Scenic Viewpoints on the Oregon Coast
Watching the Oregon Coast's weather roll in and out over the beautiful Pacific Ocean is a dance of dazzling beauty and fearsome power. Gazing at sea gulls swooping below you as you peer from the rocky cliffs or looking across jagged gullies to the reassuring brilliant flash of a red-roofed lighthouse - these are the visual wonders that define a trip to the Oregon Coast.
When you visit, make sure to take the time to stop and observe. Luckily, Highway 101 along the Oregon coastline is recognized as a National Scenic Byway for its natural beauty and has convenient roadside parks and turnouts. Leisurely travel the stretch of highway from Dunes City to Cape Perpetua, pulling over to enjoy the panoramic vistas. Some of the parks offer benches and picnic facilities. Popular activities include whale watching, marine wildlife observation and birding, as well as storm watching and sunsets!
Check the sunset times, tide tables and weather reports so you can time your visit for optimal viewing. Or just take your chances to see what show nature chooses to offer. You may get a misty cloud bank or a jaw-dropping glimpse of miles of pristine beaches. Be sure to bring your binoculars and your camera.
When pulling into a scenic lookout turnout use caution. Other drivers may be backing out or pulling in at the same time. Open car doors cautiously - there may be surprisingly strong gusts of wind that tug at your doors. Go up to the barriers for the best views and photography but do not cross them. Cliffs may be unstable further down and treading there is not only unsafe for you but could harm native plants and critter habitats.
At the Sea Lion Caves Turnout, just south of the tunnel on the highway, check the rocky ledges below for lounging sea lions. Spotting them outside is best May through August. The rest of the year the sea lions are more likely seen inside the Sea Lion Caves which requires an admission fee to take an elevator down 200 feet into the cave. Check the video monitor in the gift shop before going down to preview the cave's current occupancy. However, going into the cave, even with a low sea lion count, is a pretty cool adventure.
The Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed sites on the Oregon Coast. Not only are the views lovely from the park itself, but just south of the lighthouse is a roadside pullout that offers views of the classically charming lighthouse from a distance.
The Muriel O. Ponsler Memorial State Scenic Viewpoint is not a particularly high vantage point but it provides a pleasant picnicking spot overlooking a sandy beach. Access the beach from the park for a little beachcombing where several rocky creeks merge with the ocean.
At Cook's Chasm Turnout just south of Yachats the ocean waves and shoreline create two spectacular water "features". "Spouting Horn" shoots water up through a hole in the rock like a fountain at a children's splash park. "Thor's Well" is a deep hole in the midst of tidal pools that the water rushes down as if someone had pulled the plug on the ocean.
Drive the winding road to the top of Cape Perpetua for the highest viewpoint accessible by car on the Oregon Coast. On a clear day, see out to sea nearly 40 miles and look along 70 miles of coastline. From your 800 foot perch, hiking trails will take you downhill to the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, tide pools and the beach.