I woke up at 6am to see the “famous” Dory Fleet put into the sea (Pacific City has no harbor, and its fishing fleet of flat-bottomed dories puts in from car-towed trailers on the beach), but a peek out our window showed no boats at all, so I went back to bed.
Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda
(again, this is a long post with a lot of photos – be warned!)
Waking again at a more civilized hour of 7:30, we made coffee and went for a low-tide tidepooling walk on the beach. This wasn’t the best tidepooling I’ve done by any means, but the minus tide made for a lot of critter-viewing, with a great many mussels, barnacles, starfish, and anemonies (how the heck to you spell that anyways?).
Morning moon over Cape Kiwanda
We checked out of our hotel and headed 10’ish miles south for breakfast at the recommended (by both my mother & the good people at Chowhound) Otis Cafe, which turned out to be excellent. Continuing south, we stopped for a little antiquing at a nice collective in Lincoln City (which otherwise looked to be an uninteresting tourist-trap sort of town).
Common Murres (Urea aalge) at Boiler Bay
Looking north from Boiler Bay
South of Lincoln City we stopped at the Boiler Bay overlook, in hopes of spotting the pod of whales that call it home year-round. Although we saw none, the bird-watching and scenery were both good. Avians seen included many Common Murres, several Pigeon Guillemots, a dozen or so Brown Pelicans, Western Gulls, my first Heermann’s Gulls of the year, and American Crows.
Per my mom’s suggestion we stopped at Cape Foulweather (gotta love that name), which consists of a gift shop perched high on a cliff. The gifts on offer were the same sort we’d seen everywhere else so far, however, the building had fantastic views of the coastline to the north and south.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area was our next destination, and one of the only ones that required an entrance fee ($6, if I recall correctly). The signage said that the lighthouse parking lot was full and to park at the interpretive center, which we did.
Although there turned out to be parking at the lighthouse anyways, I was glad we parked where we did, since the short (quarter mile) walk to the lighthouse afforded good birding and was very pretty.
Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) nesting at Yaquina Head
A great many gulls, Pigeon Guillemots, and Brant’s Cormorants were on the water and rock outcrops, and some volunteers at an overlook (who happened to have the exact same spotting scope I have) let us get a great look at a colony of Common Murres just offshore, as well as a nesting pair of Black Oystercatchers in a crevice.
Common Murres (Uria aalge) at Yaquina Head
The lighthouse had a long’ish line waiting to walk to the top, with a 30-minute wait estimate, so we gave that a pass and walked to the tip of Yaquina Head, where a large (and fragrant) colony of Common Murres sat just offshore. It was quite blustery here, however, so we didn’t linger too long, and walked back to the car.
Brandt’s Cormorants (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) nesting at Yaquina Head
At another time and on a calmer & clearer day, I would love to spend much more time in this area – they have a few miles of trails which look like they’d be fun to explore, and the natural setting is beautiful.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Not far south of Yaquina Head, we turned off to drop by the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This was a very pretty and unusually-architected lighthouse, but there was no reason to linger long after admiring it and the nice views of the lovely bridge spanning Yaquina Bay in nearby Newport.
Yaquina Bay Bridge
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is in Newport, reportedly modeled after the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium, and that was our next stop. It’s indeed a very nice aquarium, considerably smaller than Monterey’s, but with well-done exhibits, and a lot of open-air areas, which was nice.
Tufted Puffin, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, and Rhinocerous Auklet at the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Seabird Aviary. Click for larger images.
Our favorites were the jellyfish room, the seabird aviary, which contained Tufted Puffins, Rhinocerous Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, and Common Murres. The former two are birds I’d never seen, and the latter two birds I’d never seen anywhere near this close. The Tufted Puffins, several in breeding plumage, were lovely indeed, and it was easy to see where they got their nickname of “sea parrots,” what with their wild plumage and bills.
“Passages of the Deep” at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The “passages of the deep” exhibit, an underwater walkway, was interesting as well, but was also very crowded with noisy and running children.
Japanese Spider Crab at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Outside, an exhibit of endangered Snowy Plovers was pretty good (the little buggers are difficult to spot, even when they’re captive!), and the sea otters were very cute, frolicking and playing.
Sea Otter at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
After the aquarium, we attempted to have lunch at chowhound recommendation Shark’s, but they weren’t open, even though their sign said they should have been open for half an hour. Oh well. Plan B was to eat at Quimby’s, Sunset Magazine’s #5 in their list of the top 10 fish and chips in the west. Neither Sarah nor I thought it deserved to be on anyone’s list, however, and after lunch, we continued southward.
Our last stop for the day was Heceta Head, yet another lighthouse. This one was closed by the time we arrived, but we asked the rangers who were emptying the parking permit machine and they said it was fine to hike up to the lighthouse (it’s about a 0.3mi walk up a fireroad), so we did.
Heermann’s Gull (Larus hermanni) at Heceta Head
The lighthouse itself wasn’t terribly exceptional, but there were a great many birds on the offshore rocks and in the bay: Surf Scoters, Western Gulls, Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants, Common Murres, Heermann’s Gulls, Pigeon Guillemots, and Brown Pelicans, all in large numbers. We also saw several Western Grebe, a Turkey Vulture, American Robin, Steller’s Jay, White-crowned Sparrow, and an American Crow.
Keeper’s House at Heceta Head, now a B&B
The former lighthouse keeper’s house, a pretty wooden building, is now a (rather expensive) B&B – what a fabulous place to stay it would be, but at well over $200/night, I’m not likely to find out anytime soon.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
From Heceta Head, we wound our way south into Florence, which we discovered is an extremely long and skinny town. Gas check: $2.77/gal (full serve). Our hotel, the Lighthouse Inn, was a funky old roadhouse. The price was very right ($70/night), but it was a little loud, both from nearby Hwy 101 and the other hotel guests, who were not noisy themselves, but the thin walls did little to dampen noise.
We snacked on cheese and meat products we’d purchased the previous day and retired fairly early.
- Day 1 – SF to Ashland, OR
- Days 2, 3, 4 – Portland, OR
- Day 5 – Portland, OR to Pacific City, OR
- Day 6 – Pacific City, OR to Florence, OR <– You are here!
- Day 7 – Florence, OR to Gold Beach, OR
- Day 8 – Gold Beach, OR to Eureka, CA
- Day 9 – Eureka, CA to San Francisco