Our kids are at an age where they are independent but still want to hang out with the family. We love beautiful scenery and I had seen cool pictures of Oregon tidepools, so we booked a trip there last year. 2020... pandemic, rioting in Portland, etc. so we postponed our trip until the following August. School doesn't start until after Labor Day here, so going somewhere cool and rainy was a good way to spend the dog days of summer.
We're a year into the pandemic and many business are struggling to rebound, especially in the travel and hospitality industries. We decided to take our chances since many of our desired destinations were outdoors. Our first night, after arriving in Portland and waiting (and waiting) for the hotel shuttle, calling repeatedly with no answer, and finally Ubering to our hotel 5 minutes away, we found out that their phone and internet were out, and they didn't update their services to reflect the lack of shuttle service or complimentary breakfast. First thing the next morning Steve walked to pick up our rental car and we stocked up on nonperishable foods just in case this happened again.
Day 2 after stocking up we set out for the coast, but first drove up through Vancouver, just over the border into Washington (not Canada) so the kids could check that state off their list. We drove through Astoria, Oregon and on to our first view of the coast and goodies from a bakery in Gearhart.
We hiked Clatsop Loop trail (2.8mi loop) from Indian Beach in Ecola State Park to see the offshore Tillamook Rock lighthouse. The inland part of the loop was full of huge moss-covered evergreens (redwoods?) and ferns, and we joked that we wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur. We got to the viewpoint at the top and were looking into a cloud, but the coastal side of the loop on the way down gave us peeks of the lighthouse.
Next up was Cannon Beach. It was Saturday and very popular, so our parking spot was miles away from the Haystack but we ended up seeing a lot of the town, full of shops and restaurants. And FLOWERS! Oh, the window boxes and the B&B gardens with fuchsia bushes and dahlias and sweet peas! After a hot, dry summer of watering my garden in Virginia it was so sweet to see happy plants. Haystack Rock was amazing, bigger than I expected. We would have liked to have spent more time in Cannon Beach on a weekday with fewer people and a great kite.
Day 3 started with exploring sea caves & tidepools at Hug Point State Recreation Site and then Short Sand Beach at Oswald West State Park. I had never seen bright green sea anemones in the wild before. I would have liked to hike NeahKahNie trail and see the Cape Meares lighthouse & tidepools, but it was overcast/foggy and we needed to move along. Tillamook Creamery has a free self-guided factory tour and a café, so lunch that day was fried cheese curds and ice cream. Because vacation.
We played on the beach at Cape Lookout State Park to give Steve a break from driving, then we continued on to Pacific City, grabbed a parking spot and pack of hazy at Pelican. I sat in the welcome sun and watched the surfers while Steve and the kids climbed the sand mountain at Cape Kiwanda.
Day 4 started with an impulse stop at Boiler Bay viewpoint. The view to the north ended up being one of my favorites, and on the south side of the point we saw gray whales surfacing pretty close to shore. It was magical! Taking Otter Crest Loop to the Ben Jones bridge viewpoint (and the house with the cool deck next door) is worth it, as was Devils Punch Bowl (natural arch) even at low tide. If you have a national parks pass you can get in free at Yaquina Head lighthouse. Park and take the stairs down to Cobble beach, which is uniquely covered in polished black rocks and has one of the best spots we found for tidepools. Bright purple sea urchins were the highlight for me.
We visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center where the kids got to recreate tidal waves and pilot a ship via simulator. I loved their resident bright orange octopus and knowledgeable volunteers. Newport's Bay Boulevard has cute shops and restaurants. Chowder, sea lions, saltwater taffy, handworks, and then dinner at one of the Rogue brewery restaurants.
Day 5: low tide 8:44am, high tide 3:16pm
Cape Perpetua is chock full of natural wonders. We started out in the marine garden near Thor's Well, which was the other really great tidepool spot that we saw. You have to go at low tide and walk way out to where the mussels cover the rocks. Because sea stars (starfish) eat mussels. The sea stars were big and fat, orange and dark purple, and there were green anemones and purple urchins there as well. It was like looking into a tropical aquarium, so magical. We spent almost all day at Cape Perpetua, chilling and watching the tide come in which made Thor's Well and Spouting Horn that much more interesting. Then we checked in to our room at the Adobe Resort in Yachats and enjoyed their indoor pool. One of my favorite dinners of the trip was halibut fish & chips at Luna Sea Fish House. Then we watched the sun setting over the Pacific right from bed.
Day 6 Wed 8/25
More time in the car today (the southern half of the coast) but there was less I wanted to see in this part of the coast. We opted for the viewpoint of Heceta Lighthouse (instead of driving out to it) and had to miss the Bay Street shops in Florence because we passed through before they opened. But we filled a box of goodies at Bandon Baking Company (cookie dough cupcake, sailor jacks, raspberry bear claw, several types of cookies) and shared a big cinnamon roll at a table by the water. Then tried the sipping chocolate and caramel at Coastal Mist chocolate shop. Because vacation.
Highlights from the rest of the Oregon Coast...
Sisters Rock State Park
Mack Arch view from Crook Point (pictured)
Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Natural Bridges – can hike down but trail is not safe
Harris Beach tidepools
When we got to California we drove to a place my aunt Suzy had recommended. She grew up in northern California and knows our kids are Star Wars fans, so we drove to Endor, a.k.a. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. You can park at the visitor’s center and take footbridge across the river to Stout Grove Loop, or you can drive around and park at the loop like we did.
We made it to Grants Pass, Oregon for a forgettable dinner and nice chill time before bed. We stayed at Riverside Inn, which had super views by the river and a good breakfast buffet.
Day 7 Thur 8/26 (I'm losing my steam here, so here are my notes in brief form)
Crater Lake – definitely worth seeing, park at Rim Village, go down to Sinnott observation point, stop at Watchman viewpoint
Jackson's Corner, Drake Park, Pizza Mondo by the slice (yum!), Wooden Jewel, Dudley’s Bookshop (so good)
Stayed in Bend - (such a cool town)
Day 8 Fri 8/27
Take 35 around the east side of Mount Hood so you’ll see the Columbia River Gorge
Stop at Horsetail Falls
(Oneonta Gorge trails were closed due to fires/mudslides)
Multnomah Falls – may need reservation, park in highway median lot and walk through tunnel, total distance to the top of the falls and back is 2.4 miles, bridge is 0.2mi
Int’l Rose Test garden and Secret garden (Japanese garden is $$$)
Powell's City of Books
Yes, there are homeless camps around the outskirts of town and in certain parts of the city. We just steered clear and had no issues.
Day 9 Saturday 8/28
Flight 11am PDT PDX-Chicago-Richmond
Unexpected layover (weather delay, refeuling stop in Rockford, IL, rebooked on next day's flight), stayed in Chicago, spent our time at Museum of Science and Industry which we loved.
Oregon Coast Tips:
Bathrooms can be scarce so go when you can, and bring hand wipes because some are pit toilets (no plumbing).
Oregon travel tip: Cell coverage was spotty in a lot of areas, so download your Google Maps for offline use before you go.
Check the tide schedule before you go. The fun stuff in tidepools can be found down toward the water where you see mussels on top of the rocks (starfish eat them), and is only safe/visible at low tide. Wear shoes with good tread that can get wet.
Pack a Neat Sheet (or just a flat sheet) for using as a pillow in the car or a blanket/towel at the beach. You don't need to bring all the creature comforts of home.
In August 2021 some restaurants had reduced hours because of staffing, and hotel breakfasts were hit or miss. Be prepared. When we got to Portland we bought bread/almond butter/honey, power bars, and dried fruit so we could also eat lunch on the go.
Travel tip: Tailgate lunches were a big time- and money-saver on circuit trips where we're in a different hotel each night. We brought a table knife and bought a loaf of bread, PB&J, fruit, trail mix, PB crackers, mozzarella sticks, pepperoni, granola bars, bottled water. And candy, because vacation.
Travel tip: When you're renting a car and still need a booster seat (the height cutoff is 4'9" and the safety belt needs to stay off the neck and over the shoulder), airlines charge if you bring your own, and car rental companies charge you to rent one. In Utah we bought one when we got there for way less than either of those options, and in Oregon we packed an extra one inside a suitcase, then donated it before flying home.