We arrived in Astoria, Oregon late in the day with no reservation but a plan to stay at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn. That turned out to be a good plan. The walk-in price turned out to be much better than the price we had been quoted by phone earlier in the day. Our room was very generously sized with a king bed and a balcony overlooking the marina. They were advertising in the lobby for recently renovated rooms but ours was not one of them. Our room was a bit dated but the bed was comfy and that counts for a lot.
The front desk staff recommended the Bridgewater Bistro for dinner when we asked for someplace within walking distance. An excellent choice! Al enjoyed his burger but I loved my two small plates – calamari and crab/corn fritters. Great service as well. I would highly recommend this place but suggest you make reservations. On checking out their website, they advertise as being 90% gluten-free — I just thought I’d mention that as I know a number of people who are removing gluten from their diets.
The next morning we went for a walk along the river walk before we headed down the coast. Our hotel was at the most southern part of the downtown area so our walk was mostly industrial on one side and the Columbia River on the other. A good way to start a day.
Our first stop along the coast was the town of Seaside. Whenever I had mentioned to anyone at the conference that I attended that we were going to the Oregon coast, they assumed we were staying at Seaside. Seaside to me is the equivalent of Niagara Falls in Ontario – fun to visit for a bit but just too touristy. Having said that, I did have my picture taken on a cow bench just for giggles. The continental breakfast from the hotel hadn’t kept either of us going so we stopped for a late breakfast at a restaurant/bar called Dundee’s Bar & Grill. Al wanted breakfast but they had a lunch item on the menu called Texas Eggrolls that I really wanted to try. Basically, wonton wrappers filled with cream cheese and jalapeno. Although they weren’t serving lunch yet, they obliged my request. I’m so glad they did as the eggrolls were super yummy. And the serving was enough to share. Before we left Seaside, I had to dip my toes in the Pacific – I’m such a tourist sometimes!!
Next stop was Cannon Beach. From what we heard from people in the area, Cannon Beach was more quaint than Seaside, which it was. More like the Niagara-on-the -Lake area of Ontario. One of the servers at the Benson in Portland had highly recommended the Cannon Beach Bakery so we made a point of finding it. Oh, so disappointing. Al was not impressed with his apple fritter and I thought my custard éclair had great custard but the pastry was so very dry. Oh, well, we can’t all enjoy the same things.
We stopped by the visitor’s centre in Cannon Beach looking for a recommendation for a place between there and Newport to stop for a late lunch where we could sit and watch the water. They were very helpful but then we didn’t take any of their recommendations. It’s interesting to note that there didn’t seem to be a lot of restaurants along the coast that offered an ocean view. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that all beaches in Oregon are public.
Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint has a fantastic view and also has a lighthouse from the late 1800’s. It’s a nice walk down the hill to the lighthouse but a bit more of an effort to walk back up to the parking lot.
It was late in the day and time to find a hotel before sunset. I really wanted to see the sunset on the Pacific. We ended up staying in Newport at The Whaler Motel which is a three-story motel just across the road from the beach and within walking distance of Nye Beach. The view from our room balcony was fantastic. Beach, sunset, sunrise! Fantastic!
We loved The Whaler and asked in the morning if we would stay a second night. They were able to accommodate us as long as we changed rooms. They offered to move our luggage for us while we were out for the day if we packed everything up so that is what we did. Besides the great view and helpful staff, this motel has a noon check-out which is very nice.
Originally we planned on going further down the coast but deciding to stay in Newport changed up those very vague plans.
We headed south on US-101 and made some stops at a few of many lookout points. My favourites were Seal Rocks, Strawberry Hill and Yachats but the view along the whole coastline is phenomenal.
Our southern-most point destination was the Sea Lion Caves which are about 10 miles north of Florence. We arrived to find out that there were no sea lions in the caves that day. The venue operator was very up-front about this which was nice. Apparently, the female sea lions do stay nearby all year but are not always in the caves. The males are only in residence from mid-May to July sometime and again in November-December. They do offer a reduced rate when there are no sea lions there and if you come back within a year with your receipt you can visit for free. The cave area itself was quite interesting to see. You access the cave area by taking an elevator down 208 feet. You should note that this is not an accessible venue – even with the elevator, there is still inclines and stairs that need to be navigated.
After the caves, we headed back north through Newport to Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay is considered the whale capital of Oregon and there are grey whales seen there every day. On the day we were there, there were 5 whales in the bay. Unfortunately, they were too far out for us to get any decent pictures with our camera — maybe time for a better lens? This time we found the Whale Watching Center with no difficulty (we’d missed it on our way through town the day before) – it’s on the beach side of the main strip across from the Horn Public House & Brewery. Yep, a brewery in town with a view of the waves and whales – you know where we ended up for lunch. To add to my list of first, I had a Moscow Mule while Al tried one of the local beers. A Moscow Mule is vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice served in a copper mug. For you beer drinkers out there, Al has decided there are no bad craft IPAs in Oregon – or if there are, they aren’t any of the ones he tried. We both had the cod and chips as our lunch. When I asked for white vinegar for my fries, the server looked a bit surprised and said no but then said he would check. He came back with a little plastic cup of white vinegar – Al and I joked that it came from the cleaning supplies. Depoe Bay also has a number of restaurants that seem to specialize in clam chowder. It also has a number of places that offer boat trips out to see the whales. We weren’t really interested in taking a boat trip but I did inquiry — $20 per person for an hour, which seemed reasonable enough to me.
Since I was disappointed in not seeing the sea lions at the caves, we headed back into Newport to the Bayshore area to see the sea lions there. There had been a webcam at the Sea Lion Caves that showed the sea lions at the dock in Bayshore. Lots and lots of loud and noisy sea lions – we loved it! Bayshore looks like it would be a neat place to explore but again we were running out of time so tried to find the sea lions without getting sidetracked by the numerous shops and restaurants. We ended up walking almost the full length of the area before we found them. Tip: They are located on a pier next to the Undersea Gardens across the road from the wax museum. The sea lions were very entertaining!
Next stop was back to the motel to drop off the rental car and then walk into the Nye Beach district for some bar hopping. First stop was the Taphouse at Nye Creek which has two outside seating areas. They do offer flights of Oregon beer samples. Al ordered the fried honey Sriracha Brussels sprouts as a snack. I’m not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts but these were very tasty. Next stop was Nana’s Irish Pub. Another craft IPA for Al and a glass of Underwood Pinot Gris from Oregon for me. Our appetizer this time were Scotch eggs which neither of us had ever had before either. Very yummy! Al’s comment was that you can’t go wrong with eggs and sausage. The irony of having our first Scotch eggs in an Irish pub was not lost on us. We finished off our wander at The Deep End Cafe. We’d had dinner there the night before so knew the food was good. We both had the clam chowder. I had mine with the happy hour version of rockfish tacos and Al had a salad with his. A nice finish to our pre-sunset wander.
We were back to the motel in time for our last sunset on the Pacific. It wasn’t as bright as the night before but when it’s October and we can still sit out to watch the sunset we are not complaining.
The next day we headed from Newport back into Portland for our flight home to Ontario, Canada. We both loved our trip to the Pacific Northwest and are looking forward to returning sometime to explore even more since we know we only touched on some of what there is to do, see and experience.