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There's something spectacular about the north Pacific coastline. Okay, there are innumerable spectacular things... but the sum of them all brings one to a unique place of expansive wonder. The seemingly boundless sea invites you to breathe your wishes out over the waves. (Of course, onshore winds might blow them right back into your face, but don't think that this obliterates their potency.) And while it's true that fog, rain, wind or a tumultuous combination of the three might obscure the sweeping views attainable on clearer days, to experience the full force of a tempestuous coastal storm is an exhilarating experience of its own. Here are some of our favorite viewpoints from which to appreciate all that the capacious coast has to offer.
Follow Coxcomb drive in Astoria and wind your way up to a parking area ($1 fee). Stop here, or climb 164 spiraling stairs to the top of the historic column. This expanded vista includes the Astoria-Megler bridge spanning the Columbia, mountains to the south and east, Youngs Bay and Youngs River Valley, the Port of Astoria and the sweet Pacific.
Ecola State Park
The north end of Cannon Beach holds an incredible pocket of lush temperate rainforest. Immediately inside the park ($5 day use fee) lies Ecola Point, with Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach visible to the south. Birds and sea lions are seen (and heard) hanging out on offshore rocks, while Roosevelt Elk often graze in the meadow and Bald Eagles frequent the skies overhead. A beautiful winding drive through the park will deliver you to Indian Beach. Here, surfers maneuver through the waves flanked by a magnificent rock arch and the distant Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.
An observation deck near the south jetty on Clatsop Spit gives the perfect vantage for watching ships navigate the treacherous Columbia River bar. Situated at the northernmost point in Oregon, this is one of the most astounding places to witness coastal storms. Platforms near Swash Lake and overlooking Trestle Bay offer more subdued--but no less majestic--panoramas of birds and other wildlife.
Primed for an arduous stroll? Find the trailhead on Highway 101 just south of Cannon Beach; 3 uphill miles will bring you to the peak of Neahkahnie mountain. If the skies cooperate, you'll be rewarded with exceptional views of Neahkahnie Beach, the lovely little town of Manzanita and the curving coastline extending to the mouth of the Nehalem River. If you're not up for the hike, several pullouts along Highway 101 offer opportunities to step out of your vehicle and step into position for some breathtaking panoramas.
The west end of Broadway in Seaside culminates in a roundabout encircling a commemorative statue of Lewis & Clark. This perspective includes the famous Seaside Promenade, a 1.5-mile path paralleling the ocean, as well as Tillamook Head, Seaside beach and the ocean beyond. Also available: people-watching!
Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint
At the north end of the Three Capes Scenic Route you'll find Cape Meares, complete with wheelchair accessible paths, the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon's largest Sitka Spruce and a lighthouse built in 1889. Two viewing decks provide excellent opportunities for spotting birds nesting offshore and migrating whales. Don't forget your binoculars!