ome coastlines are long and lazy, with miles of warm beaches and people soaking up the sun. Other coastlines are rugged and wild, with cliffs and pounding surf and scenic lookouts where the view astounds.
Oregon’s coastline is one of the latter, a rugged and wild expanse of spruce forests and cliffs punctuated by pockets of lovely little beaches, broad estuaries and small towns with a sort of New England look.
Highway 101 stretches from Olympia, Washington, around the Olympic Peninsula and down the Pacific Coast of Washington. It crosses the Columbia River at Astoria and follows the Oregon and California coasts to San Diego at the border with Mexico– about 1,500 miles.
Except for a few loops in Washington and Oregon, and some stretches of California Highway 1, Highway 101 is the closest route to the Pacific Ocean for its entire length. And what a spectacular length it is!
Surrounding the central section of Oregon’s share of this highway is Lincoln County, which winds along a 55-mile strip from Cascade Head in the north to Cape Perpetua in the south. A beautiful area of mountainous wooded terrain, steep ridges, winding inland valleys and ocean beaches, the main centers of population are the five coastal towns of Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport and Yachats, with Newport being the county seat. There is timeshare available in several places along this stretch of coast.
Our destination is Depoe Bay, about a 2-hour drive from Portland, Oregon. Famed as the world’s tiniest natural navigable harbor (just under 6 square acres), Depoe Bay is also the name of the town surrounding it. (Film buffs will recognize this spot from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.)
This picturesque bay is landlocked, except for the narrow harbor entrance through the rocks, which can accommodate boats up to fifty feet in length. Boats must make their way from the harbor to the sea (and back again) through the narrow channel leading under a bridge on Highway 101, a tricky maneuver known locally as “shooting the hole.” When the weather is stormy and the tides unruly, this is a truly hair raising experience!
Even the names in this area are dramatic and wild sounding: Devil’s Elbow; Devil’s Churn; Devil’s Punchbowl; Cape Foulweather… The cliffs are high, the sea stacks jagged and the waves dramatic.
Yet Rand McNally once rated this area 2nd out of 107 places around America for its mild climate — cool summers and temperate winters– and the people are warm and welcoming. You can stroll through gift shops, art galleries and fresh seafood markets while relaxing to the sounds of the surf and magnificent views. A huge sea wall runs the length of the downtown area, which enables visitors to shop or dine always within view of the ocean. Depoe Bay has the distinction of being the only town on the entire Oregon coast boasting such an amenity.
Whale watching takes place almost year-round on the Oregon Coast, and Depoe Bay is one of the best spots for it. Gray whales are the main species seen in the area, and from the Whale Watching Center you can see them pretty much any time of the year. The center is free to enter, has binoculars for public use, and is out of the weather.
Winter migration brings the highest concentration of whales, with an estimated 20,000 passing Oregon from the last week of December through the first week of February, but winter also brings stormy conditions that can get in your whale-watching way as the rough seas usually cause the whales to travel farther from shore. It’s possible to see as many as thirty whales an hour when viewing conditions are good.
A pod of gray whales calls this area home for 10 months of the year– from April through December– which makes it one of the best whale-watching spots in the world. People come from all over to watch them from the many shore observation spots or, more up close and personal, from one of the charter boats that run every hour, seven days a week (weather permitting). These so-called “summer” whales feed very close to shore with the best viewing in August through October.
Other types of whales observed throughout the year are Humpbacks, Minkes, Orca, and sometimes Sperm and Blue whales.
Nearby towns to visit while you’re here include Newport, with its picturesque lighthouses and excellent aquarium (the whale Keiko, star of the film “Free Willie”, lived here during the first steps toward the attempt to rehabilitate him to the wild); Lincoln City, with the Chinook Winds Casino and a nice beach; and Yachats, surrounded by lush forest and with beautiful rocky landscapes along the ocean.
Two miles north of Depoe Bay is Fogarty Creek, a very nice park for an afternoon picnic with covered shelters, a coastal creek, excellent birdwatching and tidepools, and even some wooden footbridges for added charm.
If you love the great outdoors, be sure to visit the surrounding 2,700-acre Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which was set aside by the Siuslaw National Forest in the early 1960’s. This is a Sitka spruce rainforest with a transistion to the sea. Sites within the Scenic Area include Devil’s Churn, the Cape Perpetua Overlook (highest point along the Oregon Coast), Cook’s Chasm, and the Spouting Horn.
Most of the Scenic Area’s shoreline is rock intertidal, with tidepools and pounding waves. It is also a protected Marine Garden (take only pictures, leave only footprints). The forest trails stretch up to the ridge east of the Interpretive Center, and take the visitor through managed forests, undisturbed wilderness, meadows of wildflowers, and back down into old growth forest along the creeks. The most popular forest trail leads the visitor one mile to the Giant Spruce Tree – a massive tree that is over 500 years old.
The jumping off point for the Scenic Area, the Interpretive Center offers films, an incredible view, and temporary and permanent exhibits which explain the cultural and natural history of the area.
In addition to strolling, shopping, dining, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing, “shooting the hole” and other activities in Depoe Bay, there are tidepools to explore, nearby beaches to wander, seals, sea lions, whales, seabird nesting areas, bald eagles, shore birds, and other wildlife.
Or you can just sit for hours staring out to sea, watching birds wheeling in the sky– or simply staring at nothing at all.
WorldMark by Wyndham at Depoe Bay is the perfect place for it, too. Just look at the picture at the top of this page and imagine yourself there. Affiliated with both RCI and Interval International, this first class resort has two pools (one indoor and one outdoor), a recreation center, exercise equipment, and tennis court. Comprised of 2- and 3-bedroom units, some of them are regular timeshare and some of them are fractionally owned units in the WorldMark Residence Club at Whale Pointe. All units overlook the ocean.
It is in a prime whale watching location, perched up on a bluff overlooking the sea, and you can relax in the oceanside jaccuzi and watch them go by– if you’re lucky. If you get restless, the resort is very close to everything the town has to offer. You can even play golf, if you need a fix, a few minutes away at Salishan. In addition, the fishing’s great and there are old-growth forests to discover, tidal pools to explore, and “spouting horns” to marvel at.
Remarked one happy WorldMark owner, “…it’s a place with a spectacular view of the ocean from whatever condo you’re in! Visit there at least once and you won’t regret it for a minute, whether in the summer or in the winter for the storms.”
It’s a very civilized resort in a wild place. Perfect for those times when the world is too much with you and you need to get away.
And by the way, if you pronounce Oregon as though the last syllable is the word “gone”, everyone will know you’re not from the North Pacific. Instead of that “gon” on the end of the name, pronounce it more like “gun” or even “gin” (hard ‘g’): Oregun. They’ll think you’re a native. 😉
Some Web sites with information about the area:
- http://www.depoebaychamber.org/ –Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce
- http://www.whalespoken.org/ –The Whale Watching Center at Depoe Bay
- http://www.whalestaildepoebay.com — Whale watching charters
- http://www.aquarium.org/ –The Newport Aquarium’s Web site
- http://www.sealioncaves.com/ –Take an elevator down 12 stories to watch sea lions here
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of "On the Road" is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. 5-Star quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out--- enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
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