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Road Trip: Oregon’s Scenic Route 101

Oregon’s stretch of the legendary U.S. Highway 101 offers a stunning drive filled with plenty of interesting and breathtaking sights as it hugs the coastline for over 300 miles. The amount of time it will take you to drive the Oregon Coast Highway is up to you because you’ll want to stop plenty of times along the way. Here are some of the top points of interest to put on your itinerary:

Cape Blanco State Park

Port Orford

This state park offers beach access, hiking trails and picnic areas, but the real highlights are the tours of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, which occupies the westernmost point in Oregon, and the historic Hughes House, a restored Victorian farmhouse built in 1898. Tours of the lighthouse cost $2.00 for adults, and Hughes House tours are free, but donations are gratefully accepted to help fund restoration and maintenance of this historic home.

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Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Reedsport

Imagine 40 miles of windswept sand dunes, some towering as high as 500 feet. That’s what you’ll find at this recreation area that is popular with Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts.

In addition to the dunes, the area offers “tree islands,” beaches, hiking, paddling, picnicking and wildlife viewing, including excellent birding opportunities.

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Heceta Head Lighthouse  Heceta Head Lighthouse

Florence

To find a picture-perfect example of a historic lighthouse, look no further than the Heceta Head Lighthouse which, after an extensive renovation project, has been restored to the way it looked when it first went into service in 1894. This working lighthouse beams 21 miles out to sea and is the brightest light on the Oregon coast. Many believe it is one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world and it is also one of the most photographed. Docents offer guided tours of the Keeper’s House during the summer months. Both the lighthouse and the Keeper’s House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo credit Curt Peters of Digital Dunes Photography in Florence, Oregon.

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Oregon Coast Aquarium

Newport

One of the state’s top tourist attractions, Oregon Coast Aquarium is a world-class marine education center that occupies 23 acres on Yaquina Bay. Now in its 25th year, the aquarium is dedicated to creating unique and engaging experiences that connect visitors to the Oregon Coast and inspire ocean conservation. It is ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. and also plays an active role in conservation and animal rehabilitation efforts.

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Whale, Sea Life and Sharks Museum 

Depoe Bay

The museum showcases Oregon's summer resident gray whales, and contains a whale, dolphin and porpoise room; a shark room, a tropical ocean room, an intertidal display with common and worldwide invertebrates, a seal, sea lion and sea otter room; a seabird and shorebird room and a theater room. The admission price of $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children ages 3-12 can be applied toward a whale watching eco excursion with marine biologist Carrie Newell.

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Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Oceanside

Cape Meares OregonThis scenic spot offers sweeping views from a vantage point over 200 feet above the Pacific, and is the home of one of the largest colonies of nesting sea birds on the continent. Bald eagles are also frequently seen here and peregrine falcons are known to have nested here. The park also offers daily tours of a 1890s lighthouse from April 1 through October 31, and there are over three miles of hiking trails. Whale migrations can be viewed from here in the winter and spring, and during the summer, resident whales, seals and sea lions can also be spotted.

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Cannon Beach

Cannon BeachCanon Beach

Thanks to dramatic shoreline formations like Haystack Rock. Cannon Beach has been called one of the world’s most beautiful places. This scenic area offers some of the most spectacular viewpoints on the Oregon coast and a visit to nearby Ecola State Park is well worth the $5.00 day use fee. Be sure to visit the quintessential beach town of Cannon Beach with its picturesque walkways, shops, restaurants and galleries.

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Oregon Film Museum

Astoria

The Oregon Film Museum is housed in the old Clatsop County Jail, the site of the famous opening jail break scene in the move The Goonies. This unique attraction celebrates the art and legacy of films and filmmaking in the State of Oregon which includes such classics as The Great Race, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Paint Your Wagon, Animal House and Kindergarten Cop. Museum visitors can even re-enact famous scenes in one of three distinct sets, edit their films and have their mug shots taken to add to the museum’s gallery of prisoners.

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