The stretch of highway from Brookings  to Port Orford  is known as the “fabulous 50 miles.” Some consider the section of coastline just north of Brookings to be the most scenic in Oregon —and one of the most dramatic meetings of rock and tide in the world. The offshore rock formations and winding roadbed hundreds of feet above the surf invite comparison to Europe’s Amalfi Drive.
The “fabulous 50” sobriquet is perhaps most apt in the first dozen miles north of Brookings, encompassed by Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. You’ll want to have a camera close at hand and a loose schedule when you make this drive, because you’ll find it hard not to pull over again and again, as each photo opportunity seems to outdazzle the last.
Of the 11 named viewpoints that have been cut into the highway’s shoulder, the following are especially recommended (all viewpoints are marked by signs on the west side of U.S. 101 and are listed from north to south).
Near the north end of Boardman Park, a short walk down the hillside trail leads you to the Arch Rocks viewpoint, where an immense boomerang-shaped basalt archway juts out of the water about a quarter mile offshore. This site has picnic tables within view of the monolith.
A few miles south, the sign for Natural Bridges Cove seems to front just a forested parking lot. However, the paved walkway at the south end of the lot leads to a spectacular overlook. Below, several rock archways frame an azure cove. This feature was created by the collapse of the entrance and exit of a sea cave. A steep, winding trail through giant ferns and towering Sitka spruce and Douglas fir takes you down for a closer look. Thimbleberry (a sweet but seedy raspberry) is plentiful in late spring.
As in similar forests on the south coast, it’s important to stay on the trail. The rain forest–like biome is exceptionally fragile, and the soil erodes easily when the delicate vegetation is damaged.
Thomas Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Oregon  (345 feet above the water) as well as the highest north of San Francisco, has been used as a silent star in many TV commercials. A parking lot at the south end of the bridge marks a trailhead down. Do not take the path you see closest to the bridge; it’s too steep. At the south end of the lot, the true trail eventually leads down to a view of the bridge on one side and miles of coast on the other. The offshore rock formations are especially interesting.
From here hikers can access the Indian Sands Trail, ending up in pine-rimmed dunes and a sandstone bluff high above the sea.
House Rock was the site of a World War II air-raid sentry tower that sits hundreds of feet above whitecaps pounding the rock-strewn beaches. To the north, you’ll see one of the highest cliffs on the coast, Cape Sebastian . A steep circuitous trail lined with salal goes down to the water. The path begins behind the Samuel Boardman monument on the west end of the parking lot. The sign to the highest viewpoint in Boardman Park is easy to miss, but look for the turnout that precedes House Rock, called Cape Ferrelo (for Juan Cabrillo’s navigator, who sailed up much of the West Coast in 1543).