Cruising the Oregon Coast from Bandon to Lincoln City

Red and white crab floats, drying on wharf, Newport, Oregon Coast

To me, Oregon coast is most beautiful in the US (sorry, California & Maine, you’re still high on my list, but Oregon’s got game!) Bandon & Newport are my 2 favorite places with rocky beaches, great tidepools, photographic seastacks & lighthouses tossed in for some background interest. Oregon puts out a guide to the coast which has mile by mile descriptions. ttps:// It’s a good reference for planning your trip and day by day travels. It references mileposts for easy navigating.

I’ve been visiting the Oregon Coast for over 50 years

In the 70s we approached from Eugene, several times riding the 70 miles over and through (by tunnel) the Coast Range to Florence, then being picked up by our VW bus sag-wagon topped off on our return by a required stop at the Gingerbread Village for a slice with whipped cream.  Once we were even able to drive to Yachats to ski on the beach after a rare snowfall. 

In the 80’s we made Pacific City our base, visiting friends who’d retired there. Since we hadn’t retired, we’d leave Seattle after work & drive down several times a year, often in the pouring rain of a Thanksgiving weekend. Then in the 90s we moved our focus to Newport where we’ve been spending a week at a time with day-trips up & down the coast.  Several times we’ve driven the length of the coast from Crescent City, California to Astoria.

Coquille River Lighthouse from 1896, Coquille Point, Bandon, Oregon coast

Learning about the geology of the Oregon coast

combines a mix of coastal processes, tectonic activity, and erosional forces, resulting in a diverse range of landforms and geological features. Learning to identify these features  gives a wider experience tan casual beachcombing (tho there’s nothin’ wrong with  that). Sea stacks emerge offshore to show where the shoreline once was. Both sandstone (in the south)  and basaltic (in the north) deposits form capes and headlands and basalt outcroppings display tide pools. The geology of the Oregon Coast, which includes old fossils dating back millions of years and jewels produced by ancient lava flows, defines the region.  

I’ll post separately about geology and fossil hunting, but for now an important takeaway is that the southern coast has a top layer of sedimentary sandstone & mudstone, even forming its seastacks.

In the north lava flows from the easternmost part of Oregon breached the coastal range resulting in basalt as the main component of sea stacks & headlands. For fossil hunters this results in greater finds in the northern coast where the underlying sandstone hasn’t eroded. In the south erosion has often worn the shore cliffs down to a much earlier bedrock basalt layer

My most recent trip,

In late June, 2023, I drove from Bandon to Pacific City over 5 days, staying in small motels.

I first drove from Seattle to Florence, expecting the 6 hour drive to lengthen due to unplanned slowdowns and I wasn’t disappointed – an accident near Olympia slowed traffic, then the usual Portland traffic slowdown from the Columbia River bridge to Tigard, adding 90’ to the drive. For this reason I’d chosen to stay in Florence rather than farther down the coast. This was a tasty decision. First, I checked into my small motel with an unique pets policy : “dogs ok, no cats, no chickens”

As often as I’ve been to the coast,

each trip yields new discoveries. I walked a nearby Mexican restaurant, ‘Los Compadres’

I had an excellent, large ‘half order’ of their weekends-only menudo and the best chile relleno I’ve ever had. (CR is my standard test of a new Mexican restaurant.). So, I’ll need to time my next trip around another visit.

The next morning, I stopped at The Little Brown Hen for breakfast and had their excellent homemade corned beef hash. Only after trying to pay, did I discover they only took cash. They had an ATM but I’d left my debit card at home. Worse I hadn’t checked my wallet after I took a small group to Turkey. I had used most of my US currency, leaving only a few dollar bills (who, uses cash anymore?). 

I had more than enough to pay in Turkish lira, but for some reason that didn’t seem acceptable (though I left a note as a souvenir). But, they were extremely accommodating & the payment was eventually resolved thru paypal.

Hoping for a less eventful rest of the day,

I drove south to Reedsport to drop off my luggage for a 2-night stay (they didn’t seem to mind chickens & the guy next door had an extremely vocal German shepherd). Then I continued down the coast to Bandon.  All along the coast there are turnoffs, some official with large parking lots. Others just a 3-4 car expanded shoulder with a trail to the beach. Just before reaching Bandon, I took the road off 101 for 5 miles to the Coquille River Lighthouse built in 1896.  You can view the lighthouse from Bandon old town. It’s a tiny building across the wide estuary of the Coquille River.

Coquille River Lighthouse from 1896, Coquille Point, Bandon, Oregon coast

Bullard Beach there is guarded by massive driftwood logs, intermingled with wildflowers, with access to a long beach. There were only a few people there, some kids flying kites.

Later I drove to the beaches south of Bandon. These should have good tide pooling where erosion has worn the coast down to bedrock. But there were no really low tides, so tide pooling was just average.

Steep wooden stairway gives access to Bandon beach on the Oregon coast

Again I walked across the street from my motel to another great Mexican meal.

  • Sol de Mexico  – I tried muy grande margarita – the middle offering – good choice as I would have needed a crane to lift the huge goblet of the largest size. I ordered the fish enchiladas with fresh cod, perfectly cooked. At home, I make Dungeness crab enchiladas (The hardest part of the recipe is not eating any as I pick) But now I’ll add halibut or salmon to my repertoire.

On Sunday, June 25th,

I cruised along the coast just south of Coos Bay, visiting Sunset Bay State Park and then further south to Cape Arago State Park. 

Pisaster ochraceus can be purple or orange – ochre. aka ochre sea star, or starfish. found in tide pools Order: Forcipulatida Family: Asteriidae, Cape Arago, Oregon coast

Here I was surprised by excellent tidepooling. I found several black leather chitons and dozens of starfish. The misnamed Ochre starfish comes in 2 models – orange and purple.

The usual, stranded, bull kelp (Nereocystis ) were splayed on the beach. Their holdfast anchors had been torn from the ocean bottom just offshore. Their long stipes (up to 100′) end in floats, mostly filled with carbon monoxide, keep the blades (leaves) near the surface for photosynthesis. (These smooth, roundish floats, when bobbing in the ocean, are often confused with seals)

Like most seaweeds here, this algae is edible. (tho I don’t have a pot big enough for most samples I found). Oregon rules for collecting seaweed (and molluscs) vary for each park, but there are signs at each trailhead defining local rules.

Another must-stop is the beautiful garden at Shores Acres, especially in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

Once the grand estate of timber baron Louis Simpson, Shore Acres features a formal garden inspired by the original, with plants and flowers from all over the world. Visitors find a Japanese-style garden with lily pond and two carefully curated rose gardens that include All-American Rose Selections. Something is in bloom almost every day of the year: the first spring bulbs pop up in late February; rhododendrons and azaleas soon follow; roses bloom through the summer; and dahlias appear August through mid-October.

My next stop was the Newport area

6/26  As I drove north, I passed sites that I’ve visited many times coming south from Newport. This time I was staying in Depoe Bay just north of Newport. It bills itself as the world’s smallest harbor, and hosts a year-round pod of gray whales.

My motel was directly across from this view

Tall conifer above protected small cove above Depoe Bay, Oregon
Tall conifer above protected small cove above Depoe Bay, Oregon

But earlier I made a brief stop at Yachats State Park which has several turnouts along its beaches. A few miles north is Heceta Head lighthouse with a small beach

(It now has a $5 day use fee, which has been added to many previously free parks. You can also buy a $30 annual pass or 5-day vehicle passport for $10

Waldport sports the Alsea Bay Bridge, another of the beautiful Oregon coast bridges

Bridge across Alsea River in Waldport, Oregon

Another of my favorite stops is Cape Perpetua, which can easily require a half day or more. I didn’t stop this time,except for a brief overview as the tide wasn’t right (you need a high tide for the best effects of the milky Devil’s Churn) but will post about previous trips

Abstract of hide tide waves foam in Devil’s Churn, Cape Perpetua, Oregon coast

Seal rock provided my first opportunity for fossil hunting. I parked an unmarked turnout south of the main trail to the seastacks. A narrow but easy trail takes me down to the beach.

I quickly found a large pecten (pectin) fossil — another in the 15 to 20 million years old fossils we find here. They are the ancient relatives of the tasty sea scallops we know today.

I arrived at Depoe Bay after a visit to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area but stop and my fossil hunts on Newport’s neighboring beaches will be continued in another post (coming soon)

By Cascoly

I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us