On our way back to the coast from Portland, we went through the Willamette Valley! With the kids in tow, wine tasting wasn’t on the agenda but it was still nice to get a feel for it, as we know we’d like to make a kid-free trip there with the sole purpose of checking out some of our favorite wines. We stopped for phenomenal sandwiches and pizzas at Red Hills Market (get the roast beef) and then on a whim, we pulled into the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (impossible for Raj to skip with a plane on top of the building and F14 Tomcat and F15 Eagle out front). We spent a couple hours at the museum and were impressed with the scale of the display. Raj, former Royal Air Training Corps, was in his element and amazed that one place housed a SR-71, ME-262 and a Flogger, among many others, as well as the original Spruce Goose (aka Hughes H-4 Hercules). The Spruce Goose was a massive flying boat designed and built by Howard Hughes for transatlantic cargo transport during WWII, but only flew once because it was too expensive to fly and the war ended before it was ready. It was huge! As a bonus, the museum had a fantastic playground, so the kids were able to expel some energy before we got back on the road.
Once we made it to the Oregon coast, we drove a bit south to stay at Beverly Beach State Park, just north of Newport and a good location to explore the central coast. Incredible waves, wide beaches, scenic lighthouses and lots of whale sightings – what a place!
We drove to Devil’s Punch Bowl, a collapsed sea cave that looks like a bubbling cauldron. I don’t think we were there at the ideal tide, but it was still pretty cool. The wind was intense and cold off the Pacific but we spotted a gray whale! I was enthralled, too, with the fog spilling over the inland hills!
We drove north to Depoe Bay and watched the waves violently crash against the rocks, whales breaching in the bay and devoured a phenomenal dinner at Thai Bay Restaurant (it was the best Thai food I’ve had outside of Thailand – such a treat!). On our way back to the campsite, we pulled into an overlook just in time for a stunning sunset.
I marveled at the powerful and relentless energy of the Pacific. It’s beauty is different from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, where our family spends many beach vacations. In contrast to the serene and uplifting vibe I experience at the Gulf, the Pacific is charged and unpredictable – offering a wild, intense and focused energy. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and more than a little dangerous.
As we moved further south, we passed by the unique Oregon Dunes National Recreation area, which extends for 40 miles down the coast! Some of the dunes tower 500 feet high and amazingly, ATV riding is the primary activity. Though we were surprised the area wasn’t protected, it looked like an absolute blast! Raj added a guys ATV trip there to his bucket list!
We found a lovely place to stay in Winchester Bay and from there could bike around the immediate area, and drive south down the coast to finish up our coastal tour. I mentioned in the Beaches Part 1 that Nina wanted to tour inside a lighthouse and after several false starts where there were closures or height restrictions, we finally begged her way into the Umpqua lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the Oregon coast and one of the few where visitors can still climb to the top of the spiral staircase into the light housing! Initially they said Nina was too small but we couldn’t handle her disappointment again, so we pressed and pressed and they finally conceded that if she could climb the stairs without assistance, they’d let her in. Finally – success! The guided tour of the lighthouse (still operational) offered fascinating information and a description of lightkeepers’ duties over the years, including early Coast Guard history. For instance, in the past, three families coordinated as lightkeepers to hand- crank the lantern every two hours! Since they served double duty as search and rescue, they were very busy and the work was incredibly dangerous, with several keepers drowning over the years.
Our last day in the area we drove to Simpson Reef near Coos Bay to see and hear the barking seals! There were hundreds if not thousands of seals and it was such a beautiful spot. Though we enjoyed the scenery, I had come down with a cold (amazingly, in 4 months, this was the first time any of us had been sick!) so I wasn’t up for a huge day. We also got pulled over for speeding, but we were left with a warning despite our temporary tag being expired and only having an electronic copy of our insurance! Yeah, he was the nicest cop in the county and clearly took pity on us!
I listened to crashing waves and seagulls until I heard them in my dreams, watched the sun sink into the Pacific, toured lighthouses, felt the sand between my toes and braced for the biting wind… It was glorious. I can’t claim I wanted to leave, but my beach tank was sufficiently full.
I also lay awake one night with earthquake and tsunami fears after watching an unfortunate OPS special about the inevitable Cascadia earthquake. In addition, it is possible that we hit our limit on finding sand in ever nook and cranny in the RV, including our sheets. My cold was lingering too – It was simply time to head west to Crater Lake National Park and then start working our way home. So we took one last visit to the beach to play and run, and then were on our way!
Beverly Beach State Park: 3 stars – this is a very nice Oregon State Park with large sites and beautiful trees. There is good access to the beach but no views except for a couple sites. The beach itself is okay, but there are many more beautiful beaches in Oregon. It’s a good location to explore Depoe Bay and Newport, or to just relax. No internet or cell service. TIP: go to Thai Bay for dinner in Depoe Bay – incredible thai food!
Winchester Bay RV Resort: 4.5 stars – this place consistently gets 5 stars and repeat business, and it’s easy to understand why. Everything is incredibly well maintained (we even saw camp hosts disinfecting the hookups), the views are gorgeous, and everyone is so nice! we were lucky to snag a spot without a reservation on a busy weekend and enjoyed walking the path, biking to town and exploring the nearby beaches and lighthouses. great place.