The Oregon Coast
South of Yachats (pronounced YA-hots) is the most rugged stretch of the Oregon coastline, where ancient volcanoes and lava flows meet the Pacific. Towering 830 feet above the roiling waters, Cape Perpetua is one of the area’s highest points, in every sense of the word, with scenic lookouts and hiking trails. Just south is Heceta Head Lighthouse, probably the most photographed vista in all of Oregon. This stark white, functioning lighthouse on a rocky headland 205 feet above the Pacific is jaw-droppingly dramatic. The beautifully maintained 1894 lighthouse keeper’s home is one of the very few in the U.S. that is open as a B&B. The breakfasts enjoy a certain fame, as does the resident ghost. The nearby Sea Lion Caves is another natural wonder—a natural sea grotto, the largest in the country, populated by smelly, shrieking sea lions. A 208-foot lift descends into the sea cave, where you can watch hundreds of Steller sea lions clambering on to the rocks, jockeying for position, and letting loose mighty roars (bulls can weigh more than a ton).
South of Florence, the Oregon Dunes, among the largest oceanfront sand dunes in the world, extend along the coast for over 50 miles. Hiking trails explore this unusual ecosystem, linking scrub forests, small lakes and some 14,000 acres of mighty, ever-shifting dunes, some measuring up to 500 feet high.
From Charleston south to the California border, the beaches are increasingly flanked by high cliffs and craggy teeth of rock, home to rookeries of puffins, penguin-like murres and wheeling gulls. Human comforts are not abandoned, however. Bandon, one of the most charming towns along the coast, is equal parts New Age retreat and golf mecca. The state’s most famous river, the fast-flowing Rogue, meets the Pacific at Gold River; just upstream is an excellent lodge and opportunities for unmatched fishing and exhilarating jet-boat trips on the river’s surging rapids.