One could call the Central Oregon Coast enchanted. Just the physical beauty of the shoreline that varies from long deserted sandy beaches to hidden coves tucked between forbidding rock walls to sheer cliffs dropping to a sometimes angry ocean. Here too tide pools waiting to be explored as well as emerging rivers forming estuaries as well as harbors filled with boats of all descriptions. This against a backdrop of lush forest, woodland, meadow and greenery everywhere.
All of this is to be seen in a remarkable fifty mile journey on Highway 101 from Lincoln City in the north to Yachats at the south. But people seldom spend too much time admiring natural beauty. We are a species that needs diversified activities and above all physical well being that translates into comfortable accommodations and interesting dining. These rank near top priority when 'getting away from it all".
On our recent excursion to Oregon's Central Coast we experienced all of the above and much more. In exactly two hours we had been whisked from Los Angeles to Portland via Alaska Air and another two and one half hours found us in Lincoln City via Highway 99 and then Highway 18. Lincoln City is an interesting place in what had been in an earlier era several small historic communities. It has now merged into one beachside city dedicated to giving its visitors all that can be expected on a holiday or vacation. Lincoln City exists for its tourists who arrive in huge numbers often swelling its population by six times. We cleverly arrived just a week before the summer pilgrimage began.
Since Lincoln City and those communities further south are tourist destinations it figures that just about every kind of amusement has been provided.
But one example tells this very well. Never underestimate American ingenuity. Over many years glass floats from Japanese fishing boats make the long Pacific Ocean journey to Lincoln City shores. While most desirable as a souvenir, they were hard to find and few in number. However a few years ago a clever local citizen decided to create glass floats in their thousands. They would vary in interesting designs and colors and would be numbered as well.
This created a new glass blowing industry in Lincoln City and indeed up and down the coast with talented craftsmen creating not only floats to be cleverly stashed on the beaches but to offer other creative glassware as well. And taking this a step further allowing the visitor, for a modest price, to actually make his own glass float guided by an expert craftsman.
So if you now visit Lincoln City you will be advised that some careful beach combing may well be rewarded with a take home memento. Since each float is numbered and you enter that number in a contest you could become a winner of a very special prize. Yes, we did diligently poke through sand and driftwood on Taft beach and found our very own glass float, and very pretty too, thank you. We also enjoyed watching these floats being made at Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio.
If beach combing and glass blowing isn't your thing there are myriad other attractions including crafts shops, art galleries, parks and the Chinook Winds Casino Resort which offers all those 'Las Vegas' style activities.
Our accommodations in Lincoln City can only be described as luxurious.. It was at the Starfish Manor Hotel. Our room, called a Sunset Suite, faced to and on the beach with sounds of surf to soothe a tired body. The room offered a cozy fireplace, a Jacuzzi for two, a king size bed and just about every other amenity. One step onto the private balcony and there to enjoy the view as well as the vigorous air from the ocean.
The Starfish Manor Hotel is located at 2735 NW Inlet Ave., in Lincoln City, 541 996-9300, www.onthebeachfront.com.
The next day we explored Depoe Bay and its snug harbor which is home to a sports fishing fleet. As a dedicated fisherman we stopped at Dockside Charters to talk with Lars Robison, owner and Skipper Richard Newton. Actually we were due to go out on one of his boats for whale watching but high winds on the ocean made this unwise. So we settled for some interesting talk about sports fishing in the region. Photos showing fish catches of ling cod, halibut, salmon and rock fish were almost more than this Writer could bear. And then there was the "should have been here yesterday" as Lars told of a catch of huge halibut just the day before.
Dockside Charters is located in Depoe Bay, 541 765-2545, www.docksidedepoebay.com.
Later we checked into the Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, consistently voted one the top resorts in Oregon. The Salishan is a destination in itself with some 18 shops, one of the most elaborate spas we have ever seen as well as its Peter Jacobsen designed 18 hole golf course. Our room was the height of luxury with private balcony, fireplace, sofa and easy chairs and room connect internet all overlooking a wildlife preserve.
Salishan Spa & Golf Resort is located at Gleneden Beach, 7760 Highway 101 North, 541 764-2371, www.salishan.com.
The largest city on Oregon's central coast is Newport. With its excellent harbor it is home to the State's largest fishing fleet for here 'men go down to the sea in ships' to fish for Dungeness crab as well as salmon, shrimp and halibut. More Dungeness crab is harvested and shipped from here than anywhere in the world.
If excitement is your goal you can find it here as we did. With Captain Don Mathews at the helm we were off on a wild ride on his Oregon Rocket, a large inflatable with enough power to scoot you across the waves at 40 miles per hour. On this we gleefully toured the harbor with Captain Don explaining the various kinds of fishing trawlers and what they fished for. We should add that Don Mathews' experience includes years as an Alaskan fisherman on the Bering Sea. Also sharing with the narrative was his talented wife, Fran.
Then at a 40 MPH clip we left Yaquina Bay for the open Pacific Ocean. Captain Don promised us no spray and despite what appeared to this Writer as Force 3 winds kept his word. However he did perform some maneuvers showing the seaworthiness of the Rocket that was an exhilarating experience for this landlubber. On shore at their Anchor Pier the Mathews show some very nice suites with private decks, fireplaces and spa tubs. At a berth next to the Rocket is the Discovery, the largest cruiser on the coast, which is used for comfortable whale watching excursions with inside seating for 40 people. For more information on tours or stays at Anchor Pier, located on Bayfront in Newport, call 1 800 903-BOAT or www.MarineDiscovery.com.
Newport is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Yaquina Bay where we toured an oyster farm. More of these activities will be related at a later date including our visit to Cape Perpetua and Cape Foulweather.
A sobering reminder that commercial fishing is indeed a dangerous occupation can be seen in Newport.
There a memorial sidewalk, a quarter of a mile long, lists in concrete the names of men who have been lost either in shipwrecks or washed overboard. These names, with date of their loss, are placed about one yard apart and often each marker lists more than one name. Fittingly this sidewalk takes one along side stacks of crab pots and uch of the other equipment that is the tool of the commercial fisherman.
Captain James Cook on his voyage of exploration along the Oregon Coast in 1776 was only among the first to note just how dangerous the passage was for mariners. When settled in the next century it was deemed necessary to build a chain of lighthouses to protect ship commerce. In all nine lighthouses were built along the coast and all are now in the National Register of Historic Places. We visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest on the Oregon coast at 93 feet, which first went into service in 1873. It is surrounded by a Natural Area which is a great place for viewing nesting seabirds. There are also trails to the top of Yaquina Head as well as the tide pools below.
Next stop for us was Otter Crest with its rocky headlands. This after some fossils hunting at Moolack Beach, (we did not find any). Then we checked into the Inn at Otter Crest.
How easily we become spoiled. Here was a room with a view of the ocean that invited looking for that elusive 'green flash' as the sun set on the water (no we didn't see it). However the room did have a gas fireplace, refrigerator, micro wave and a bar style table with matching chairs. Otter Crest is also home to the Flying Dutchman Winery which we toured and will write about in the next issue of Vittles.
The Inn at Otter Crest is located at 301 Otter Crest Drive just off Highway 101 between Cape Foulweather and Otter Rock seven miles north of Newport. Telephone 800 452-2101 www.innatottercrest.com.
Our accommodations continued to dazzle when each night we thought that it could not get any better than what we had already experienced, yet it did. When we viewed our room at Overleaf Lodge in Yachats the question we asked was, how are we ever going to leave this place?
Our room offered a breathtaking view of the tide pools and rocky shore with the sounds of seabirds and surf. There was the warmth of the fireplace, the king size bed, refrigerator, microwave and accessibility to the shore with a walking path and benches to just sit and admire it all. The Overleaf Lodge also has a complete Spa but for us the outdoor scene beckoned and captured us.
The Overleaf Lodge is located just off Highway 101 in Yachats at 280 Overleaf Lodge Lane, 541 547-4880 overleaflodge.com.
One day we journeyed inland from Newport paralleling Yaquina Bay until it becomes the Yaquina River. This led us to the historic community of Toledo which since its early beginnings to the present is home to the harvesting of timber and lumber mills.
Here we toured the history museum, checked out the Olalla Golf Club and indulged in one of our favorite activities, old time railroading.
We met with Thomas Chandler, Conductor for the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society. Here our Conductor proudly showed us the 1922 Baldwin Steam Engine which logged in the county until 1950. Also a mail car and Tom explained that from the Civil War until far into the last century mail cars were a part of the Post Office system with thousands of postal workers engaged in sorting the mail while moving across the country. Then there is the 1907 caboose which currently serves as the Society's office. You can learn more about the Society at www.newportnet.com/yprhs.
Toledo, long a logging community, is now redesigning itself as a place for artists and we had the opportunity to see the work of several artists including Sam Briseno who does wonderful things with steel and Ivan Kelly whose Kelly Gallery shows landscapes of Oregon's countryside and shoreline.
For more information on the Central Oregon Coast call 1 800 767-2064, on the web at www.CoastVisitor.com.
For the restaurant writer a trip to Oregon's Central Coast is a dream come true what with some of the world's finest seafood being harvested from the ocean off these shores. Our dining and culinary experiences will be fully described in the next issue of Vittles.
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