Gray whales come close to shore near Yachats on their annual spring migration, and several take up residence throughout the summer at the mouth of the Yachats River. You can see them in the spring from Cape Perpetua, South of Cape Perpetua, Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint, at the mouth of Cummins Creek, and Strawberry Hill Wayside.
Built in 1927 in the shape of a cross, the Little Log Church & Museum, 328 W. Third St. (tel. 541/547-3976), is a repository of local history and still serves as a community gathering point. The museum is generally open from noon to 3pm (closed Thursdays).
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Lion Caves & carnivorous plants
On the stretch of U.S. 101 between Yachats and Florence there are three attractions that have long lured travelers along the Oregon coast. Ten miles south of Cape Perpetua, Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is worth a stop to see Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon coast, and the breathtaking seascape of pounding surf and offshore haystack rocks. Heceta (pronounced “huh-see-tuh”) Head is a rugged headland named for Spanish explorer Captain Bruno Heceta. The old lighthouse keeper’s home is now a bed-and-breakfast, the Heceta Head Lightstation .. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, free tours are given of the lighthouse keeper’s house Thursday through Monday between noon and 5pm. There is a $5 day-use fee to use the park.
One mile south of Heceta Head, Sea Lion Caves , 91560 U.S. 101 N. (www.sealioncaves.com; tel. 541/547-3111), is the largest sea cave in the United States and has been a popular tourist attraction since 1932. The 300-foot-long cave and a nearby rock ledge are the only year-round mainland homes for Steller sea lions, the larger of the two species of sea lion (bulls can weigh almost a ton). Although you’re likely to see quite a few of the sea lions here at any time of year, it is during the fall and winter that the majority of them move into the cave. A combination of stairs, pathways, and an elevator lead down from the bluff-top gift shop to a viewpoint in the cave wall. The best time to visit is late in the afternoon, when the sun shines directly into the cave and the crowds are smaller. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors, $8 for children 3 to 12. The caves are open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Another 6 miles south is the Darlingtonia State Natural Site , a small botanical preserve protecting a bog full of rare Darlingtonia californica plants, insectivorous pitcher plants also known as cobra lilies. You’ll find this fascinating preserve on Mercer Lake Road; there’s a turn-off sign from Highway 101. There’s no admission or set opening hours.