Dunes And Chowder, All In A Day: Oregon Coast
Is your National Park Senior Pass just about jumping out of your glove compartment eager to go somewhere new? Somewhere you can get sand between your toes, slurp oysters, freshen up in the sea air, and scamper to a lighthouse? Search for mushrooms, down some chowder, dig for clams?
Pull out your map and zoom in on the Oregon coast, midway between Washington and California. West of Eugene. See Florence? Plan to spend a few nights there, and, yes, indeedee, your NPS Senior Pass will be useful every single night if you camp. Not to mention for parking, visiting, and generalized waving at rangers.
Sleep Oregon coast style…
Where, you say? Try USFS Lagoon or Waxmyrtle campgrounds in the Siltcoos area.
The birds are tweeting, the ducks quacking in the lagoon, a jay would just love it if you put some food on your picnic table. Drink your coffee and lace up your shoes: time for the morning constitutional.
There’s a circular nature walk around Lagoon Campground, perfect for a pre-breakfast refresher. Most DCMBers will cope: the trail is short (1 mile), level, and disabled-friendly. Stop at each and every viewpoint to see what keeps lagoon creatures busy all day.
Re-locate your campsite and flip the pancakes; fry the bacon and eggs; guzzle it all down.
Serious foray next on the agenda. All set?
NPS Senior Pass ready to go?
You’ll need it for parking and day use several times over.
Get back to Hwy 101 and turn south. You’ll notice tall dunes hemming in the highway to your right, banks of sand on the verges of the road. You’re headed to the Oregon Dunes Overlook, property of the US Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (this link has a video overview) and located midway along the 40 miles of dunes in this area of the Oregon coast. You might continue on south past the Overlook, if you wish, to the NRA headquarters in-town in Reedsport for ranger talks, exhibits, and activities.
See and do…
Why did Muddy Boots highlight the Oregon Dunes Overlook for this phase of your day’s adventure? There’s always the exercise… But the Overlook has a whole lot more, since there’s lots to see without interference from dune buggies (dune buggies are only allowed in certain sections of this NRA). So, step on out, climb a dune, roll yourself up the viewing ramp, learn a little, and get a good look at what the coast in this nook of the universe has to offer. Unique and spectacular.
And if you need more possibilities for accessible dune fun, get some ideas from Accessible Adventures: Oregon Dunes.
Now that you’re exhausted
And your shoes filled with sand, we’re driving north again to Florence. You’ve worked up and appetite, if Muddy Boots has this figured out correctly. After you go across the maginificent Roosevelt-era drawbridge, watch for signs to “Old Town”, down by the harbor on the Siuslaw (pronounced Sigh-oo-slaw) River, beside the piers of the bridge.
You are looking for Mo’s. Mo’s is on the water. It’s “local color” and affordable. Park somewhere for free and mosey on in. If you can, get a seat near the window. Order up!
Mo’s has liquid refreshments of the sort that are unmentionable on DCMB, and is famous for their clam chowder. You can even take some home for dinner. Try a side of garlic toast? A small salad sprinkled with shrimp? Fish and chips? A burger? Watch the trawlers being repaired and loaded just below and the fishermen motoring up and down the estuary. Be leisurely: neither Florence nor Mo’s observes city time.
Pay your bill and poke around Old Town. When you’re ready to leave, drop in at the Visitor Center on Hwy 101 and get instructions about Oregon coast sights north of Florence along the road. Stop at every single one of them. With the obvious exception of the Sea Lion Caves, they are free. Admire the bridges, the lighthouse, the crash of water on the rocks. Scan the horizon for whales from the pull-outs. Traipse down to the beach if you wish, or observe from the car if it’s difficult to get around: there’s something along this stretch for every ability.
Go put your feet up
See as much as you can and dawdle on back to your campground. If you have this planned right, there’ll be another day of sightseeing. Maybe an hour to explore the tide pools? A dune buggy ride? Another bowl of chowder at Mo’s?
Before you set out for your next adventure, don’t forget to drive up the Siuslaw to Mapleton, especially if the day is sunny. The road is scenic, and you’ll notice floating logs and pylons along the sides of the river, relics of not too long ago (the 80’s) when logging was the major industry in this area.
Useful information: for a small town, Florence has an impressive library with traveler-friendly hours. It’s a comfy place to get emails and browse your road trip planner apps.
More adventures on the Oregon Coast:
Photo credits. Featured image, Heceta Head Lighthouse: CCO by Alan Schmierer via Wikimedia. Oregon Dunes, Oregon 2012 032: CC BY 2.0 by Ilya Katsnelson via Flickr Mo’s, Day Two King Tide Project: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Cathy Starfas via Flickr. Storm waves at Cape Perpetua: Public Domain by USFS via Flickr. Bridge panel… Siuslaw River bridge: CC BY 2.0 by Bruce Fingerhood via Flickr. Cape Creek Bridge near Heceta Head: CC BY 2.0 by Bruce Fingerhood via Flickr. Dune buggy near Florence, Sand buggy aka sand rail: CC BY 2.0 by Marcin Chady via Flickr.