Take a land-locked country girl and show her a mighty ocean and she becomes mesmerized.
That girl was me. I was born and raised in a northeastern state that did not have a coastline, except for a bit along one of the Great Lakes.
My neck of the woods was rural, outside a small town, farther out from a big city. Sure, creeks, ponds, some lakes within driving distance existed there, and we crossed over rivers daily, but nothing compared to getting a glimpse of the sea.
My husband showed me the ocean – the Atlantic – for the first time before we said our I do’s. We showed our young daughters the ocean – again the Atlantic – for the first time several years later.
When we moved from the land-locked Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, we reveled in the fact that we lived about an hour from the massive Pacific Ocean, where our last-born, our son, caught his first ocean view.
After settling in our new altered state (“Oregon, Things Look Different Here” – once a state slogan from the Oregon Department of Tourism) in the 1990’s, we were drawn back time and time again to that state’s Pacific coast.
The coast – not called the shore or the beach as we named oceanside in the east – became one of the places we always took those who came to visit us, from two sets of Midwestern friends to Papa’s mother and aunt who flew across the country to see us in our new home to my parents and sister who drove a very long way to see the west and us.
And each time I couldn’t get enough of viewing the ebb and flow of those Pacific Ocean waves along the rugged coast and capturing as many photographs as possible with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.
Our first few ocean-side visits took place in summer or early fall months, and native Oregonians advised us to experience the Pacific in winter when it was often stormy, the waves violently slammed into the rocks, and when you might catch sight of southward migrating whales.
So that’s what we did. During our first year of residence there, we traveled to the coast shortly after Christmas to spend a few days. Our destination was a snug little cabin in a quaint harbor town called Depoe Bay, located on US Route 101. This town’s claim to fame is being known as the “world’s smallest navigable harbor.”
The late December weather was rainy and chilly, but it didn’t deter our mission. We braved the elements to embark on a whale-watching cruise, but the only thing we encountered was a couple cases of seasickness, no whales in sight.
On another day, we watched diligently from the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, a state parks-staffed visitor center which stands next to the harbor entrance, to catch sight of the migrating whales, but still came up empty.
But our sightseeing certainly did not prove devoid and involved some first-time experiences for us. And I took plenty of photos to prove it.
Driving along the Oregon Coast on Highway 101 is breathtaking. The rocky coastline with Pacific waves crashing upon it does not disappoint viewers and travelers will find themselves stopping at every spot they can just to see the view.
One of the fascinating sights we observed while driving from Depoe Bay to Newport, Oregon, was located within a state natural area called the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a piece of land that protrudes into the ocean. This amazing place is actually a hollow rock formation shaped just like a gigantic punch bowl.
I imagine the devil got added to it because during stormy winter weather, waves slam into this bowl-like formation swirling, churning, and foaming away as if the brew inside is downright wicked. Speculation is this formation might have been created when a roof collapsed over two sea caves and subsequently was shaped by waves over time.
Shortly after we ate lunch at a picnic area near the Devil’s Punch Bowl, we experienced our first visit to a lighthouse. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located north of Newport, also fascinated us. For more information about this Oregon lighthouse, read my blog post here.
In Newport, we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium, newly opened in 1992, for the first time. What a delightful place it proved to be for our young family as we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor exhibits.
Situated along Yaquina Bay, this aquarium, open daily from 10 am – 6 pm, is now considered world-class and ranked among the top 10 aquariums in North America.
Check out the aquarium’s live camera (sharks, sea birds, or otters) here.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium became well-known in the years 1996-1998 when an orca whale named Keiko, star of the movie Free Willy, called it home before he was released to the ocean once more in Iceland.
Our trip down a portion of the Oregon Coast wasn’t our last because this area of the Pacific Ocean continued to compel us to visit.
During the years we resided in the Pacific Northwest, we traveled the length of the Oregon coastline through the southern part of the state and into northern California, but I’ll highlight that in yet another Tuesday Tour blog post.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~Jacques Cousteau