State campgrounds up and down the Oregon coast give RVers access to the sea and the shore.
By Lou Hudson
Oregon has a major problem when it comes to offering scenic views: it has too many. A visitor can quickly go into panorama overload.
Where do you go? What do you see? Crater Lake? Mount Hood? Silver Falls? The Columbia River Gorge? (You can insert dozens more locales here.) What about the coastline? Even that can be a formidable exercise, for it’s not just “the coast.” It’s the North Coast, the Central Coast, and the South Coast.
The coast arguably may be the best choice. It’s a rewarding place, and almost any part of it is worth a visit. Almost every inch of Oregon’s oceanfront is development-free public land. It’s an ideal destination for motorhomers, because it offers multiple stopping points.
Most of these places are state parks. From Fort Stevens State Park, situated at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River on Oregon’s northwest tip, not far from where Lewis and Clark first gazed down on the Pacific Ocean at the western end of their epic expedition 200 years ago, south to Harris Beach State Park, which boasts the state’s largest offshore island, coastal Oregon’s state parks offer a camping delight rich in history, scenery, and activities.
In all, Oregon has 80 state parks, natural areas, and recreation sites along its 400 miles of coastline. Of these, 17 offer RV camping with electrical hookups. The sidebar that accompanies this article lists them all. As you might imagine, the view from any of these campgrounds is stunning, and many of them have a special focal point.
The state’s numerous other coastal preserves also are great. At Seal Rock, the appeal is seals (although you rarely see them); Darlingtonia is dedicated to the protection of a single plant species, the carnivorous cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica); and wild surf beats on the rocky spurs of Boiler Bay. Lighthouses; constantly shifting sand dunes; glorious flower gardens; great trails; wetlands; ancient trees; whales and other marine life; and the ever-dominating Pacific Ocean, colliding with the coastal range along U.S. 101, all can be seen at these parks. And the sunsets are legendary.
A variety of other activities and attractions are near some of these state facilities. Options include museums, shops, jet-boat river tours, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, theaters, a variety of restaurants, and anything else you might want.
Keep in mind that it can get cool and gusty on the Oregon coast, even in the summer. Expect high temperatures in the 60s pretty much from June to September, at least in the central and northern coast areas. An occasional heat wave can occur in summer, however, pushing temperatures into the 80s.
Of all the many state parks, a fine location, one that’s simple to reach before or after FMCA’s “Cascade Mountain Magic” convention in Redmond this August, is Beverly Beach State Park. It’s located almost due west from Redmond via U.S. 20. If you are traveling to Beverly Beach from anywhere else in the country, the best way to reach the park is to take U.S. 101 in Oregon and head for the middle of the coast. By using Beverly Beach as a base camp, you can make trips north and south.
This park has a spectacularly lush campground with magnificent trees; rainforest-like vegetation; and secluded and capacious campsites. It offers 128 RV sites, 53 with full hookups and 75 with electrical hookups; the fee is $21 per night during the summer. Some sites have cable TV. Rest rooms, showers, a dump station, and planned activities are available. The beach is walking distance away.
Of course, there is still the matter of picking daily excursions. Realize this: unless you are a full-timer (and even if you are), covering everything along the Oregon Coast will be impossible. But not far from Beverly Beach State Park is the must-see seaside town of Newport. It’s a surprisingly agreeable little fishing village, nearly 140 years old (population approximately 10,000), with a dandy harbor shopping district that will satisfy eclectic tastes. Stores and cafes along the bayfront will entice you to come inside, while a roving band of sea lions that beg and yelp down in the waters of Yaquina Bay.
Restaurants in Newport are varied. The best place to eat non-seafood (but why would you?) is Izzy’s Pizza Bar & Buffet, butted right up against Yaquina Head. Don’t let the name fool you. Yes, they have pizza, but they also provide a raft of other foods, as well as a great buffet, and prices are fair. The establishment also has a gift shop, and the view is indescribable.
My choice for seafood is Whale’s Tale, on Southwest Bay Boulevard. You can eat there for $10 or less (or more), and the cheeseburgers are good as well. The clam chowder at nearby Mo’s Restaurant and Annex must be wonderful, judging from the lines always present.
Museums and history will keep you occupied in Newport. The Mark O. Hatfield Marine Science Center highlights studies conducted by more than 300 marine researchers. Topics range from whale migration to tidal waves, and a hands-on “touch tank” includes live creatures.
At the Oregon Coast Aquarium, you can literally be surrounded by the sea: a transparent tunnel guides you through an enormous tank as sharks, eels, rays, and other aquatic life study you. A hands-on exhibit of native sea life occupies children. Outside exhibits feature otters, sea lions, and a huge walk-through aviary with beautiful seabirds. This is the best place in town to take the kids or grandchildren. Admission is $10.75 for adults, $9.50 for seniors, and $6.50 for children ages 4 to 13. Phone (541) 867-3474 or visit www.aquarium.org for more information.
The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (not to be confused with Yaquina Head) is no longer in operation, but it has been restored and functions as a historical museum. It’s the oldest building in Newport, completed in 1871. History buffs also will want to see the 1895 Burrows House museum and the Oregon Coast History Center.
The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Interpretive Center is home to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest and second-oldest operating lighthouse. Its interpretive center welcomes visitors with exhibits and information. You can climb a couple hundred steps to see the lighthouse lens as the lamp flashes its distinctive pattern (two seconds on, two seconds off, two on, and 14 off). Allow time to explore the tidal pools just down the cliffside, and admire all the birds and harbor seals. Yaquina, by the way, is pronounced Ya-KWIN-ah. Admission to the lighthouse and grounds is $5 per vehicle.
Exploring further …
If you’re ready to travel away from shore, consider a fishing or whale-watching expedition. Marine Discovery Tours (affiliated with the Oregon Coast Aquarium) offers trips that depart from the Newport bayfront. Visit www.marinediscovery.com or phone (800) 903-2628 for more information.
Or, just sample the ocean spray. Try whale watching at Boiler Bay, just north of Beverly Beach. Whale sightings occur most often in the early spring and late fall. We were told that a group of whales makes a permanent residence in the bay area, but we never spotted any. Whales or no, Boiler Bay is worth visiting. Say hello to the gulls sitting on the signs that say, “Danger, Keep Back of Fence.” Those birds can’t read.
An outsized outlet mall called the Factory Stores at Lincoln City is along U.S. 101 approximately 20 miles north of Beverly Beach State Park. This area has more than 60 stores proffering clothing, books, tools, shoes, and more. And remember, Oregon has no sales tax. For more information, phone (800) 665-8680 or (541) 996-5000, or visit www.outletsonline.com/nwflor.htm.
This is just a start. Other points to consider include:
Devils Punch Bowl State Natural Area, located just north of Beverly Beach
This is a day-use-only park. It is most impressive during winter storms. Wind-whipped waves slam into a hollow rock formation that resembles a huge punch bowl. A great view is available from high atop nearby Cape Foulweather.
Shore Acres State Park, 115 miles south of Beverly Beach
This facility is for anyone who appreciates beauty. The day-use park once was a private estate and has been landscaped with luxuriant gardens, featuring plants and flowers from all over the world.
Crissey Field State Recreation Site
Located 215 miles south of Beverly Beach, near the city of Brookings, this state park is closest to the California border. It is open for day use only. It’s known for offering great bird-watching and is home to harbor seals and California sea lions. And Redwoods National Park is situated just a few miles over the state line.
Of course, the sites highlighted here only scratch the surface. Many, many, other destinations await. Consult any Oregon tourism brochure … and enjoy the coast.
Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce
555 S.W. Coast Highway
Newport, OR 97365-4934
See also: www.discovernewport.com
Oregon Tourism Commission
775 Summer St. N.E.
Salem, OR 97301-1282
State Parks On Oregon’s Coast
The following parks with campgrounds are listed from north to south. The average overnight fee at these parks is $21 between May and September, and $17 from October through April.
For more information about any of these parks, contact Oregon State Parks at (800) 551-6949; to make reservations, call (800) 452-5687. The park Web site, www.oregonstateparks.org, also provides ample information and takes online reservations. You also can check for site availability and make reservations at www.reserveamerica.com.
Please note that not all parks take campground reservations; some offer sites on a first-come, first-served basis.
Fort Stevens State Park
Located 10 miles west of Astoria near the Washington border and approximately 125 miles north of Beverly Beach. Offers hundreds of campsites “” 174 with full hookups and many more with electricity. The fort was an important military defense installation at the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War to World War II. Many historical artifacts are on display.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Located on a point and includes a bicycle trail, a concession for horseback riding, and an airplane landing strip. Offers 267 sites with electrical hookups.
Cape Lookout State Park
Located 65 miles north of Beverly Beach. Offers 38 sites with full hookups. Highly scenic; a popular spot for hang gliding and para-gliding. Located on a sand spit between a bay and the ocean. Many hiking possibilities.
Devils Lake State Recreation Area
Located in Lincoln City along a lake near the Pacific Ocean. Offers 28 full-hookup and 4 electrical sites, all with cable TV.
Beverly Beach State Park
Located seven miles north of Newport. Offers 53 full-hookup and 75 electrical sites. Beach access from the campground (see accompanying text for more information).
South Beach State Park
Located two miles south of Newport and near its attractions. Offers 228 sites with electrical hookups. Kayak tours are offered at a scenic creek nearby.
Beachside State Recreation Site
Located several miles south of Waldport along the beach. Offers 33 electric-hookup sites.
Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park
Situated 40 miles south of Beverly Beach. Offers 58 full-hookup sites (maximum length 45 feet). Features several hiking trails and a good beach for hunting agate or just beachcombing. One trail leads to a historic lighthouse at Heceta Head.
Jesse M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
Located 60 miles south of Beverly Beach and is renowned for having two natural freshwater lakes “” one is ideal for swimming; the other is great for all water sports. The park is near Oregon Dunes National Recreation area. Look for wild displays of pink rhododendrons in the spring and huckleberries and blackberries in the fall. Offers 47 full-hookup and 119 electrical sites.
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
The 65-foot Umpqua River Lighthouse tower presides over Winchester Bay, and the parkland includes sand dunes that off-road enthusiasts love. The campground has 20 full-hookup sites.
William M. Tugman State Park
Popular for its fishing opportunities, as it encompasses Eel Lake. It offers 100 electric campsites and is less than a mile from Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Sunset Bay State Park
Located near North Bend and features a campground near the ocean with 29 full-hookup and 36 electrical sites. A public golf course is next door.
Bullards Beach State Park
Located two miles north of the town of Bandon and features a paved walking path, the Coquille River Lighthouse, and miles of beach. Offers 102 full-hookup and 83 electrical sites.
Cape Blanco State Park
The lighthouse at Cape Blanco and the historic Hughes House are open for tours between April and September. The park has several miles of hiking trails as well as horse trails and a horse camp. The park has 53 electric sites.
Humbug Mountain State Park
The mountain (elevation 1,756 feet), located near Port Orford, helps block the cool ocean breeze, making this one of the warmest oceanside parks in Oregon. Thirty-three electric sites are available.
Alfred A. Loeb State Park
Located near the Chetco River and offers fishing and rafting. The campground has 48 sites with electric hookups.
Harris Beach State Park
This southernmost park with camping facilities (36 full-hookup sites and 50 electric sites) is located 210 miles south of Beverly Beach. It boasts the largest offshore island in the state, Bird Island, which has been set aside as a National Wildlife Sanctuary.