July 4, 2014
Pacific Coast Scenic Byway – A Must-Do Drive
Last year, I wrote generally about my favorite road to travel, Highway 101 up the Oregon Coast. This year, my boyfriend and I drove it again, and I found myself yet again hypnotized by the beauty of this coastal drive, so I wanted to take a blog article to write about some very specific towns to visit as well as activities to do while on the Highway 101 drive, which is also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway.
First of all, as I wrote last year, part of what I love about this drive is that on one side the ocean waves while on the other drivers see forests and mountains. These are three of my favorite aspects of Nature, so it is no surprise that this is my favorite drive. In fact, I look forward to making this drive every time we travel to the West Coast.
Now, for digging just a little bit deeper into what to do. One of our favorite activities is to camp along the coast, and the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway provides plenty of opportunities for that. The first town that drivers will encounter when beginning the drive from the south is Brookings, and just north of Brookings rests two nice Oregon state parks: Harris Beach and Humbug Mountain. They cost about $20 or so and provide near beach camping, showers, and tidy campsites. These are two of my favorite Oregon coast campgrounds because they are less visited and have fewer campsites. Of course, the latter means that fewer sites are available, but it also means that there is more privacy and more quiet. They are nice parks to camp at and enjoy both the mountains and the ocean.
But these are not the only state parks with camping along the coast. In fact, the coast offers more than I can count from Brookings to Astoria. Camping along the coast is a nice way to enjoy the vistas, set up a base from which to visit other parts of the coast, and experience all that the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway has to offer.
Though visitors can’t go wrong when visiting any of the towns or cities that dot the coastal highway, there are a few that I have really enjoyed. For a nice, small town experience, I suggest Port Orford. It is quaint but convenient with little shops, beach access, and yummy places to grab a bite for any meal.
Moving north, the next great place to visit is Florence. What I like about Florence is that it is tucked sort of in a bay, so it really feels like a coastal town. Its downtown is right off the bay and ocean, so just about any restaurant offers a view of the water, but Florence is less travelled because it lives south of the larger tourist town of Newport, but I will get to Newport in a minute. This trip, we stopped in Florence for a bite and a walk around town. It was a lovely place to grab some seafood, a drink, and then walk to see all the fun shops. Plus, it had this great local coffee shop that refueled us for our continued trek. I will definitely spend more time in Florence in the future.
As I mentioned, Florence is sometimes less known because of Newport, which is a major tourist town. Like Florence, Newport is right on the ocean, so most restaurants have a stunning vista to accompany the tasty food. Plus, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is home in Newport, and there’s great shopping, beach activities, and other state parks to check out all around Newport. I suggest asking someone for a great local joint to grab a bite and a pint. In my experience, they won’t steer you wrong.
Next on the drive north comes Tillamook. Now, it is not on the coast, per se, as the highway veers a bit inland at this point, but Tillamook is home to two really great activities. First of all, is the Tillamook Air Museum. For all those interested in flight, this is well worth the stop. And then there’s the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Yes, I said cheese, and oh boy is it good. Both of these make Tillamook worth the stop.
Finally, and as the pinnacle of an already awesome trip, comes historic Astoria. As the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail, this town is packed with historical fun. It has a great downtown that overlooks the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. The views are more than breathtaking. Plus, there’s the four-mile long bridge from Astoria to Washington, and it is a must when visiting Astoria.
Yes, there is much to love about the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, but these specific stops are great ways to plan a trip up the coast. Of course, as drivers make their way north, many other activities and experiences will present themselves, but these are some of the great towns and cities to stop and enjoy.
Image Credit: Rayshell Clapper