101 Travel Tips
Travel Tips on U.S.
(Northern California to
I've traveled the full length of the Oregon Coast, all 363 miles of it, perhaps 20 or 30 times in my life. I
even used to live on the Oregon Coast -- thus explaining my pale complexion and webbed feet. The drive on U.S. Highway 101 from northern California to
the Washington border
is one of my absolute favorites in the U.S. Here are some of
my favorite "Sites of Interest" along U.S. 101, listed from south to north.
also have an accompanying page called
101 Camping Tips: Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which describes some of my favorite campgrounds on this route.
of the Giants (north of Garberville):
A definite “must see” in Northern
California and one of my
favorite drives in the U.S., this
two-lane paved road is actually the old Highway 101 and parallels the current Highway 101
about 20 miles as it winds through seemingly endless groves of redwood trees.
There’s an interesting Visitor Center about halfway through the drive
at the Burlington campground. You can
stop in Weott and see the “High Water” sign from the flood of 1964, sitting
atop a telephone pole. Avenue of
the Giants is a slower but much more interesting route than the parallel Highway 101.
However, if you need to, you can
access Highway 101 on both the south and north ends and at several points along it.
National Park Visitor Center (near Orick,
north of Arcata): Interesting
displays and good beach access.
Drury Parkway (near Orick):
five (+/-) mile alternative to Highway 101 (it's actually another stretch of
the old Highway
101). The Parkway goes right by Prairie Creek
Redwoods State Park, the “Big Tree”, and an interesting 3-mile drive on a
dirt dead-end road called the Cal Barrel Road, which slowly winds through the
redwoods. Also, a few miles north of Klamath, there's a nice two-mile
drive to Requa off Highway 101 with a good viewpoint of the mouth
of the Klamath
River -- a great place to eat lunch.
of Mystery: The Trees of Mystery and Sea Lion Caves near Florence, Oregon are
probably the two most famous tourist traps (oops, I mean tourist
Highway 101. Actually I shouldn't say anything bad about it, since I've
never forked over the admission price and haven't actually walked through it... but from
the outside, and from all the billboards, it seems like a pretty hokey place.
Above left: At a pullout along the peaceful "Avenue of the
Giants," south of Eureka. My Toyota truck had just turned over
250,000 miles, so I had to pull over and take a picture of it.
Above center: This used to be downtown Weott,
California, which was wiped out by a mammoth flood of the Eel River in
high-water mark is about all that's left of Weott.
Above right: A lofty Paul Bunyan and his
sidekick Babe at the Trees of Mystery,
near Crescent City, one of the more "memorable" sights along U.S. 101.
Many Oregon day-use state parks charge an admission fee of $3. However, the permit is good in
all state parks for that day.
Brookings (pop. 5,400):
Brookings is a nice town with an interesting harbor area on the
south bank of the Chetco River. The
Fred Meyer store on the west side of Highway 101 is a good place to get restocked.
There are speed traps on Highway 101 sometimes south of town.
Sebastian State Park:
This viewpoint, about a half-mile west of Highway 101, offers one of the
best views of the Oregon Coast.
Don't take RVs or large trailers,
though, because the access road to it is steep and narrow.
Beach (pop. 1,900):
much of interest in town and I’ve never spent much time here, but the nearby
Rogue River Mail Boats (jet boats that dash through the rapids) are interesting,
if you like that sort of thing.
Orford (pop. 1,100): This
is my favorite town on the southern Oregon coast. There’s a nice vista
and large parking area (with restrooms) on the south end of town on the west
side of Highway 101, with a sign there describing “Battle Rock” – a
good place for a snack break. Also,
you can drive down to the nearby “marina” and watch the fishing boats being
hauled out of the ocean.
At Port Orford State Park, just off the 90-degree bend in Highway 101
here, you can visit an old Coast Guard station – and, for a few dollars, get
your own dog tags made.
Also, there's a good IGA grocery store on the north side of town.
Above left: Breakfast stop at Cape Sebastian, which
offers one of the best views on the Oregon coast.
Cape Sebastian is one of the 70 state parks
that line Oregon's 363-mile coast.
Above center: The "marina" at Port Orford, Oregon is a busy
place. There's no harbor here, so every afternoon all the boats are
hoisted out of the ocean and carted ashore.
Above right: Tahkenitch Creek, during a hike across the Oregon dunes on
the central Oregon coast.
Bandon (pop. 2,800):
Becoming popular with retirees, Bandon is a bit artsy but retains a maritime
industry. Face Rock State Park is interesting -- it's south of town a few miles west of
Highway 101 on a parallel coastal road.
Old Town, down by the marina, is also
pretty cool. The Bandon
Cheese Factory, on the east side of 101, offers free cheese samples and great ice
Bay / North Bend (pop. 25,000):
lumber town, so there’s not that much of interest here, although the Fred Meyer
store on the south end of town is a good place to get restocked.
Lighthouse State Park:
Located a couple miles west of
Highway 101, south of Winchester Bay,
the lighthouse is open for tours in the summer. There’s also a great
viewpoint here of the Umpqua River bar.
Oregon Dunes Overlook (north of Reedsport):
There’s a great viewpoint of the Oregon sand dunes here from the
parking lot area, which is well worth a stop.
If you have an
hour, you can hike a mile across the sand dunes to the beach.
If you have a couple hours, you can make a nice 3-mile, triangular
roundtrip hike to the beach and back, one of my favorite hikes on the Oregon
Florence (pop. 7,200):
This is probably my favorite town on the central Oregon Coast.
The Old Town section on the riverfront has lots of interesting
shops and restaurants. There’s a
Fred Meyer store on the north edge of town for supplies (as you can probably
tell, I'm a big Fred Meyer fan).
State Park: This is located
just north of Florence on the east side of Highway 101.
A two-minute walk from the parking lot leads to a small marsh filled
insect-eating plants that are something like Venus fly traps. It only
takes 10 minutes to pull off Highway 101 and see this entire park, and it's
well worth it.
Above left: At the Oregon Dunes Overlook, north
of Coos Bay.
Above center: Although the northern and southern Oregon coasts are rocky,
the central coast is sandy. Enormous sand dunes here stretch for dozens of
miles and are lots of fun to hike down (but not so fun to hike up).
Above right: One of the most interesting plants on the coast is
Darlingtonia. It's a carnivorous plant something like a Venus fly-trap.
Sea Lion Caves (north of Florence):
Actually, this place isn't as hokey as
most people think, and the folks who run it are really interested in marine life, not
just in making a buck. After paying your
admission fee, you take an elevator down to a large coastal cavern where you
can watch sea lions lying on the rocks. About a quarter-mile
north of Sea Lion Caves on Highway 101, there’s a pullout on the west side
of the highway with a great
view of Heceta Head Lighthouse – one of the signature views of the Oregon
Elbow State Park:
There’s a nice beach here. Even
better is the Heceta (pronounced "ha-SEA-ta") Head Lighthouse, which is open for
free tours in the summer, along with the old lighthouse-keeper’s house.
all the lighthouses open for tours on the Oregon Coast, and this one is probably the
Perpetua: There’s a nice
Visitor Center on the east side of Highway 101 here that's worth a stop.
At nearby Devil’s Churn, you can watch ocean
waves crash upon the rocks – kids really enjoy this place and it's definitely
worth a 20-minute stop.
The Cape Perpetua overlook, a few miles east of 101, is one of my
favorite stopping places on the Oregon coast and offers a great view of the
coast. If you go up there, be sure
to hike the few hundred yards out to the CCC rock shelter for a great
(pop. 617, pronounced “YAW-hots”): Yachats is a small, artsy/retirement community with a grocery store
and a few gas stations. Yachats
State Park, just a few blocks west of 101 in “downtown”, offers a great view
of the Yachats River, access to tidepools at low tide, and restrooms.
Above left: Lighthouse
at Heceta Head.
Above center: Here's the Heceta Head
lighthouse again, one of the most notable landmarks on the Oregon coast. Tours
here are free... and for a hundred bucks, you can spend the night in
the old lighthouse keeper's house nearby, which is now a B&B.
Above right: Eating
lunch and enjoying the view in Yachats, one of my favorite stops on the coast.
An interesting, new (and free) visitor center at the south end of the bridge
describes the history of the Oregon Coast bridges, many of which date back to
Newport (pop. 9,500): The best part of Newport is the fascinating Old Town section
along the waterfront, north of the Yaquina Bay bridge.
There’s an interesting old seafood restaurant on the waterfront called
Mo’s, which serves great clam chowder – a very informal, funky, and fun
place to eat. The aquarium south of
the bridge was the former home of Keiko the killer whale.
Bay (pop. 1,100): A small, interesting harbor -- this area is worth a few
minutes stop. On the west side of
Highway 101 at the bridge, you can walk down near the harbor entrance and watch the
boats navigate through the narrow harbor entrance.
This is another scenic coastal alternative to Highway 101, which cuts
inland here for a few miles. The
loop offers access to some interesting state parks, including Cape Foulweather, which
was discovered by Capt. Cook in the 1700’s and which offers a nice view.
Part of the loop was closed the last time I visited, though, back in
City (pop. 7,400):
One of my former home-towns, Lincoln City is actually a nice place once you get away from
the kitsch and strip-developments along Highway 101. D River State Park,
located on the west side of Highway 101, is usually packed and frankly isn't that great.
Barnacle Bill’s seafood stand, on the east side of 101 in the middle of town,
is a good place to get smoked salmon and shrimp cocktails. Hobie's Adobe,
on the west side of 101, has great Mexican food. Road’s End State Park, on the north side of town, is my favorite place
to hang out in Lincoln City, with good beach access and a nice beach walk to
scenic Cascade Head.
Capes Scenic Loop (near Pacific City):
This is a scenic coastal alternative
to Highway 101, which cuts inland here for several miles.
The dory fleet at Pacific City launches boats from the beach through the
surf, and Cape Meares State Park has a couple of interesting sites, including the
“Octopus Tree” and the Cape Meares lighthouse and gift shop, which is
usually open in the summer.
Tillamook (pop. 4,500):
The Tillamook Cheese Factory north of town is Oregon’s second-most visited
tourist attraction. It’s pretty
interesting and has a nice gift shop, museum and café, where you can get some
great Tillamook ice cream stuffed in a crispy waffle cone.
also a Fred Meyer store in Tillamook for supplies.
Beach (pop. 1,600):
An artsy community with a quaint downtown.
Too rich for my blood,
State Park: Ecola is a "must
see" on the northern Oregon coast. There's a fantastic view of the Oregon Coast
here -- in fact, it's one of the most
photographed sites on the coast. Ecola is a little hard to find but it's definitely worth the effort.
Above left: Depoe Bay, Oregon....
Above center: ... and it's "world's smallest harbor."
Above right: View of Otter Crest and the central Oregon Coast from Cape
Foulweather. The cape was sighted and named by the English explorer,
Captain James Cook, in 1778.
Seaside (pop. 5,800):
This is Oregon’s version of Atlantic City (minus the casinos),
for better or worse. Like my former
hometown of Lincoln
City, it’s a little tacky.
O.K., it's a LOT tacky.
Astoria (pop. 9,700):
This is probably the most interesting city on the Oregon Coast.
Astoria is kind of run-down, but there are a lot of things to see and do in
and around town. Fort Clatsop
National Monument (Lewis and Clark’s 1805 winter encampment) is located just west of
the city. The National Park Service has
reconstructed Fort Clatsop and offers “living history” demonstrations with
interpreters, who are dressed in appropriate costumes, firing old rifles and
demonstrating other interesting things.
also a nice Visitor Center here. Also
in Astoria, you can climb up to the Astoria Column (free) and from the top, you can see for miles
an exceptional viewpoint. There’s
also a fascinating Maritime Museum near downtown with a lighthouse ship
docked nearby -- a great place to spend a few hours.
Fort Stevens State
Park is also nearby.
By the way, Astoria was the setting for several
movies, including Kindergarten Cop, The Goonies, and
Above left: Ecola State Park on the northern Oregon coast.
Above center: Here's Fort Clatsop near present-day Astoria, Oregon, the 1805-06 winter
home of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. It rained almost every day during their 4-month stay
at Fort Clatsop (imagine that, rain in Oregon!).
Above right: This is the "Columbia," a lightship that operated at the
mouth of the Columbia River until 1973, the last operating lightship in the
U.S. It's now part of the Maritime Museum in Astoria.
Left: Astoria has a lot of interesting sites, including
the Astoria Column. That's a mural on the outside depicting Oregon's
Left: Walking 133 steps up the Astoria
Column is a cheap price to pay for one of the best views on the Oregon
Coast. In the far distance are Lewis and
encampment at Fort Clatsop (left) and the mouth of the Columbia River (right).
Ilwaco (pop. 950):
Located at the mouth of the
Columbia River, Ilwaco is a popular fishing town. Fort Canby State Park, west of
town, is a great place to camp and has a terrific and spacious museum on
Lewis and Clark (who camped nearby in 1805) and maritime activities.
South Bend (pop. 1,800):
Located at the head
of oyster-rich Willapa Bay, South Bend has lots of places where you load
up on oysters and other delicious shellfish. Just north of town,
U.S. 101 cuts inland but you can turn west onto State Route 105, a
coastal, scenic alternative.
Aberdeen / Hoquiam (pop. 25,000):
home of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, these are lumber towns which have seen
better days. The older downtown area is interesting to poke around,
but it Smells Like Teen Spirit (a little Nirvana humor). Actually,
it smells like a pulp mill. With a population of 16,000, Aberdeen is
the largest city on the western Washington coast.
Humptulips (pop. 216):
interesting here, but it has one of the funniest names in the U.S.
Amanda Park / Quinault River (pop. 430):
massive Olympic National Park begins bordering U.S. 101 on the east here.
You can turn east and head up the Quinault Rainforest on a paved road.
A little farther north on 101, you can turn east and head up the Queets
Rainforest on a bumpy, gravel road.
Kalaloch: Pronounced "Clay-lock,"
this is the first place in Washington where U.S. 101 hits the Pacific
Ocean. There's a NPS campground here that straddles a narrow strip
of land between noisy Highway 101 and the ocean (though with all the
logging trucks that scream down 101, I've always wondered why people camp
here). North of Kalaloch, there are lots of National Park turnouts
on the west side of Highway 101 providing great access to the beach.
The best turnout, though, is north of here at Ruby Beach just before
Highway 101 once again turns inland.
Forks (pop. 3,500):
A small logging town renown for
abundant winter rainfall. In fact, it's one of the wettest spots in
Washington. The rain forests in Olympic National Park, including Hoh
south of town and Sol Duc north of town, are definitely worth exploring,
though. Forks is about the only place between Aberdeen and Port
Angeles to get restocked with groceries and supplies.
Above left: The
oyster-filled town of South Bend.
Above center: Ruby Beach, north of Kalaloch.
Above right: Hiking on the mossy Hoh River
trail in Olympic National Park.
Sappho: This is the turnoff for
State Route 113, a long, dead-end highway leading to the Indian fishing
village of Neah Bay on the extreme northwestern tip of Washington.
Even more interesting is the Ozette Lake area of Olympic National Park,
with a great 3-mile hike to a remote stretch of rocky coast and the
westernmost point in the contiguous 48 states, Cape Alava.
Port Angeles (pop. 19,000):
Port Angeles is the largest city on
the Olympic Peninsula and it's the best place to get restocked with supplies.
The harbor area is interesting to poke around and a ferry here goes to
Victoria, British Columbia, but there aren't many good motels in town.
sure to turn off on the Hurricane Ridge road east of town for a
spectacular 30-minute mountain drive up into Olympic National Park and an awesome
view of the glacier-covered Mount Olympus.
Sequim (pop. 4,300):
Lying in the rainshadow of
the Olympic Mountains, Sequim (pronounced "Squim") is the driest city on
the west coast north of Santa Barbara, California. It's a pleasant,
laid-back town catering largely to retirees.
Olympia (pop. 43,000):
Along with being the the
capital of Washington, Olympia is the official end of
Highway 101. Now that the Olympia Brewery south of town is closed,
there isn't much to do in Olympia -- but
it's a good place to turn around and drive Highway 101 all over again.
Left: Rialto Beach,
west of Forks.
Left: The spectacular
Sol Duc falls in Olympic National Park.
For my tips on camping along Highway 101, see
101 Camping Tips: Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.