Otter Crest Loop
The rocky bluffs of this coastal stretch take on an even more dramatic aspect as you leave the highway at the Otter Crest Loop, a winding three-mile section of the old Coast Highway, two miles south of Depoe Bay.
From atop Cape Foulweather, the visibility can extend 40 miles on a clear day. The view south to Yaquina Head and its lighthouse is a photographer’s fantasy of headlands, coves, and offshore monoliths. Bronze plaques in the parking lot tell of Captain Cook naming the 500-foot-high headland during a bout with storm-tossed seas on March 7, 1778. Comic relief from the coast’s parade of historical plaques comes with another tablet bearing the inscription, “On this site in 1897, nothing happened.”
The Lookout gift shop on the north side of the promontory is a good place to buy Japanese fishing floats for a few bucks. The million-dollar view from inside the shop is easily one of the most spectacular windows on the ocean to be found anywhere.
Another mile south, in the hamlet of Otter Rock, you’ll find another of the Oregon coast’s several diabolically named natural features, the Devil’s Punchbowl. The urn-like sandstone formation, filled with swirling water, has been sculpted by centuries of waves flooding into what had been a cave until its roof collapsed. The inexorable process continues today, thanks to the ebb and flow of the Pacific through two openings in the cauldron wall.
A state park viewpoint gives you a ringside seat for this frothy confrontation between rock and tide. When the water recedes, you can see purple sea urchins and starfish in the tide pools of the Marine Gardens 100 feet to the north.
To the south of the Punchbowl vantage point are picnic tables and a wooden walkway down to the beach. Close by in the tiny Otter Rock you’ll find a small Mo’s restaurant (122 1st St., 541/765-2442, 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $4–16). Next door, the Flying Dutchman Winery (915 1st St., 541/765-2553, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) makes limited batches of handcrafted wines from grapes grown in southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley (grapes won’t ripen on the coast).
Back on U.S. 101, a mile’s drive south brings you to Beverly Beach State Park.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel