The Oregon coast is special. In 1967, Oregon passed a bill making the ENTIRE coast public land. Like any legislation, it’s complicated, but Wikipedia sums it up well: The Oregon Beach Bill allows free beach access to everyone. This Bill allows private beach landowners to retain certain beach land rights, but it removes the property tax obligation of the beach landowner. In exchange, the beach landowner grants an easement passage to pedestrians. The Beach Bill grants a public access easement on the beach that cannot be taken away by the landowner nor can the landowner build on the beach.
It’s called the People’s Coast. And despite the chilly temps and fog, the People’s Coast is really well-utilized. But there’s a stark contrast in play here, between preservation of resources and monetization of resources, easily visible when you stand on the beach and look at the poodle-shorn, clear-cut hills in the distance.
We had a great time exploring the coast and getting loads of sand in the bed. Here’s what I liked most:
Tillamook Cheese Factory: Tillamook, OR
First stop: cheese. The Tillamook Cheese Factory is a giant homage to dairy with a gigantic parking lot and all the goods guaranteed to make you a gigantic person. Tillamook doesn’t just make that excellent cheese you can find in most grocery stores across the country…they also make tasty yogurt and ice cream in hundreds of flavors and butter and sour cream. I had to visit the factory when I learned that they sell fresh cheddar cheese curds there, and only there. They were good curds, but they weren’t the best curds I’ve ever had (maybe third best?). I guess I’m a curd snob, too.
One comment for the suggestion box: they should think about handing out Lactaid by the exit.
Rogue Brewery: Newport, OR
Rogue is the crazy dreamer of beer makers. They imagine insane flavors, like a Chipotle Ale, and then make them, and they turn out deliciously. This is a very difficult thing to do. It’s one thing to imagine making a beer called Bacon Maple Ale (suggested food pairings: donuts and pork), it’s one thing to actually make it, and make it well, make it taste delicious. Their beers aren’t just novelty items that you try once and then never again, they’re flavors that you want to keep on drinking. When we visited there were about 25 beers on tap. Order a sampler and you can try any four of these beers. Try selecting just four beers.
But when did visiting a brewery become a family activity? Is the root beer really that good? After spending a half hour waiting for a table in the brew pub (in an awkwardly small gift shop), surrounded by way too many feisty children, I was not the happiest person when we sat down at our table. Then our waitress brought over a free sample of Good Chit Pilsner and all was well in the world.
You can also visit the Rogue distillery at the same Newport location, but there were too many kids there for us. Just kidding, really we were so pleasantly happy with our brew pub experience that we didn’t want to overdo it. And we needed to wash our laundry.
Massive Sand Dunes: from Florence to Coos Bay, OR
This section of the Oregon coast is home to the largest sand dunes on the Pacific coast. The dunes are hundreds of feet high — up to 500 feet! — and stretch for 40 miles along the coast. We were completely stunned when we burst out of the forested, mature dunes into an unexpected sea of sand. Some areas of the dunes are dedicated to off-road vehicles, but others are totally wild. You can wander around for hours without hearing the noise of an engine.
Gorgeous Beaches: the entire coast
Sea stacks, bluffs, wide, sandy beaches. It’s pretty. I could go on and on, about the remote lighthouses, the great driving, the gothic bridges, the seafood (the towns are spread out, so you can eat a great dinner in town and spend the night on a quiet beach a few miles down the street), but we’ll leave the rest up to the visitor’s association. It’s a great place.
So why not stay forever?
Well, we were back on the sunset coast, but we couldn’t seem to catch a sunset. The coastal fog rolled in each afternoon and hung around until the next day, or the next, keeping the air chilly and damp. You’d think this would keep people away, but everyone was outside, dressing and playing like it was 80 and sunny instead of 55 and damp. It’s summer, so you’ve got to take what you can get. But I was wearing my fleece coat, down vest, and winter hat next to chicks in bikinis. I needed to warm up, I needed to see the sky!