The Oregon Coast is more than a place, it's a state of mind. No place on the map of Oregon is marked as the Oregon Coast, but everybody knows that the 363 miles of coastline where the Pacific Ocean washes up on the state's western beaches is unlike any place else.
Highway 101 winds down the entire Oregon Coast from the Columbia River to the California border. Along the way, it passes through the old growth forests of Oswald West State Park, name for the Oregon governor who began the process of securing Oregon's beaches for public use. All but one of the famous McCullough bridges on Highway 101 are still in operation. The only one that has been replaced is across Alsea Bay at Waldport. Before the bridges were completed during the Great Depression, travel down the Oregon Coast required many ferry trips across the mouths of rivers.
The coast is generally divided into three regions. The North Oregon Coast corresponds to Clatsop and Tillamook counties, and runs from the Columbia River to Cascade Head. Astoria is not just the northernmost city on the Oregon Coast, it is also the oldest American settlement west of the Mississippi. Seaside was an early resort town and is still a popular destination. Cannon Beach is famous for its sandcastle contest and has an active arts community.
Tillamook County is the home of the Tillamook Cheese factory, the top tourist attraction on the coast. The county is divided roughly into three sections. The northern section includes Rockaway Beach, which is where people from Portland vacationed on the Oregon Coast early in the 20th century, arriving by train over the Coast Range. Tillamook itself is the county seat and serves the local dairy and cheesemaking industries. The growing town of Pacific City is famous for its dory boats and the waves at Cape Kiwanda.
Lincoln County considers itself to be the Central Oregon Coast all by itself, although a look at the map would suggest that Florence and Reedsports should be included. Nevertheless, its many miles of sandy beaches attract so many visitors that it may deserve the title. Kite flying is popular at Lincoln City. Newport has an active fishing community on its bayfront and is also the site of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, erstwhile home of Keiko the Orca whale. Yachats is a tiny but popular community just north of Cape Perpetua.
Florence has been growing rapidly for several decades and has been one of the fastest growing cities in Oregon. A large number of people who choose to retire to the Oregon Coast have made Florence their home. It is also the northernmost edge of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which extends through Reedsport and down to Coos Bay. Reedsport is several miles inland from the mouth of the Umpqua River. Winchester Bay is near the mouth and is popular with tourists. The Umpqua Lighthouse attracts many visitors. A viewpoint along Highway 101 just south of Winchester Bay provides views of the river, the lighthouse, and the ocean beaches.
Coos Bay is the name of both a city and a body of water. It is the largest town on the Southern Oregon Coast and along with its sister city North Bend constitutes the largest metro area on the entire Oregon Coast. Both cities developed due to the timber industry. Tourists are more attracted to Charleston, located where Coos Bay opens onto the Pacific Ocean. The famous gardens of Shore Acres are just south along the Cape Arago Highway.
The state parks along the Oregon Coast were among the first to be developed in the Oregon State Park system. The foresight of the Oregon legislature in securing so many wonderful locations along the coast has guaranteed access to the beach for campers and day users for future generations.
People who enjoy the Oregon Coast will probably like a subscription to Oregon Coast Magazine as well. Every two months, a new issue of Oregon Coast Magazine brings the beauty of America's most beautiful coastline to readers in the Pacific Northwest, across the nation, and around the world. It's unbeatable.