My partner Samantha and I like to celebrate our birthdays with vacations or staycations, and this year, her two choices were either San Francisco (Wine! Fresh seafood! Whoo hoo, I thought) or the Oregon Coast (whomp, whomp, I thought. At the time, I knew little about the coast and pictured days of unending Pacific Northwest rain, with scenery that would give me “Twin Peaks”-esque heebie jeebies.)
As you may have deduced from the headline, she chose the Oregon Coast, and it turned out to be the perfect choice because: Wine! Fresh seafood! And lots of other unique delights.
Because I’m all about sharing the love, here are my pro tips for a Rebellious Oregon Coast getaway:
Fly to Portland & Rent a Car
Sam and I set out from Seattle because it was convenient for us, but Portland is actually a more ideal starting place. The resort we chose is a 2.5 hours-ish drive from Portland.
Stay at the Salishan Spa & Golf Resort
On a friend’s recommendation, we stayed at the Salishan in Gleneden Beach. We sprung for a premium room with a fireplace, balcony and lovely view of Siletz Bay. The resort is set apart from the touristy main drags nearby, and it’s ideal if you’re looking for a peaceful secluded setting full of lush Pacific Northwest greenery. The air somehow even tastes cleaner there.
As a bonus, the property was preparing to host the Newfoundland Club of America‘s annual meeting, and we were surrounded by hundreds of gentle giant black newfies. Sam was in dog heaven.
Visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium
If you’d asked me before this trip if I was an aquarium aficionado (read: fish nerd), I would’ve said no, but Sam pointed out that we’ve been to a bunch of aquariums in the last year or so (Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver), plus I’ve been to others without her. So, yes, fine: fish nerd.
Of all of those, the Oregon Coast Aquarium might be my favorite (sorry, Shedd!). Like others, it’s got a mixture of outdoor and indoor spaces, but what sets it way apart is the Passages of the Deep exhibit, a series of transparent tunnels where you’re surrounded by fish, sharks and plant life. It’s absolutely mesmerizing.
Fall in Love with Highway 101
Not for nothing is Highway 101 also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. With jaw-dropping views of the ocean, forests and cliffs, it winds its way down the Pacific Coast through Washington, Oregon and California.
If you’re like us, the 30-minute drive from the Salishan to the aquarium will take twice as long because you keep pulling over to parks to take photos. Must-sees: Depoe Bay, the Devil’s Punch Bowl (actual name), Cape Foulweather and the Whale Watching Center.
Imagine my joy when we stumbled up The Flying Dutchman, a family-owned winery with friendly staff, a great selection and an outdoor tasting area with a panoramic view of the ocean. Take that, San Francisco.
I’d like to tell you I didn’t have salmon prepared every which way with every meal for days on end, but, well. I did.
Gluten-free Goodies? Yessss!
I generally try to eat gluten-free, which can be a challenge on the road. Cue double-take when we saw the roadside billboard for the Gluten-Free Place on Highway 101. It’s not only equipped with every gluten-free brand I’ve ever seen – and I few I hadn’t – they had fresh pastries galore. I’d show you a picture of the coconut donut, focaccia bread and ginger molasses cookie we bought, but I inhaled them too fast for photos. Take my word for it: delicious.
There you have it. Sam got 300 newfies for her birthday, I got my first taste of Oregon Coast awesomeness, and we both got some much-needed time to unplug. You know a vacation is good when you leave with plans for the next time you’ll be back, and we’re hoping to make the Oregon Coast an annual excursion.