(Photo Above) – Taking a break, while on the meandering beach trail to Devil’s Churn, the sea pines nicely frame the view, with the dark brown and black lava rock in the distance at the foot of the densely forest-covered cliffs and mountains.
Clean and crisp air, lush emerald green trees, the freshest produce, seafoods and meats, delicate yet rich pinot noirs and unique craft beers—these are just some of the many reasons that always seem to draw us back to the Pacific Northwest.
We chose the tiny town of Yachats for our little getaway (pronounced Yah-Hats) since it was located reasonably close to Portland, and offered easy access to some of the best coastal hiking spots along this beautiful, rugged and dramatic coast. I will definitely need to return to further explore the beaches, specifically the ones with large creature-like boulders spread out, looking like large slumbering animals, as I’ve seen in photos.
Heading southwest from Portland, Yachats is approximately a 3 hour leisurely drive. Mainly the duration is due to the traffic lights since the roads are small and one to two-laned, but it is filled with lovely views of spanning golden fields, passing through wine country including the cute little town of Dundee and Newburg and organized rows of grape vines covering the rounded hillsides, to dense forests.
We drove south west on the 5, then the 99W, all the while keenly taking in the stores, shops, the cars, the people as we typically do whenever visiting a new place. I think you can tell a lot about a region by the lay out–the shop types etc, just by observing. This is what we enjoy doing when we travel–taking in nuggets of information, observation to build a knowledge a theory, an overall deeper understanding of a place, a people, a culture. Infinite dimensions to explore in this world.
We saw many cute little drive-through coffee huts–vibrantly signed or cleverly named. I assume these establishments are so popular because the majority of the year is rainy or stormy weather, and so people are less likely to want to park, then run in the rain to wait in line for a cup of good coffee (and good coffee in cold weather regions, northwest seems to be a staple). Definitely a small town vibe.
(Above) – One of the beautiful views on our drive west to the Oregon Coast from Portland.
(Above) – One of several bridges on our drive south along the Pacific Coast Highway, this one goes right by the town of Newport.
STAY – Overleaf Lodge and Spa
We arrived at the Overleaf Lodge and Spa, which I selected for its can’t-beat-it location, perched right above a beautiful beach, just steps from our hotel room. Most of the rooms in this hotel have uninterrupted views of the moody ocean below, plus the room price also comes with a delicious daily breakfast buffet (and I mean more than just store-bought pastries) with homemade blueberry scones, fluffy and buttery, and rich satisfying mushroom and Gruyere quiche and good strong coffee.
Every morning after the delicious breakfast, we would step out and stroll along the coastal trail, enjoying the refreshingly-brisk sea air on our faces and watch the waves crash on the craggy rocks, worn smooth and rounded by years of pounding surf.
That is something definitely different from our San Diego beaches–the beaches in the Oregon coast (and what we observed even in northern California) are so dramatic–loud pounding powerful waves, hitting the rocks so hard that they splash high into the air. Even the color this time of year was dramatic- a moody greenish brown- indicative of the swirling turmoil of the currents – so unlike the more peaceful-looking blue waters down south. Watching the ocean here, I understand what they mean when they say “raw nature.” I love this difference though, these contrasts you notice when traveling as compared to your home–it makes each environment that much more vivid.
(Above) – Mirror-surfaced tide pools in rounded lava rock formations with sculptural pieces of driftwood looking like the sun-bleached bones of a dinosaur artfully dispersed throughout the beach–just steps from our hotel room. The lava rock reaches out to meet the pounding ocean waves, crevices worn into their reach, mesmerizing to watch as each wave rushed in, overflowing the edges and lapping onto the rocks themselves, before sucking back into the ocean and rushing back for another onslaught.
EAT – Ona Restaurant
We were eager to try the fresh local food and Ona was the perfect place for our first dinner. I would highly recommend to sit outside on their patio, which as you can see, has a perfect wide spanning view of the Yachats river meeting the ocean. No waves here, but the lazy lapping water drifting over sand bars as the tides rise and fall.
The hills beyond are filled with dense forest and the sky is filled with all sorts of birds. It is funny how when younger, I would think “man who goes bird watching?” It sounded so boring! But as we sat on the patio observing the different behaviors and cries of hawks or eagles (I am not going to even pretend I know what species of bird) and crows (my personal favorite ..I’m actually serious hehe), I realized how interesting it actually was to watch…well, birds!
(Above) – The patio where we ate at the restaurant Ona, with a beautiful view of the Yachats River meeting the sea and the foresty hills beyond.
(Above) – Gorgeous vivid and bright wild flowers were plentiful at all the restaurants in Yachats–Some of my favorite colors!
(Above) – Creamy garlicky crab chowder–velvety rich and satisfying
(Above) – One of our favorite Pinot Noirs that we tried on the trip–very rich in the “heavily extracted” style of Pinot.
(Above) – Chunky crab cakes (or cake heh), moist and unlike many crab cakes, filled with large fresh pieces of sweet crab meat pairing perfectly with their tartar sauce, lemon and picked red onion.
(Above) – Oyster shooters–Initially I was hesitant about ordering these because I’ve had oyster shooters and in my mind they were shots of hard alcohol perhaps covering the flavor of not so fresh oysters and doused in cocktail sauce–Not so here! The oysters were amazingly creamy, perfect light briney/seafood flavor with the perfect amount of house-made cocktail sauce and horse radish.
(Above) – Fresh greens–everything up here, produce included just tastes so fresh! Sweet seasonal tomatoes, cracker-crisp cucumbers and mixed greens.
(Above) – You want Fish N’ Chips? GET THEM HERE! Made from fresh halibut (plentiful up here), these were huge juicy flaky chunks of fish with a light perfectly crisp batter and paired wonderfully with non-traditional dipping sauces: A smokey aioli one and a fresh herby ranch style. This was paired with “Asian Slaw” which added a refreshing flavor dimension to the overall dish.
(Above) – Ah the piece de resistance..or something to that effect 🙂 I ordered the Chinook Salmon (“King Salmon”) – wild and locally caught–a vivid orange, tender buttery meat, with chanterelle mushrooms picked from the nearby forest floor, and satisfying hearty brown rice, and all together with a steamed artichoke (oh delicious and buttery!).
HIKE – PERPETUA
Located a quick 5 minute drive south from Yachats, we drove to the Perpetua Visitor Center, a beautiful facility with yet another gorgeous ocean view. There are numerous trails that branch out from this place, and so I’d recommend parking the car there ($5 bucks–and supports the park) for a lovely full day of coastal / forest hiking.
We started off with the St. Perpetua Trail, a perfect one to start with, since it is a more vigorous one, climbing to one of the highest points along the coast in a series of switchbacks in a forest of spruce trees, blackberry bushes and these blueberry-tasting bushes (thanks to the info at the visitor center, I then allowed my husband to eat the blue berries we saw growing along the trail. They were delicious, and a perfect little boost, since we neglected to bring any snack bars).
Then we headed down to explore the coastal trails that allowed us to explore, climbing over the rocks, Cook’s Chasm, Thor’s Well and numerous other fascinating landmarks. My favorite was Thor’s Well because it took years and years of waves pounding, eating away the rock below until there was a jutting piece above, and years of the waves splashing upwards into the jutting piece or rock, to eventually form a hole, which from above looks like a well that swells full and splashes up with each crashing wave.
Being in nature, as cliche as it may sound, really is soothing to the soul. You’re disconnected from the typical everyday, and you’re forced to rely on your senses, senses that have been lulled asleep by your predictable everyday routine and environment.
(Above) – The beginning of the St. Perpetua Trail–lush green forest. The switch backs reminded us of hiking up Mount Srd in Croatia, however we enjoyed this trail’s cool shaded greenness vs. the stark rockiness of the other one.
(Above) – Remnants of a fort built in WWII era, located at the top of the St. Perpetua Trail.
(Above) – Stepping out from the trail, a breathtaking view of the seemingly endless forests stretching as far as you can see.
(Above) – The gorgeous Pacific below–you can see the dark lava rock –round finger-like extensions into the surf.
(Above) – One of the trails, named fittingly the Spruce Trail, ends at a stately 500 year old Spruce tree. It is such a crazy feeling staring up the tree’s massive trunk and realizing that it was around long before the United States was formed, back in 1500s!
(Above) – Thor’s Well, filling up with white water–and it swells quickly shooting spray in the air.
(Above) – Cook’s Chasm–a narrow and very long crevice, perfectly shaped to build the momentum and force of each incoming wave until it explodes up.