Here in California, we’re accustomed to a rush of people along the Pacific coast. Big Sur is beautiful, but have you ever been delayed for hours along this busy stretch of the PCH? Fortunately, our neighbor to the north has (dare I say it) an equally stunning coastline, with none of the traffic nightmares. For when you have time to drive farther, here’s your RVers guide to the Oregon coast.
First Stop in the South: Cape Blanco State Park
This summer, my family spent two weeks exploring the entire length of Oregon’s coast, from Brookings in the south to Astoria in the north. It was magical.
Our first state park in Oregon, Cape Blanco State Park, was a two-night stay we won’t forget. We arrived on a Sunday in late June with no reservation, and had our pick of nearly all the RV sites. It was an impossible choice, as most of them are beautifully shaded by mature trees and surrounded by private hedges. Many of them had spacious grass lawns for relaxing outside.
Electricity is the only hookup provided. As of summer 2019, the cost is $24/night. If you have an extra vehicle that isn’t being towed by your RV, then you’ll pay an extra $7.
We had to pull ourselves away from our beautiful site, but it was worth it. Cape Blanco State Park is home to Cape Blanco Lighthouse, which is open for tours April to October on select days of the week. Tours are only $2 per adult.
But the real treat was our first experience tidepooling. The camp host will give you Oregon’s tide schedule. At low tide, park by the lighthouse and pick out the path down the grassy hillside. As you near the Pacific Ocean, you’ll start to see the tide pools. What follows is a journey of discovery in the wild, equally delightful for children and adults. We found sea anemones, and the most brilliant purple and orange sea stars. You’ll never feel quite the same visiting an aquarium, after seeing the real thing for yourself.
Cape Blanco is a good launching point for the town of Port Orford, just to the south. Port Orford Heads State Park is an interesting stop there, where you can take a 1.5-mile out-and-back trail to the most magnificent view of the ocean.
Stop for Ice Cream at Face Rock Creamery
What would an RV travel day be without a stop for ice cream? As you’re going through Bandon, located 40 minutes north of Cape Blanco, you must stop at Face Rock Creamery. The ice cream portions are gigantic, yet every bite is delightful. There’s a line of Face Rock cheese to sample, fresh sandwiches made with aforementioned cheese, and adult beverages for those with a designated driver.
Did I call it an ice cream stop? Leave extra time to enjoy all the goodies!
While you’re in the area, Face Rock State Park is a quick stop by the ocean to see a unique geological feature!
Best of Both Towns at Beachside State Recreation Site
Though we were headed for Lincoln City, as soon as we drove through the little town of Yachats, it called my name. Still debating about changing our plans, we stopped at a recommended bakery in Waldport, the town just to the north. Eating our treats, there was no longer any question: we had to find a place to stay in the area.
Wonder of wonders, Beachside State Recreation Site is located right between the two towns. We rolled in without a reservation again, this time on a Thursday. The campground was much more full than Cape Blanco, but there were still a few sites to choose from.
Like Cape Blanco, electricity is the only hookup provided, though potable water spigots are plentiful around the campground. As of summer 2019, the cost is $31/night, with the same $7 charge for an extra vehicle.
As the name implies, you have immediate access to the wide beach at Beachside State Recreation Site. Though you’ll find it hard to leave the beach, you must spend a bit of time in both Yachats (go ahead and laugh, it’s pronounced “ya-HOTS”) and Waldport.
In Yachats, the spot is Luna Sea Fish House. We were so eager to try some Oregon seafood. The low-key atmosphere and phenomenal food surpassed our expectations. We tried the halibut fish and chips, traditional New England clam chowder, and Slumgullion, which is a mixture of clam chowder, white cheeses, and shrimp, baked and served with garlic bread. Yeah.
If you want a scenic stroll, 804 Trail is a nice treat. The level path follows the coastline of Yachats. I had trouble finding the right place to park, but later found out Smelt Sands State Recreation Site is what you’ll want to put in Google Maps. It’ll lead you to a small parking lot where you can access the trail.
In Waldport, the spot is Pacific Sourdough, the bakery I mentioned earlier. On our first visit, we tried rhubarb streusel cake, brown sugar pecan shortbread cookie, lemor bar, lemon cookie sandwich (my favorite), and my two-year-old’s pick, a chocolate cookie sandwich with red, white, and blue star sprinkles. Big city types will be shocked to learn all this was only $13.
Last, but not least, extend your stay at Beachside so you can visit Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, part of Siuslaw National Forest. Where the ocean meets the rocks, there are unique geological features like Thor’s Well and Devil’s Churn. Both are accessible via short hiking trails, but you’ll only be scratching the surface of the sublime hiking opportunities in the area.
Note on Newport
Newport is my next place to note as we move northward up Oregon’s coast. While we didn’t stay there and I don’t have an RV park recommendation, it’s definitely worth a stop. Main street is an attraction in itself, located right on the water with countless shops and eateries.
The expansive waterfront is stunning, so much so that you may want to find an RV park in the area! Recommended eateries include Clearwater Restaurant, which is great for date night, and Fishtails Cafe, where brunch is spelled marionberry French toast.
Tillamook Is More Than Cheese
I remember being shocked when my husband told me Tillamook isn’t based in Wisconsin. A cheese company not in Wisconsin?! Ever since then, I’ve wanted to visit this anomaly on the Oregon coast.
Well, we finally made it to Tillamook, and ended up having a rich experience across three different RV campgrounds.
Continuing to fly by the seat of our pants, we arrived three days before July Fourth with no reservation. Somehow, we managed to snag one night at Cape Lookout State Park. Take it from me: book an extended stay here. You won’t regret it. We loved our RV site, and the beach was sublime. At sunset, it seemed like the whole campground emptied to the beach to enjoy nature’s daily show.
Our next camping spot was a lifesaver as we neared the July Fourth holiday, a Harvest Hosts location called Blue Heron French Cheese. Unlike other Harvest Hosts locations, you don’t have to be a member of the program to stay here. Any RVer can dry camp on the property for up to two nights. Wine tastings, delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, and farm animals galore. What’s not to love?
Our two nights at Blue Heron had elapsed, but we weren’t quite ready to leave Tillamook. We moved to Port of Tillamook Bay RV Park, which has a two-week stay limit and is $15/night for dry camping. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s quiet and clean with easy access to the town.
Oh, and when it’s dinnertime, head to Tacos la Providencia. Craving Mexican food on the Oregon coast can be a depressing experience, but this place makes it all better.
Northern Oregon Coast Meets Tourists
In our experience, once you hit Seaside, OR, you’ve found the crowds. It’s no surprise, as Seaside and northern coast towns like Rockaway Beach and Cannon Beach are so charming. The main stretch of 101 through Rockaway Beach is laden with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops. And the beach is a mere block away.
So it’s up to you. Do you want to brave the “crowds” (air quotes per California standards) on the north coast, or have peace and quiet to the south? The nice thing is, you don’t have to choose.
On the Oregon coast, you can have both.