To the Coast
Portland to Crater Lake, Crater Lake to Bend the beginning of our road trip is posted in Oregon Road Trip: Part I (here). After a few days in Bend it was time to move on in our journey. We packed up the van and headed to the coast where we planned to spend the rest of our trip.
The Oregon coast is one of the most breathtaking places to visit. Rocky and craggy, moody and weather beaten, the weather can be warm (rarely), but it is almost always characterized by hoary morning hazes and sometimes torrents of rain even in the summer months. Our first stop was Wax Myrtle State Park (pictured above and below).
Wax Myrtle + Florence
We pulled in to Florence in the evening with our priorities straight and headed directly to ICM in Old Town Florence to meet up with friends. What can I say, the clam chowder was delicious, the fish and chips were spot on, and seafood arrabbiata did not disappoint. A visit to B.J.’s for ice cream (a must-eat) across the street capped off our night.
Once we’d gotten our fill of local fish fare, we headed south of town to our camp site. Wax Myrtle State Park perches just off of the coast, and the sand, sea grass, and Great Pacific Ocean that abut the Stilcoos River Estuary are accessible by a 1.5 mile beach path. We loved how the dunes protect the camping from heavy ocean breezes, but still allow for easy beach access. The sounds of the surf lulled us all to sleep that night.
We awoke to one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever witnessed on the Oregon coast. We packed lunch up in our Yeti backpack, and traipsed down to the beach with four kids and two dogs in tow. Seventy-five degrees, full sun, and the most delicate breeze skirted through the Huckleberry bushes as we hiked.
Be aware that there are areas that are off limits for snowy plover mating grounds, and a gaggle of biologists we encountered explained that we needed to stay off of the dunes near the beach and on the sandy flats. Not a problem. The entire day was spent beach combing for sand dollars, chasing sea gulls and hermit crabs, snacking on our lunch, and basking in the gorgeous air.
That evening we cleaned up at camp and went in to town for grub. We stumbled across Homegrown and could not have been more pleasantly surprised. Delicious locally sourced organic food all made in-house. It was so good that we returned for a late lunch there the next day as we headed out of town.
Nehalem + Manzanita + Cannon Beach
After two glorious days in Florence we said goodbye to our friends and headed further North up the coast. The views of lush green farm fields, the dairies of Tillamook country, the deep pine forests and natural lakes of interior Oregon, wove back and forth with vistas of jagged black cliffs, temperate rainforest ferns, and the tumbled smooth sand of the coast as we wound our way up Highway 101. I felt as though my mouth was agape all day.
We camped at Nehalem Bay State Park that evening, explored and Manzanita, OR and some of the surrounding towns the following day, and generally enjoyed the continued costal vibe. For the first time on our trip, the rain did not relent on our second to last day and we took to the quaint vintage shops in the surrounding towns, and capped off our day at Cannon Beach with a soaked hike out to Haystack Rock. It was the perfect way to end our time on the Oregon Coast.
Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals
Our trip was coming to an end, but we had one more very important stop to make. As we were planning our adventure, our youngest son had asked if we would could visit the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals for his birthday. A strange request, to be sure. At the time I had no more context for this museum than I did for the flag on the moon. He had discovered its existence in a geology book he was reading, and when I mapped the spot it turned out that it was only an hour outside of Portland.
We made our final stop there, and the experience became one of our favorite memories. I won’t regale you with all the details but if you are a rock hound, or raising a rock hound it is an incredible collection of some of the most rare and beautiful geologic offerings anywhere! (We’re talking the Smithsonian Institute has connected with this private collection.)