I don't want to spend more than a grand or so, and I'll be spending three nights.
Bonus: I could do a helicopter/small plane tour of the coast or something like that.

Where's the best view along the Pacific NW coastline that's reasonably accessible from an airport?
posted by heyho to Travel & Transportation around Long Beach, CA (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Accessible-from-airport without drive/rental-car will probably be the trickiest criteria, most decent-sized airports in the PNW are fairly far inland.

That said, there's one place along the Oregon coast which stands out particularly well in the "Big rocks sticking out of the ocean, chill on your own, see some cliffs" category. You want to go to Pacific City. Beautiful views, very relaxing, fantastic pub right on the beach...

LATimes quick overview with some photos
posted by CrystalDave at 10:45 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favorite place is Big Sur, which is partially open and has stunning views. Some places to stay there, like Esalen, offer shuttles from Monterey Airport. You could also stay in Pacific Grove, a small town next to Monterey. It's also possible to take the train to Monterey from San Jose Airport, I think.
posted by pinochiette at 10:48 AM on September 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

It has to be reasonably accessible from an airport; I do not drive, so there will be no rental car.

This caveat will nix most, if not all of Oregon and Washington, unless you're talking a smaller regional airports with spotty service. Bellingham maybe? Most of the 'unspoiled' PNW coastline lies pretty far away from where people actually live and function. Flying into Seattle might be your best bet, and then catching a ferry over to the other side of the sound?
posted by furnace.heart at 10:50 AM on September 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Hoo boy, the transportation thing is going to be rough. Seal Rock, Cape Perpetua, Port Orford, Otter Rock (all in Oregon) have the kinds of landscape you're looking for. Looks like the Eugene or Corvallis (Oregon) airports are the closest to those, but I have no idea how you'd get to the coast from there without driving.

Possibly the Eureka/Arcata area in California is an option. The coastline is gorgeous and you're very near the redwoods. Since it's a college town, maybe you can post a craigslist ad for a ride?
posted by AFABulous at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

keep in mind with big sur that you can get there by monterey airbus, but it might take a little longer than it usually does.

beautiful area, though.
posted by koroshiya at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would fly to LAX, take the flyaway to Union Station in downtown LA, I would make a quick stop at El Cielito Lindo across the street at Olvera Street for some taquitos, and then I would take the Amtrak Coast Starlight up the west coast. You can take it all the way to Seattle, although I don't know that that's necessary. I would either take it to Santa Cruz (you can visit Half Moon Bay from there, which has lots of pretty rocks in the ocean, and also Santa Cruz is fun to visit). But what you really should do is transfer at San Luis Obispo or Paso Robles to San Simeon, where you can see ocean rocks a plenty and also visit Hearst Castle.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

We favor Happy Camp Hideaway in Netarts, just to the north of Pacific City. It is just south of Oceanside, a tiny seaside resort community that dates to the early twentieth century. Oceanside has a number of places to stay and places to eat. Both communities are very small.

Oceanside, directly west of Portland, is your closest beach vacation destination to Portland, and Portland is the likeliest airport destination if you define PNW as "not California."

Monterey and Big Sur are great destinations that do feature the rugged coastland you expressed interest in.

Not driving may be a bit of an issue in Oregon and Washington. You may want to look at all-inclusives, which I think are on offer in the Big Sur, but which I do not have information about in Oregon and Washington.
posted by mwhybark at 11:01 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Update: Come to think of it, there are some private bus lines which run out to the coast, so you could go Eugene to Coos Bay, for example. Downside: You'd be going Airport to Shuttle Bus to get into down, Shuttle Bus to City Bus/taxi to get to the Pacific Crest stop, then on a bus out to Coos Bay, reversing all that to get back.

Oregon POINT could get you Portland to Cannon Beach/Astoria

Amtrak Bus could get you Eugene to Florence (there used to be a city shuttle-bus, but I think it was discontinued)
posted by CrystalDave at 11:17 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is slightly convoluted but you could fly to Portland and take a train to Seaside. It's not the rockiest beach but without driving that's the best I can think of. There are inexpensive places to stay once you're in Seaside and most everything is walkable.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:19 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, the no driving/minimal hiking pretty much eliminates Washington state. The Peninsula definitely has what you want re: gorgeous views, big rocks, and impressive trees, but is very isolated from the rest of the state.

The Oregon coast has more resort type towns, but again the no driving might trip you up, as the train runs about 30 miles inland. There's always Greyhound, though. Note: Washington and Oregon coasts in the fall might end up being very cold, wet, and rainy (then again, might not... the fun is in the waiting!). California might be your best bet for pleasant weather.
posted by lovecrafty at 11:21 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cannon Beach, Oregon. I was looking at a quick weekend getaway there in October and found lots of houses to rent a block away from Haystack Rock
posted by munchingzombie at 11:22 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with the above that getting out to the Oregon Coast without a car will be difficult. It's about 60 or 70 miles of winding mountain highways to get from PDX to the closest beach (which doesn't even have any cool rocks).

For rocky ocean formations, you should target Pacific City, Lincoln City, or Cannon Beach.

One option might be to use the Chinook Winds casino shuttle, but I don't know too much about it. The hotel at the casino is decent and cheap and right next to the beach. Lincoln city isn't super walkable though, but you'd be close enough to a few restaurants and grocery.
posted by TomFoolery at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would fly to LAX, take the flyaway to Union Station in downtown LA, I would make a quick stop at El Cielito Lindo across the street at Olvera Street for some taquitos, and then I would take the Amtrak Coast Starlight up the west coast.

Not a bad idea, but I'd suggest stopping at Philippe's for a French dip instead.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whoops, I confused Oceanside with Seaside, as always happens. Seaside is the place directly west from Portland. Oceanside is the teeny place just north of Netarts.

Cannon Beach is just south of Seaside.
posted by mwhybark at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well I saw some REALLY BIG Pacific rocks without driving. I flew in to Seattle and took a shuttle to Anacortes (two hours), then went on an overnight kayak trip into the islands. You don't *have* to kayak, though, you can take a ferry (or probably other sorts of boats and planes and things).

I think you could do a lot worse than going to Anacortes and ferrying around the islands.
posted by mskyle at 11:48 AM on September 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Seconding Eureka/Arcata, California, from which you could catch a taxi to Trinidad, which is just beautiful.

Santa Cruz/Monterey, California area is always fantastic. You could fly into San Jose and take the bus into Santa Cruz. All of the beaches around there are different from each other, from touristy coves to rugged cliffs. And you can "rough it" as much or as little as you want.
posted by shalom at 11:51 AM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cannon Beach Oregon is a great town and home to Haystack Rock. You can take a bus from Portland. You can take the train from the airport (PDX) to Union Station. Once in Cannon Beach, it's all quite walkable.
posted by hydra77 at 11:53 AM on September 29, 2017 [5 favorites]

Adding: Getting to the coast is much more direct if you have a car. There are lots of MeFites in Portland. You could probably post on Jobs and get someone to drive you to Cannon Beach. It's a nice day trip.
posted by hydra77 at 11:55 AM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nthing Cannon Beach, it's the best. ssshhhhh, don't tell everyone though
posted by Mizu at 12:01 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

About 6 weeks ago we booked a house on the coast in Neskowin, OR. Temperatures in Portland were in the high 90s, and were in the mid 50s at the coast. It was amazing.

Friends drove us up to Canon beach (and a couple other beaches along the way) and it was all lovely. I honestly don't think you can go wrong anywhere on the Oregon coast. Neskowin was about a 2 hour drive from our friends' house in West Linn (just south of Portland).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:02 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seal Rock, Port Orford, and Cascade Head are all *gorgeous*. But yeah, nothing on the Oregon coast is accessible without a car.

This time of year you might be able to get last-minute accommodations at Friday Harbor, but I'm not sure. Worth a try! (In summer, campsites book out 9 months in advance. Hotels might be similar.) You'd fly to Seattle and take the ferry to Friday Harbor on Orcas Island. Beautiful views of rocky islands in the Salish Sea, then spend some time on the islands whale-watching (orcas) by boat or kayak.

Now I want to go!
posted by cnidaria at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hmmmm. Wow, thanks for the perspective. Now I'm wondering if I should just shelve this specific trip until I want to go someplace with a (driving) friend, and just pick a new destination for October. Or maybe just do the California option instead? I've never been there either... Decisions.
posted by heyho at 12:21 PM on September 29, 2017

I've been trying to think how to do this with the Strait Shot or Dungeness bus lines, but it's a hassle. Friday Harbor, or the other small islands, are utterly gorgeous and accustomed to carless visitors (you can generally rent bikes). Maybe Doe Bay?
posted by clew at 12:28 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

You could fly to either Vancouver or Victoria and catch a bus to either Tofino or Ucluelet. Both are beautiful. I can recommend the Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet if your budget will extend that far. There's more to do in Tofino; Ucluelet is quieter and has a local network of hiking trails that you can reach without a car. Be aware that the big rains will probably start soon (if you want to avoid that, I'd recommend Big Sur instead).
posted by irrelephant at 1:22 PM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

One more thing: as of today it's rainy season in western washington. the coast will always have interesting things to look at any time of year, but big vista views of mountains will not be guaranteed here until next july.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:49 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, I'd fly to Seattle and ferry to the islands. It's all rocks, nothing but rocks. Also a lot of places have no cell service as a bonus.
posted by fshgrl at 2:38 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

the coast will always have interesting things to look at any time of year, but big vista views of mountains will not be guaranteed here until next july.

Oh yeah, I should have mentioned - I was at the Washington/Oregon coast this time of year and it was frequently COLD and FOGGY. If I went back it would be earlier in the year. I would do California if the views are the key factor.
posted by AFABulous at 2:43 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am from California and I live in Seattle. California waterfronts at this time of year will be lovely. Seattle and Oregon coasts will not, really. Unless you like fog and gray, there is a kind of beauty to it, but it's probably not exactly what you're looking for.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:04 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was racking my brain trying to think of other plane-accessible places that might fit your criteria...what if you head north a little bit? You can get flights into Ketchikan, AK from some major airports. Not likely anything direct, but you'd be right on the water, and they have some pretty epic scenery just right there from town.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:38 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Putting in another plug for the San Juan Islands. You can fly directly to the totally gorgeous islands from Seattle (there is a free shuttle from Sea-tac) on the sea plane airline, Kenmore Air. The flight alone is really really cool if it isn't too cloudy.
posted by rockindata at 6:41 PM on September 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I am so glad I asked this question. Coast Starlight train up to Seattle and a few days hanging out and looking at water, rocks, whales, whatever for the win! Thanks, all!
posted by heyho at 2:56 PM on October 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Aaaaand done.
So relax
Much nap
How to perspective
posted by heyho at 9:26 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread has been open so long, I've already planned a second trip!

After I asked this question, I changed my whole trip. Ended up taking the Southwest Chief out to LA, and although I wasn't planning to, I spent a day in LA and loved it (hit MOCA and loved all the Rothko and Giacometti), ate at the little place pazazygeek recommended—and I concur! It was really good! (I actually should have taken ALL of pazazygeek's advice instead of just the first half, but more on that later.) We stayed at a cheap-ish hotel (something like $100) near the train station, which was very clean and actually quite comfortable—and sort of big for a hotel room—or I just go to NYC too much. The staff was wonderful, I remember. And it's on the edge of Chinatown, so... good eats!

Next morning we (my 20-something niece and I) took the Coast Starlight train up the coast, as advised, and aw yeah... that was a fine recommendation! Just absolutely gorgeous. I'd never seen the Pacific, and the ride was fantastically beautiful and very cliffy. If I could change one thing, I'd have gotten the roomette for this part of the trip too... sure, you save money by taking coach, but sleeping upright in a train seat isn't good sleeping. Plus, the roomettes are super fun!

After breakfast on the second day of the Coast Starlight trip, the train wound through the mountains and into the most amazing forests I've ever seen. The higher we climbed, the heavier the snow got, and the views... omg stunning. It's just so. many. trees. It's breathtaking, it truly is, and you get a great view when you're in the observation car. It was the best part of the whole trip for me.

We ended up hitting Seattle for three days of driving rain (I'm cool with rain!) and pissed-off people...(not cool with that!) this can't be what it's always like there, but I couldn't believe the number of angry people we ran across... like one day we went to get massages just to have nice contact with other humans! It had to be just a glitch/bad luck/timing... something... but it was very odd to be shoulder-checked as you're walking down the sidewalk and angrily shoved aside... and it happened to both of us, oddly, once each. I dunno. I gotta say, I didn't get the best impression of Seattle and don't plan to go back unless I have to. It was weird. The people at the dispensary were cool, and we hit one restaurant that had friendly waitstaff, but only the one. Yeah, not the best impression of that town. It was pretty! And in late November, it was in full autumn color, so that definitely helped; at least we got to walk around a lot and got some gorgeous photos.

But the cross-country train thing is super fun and something I'll now be doing on the regular. In June they have half-off sales on roomettes, bringing them down to a reasonable price! (3 days, Chicago to Sacramento/switch trains to head north to PDX = $450 per person, including three meals a day, sleeping accommodations, and more sights seen than you typically get on vacation.) So that's what I'm doing! I MUST repeat that trip through Oregon and the forests... it's too cool not to do twice!

This time I will be taking the California Zephyr to Sacramento, then transferring to the Coast Starlight to head up to Portland. The Zephyr goes through the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas—into Utah, which I've always wanted to see. It sounds like fun, and I mos def do not get enough mountains living in Chicago!

So I'll skip Seattle this time, thanks, and instead hit Portland to see what that's all about. And this time I'm taking my girl friend who loves to drive :) I'm finally going to hit Cannon Beach and see the rocks! Yay, I can't wait! And now gucci mane has added to this trip by telling me where I can go in Portland to hang out with goats!

I love AskMe. Thanks again for helping me plan a great trip... and giving me ideas for this next trip too!
posted by heyho at 5:38 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry you had a bad time in Seattle. You may have experienced a variation of what is called the Seattle Freeze, but that usually applies to newly transplanted people rather than tourists.

Seattle is growing fast, and naturally that growth is outsiders moving here, and if you were here near the first big rain of the season (sounds about right), a season that lasts unabated for 9 months, then yeah, those new folks were being rudely awakened by the change from our gloriously mild summer/fall weather.

I've always felt that Seattle is a better place to live than to visit, because the best things about it are spread around rather than concentrated within.

Anyway, it sounds like you had a fabulous trip, and your experiences on the train sound outstanding. Good luck planning your next adventure!
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:45 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older African American history resources for pre-school   |   I assume it's not because sugar could be causative... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.