Oregon Coast Days 6 & 7 – Pacific City and the Three Capes

I am extremely late in getting this last post out about our trip to Oregon.  This was in June, for gosh sake’s.  But I owe it to the trip (which was so great) to send out this last little bit, with a few more photos.  My hope is that I show off what can be done as one moves up and down the coast.  Yes, there were parts we liked more than others, and there are parts we wish we had explored more.  But we did

Cape Meares Light infrared no. 2

Cape Meares Light

all of this and the previous posts in just 7 days, including driving to and from home in Santa Clara.

We spent 2 nights in the Three Capes area, which is to the west of Tilamook and includes Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares.  These are all accessed via the “Three Capes Scenic Route” which splits off from 101 at Tilamook in the north and reconnects just before Lincoln City to the south.  It’s not a fast drive, but it’s not a winding one, either, so it’s quite a feasible detour.

Over the two days, we saw all three capes, drove by Netarts Spit (but didn’t quite make it out there), saw Three Arches Rocks and crawled through a sea cave et still never saw all three arches, was by the Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda, and did an amazing hike down Cape Lookout.  We also went to Sandlake Beach, which is quite nice and secluded.

To be honest, I’m not sure this area is worth 2 days – I would have probably preferred more time in Yachats and some time in Florence, and still done the 2 days in Bandan.  But it’s worth it to go to the Three Capes and find out for one’s self whether it’s the right place or not.


Oregon Coast Day 5: Depoe Bay

last wisps of sunThe next step in our trip up the Oregon Coast was from Yachats to Depoe Bay.  This was not a very long distance to cover at all.  We really wanted to stay in Depoe Bay, however, for two reasons.  The first is that we got to stay at the Whales Rendezvous B&B, which has this amazing view and where the owners seemed really friendly and helpful.  Also, Depoe Bay is a nice little sheltered bit of water – it’s almost like a really big cove more than anything else.  The water can crash, it can be smooth, and whales do actually come through there on a regular basis.  They even come right into the bay during certain times of year (not when we were there, sadly).  The sunset, we knew, would be amazing from the deck at the B&B.

We started the day off in Yachats, with a breakfast at the Green Salmon in Yachats.  This is an all-organic, all recycled, “green” diner-ish place that even powers its register and stereo via solar panels charging batteries.  Kind of cool.  But, bottom line, the food is good, too.  We had an egg & sausage sandwich, and a green tea cream cheese (yes, the cream cheese was green), tomato and lox bagel.  I think we had this really nice rose tea for a drink as well which was very nice.  A very good way to start the day.

bridge in NewportWe made several small stops along the way, including at Seal Rock and I think along the bridge in Waldport (the next photo, but it’s missing GPS info so I’m not sure – it might be the bridge in Newport).  Technically, the photo of the covered bridge by Yachats was done on this day, as well, as both it and a very nice but out of the way park are off the highway and weren’t right for the end of the trip the previous day.  We did some nice IR work in the park, I think.  trail, sunshine and trees It was quite a drive to and from the park, I will say, but it was quiet and very pretty.  The funny and surprising part was that after driving a ways down a small paved road, then onto a rough paved road, then onto a dirt road…we ended up at the trail head with a couple of minivans from two families that picnic there “all the time.”  Seems rather out of the way for such a frequent event but it is a nice place.

Newport was definitely the major stop along the way up.  Not only might the bridge photo above be from there, but there is also the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.  This is different than the Yaquina Head light, which I visitied and  photographed on my own the next day.  The Yaquina Bay one is much more like many that I’ve seen on the west coast – it’s a house with a light on top, rather than a tall, somewhat free-standing light with the keeper’s house separate.  This particular lighthouse was originally intended for Cape Foulweather but ended up here instead.  What was not clear was whether it ended up here because the Cape’s Foulweather was…too foul, or if the lighthouse was/is even used, considering it’s fairly far in from the actual coast.  Rather hard to photograph, but still interesting.  Worked quite well in IR, too.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse No 1 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse No 3

Depoe Bay was next, along with an excellent dinner at Tidal Raves – the owners of Whales Rendezvous made the reservation for us, after running out to meet us and help us park the car (yes, they are that nice and accommodating).  Other than some photos of the spouting horn, a carve-out in the rock that produces these gushers of water, the sunset was the key.  And it was worth it.

flowing waves at sunset

Oregon Coast Day 4: Yachats

Heceta Light and the setting sunOur fourth day on the Oregon Coast had us driving from Bandon to Yachats.  Overall, Yachats is a pretty good place to stop.  It’s past Florence and the dunes, and the coast makes a definite transition to a less rocky landscape, with softer beaches and finer sand.  It’s also a good distance from Bandon yet still leaves a lot of distance until a next major stop, such as Depoe Bay or even farther north.

The truth is that after getting beat up by the wind at Bandon, we took it easy on this drive.  First, if it’s possible, we spent too much time photographing around Bandon, trying to catch every beautiful moment from sunrise to sunset.  Second, I wanted to devote a good amount of time to Shore Acres State Park, which many tell me is the one place they’d go for even an entire week.

Everyone says that one needs to be ready for just about anything in terms of weather in Oregon.  We were ready for rain, we were ready for gloom.  We weren’t quite ready for tremendous wind, but weren’t complaining since it came along with clear skies and the sun.  Something else we weren’t expecting was such calm seas.  Now, we had waves, and in Depoe Bay we had some good blasts of water now and then.  But we never got the massive waves crashing into the sheer cliffs kind of experience that everyone told us about.  So Shore Acres, known for its big cliffs…was a bit of a let down.  busy bee I will say that the park there really is quite impressive, though, and it was one of the times we really had a chance to break out the macro lenses.

To top it off, the sun actually wore us down a bit.  So we didn’t get big waves and got worn down by the wind and the sun.  So we hit the road and went straight past Coos Bay (including past the Coos Bay Bridge, which I wanted to photograph but reached at the worst time of day, in terms of light).  We stopped off here and there, but overall just kept looking for nice vista points and a good place for a sunset photo.


Oregon Coast Day 3: Bandon

We stayed another night at the Sunset Motel in Bandon.  There is simply so much to do in the area.  The original plan was to spend day 2 in Bandon heading north, perhaps as far as Shore Acres but probably not quite to Coos Bay.  However, we really wanted to keep things flexible and just see how things went.

Coquille Light

Our second day in Bandon, and third overall on the trip involved sleeping in a little bit, and staying in the overall area around the town.  The Coquille River runs right up along “Old Town” and across from the fish and chip shacks is Coquille Light.   This short, interestingly-shaped structure is in Bullard State Park, which also offers some nice dunes and what seems like all of the driftwood in the entire Pacific Northwest.  The funny thing is that when one drives to Old Town Bandon the lighthouse is right across the river, and seems just a few hundred feet away (and might be less than 1000′).  But to get to it one drives out of town, up 101 for a few miles, into Bullard Park then all the way down to the very end at a blazing 20 miles per hour.  A lot of trouble to get to the other end of the mouth of the river.

On the way back to the hotel, on Beach Loop, one has access to Coquille Point, which offers a great view down the beach and out to sea.  And is also a place where the wind can practically lift you up and throw you out to the waves.  Heading down to the beach from Coquille Point, one has good access to some sea lions bathing in the sun.  If the wind weren’t so vicious I would have made it out a bit farther for closer pictures, but I did manage to find some refuge in the rocks and a decent vantage point.

Bullard Park offers quite a bit, to be honest.  Most of the park is pretty sheltered by the dunes and trees, meaning that one can do some good photography of the foliage and plants without dealing with the wind.  This would be a great place for some infrared photography, actually.

Heading out to the lighthouse, the beach is long but relatively narrow – most beaches seemed to be deep and flat, with big differences between high and low tides.  It’s also just covered with driftwood.  One wonders if somehow this beach catches everything, leaving Bandon Beach free and beautiful.  As you can see from the photo of Coquille Light, there is quite a bit of driftwood out on that outcropping of rock, as well.

sand dune, Bullard State Park

The beach offers very nice options for one wishing to work with dunes, as well.  With all the wind that we experienced on our trip, every 30 minutes or so gave a fresh, almost untouched look to the sand.  The driftwood makes for interesting elements against the sand itself, as well.  Of course, the sand itself against the side light of a setting sun creates very interesting textures and shapes.

Finally, combining the setting sun with the grass, sand, and the lighthouse isn’t a bad idea, either.  It creates a nice composition that I think is pretty subtle yet still gives all the colors that one appreciates from a nice sunset.Coquille Light behind the dunes

When it comes down to it, though, the sunset on Bandon Beach, with all its stacks, is the highlight of the area.  It’s hard to take a bad shot, even from one’s balcony.  After a few photos around the lighthouse a short but maddeningly slow drive back through the park and over to the motel brought me back down to the beach.  Having gotten a bit more comfortable with the location the previous night, I played around with a bit of long exposure and different elements in the foreground.

The bottom line is that from Brookings to Bandon (and eventually up to Shore Acres) is a truly wonderful area with so much variety.  Next time, I would probably base myself either in Bandon or perhaps in Brookings and just work that entire area for weeks.incoming waves, Bandon Beach

Oregon Coast Day 2: Bandon

This is a bit longer of a review so I’ve done a “click for more” separation because we stayed two days in Bandon and I have a lot to say about what we did around there during those days.

Also, I’m separating the days out pretty strictly for these accounts.  For instance, this covers the trip from Brookings to Bandon (day 2), and our next day, still in Bandon (day 3).  I won’t cover the trip from Bandon to Yachats, as that’s part of day 4.  It’s hard to separate the days out as we might have done something on day 3 specifically because of the drive between Bandon and Yachats (that we would not have done had we been driving from Brookings to Yachats, for instance), but I have to cut them up somehow…

Basic facts:

  • Stopped off throughout the Samuel Boardman State Corridor, Cape Blanco, and a couple of other places along the way
  • Stayed at the Sunset Hotel in Bandon, in the Vern Brown Addition
  • Food – see the rest of the post

Stuff I learned on my own:

The Sunset Motel really is worth the effort.  And it’s all about the Vern Brown Addition, stacks at sunset, Bandon Beachfrom which one can literally shoot the sunset from one’s balcony.  The rooms are a bit dated (really just the TV’s, actually) but the views are stunning.  Bandon is tiny as a town, and I’m not sure it’s a “Must Stop” as one guide mentioned.  But the beach itself is really impressive, with some great stacks and smooth waves.  It’s also a quick ride to several different places, so it’s a tremendous base of operations for the whole region.  Yachats as the next location is a good idea since it’s sufficiently far enough away that one can explore the entire Bandon to Coos Bay area.


Oregon Coast Day 1: Brookings

Due to driving times, we decided to take the shorter drive first, to Brookings, just over the border into Oregon, and head north along the coast.  Most people and certainly the two books I have seem to head south instead.  But a 7.5 hour drive seemed a lot more manageable than an 11 hour one.


We got to Brookings about 7:30 or so in the evening.  Sunset is very late this time of year – about 9PM, so we were able to check into our motel, get to a decent restaurant, and still “see” the sunset.  I use quotes because clouds completely obscured the actual horizon so we didn’t see the last hour or so of the sun going down.

Our goal was to get to just a basic motel that first night – out goal was to find a place to sleep, not about the view or anything like that.  Turns out that most of the hotels and motels in Brookings are exactly that – functional as last stops on trips down the coast, with few frills.  The exception is the Best Western, where all rooms have a great view, so I hear, but it’s maybe $175 a night.  That’s pretty steep for a Best Western.

We stayed at the Ocean Suites Motel, which turned out to be an excellent choice.  Some of the reviews on TripAdvisor are before the current owners, who actually live on site (when I called to say we’d be checking in late, they even said to just knock on their door if they aren’t at the desk), have made it a lot nicer.  Even so, the reviews are really positive.  Don’t be fooled by the website.  Now, this isn’t the Ritz, or even a Best Western, but it is a suite, with a sofa bed, queen bed in the bedroom, sink, fridge, and quite a bit of space.  It was very nice to be able to unpack the car and just spread out in the room, without having to worry about squeezing this bag into that corner to make sure things weren’t falling everywhere.

We at dinner basically across the street at Smuggler’s Cove.  Not surprisingly, this is a seafood restaurant.  The service wasn’t great and bordered on bad, except that I do believe we were the first in a huge rush that overwhelmed their staff.  That’s not an excuse – I still almost got up and left.  But I could tell what was happening.  The food was pretty solid – my wife and I both had seafood pasta dishes.  She had it with the Cajun sauce and it was fantastic.  They gave me the cream one (I also ordered the Cajun but oh well) which was a bit bland but they give you a lot of seafood.

Not a lot to see in Brookings, but it was a good starting point (and I think would make for a great base for a future trip, based on my experiences on this one).  Glad we went that route at the time, though the drive back at the end – 14 hours from roughly the Tilamook area – was where we paid the price.

cloud bank coming in

What I learned myself that I didn’t from others:

This is the section where I talk about what others told me, and what I learned for myself.  First, Brookings is really just a stopping point.  There isn’t much there, and clearly people don’t treat it as much more than a starting or stopping point for a coast trip.  Second, even if the Best Western has a great view, I can’t imagine it’s worth it.  I’d rather stay in a nicer place and then in a nice hotel with a great view, rather than have a great view in kind of a dead town.  It’s a good place to serve as a base camp at an affordable price for the lower coast.  But that’s it.  And yes, the Ocean Suites is my recommendation, easily.

Oregon Coast Road Trip

For the last 5 days and for 3 more, my wife and I have been traveling up the Oregon Coast by car.  It has been our most impromptu vacation ever, by far.  She is a nurse, and managed to work out a long chunk of time between shifts with a bit of creative rescheduling.  But that was just 2.5 weeks or so ago.  Yet here we are (also thanks to a very understanding manager of mine), currently in Depoe Bay, where the sounds of waves crashing against rocks just 40 feet away and 20 feet below lulled me to sleep, and, in conjunction with the rising sun, has given me a peaceful morning.

Hopefully, I’ll be writing a series of reviews on the trip on this blog.  While researching, I found lots of opinions, but all seemed to be missing some details, deviated from books that people mentioned as useful from their own experiences, or were at odds with what the local residents stated.  This confused me.  I believe in getting the opinion of the local inn or hotel keeper about restaurants, etc, and I depend on guide books to help me find the right locations.  And the kindness of others out there to tell me what is really worthwhile during an 8 day trip, as many has does this exact same itinerary in the past.  So maybe I can fill things in a bit.  We’ll see.

The trip started out with a 7 hour drive straight to Brookings, where we essentially just wanted to stay the night but actually had a bit of time to enjoy the sunset.  Then onto 2 nights at Bandon, a night each in Yachats and Depoe Bay, then finishing with 2 in Pacific City.  I’ll start with Brookings in the next post, hopefully to be written tonight.

Traveling abroad by guide book alone

My wife and I just came back from Thailand about a week ago.  I am so blog-oriented now that I kept thinking of topics the whole time.  This is the first thing that really struck me – going to a foreign country, without someone with local knowledge (and preferably language skills) to help you out, can be really tough.  One ends up relying a lot on guidebooks.  In our case, we had Frommers, which was newer than Lonely Planet (which everyone else seemed to have), and Eyewitness, which we like because it helps us walk through major locations with a detailed illustration.

Anyway, I think one goes through phases when traveling by guidebook, especially to developing countries, it’s easy to get a bit paranoid. It takes about 10 readings to get below the surface, aided by the realities of actually being in the hotels, walking the streets, etc.

Phase 1 is all about paranoia.  Don’t let the tap water touch any orifice, much less consume even a drop while showering.  Buy more bottled water than is humanly possible to carry.  Don’t trust anyone that tries to sell you stuff on the street.  In fact, only buy water from 7-Eleven (which is remarkably everywhere in Thailand, everywhere we went), and actually run away from street vendors.  Oh, and eating from any street markets will cause your stomach to explode and you will never recover.

Then you read a bit more, and even at the warnings right there in the hotels, and realize that one should not drink the tap water.  There is a big difference between getting some in your mouth and drinking it.  Sure, still brush your teeth bottled water, but that’s probably about it.  Washing your hands and touching your eyes won’t make you lose your sight.  And drinking the water they serve at most restaurants is probably okay, too.  

Not every taxi or tuk-tuk driver is going to force you to go through 10 stores to force you to shop before going to your hotel.  Yes, if you go with the wrong people (taxi ride solicitors at the airport, rather than going to the public taxi line) or don’t insist on simple things (that taxis use meters, or that you want “no stops” or “no shopping” on rides, especially leaving a place like the main train station) you’ll be fine.  If someone takes advantage of you, you get out and refuse to pay.  No big deal.  

And for street markets?  The guides actually tell you that you should use common sense and stick with fried foods (which have to be cooked on the spot).  Are you taking a bit of a risk?  Sure.  But the paranoia can take a break after the first day or so.  But you have to read those guidebooks a few times to get that through your head, I think.