29. Cape Arago
Should you be clear down in North Bend and pass a highway sign humbly marked “Ocean Beaches,” you’d be wise to take a detour. Though 15 miles seems a long way to drive when beaches flank the rest of Highway 101, the sublime parks of the Cape Arago peninsula are among the best in the state. To access these seaside gems, pass through the marina in the village of Charleston, turn right off Route 240 onto Boat Basin Drive, and then turn left on Coos Head Loop. Keep right at the fork and you’ll be heading up the promontory of Coos Head. Pop out at points here and there to get the lay of the land: the broad sands of Bastendorff Beach; the defunct Cape Arago lighthouse on Chief Island; and, still stuck in the sand, the last 200-foot section of the New Carissa, which ran aground here in 1999.
Once you’ve had your fill of the views, continue south to the beach at Sunset Bay State Park, a great place to let the kids frolic in the surf, since the sheer rock walls diminish both wind and waves. But save a bit of your energy for Shore Acres, about a mile down the road, where you’ll find an observation building that was once the site of a cliff-top mansion. Although the home is gone, its lush gardens have been restored, and if you walk behind the lily pond and open the wooden gate, you’ll discover a hidden path leading to a concealed beach called Simpson Beach, which is neatly hemmed in by dramatic, sand-colored cliffs.
Back in the car, head another mile south to the overlooks at Simpson Reef, where, binoculars braced against the railing, you can watch northern elephant seals and sea lions. You may even catch a glimpse of one of Shell Island’s adorable harbor seal pups, born between March and June. Sunset Bay State Park, oregonstateparks.org; Shore Acres State Park, shoreacres.net
30. Langlois Market
In the tiny town of Langlois (pronounced, much to the fury of one local French émigré, “LANG-loy”), you’ll find what just might be the best general store in the state, fully provisioned with popcorn, flyswatters, cranberry wine, some good-looking steaks, and, most important, its self-proclaimed “famous” hot dogs. The short, plump beef franks from Hills Meat Co in Pendleton are diligently—though inexplicably—peeled from their snappy outer casings, then blistered brown under heat lamps. Best taken in the house-prescribed style, with the homemade sweet-hot mustard and sliced icebox pickles, they’re the single best meal on the coast that can be had for only $1.99. 48444 Hwy 101; 541-348-2476
31. Humbug Picnic Area
You’ll encounter plenty of opportunities to spend your dollars on myrtlewood products on your coast travels: Myrtlewood, which you’ll find in the countless salad bowls and sculpted knickknacks sold in tourist shops, is prized for its color variations, picked up from minerals in the soil. Few get to see the graceful, broadleaf evergreens, however, which typically grow farther inland—a good reason to seek out the thriving stand of trees at the picnic area located on the east side of 1,748-foot-tall Humbug Mountain. Pluck one of the leaves and smash it in your hand to release a fragrance of camphor and root beer, a scent that will linger long after your trip ends. Park at the Humbug day-use area lot.