*Most of these activities are free or charge a minimal amount for parking. If you are a senior, your Golden Passport lets you and a party of up to four, enter at no cost.
1. Lost Creek State Park, South Beach
Walk this pristine and secluded beach between Newport and Waldport on the Oregon Coast. There is access to a paved parking lot which is seldom full of visitors. The view is expansive and you can always snag a section of sand for yourself to allow your private reverie to unfold. The shore is deep and offers the far away surf sound you hear in relaxing sound recordings. It’s a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon. Just make sure to check the tide tables!
2. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, Newport
Visit the tidal pools and observe Pacific Coastal Life from atop high cliffs overlooking the ocean. The pools are full of colorful marine animals but currently have fewer starfish due to the wasting disease that has plagued that species. A dizzying look at the vastness of the sea. There is an excellent chance you will get to spot the migrating grey whale just past the rocks. Be sure and bring along your binoculars!
3. Public Fishing Pier at the Port of Newport in Yaquina Bay
You will get help from your fellow wayfarers if you’re a first-time crabber. Most people here go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Dungeness and Red Rocks will be your targets and it’s not too difficult to snag a meal if you’re patient. Residents pay only $7 a year for a license. Non-residents pay around $11 for a 3 day and $20 for an annual. Just make sure you can identify the Dungeness males and take a crab ruler for the minimum size requirements. This is a major gathering place for families, serious fisherman, and anyone interested in the chance to trap this delectable shellfish. The Rogue Brewery is located in the parking lot at the Pier, so if the crabbing is slow, you could visit this first-rate Ales and Spirits Pub. Don’t forget to bring your dog as furry friends are always welcome on this part of the coast.
4. Haystack Rock, Pacific City
There is more than one Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast but Pacific City’s is 100′ taller than its famous counterpart in Cannon Beach. This area is a favorite for tourists who like to wander off the beaten path. Pacific City is visited a little less than other coastal cities probably due to its location off Highway 101. That fact just adds to the charm of this coastal burg. Your visit to the area wouldn’t be complete without a drive on the beach. Pacific City has three vehicle access points and the locals invite you to enjoy motoring on the sands. Although small, its downtown area hosts a number of eateries and a couple of places to grab a cocktail if you so choose. These waters are one of the few areas you can watch the launching of the Fishing Dories and observe them battling the Pacific shore waves on their way to catch the fish of the day.
5. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Siuslaw National Forest
There is a dizzying drive up Highway 101 to reach this highest spot on the Oregon Coast. You will find your destination about three miles south of the town of Yachats. Once you arrive in the parking lot, be sure to purchase a cup of gourmet coffee at the service building if the barista is in attendance. Each cup is brewed fresh with the finest beans Oregon has to offer! The park features tide pools, churns, spouting horns, amazing coastal views, and a pristine forest hike down to the accessible beach area. Let yourself get mesmerized by the crashing, rolling waves. This visit would not be complete without an “up top” excursion to the scenic area above the cape. Towering cliffs give way to the most expansive view you will probably ever see on the Pacific Coast. Be careful with the steep edges, especially with your pets. They don’t have fences to hold you back!
6. Izzy’s Buffet, Newport
This buffet restaurant is at the top of the hill on the edge of Newport when heading north on Highway 101. The menu features a variety of pizzas, several meat entrees, and lots of fresh salads and sides choices. It costs about $10 for lunch, and about $14 for dinner for an adult. This diners’ unique characteristic is the inner seating surrounded by windows that look out over the Pacific. You can’t beat this view when you’re enjoying your meal. The cooks are excellent and the wait staff and management do a bang-up job of keeping the eatery very clean.
7. Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence
This magnificent lighthouse, which during its early years could only be accessed by ship, is hauntingly beautiful. The property features a state restored lighthouse and the original lightkeeper’s dwelling, now operating as a Bed and Breakfast Inn. You access the buildings by hiking up a steep path on the edge of a wild Pacific forest. Numerous guests have claimed the domicile is haunted. When visiting, you are allowed to tour all the way to the beacon and also visit a portion of the home where a docent will fill you in on its history, past and present. Here you can get updated with the news of any ghostly apparitions. Sitting on the wide front porch, one could almost picture Heathcliff sauntering down the garden path on his way back to Wuthering Heights. Unlike Bronte’s novel setting, this environment is filled with light and the charm of a bygone era in Coastal history.
8. Drift Creek Wilderness, N. Beaver Creek Rd., north of Otter Rock
Drift Creek Wilderness area is accessed by traveling North on Beaver Creek Road, located across from Ona Beach State Park entrance. You will travel a few miles until the road for the wilderness area splits off to the right and narrows. After several miles, the pavement gives way to gravel and finally comes to an end following numerous switchbacks. This drive will ascend you into the Coast’s largest stand of old-growth trees where you can stop anywhere along the way. The environment becomes increasingly peaceful as the sound of the ocean becomes a distant whisper. You might feel like Thumbelina among the gargantuan Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. If you visit this enchanting place during the rainy season of the fall, you will likely be able to collect as many Chanterelles as you wish. They are one of the tastiest mushrooms in the world. This is a place where you can breathe fresh coastal mountain air and ponder the meaning of life. It’s a bonus when you realize you will probably be the only one visiting on that day!
9. Drift Creek Falls, South of Lincoln City
This is not to be confused with Drift Creek Wilderness. The Falls trail is located closer to Lincoln City and accessed by turning off Highway 101 onto Drift Creek Road. After about 10 miles you will arrive at the trailhead. It is worth the time and effort to take this hike. A 350′ suspension bridge crosses the creek at one point, from which you can view the impressive falls spewing forth from a sheer rock wall. Part of the cliff cleaved off in 2010, but the scenery and Falls still remain breathtaking. The numerous side trail roads as you journey to the parking area offer some choice spots for a private picnic.
10. North Beaver Creek Road Scenic Route to Toledo
Turn on North Beaver Creek Road across from Ona Beach State Park and continue for a few miles, forking to the left at the junction, away from Drift Creek Wilderness. This relaxing outing will cost you about 1 1/2 hours of time while you approach Toledo from the backcountry. The journey is dreamlike as the narrowing road winds down to a single lane, bringing to mind frontier days of horse and buggy. Along the way, you can view several homesteads and wonder what it would be like to live that far from civilization, especially on those pitch black coastal nights. It is also a jaunt on which you might meet an elk or black bear sauntering across the road. There is nowhere to stop for gas, beverages, or a bathroom break, so make sure you are prepared. This idyllic, timeless drive is worth the effort. Around midway, you reach the peak of elevation and are able to view the gently rolling mountains of the Coastal land. If you desire a longer back trail drive, you can head all the way to Corvallis and several other places without ever traveling on a highway.
These places are some of the most beautiful on the Oregon Coast and cost very little or nothing to explore. If you are going to be spending any time around the Newport area, the mini nature tours will keep you occupied and teach you a wealth of information about Oregon’s coastal beauty. There are too many breathtaking scenic spots to mention as you navigate your way down Highway 101 from Lincoln City to Florence.
Just one more note. If you want the freshest, best tasting seafood on the Oregon Coast, go no further than the little South Beach market. Don’t let the beat-up outside picnic tables and ramshackle inner restaurant section fool you. You will notice a full house with a waiting line as you drive by in the summer months. There’s a reason for that. Nothing tastes better than their dinners and you don’t have to dress-up. The menu offers everything from fresh Dungeness to Halibut, a personal favorite. They also sell fresh raw seafood if you wish to do the cooking yourself.
Enjoy your visit!