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Central Oregon Coast: Uncrowded Beaches, Spectacular Ocean Vistas, Bargain Prices and 3 Skate Parks

By Carole Terwilliger Meyers
Friday August 25, 2006

By Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


The Oregon Coast runs north from Brookings, just above the California border, to Astoria, just below the Washington border. It’s a beautiful drive. But in the interest of keeping you and the kids out of the car as much as possible, this excursion concentrates on the area between Yachats (that’s pronounced “ya-hots”) and Lincoln City, a 57-mile span that is easily reachable from Albany or Salem if you are driving, and is not much farther from Portland, if you are flying in.  


Where can you go to the beach on a summer day and have it all to yourself?  

On the remarkably scenic, rugged central coast of Oregon, where beaches are often deserted even in August and where at Fuddy Duddy Fudge the motto is: “We let you do nothing.”  

In addition to low-key bliss, this area has plenty to keep an active family busy.  


Lincoln City (88 miles southwest of Portland) 

Let’s begin in Lincoln City, the northern-most point of the central coast and at the end of Highway 18 coming in from Portland. Embracing the past, when hand-blown glass floats from Japanese fishing nets were frequently found on the wind-blown beaches here, this bustling town hosts a “Finders Keepers” program. Every day “float fairies” salt its seven miles of public beaches with new glass floats. This year the program runs through Memorial Day weekend.  

But, alas, not every beachcomber finds an orb. If your family isn’t one of the fortunate ones, turn disappointment into excitement with a visit to the Jennifer L. Sears Glass Art Studio. By appointment, the entire family can participate in blowing a beautiful glass float souvenir (children must be age 10 or older).  

In Regatta Park, youngsters can let off steam at the Sandcastle Playground overlooking lovely Devil’s Lake. Note that the 120-foot-long D River separating the lake from the ocean holds the Guinness record as “the shortest river in the world.” And at the town’s covered skate park in Kirtsis Park, skateboarders can experience a state-of-the-art bowl called The Cradle—one of three in the world.  

Known as the Kite Capital of the World, Lincoln City sits right on the 45th parallel, which is said to position it at the ideal point for a kite-friendly mixture of warm equatorial air and cold polar air. Visit in June and you can participate in one of three kite festivals held here each year. The first—the largest Indoor Windless Kite Festival in the United States—is held in March, and the last occurs in the fall.  


Depoe Bay (13 miles south of Lincoln City) 

Wildlife abounds along this coast. Harbor seals, brown pelicans, and fast-moving sandpipers are spotted frequently, as are whales (from December through early May). Perched atop a cliff next to the world’s smallest harbor, the town’s new family-friendly Whale Center offers an excellent ocean view and admission is free. Kids learn about whale babies and can touch whale bones and whale “burp balls” made of sea grass, as well as purchase a snack of whale-shaped cheddar crackers or a souvenir stuffed whale.  

This two-block-long town is protected by a seawall, over which the water sometimes crashes, hitting the businesses on the far side of the street--including Fuddy Duddy Fudge and several other tiny shops dispensing ice cream, lattes, and salt water taffy. “We take care of your candy needs,” says local John Rose, “but don’t go needing a hardware store.”  

Three miles south of town at Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area you’ll see water gather and splash in a natural rock basin. Nearby, the tiny Flying Dutchman Winery pours tastes of their superb pinot noirs; kids can be kept occupied with an ice cream cone from an adjacent stand. 


Newport (13 miles south of Depoe Bay) 

In addition to being home to two lighthouses and the gorgeous 1936 Yaquina Bay Bridge, this vibrant city houses the nonprofit Oregon Coast Aquarium. Keiko, the whale star of Free Willy, once swam in a tank here. Elaborate outdoor exhibits delight visitors, and an animal encounters program goes behind the scenes and sometimes includes a sea lion kiss. The philosophy here is that if you get close enough to look an animal in the eye, you’ll want to protect them. Sea otters, tufted puffins, and sharks are among the most popular exhibits.  

Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center is practically next door. Sort of a cross between an aquarium and the Lawrence Hall of Science, a touch tank filled with colorful sea life and hands-on learning puzzles keep little hands busy. Here you’ll meet Roxie the octopus and find Nemo and Dory frolicking in their own tank.  


Toledo (6 miles east of Newport) 

Built on the hillsides of the Yaquina River, this tiny town has antique shops, art galleries, and casual restaurants galore, plus a railroad museum and a new skatepark designed with mini ramps for kids as young as 4 or 5.  

Just south of Yachats, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area’s easy, paved Whispering Spruce Trail leads to the highest point on the Oregon Coast and a stunning view. A visitor center provides activities for children and shows nature films.  

From here you can continue south to the dunes and back into California, or turn north and backtrack to the Victorian charms of Astoria.  


The central coast offers mile after mile of scenic vistas, plus myriad parks and beaches. Lodging prices are low compared to those in California, and Oregon still doesn’t have a sales tax. Your vacation dollar just might stretch enough to allow you to spend a few extra days in this natural wonderland.  




Carole Terwilliger Meyers is the author of Weekend Adventures in San Francisco & Northern California (www.carousel-press.com) and is the editor of Dream Sleeps: Castle & Palace Hotels of Europe. 




Travel Information for the CentralOregon Coast 



Adobe Resort: In Yachats, (800) 522-3623, (541) 547-3141; www.adoberesort. com. Most rooms have ocean views; fitness center with lap pool, kids’ pool, and hot tub.  

A Gathering Place: South of Newport, (206) 935-7921; www.agatheringplace.net. Spacious oceanfront house with five bedrooms and a hot tub; perfect for a reunion.  

Chinook Winds Casino Resort: In Lincoln City, (800) CHINOOK; www.chinookwindscasino.com. Oceanfront lodging and dining; RV park; 24-hour casino with full-service childcare facility. 

Heron’s Watch: In Waldport, (541) 563-3847; www.heronswatch.com. Secluded two-bedroom house on Alsea Bay; a haven for bird-watchers.  

Pelican Shores Inn: In Lincoln City, (800) 705-5505, (541) 994-2134; www.pelicanshores.com. Beach-front rooms; indoor pool; great rates.  

Salishan Spa & Golf Resort: In Gleneden Beach, (888) SALISHAN, (541) 764-2371; www.salishan.com. Refined lodging and dining on 750 wooded acres.  

Shilo Inn Suites Hotel: In Newport, (800) 222-2244, (541) 265-7701; www.shiloinns. com. Beach-front rooms; inexpensive ocean- view dining; 2 indoor pools; aquarium packages.  



Mo’s: In Lincoln City and Newport; moschowder.com. This popular, casual spot serves fresh Oregon seafood and is famous for its clam chowder. The Newport branch is across the street from a Wyland Whaling Wall and from seals that hang out on the docks below Undersea World.  

Waldport Seafood Company: In Waldport, (541) 563-4107; www.waldport-seafood-co.com. This restaurant and deli serves fresh local seafood and Tillamook ice cream. Pick up a picnic and eat it at the beach across the street. Do also pick up a few tins of their hand-canned Oregon albacore tune—it is THE BEST. This town also has a skate park.  


More Information 

Central Oregon Coast Association: 800-767-2064, (541) 265-2064; www.coastvisitor.com  

Camping: www.oregonstateparks.org  

Jennifer L. Sears Glass Art Studio: 541-996-2569  

Oregon Coast Aquarium: (541) 867-3474; www.aquarium.org 

OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center: (541) 867-0100; http://hmsc.orst.edu/visitor 

Flying Dutchman Winery: (541) 765-2553; www.dutchmanwinery.com  

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area: (541) 547-3289, www.fs.fed. 



Teach Your Children Well! 

The beach can also be a dangerous place. Never turn your back on the water.  


Photograph by Carole Terwilliger Meyers