* Whale-watching: Every year, about 18,000 giant gray whales migrate from the Bering Sea to Baja and back again, passing along the Oregon coast. From beaches, viewpoints, and headlands all up and down the coast you can often catch sight of a whale herd spouting its way north or south, and at Depoe Bay you can arrange for a whale-watching excursion to get even closer.
* Assessing Astoria: In the past few years, Astoria has undergone a dramatic transformation. Founded in 1811 at the mouth of the Columbia River, this former fur, lumber and salmon cannery town is now dressed up and ready for visitors with new hotels, restaurants, and heritage museums and houses that make exploring its old streets, downtown and waterfront a real voyage of discovery.
* Walking on Cannon Beach: On a clear sunny day, it’s probably the busiest beach on the coast, but on a weekday or if the weather is gray and wet, you might have it all to yourself. Cannon Beach is one of the great beaches of Oregon, and the town of Cannon Beach, though touristy, is also the most charming. . .
* Looping the Three Capes Scenic Loop: For an eye-opening look at Oregon’s dramatic North Coast, take this loop drive between Tillamook and Pacific City. Three spectacular headlands, a lighthouse, hiking trails, and eye-popping views of the thundering surf will wake up your senses. . .
* Discovering Newport: Though it relies on tourism and draws thousands of visitors to the acclaimed Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport is also one of the most authentic and “real” working towns on the Oregon coast. Walk down the Bayfront and you’ll have seafood restaurants on one side and the commercial fish warehouses on the other. And the old Nye Beach neighborhood is a charming throwback to a century ago when Newport became one of Oregon’s first beach resort towns. . .
* Alighting at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse: You can (seasonally) visit seven of the nine historic lighthouses along the Oregon coast, but this lighthouse near Newport is perhaps the most easily accessible, and it happens to preside over Yaquina Head, designated an “Outstanding Natural Area.” Before heading into the lighthouse, check out the visitor center to learn more about what life was like for the lighthouse keepers who manned these lonely lights and kept them burning through gales and ferocious storms. . .
* Exploring the tide pools: All up and down the Oregon coast, beautiful and amazing creatures cling to rocks near the shore and are nourished by the surging waters of the Pacific. Tentacled sea anemones, sea urchins, and starfish inhabit rocky tide pools that you can visit, including some at Cannon Beach. Whenever there is a good tide pool area, I mention it in the Oregon coast chapter.