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Travels with Brian

Travel staffer Brian Cantwell, his wife and their two cats traversed the Oregon shore in a rented motorhome. Read their adventures here.

April 12, 2010 at 8:50 AM

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Gotta love the Oregon coast -- and its parks

Posted by Brian Cantwell

Looking toward Manzanita from a Highway 101
pullout on Neahkahnie Mountain. Doesn't
get much better.

If you're pondering a camping destination for the summer, consider this fact, which I came to recognize somewhere between the long, curving bridge above the trees in Oswald West State Park and the turnoff for Nehalem Bay: The Oregon coast has a boatload of state parks.

Along the roughly 340-mile Pacific coastline of Oregon, a quick count of state parks and recreation sites on our National Geographic waterproof road map and travel guide showed at least 64, from Astoria to Brookings -- 18 with campgrounds.

I've driven most of America's Pacific Coast, from Neah Bay to San Diego, and for my money this stretch of rugged, saltwashed Oregon is the most scenic and visitor friendly coastline in the West. Love Big Sur? Sure. But even after the peak experience of Ecola's pelican-crowded sea stacks, or the whale-watching pullouts along Highway 101 on the goat-walk edge of Neahkahnie Mountain, the Oregon coast just keeps on giving and giving.

Young visitors scan the beach by the century-old shipwreck of the
Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park, one of 18 Oregon
coastal parks with camping.

Visitor-friendly, especially, when you realize there's a state-maintained park or public access site on the average of every five miles along meandering 101. And along the more populous northern stretch, it feels more like every two miles, we noticed as we lumbered southward Sunday toward our campsite destination of Beachside State Park, south of Waldport.

So not only is this a coastline crowded with dramatic sights such as Haystack Rock (all three of them, scattered down the coast), beachfront cottages with fishing floats hanging off the eaves, bayou-like lakes with floating carpets of lilypads, and fir trees with ZZ Top beards of moss and lichen, it's also accessible and easily enjoyed by everyone. Whether you're driving a 50-foot Mary Kay-edition landyacht or a rattly old Chevy LUV pickup with a pup tent in the back.

What's more, most of the campgrounds feature free hot showers, many have yurts for rent, and even a full hookup site won't cost you more than $28 in the peak summer season at the most popular campground (or about $21 for a tent site) -- just down the road from hotels that might charge $200 a night. Got to give Oregon credit for keeping all those state parks open in tough times. It gives lots of folks a close-to-home vacation option that's hard to beat.

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