Camping at the Coast

It has been a wet, dreary winter here in Corvallis, even by PNW standards. So, when we saw the glimmer of potential sun in the forecast, we decided that it was time for a “shakedown cruise” in the Sprinter. The target was South Beach State Park in Newport, a mere hour from our home in Corvallis. This was an opportunity to make sure the van is outfitted with all of the necessary gear and provisions, and I’d say we did pretty well.

Our van trip to Newport along with our passages down the coast in 2019 and back up in 2021.

We headed out late on a foggy Saturday morning in Corvallis, and were treated to sunshine and blue skies as we headed through the Coast Range. We arrived at South Beach State Park in the early afternoon and headed to our campsite on the C loop. It was surprisingly crowded for a January weekend.

Gwen relaxing at our campsite at South Beach State Park.

It was sunny and in the mid 50s, so after a little bit of lunch, we got on our bikes to explore. There is a band of wetlands and dunes between the campground and the beach and there is a paved multi-use trail that goes from the campground to the South Jetty. As you can see from the image on the left below, it would have been a piece of cake coming in to Newport on the boat on Saturday. On the upper right is the Yaquina Head light, which I did not see on the way up the coast in August because of the thick fog. Lower right is looking back at the 101 bridge.

From the South jetty, we headed over towards the bay and the Marine Science Center, where NOAA’s Pacific fleet is stationed (after a former director and OSU professor “stole” it from Seattle). We rode on a little trail along the estuary and past the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Not far from the Aquarium is an arcade full of kitschy beach shops and sea creatures statues, including one of “Nessie”, reportedly caught in a terrible storm off Yaquina head. I didn’t quite manage to touch the lower jar.

Aquarium Village
Is this what you call a “Land Yacht”?

It’s great fun to tootle along on our bikes and an easy way to cover a lot of ground. The map below shows our track (from my very cool/fancy bike computer). After returning to the campground we walked from the campsite on one of the trails climbing up and over the dunes. There was a distinct lack of driftwood on the beach, which was somewhat surprising. Gwen wondered if it was because the tsunami waves from last weekend had picked it all up and washed it away.

The next day was a spectacular almost spring-like day. Sunny from the moment we woke up and warmed up to almost 60! This time we rode inland along Yaquina Bay on the aptly named Yaquina Bay road, marked as the Newport Marathon route, which extends to the town of Toledo. We started on the North side of the bay on the waterfront, as it looked too sketchy to ride our bikes over the busy two lane bridge from the cmapground. We went as far as an area called Boone’s Island, named after Daniel Boone’s great grandson who settled in the area in the mid 1800s, before the Newport region was “removed from the Coast Reservation and opened to settlement” as the tourist plaque stated.

After some excellent beer and halibut fish and chips at Rogue Brewery, we stopped at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (yes, the Outstanding is part of the official name). It is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, and a small entry fee is required. We decided to buy an annual “America the Beautiful” pass here, since it covers lots of recreation areas that we hope to visit this year. In a few months, I will earn the dubious privilege of being able to by a “Lifetime Senior Pass” for the same $80 price of our annual pass. One of the few joys of aging.

Gwen in front of the lighthouse, camera at the ready.
Surf breaking at Yaquina Head

The lighthouse was restored in 2005 and is perched on a bluff surrounded by rock formations (and apparently good tidepools). This made for some dramatic views, including this huge eagle gazing over his domain.

This was taken with Gwen’s camera, and a long zoom lens which clearly captures the light differently than my Iphone.

The next morning we headed back home, making the transition from sunny blue skies to freezing mid winter morning fog. The quick trip was a big success – no problems with the van, and only a few items to add to the outfitting list. It’s nice to know that we have lots of options to explore the Oregon Coast starting only an hour from home.