While the northern Oregon coast tends to attract day trippers and weekenders from Portland, the central Oregon coast is a bit more removed from the big cities and has a much more laid-back feel. But spend a few days along the central Oregon coast, and you’ll find it has a charm and character all its own. Yachats (pronounced “yah-hawts”) is a perfect base for exploring the central Oregon coast. There are several small inns and hotels along the coast in this area, and while not “built up”, the town is large enough to have several quality restaurants and shops. Best of all, Yachats is just a short drive from Cape Perpetua, a true gem of the Oregon coast.
If you’re driving to Yachats from the northern coast, you’ll want to be sure to stop in Depoe Bay (the whale watching capital of the Oregon coast) and at Yaquina Head Lighthouse on your drive south. Depoe Bay has a Whale Watching Center right on Hwy. 101, where you can grab a pair of binoculars and try to see if you can spot one of the area’s resident grey whales spouting just off the coast. Depoe Bay also boasts the world’s smallest harbor (just 6 acres in size!), where boats often have difficulty making it through the narrow passage which separates it from the Pacific Ocean. A few miles south of Depoe Bay is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, part of the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, managed by the Oregon/Washington Bureau of Land Management. The lighthouse sits on a rocky headland, jutting out into the Pacific just north of Newport, Oregon. The lighthouse is open for tours during posted hours, and visitors can climb the 114 steps to the top to learn about the history of this still-active lighthouse.
The town of Yachats itself is quite charming, and you’ll want to spend some time looking around in the shops and visiting the Log Church Museum. But the real treat in this area lies just 2 miles south of Yachats. Cape Perpetua is in a world of its own when it comes to scenic beauty. Driving south, you’ll first come to Devil’s Churn, a long crack in the rocky cliffs which allows water to thunder against the cliffs, especially during high tide. A short distance further is the turn off to the road that leads to the top off the 800 foot high Cape Perpetua. Driving to the top, you’ll be driving through forested land on a curvy road which deposits you in a small parking area. But it doesn’t take many steps from the parking area to realize the beauty of the view from here. There is a short loop trail at the top, the Whispering Spruce Trail, which leads to an historic rock shelter overlooking a dramatic stretch of coastline. Take a few moments to savor the view. This is what people are imagining when they think of the rugged beauty of the central Oregon coast.
Overlooking the breathtaking coastline from the top of Cape Perpetua is a remarkable experience. But beneath those endless waves and rocky shores lies another world which draws many to the Cape Perpetua shoreline. At low tide, residents and visitors alike flock to the rocky coast to participate in one of the Pacific coast’s most popular activities: tidepooling. If you’re like me, a tidepooling novice, be sure to look for the park rangers who are more than happy to show you some of the more interesting features of the tidepools, and to point out all of the living things beneath the surface. Green anemones, purple sea urchins, and sea stars of varying colors are the most easy creatures to spot, but look closely, and you will discover a whole world of tiny living organisms beneath the surface of the tide pools.
Just south of the tide pool area lies another of Cape Perpetua’s many attractions, the Spouting Horn. At high tide and during ocean storms, water rushes into the rocky crevice and forces water to shoot high into the air from the horn. Just offshore lies Thor’s Well, a large hole in the rocky shoreline which fills with water during high tides and drains in a dramatic fashion. Both of these sites are a short walk from the Cook’s Chasm parking area along Hwy. 101.
Whether you’re looking for lofty vistas, long sand beaches, or hundreds of tide pools to explore, the central Oregon coast is sure to exceed your expectations!