Winter is on its way. It’s starting to get chilly here at Guaranty RV, but that won’t keep us from jumping in our RVs and hitting the highways, because Oregon has some of the best winter camping available in the nation. The Oregon Coast is our favorite place to be in November and December. It’s the perfect time to appreciate the rugged beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the rocky coastline that our state is famous for. It’s also the best time to visit some of our favorite campgrounds—not only can we get the choice campsites, but with a little careful planning, we can also enjoy some of the best small towns and natural wonders Oregon has to offer. Fortunately for us, Junction City is the perfect starting point for a road trip to the coast. That’s why we’re dedicating this blog to one of our favorite winter RV road trips on the central coast.
If you’ve never been to the Oregon Coast in the winter, you’re missing out. Whether you’re looking for winter storm watching, agate hunting, holiday activities, whale watching or a misty hike in an old growth forest, this is the place to be. We’ve chosen Florence, Bandon, Yachats and Newport for our Winter 2015 Oregon Coast Road Trip.
Getting to Florence from Junction City is an easy 60-mile drive for RVers. Located at the mouth of the Siuslaw River and just north of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, this coastal town offers a charming, historical Old Town with restaurant and shopping options, as well as dunes, beaches and one of the most photographed lighthouses in the nation. Winter is a great time to visit. If you’re looking for some holiday cheer, be sure to plan your road trip so that you’re in Florence on December 7, 8, 14 or 15, so that you can participate in the 18th Annual Victorian Christmas Open House at Heceta Head Lighthouse. As well as live holiday music, treats and warm drinks, the lighthouse will be open for night tours. This is one of the few times the public has access to the inside of the tower at night, so don’t miss this opportunity!
If you’re planning to be on the coast later in December, plan your trip for the week of December 27 – 31 because it’s Winter Whale Watching Week and some of the best viewing spots are near Florence. The gray whales are making their migration from their feeding grounds in Alaska to the lagoons where they give birth in Baja California, Mexico. At this time of year, you can expect about 30 whales to pass the coastline every hour. During the 2014 Whale Watching Week, 1,245 gray whales were spotted and documented by volunteers just like you. Oregon: The People’s Coast is a great resource for finding the best places to spot the whales and they have sites already mapped out for you. Some of the sites also have volunteers on hand to answer questions and help you spot whale spouts. One of the best sites is the Sea Lion Caves turnout, between Florence and Yachats. And while you’re there, be sure to take the elevator down into the caves to see the sea lions that overwinter there.
Where to Stay— Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park This is one of our favorite state park campgrounds. It includes two lakes within the park as well as two miles of sand dunes between the park and the ocean. Woahink Lake has a public boat ramp and is a popular spot to scuba dive, and if you’re traveling with your canoe or kayak, you’ll love Cleawox Lake as well. Honeyman State Park has approximately 45 full-hookup RV sites and 120 electrical sites with water. Four campsites are accessible to campers with disabilities. There is an RV dump station and you can buy firewood on site.
From Florence, either turn south on Highway 101 and head to Bandon, or you can choose to go north to Yachats. Better yet, make time to visit both; you’ll be glad you did.
Located just an hour-and-a-half south of Florence, Bandon is the Cranberry Capital of our state and was named by Yahoo! Travel as “ One of the Coolest Small Towns in America.” Whether you’re into golf, nature or good food, you’re going to love Bandon. Depending on the season, there are countless opportunities for bird-watching, crabbing, fishing, storm-watching, mushroom-picking and more. Foodies will love all the fresh seafood and Oregon-brewed beers, and should be sure to take a tour of the Face Rock Creamery. Established in 2013 in the old Bandon Cheese factory, the Creamery gives you the opportunity to watch master cheesemakers handcraft gourmet Oregon cheeses and sample the results.
Make a point of being in the Bandon area at least one night between November 26 and December 31, in order to check out the Shore Acres State Park holiday light show. Located about 25 miles northwest of Bandon on Cape Arago Highway, people travel from all over the state to see this not-to-be-missed event. As well as a fabulous display of light sculptures—made from at least 325,000 mostly LED holiday lights—you’ll get refreshments in the beautifully decorated Garden House and entertainment in the Performance Pavilion.
Where to Stay— Bullards Beach State Park We love this state park! It’s tucked among shore pines and set back from the coastal winds, making it ideal for winter camping. It has easy access to the beach, the historic Coquille River Lighthouse, the Coquille River and the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (be sure to bring your binoculars). Bullards Beach State Park has approximately 100 full-hookup RV sites and more than 82 electrical sites with water. Six campsites are accessible to campers with disabilities. There is an RV dump station on site.
Head north on Highway 101 to reach another gem on the Oregon Coast. This is a true coastal road, complete with plenty of curves and amazing vistas, so take your time, enjoy the view and be ready to fall in love with the village of Yachats (pronounced Yá-hots). It’s just 25 miles north of Florence. Along the way, be sure to stop at the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This stunning site is usually packed with tourists in the summer, but in the winter you’ll be able to relax and appreciate the sheer beauty. The Captain Cook Trail is wheelchair accessible and skirts the shoreline. Try to take this trail at low tide for the most dramatic views.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Yachats is decorated for the holidays and offers a month long series of festive music, food and events. If you’re a music lover, December 11 and 12 is the time to point your RV toward this lovely village. The Winter Celebration Opening Ceremony will be December 11 and will be followed by a performance of the Sweet Adelines. On December 12 and 13, you can catch the Pacific Wind Ensemble. You’ll also find excellent seafood, coffee shops, bookstores, gift shops and more. If you’re lucky enough to be in Yachats after a winter storm, head to the beach and look for agates and other ocean-borne treasures.
Where to Stay— Sea Perch RV Resort This park includes both oceanfront and oceanview RV sites that will accommodate motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers (no truck campers, tent trailers or conversion vans). All 24 RV sites are equipped with water and electricity; sewer hookups; 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical hookups; satellite TV; picnic tables; a Sea Perch Club key card and beach access. The 3,000 square-foot Sea Perch Club will provide you with an exercise room, full kitchen, game room, big screen TV, second floor ocean viewing loft, showers and a coin-operated laundry.
Keep driving north on Highway 101 to enjoy Newport, home of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Centerand historic Nye Beach. Head to Newport’s Bay Boulevard for seafood, shopping and art galleries, and if you’re there in the evening on December 5, be sure to take a warm drink with you to the bayfront and kick off the holiday season with the Lighted Boat Parade. If you’re a music lover, stay for the Newport Symphony Orchestra’s December 12 – 13 Spectacular. (Psst… The orchestra’s resident conductor is David Ogden Stiers, who you might remember as the actor who played Major Charles Emerson Winchester on M*A*S*H.)
Where to Stay— Beverly Beach State Park This is another of our favorite state park campgrounds. Located five miles north of Newport, it has approximately 53 full hook-up RV sites (27 with cable TV) and 75 electrical sites with water. These are first come, first served October through March 14. Three campsites are accessible to campers with disabilities. Beverly Beach has flush toilets and hot showers. There is an RV dump station and you can buy firewood on site.
We can’t say enough about RVing on the Oregon Coast in the winter. Stop in at our Travel Center and see us before you head west; fill up your propane tank and get your supplies for the road. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Happy RVing!
Photo: Randy Kashka