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Boondocking Along the Middle Oregon Coast

| Updated Jul 29, 2013

cumminscreekI'm back at one of my favorite spots along the Pacific Coast Highway, and I'm going to stay here awhile. All the ingredients are in place – beautiful scenery, suitable supplies nearby, and a welcoming local environment that makes boondocking easy. I may spend weeks here – I did the last two years as we drove through the area, bumming up and down the shoreline.

Where I'm taking about is the middle Oregon coast south of the tiny seaside town of Yachats. One sure sign that this is a great place is that it's nowhere near any large towns – Waldport is maybe ten miles north, the slightly larger town of Newport another ten north of that, and Florence 20 miles to the south. Never heard of any of these? Good – that means I'm in the right place πŸ˜‰

Boondocking Along the Middle Oregon Coast 1
This is the view of the stretch of coastline I'm boondocking on from a 500 foot high headland, Cape Perpetua. It's sandy beaches interspersed with igneous headlands.

We came out to the coast along US Highway 20, smack into the northern part of the Seattle metro area, all 4.2 million peoples' worth of it. Looking for a better land-to-people ratio, we drove south into Oregon, but the northern part of the Oregon coast is too close to Portland, another megapolis, and it's all salt water taffy shops, helicopter rides, and posh B&Bs with no vacancy signs. I thought I was having a Florida flashback.

Drive an hour or two south down Highway 101, though and the β€œNO OVERNIGHT PARKING” signs festooning every oceanfront pulloutΒ  start to disappear. The big city stuff falls away, and by Tillamook you start seeing $1.65 a gallon propane at the farmer's co-op and farm machinery driving down the highway.Β  Once you get down to the Yachats area, people are actually glad to see you coming. There's not much business down here – a few summer cottages and some campgrounds – so the local merchants' smile when you walk in their store is genuine.

Sea urchins in the tide pools. The lava makes for great seaside exploration.
Sea urchins in the tide pools. The lava makes for great seaside exploration.

Oregon made some very wise land use decisions fifty-sixty years ago, and practically the whole coastline is state parks and national forest. Private property on the seaward side of the coastal highway is the exception rather than the rule, and the land use policy is all about public access. After seeing developers in my native Florida buy up chunks of oceanfront and actually move the coastal road inland to keep the riff-raff out of their gated communities, this is indeed a breath of fresh air.Β  Oregon also has a liberal boondocking policy – you can stay for 12 hours at any spot not otherwise posted, as long as it's outside a state park.Β  My kind of place πŸ˜‰

Cook's Chasm parking area. That's Cape perpetua in the background. Over the wall are lava outcrops, Thor's Well, sea caves, and the famous chasm.
Cook's Chasm parking area. That's Cape Perpetua in the background. Over the wall are lava outcrops, Thor's Well, sea caves, and the famous chasm. It's maybe 2-3 miles south of the town of Yachats.

My main overnight spot is called Cook's Chasm. Old lava flows to the ocean are all up and down the coast here, and at Cook's Chasm the lava has been eroded by wave action into caves and chasms – the waves really boom and spout out the blowholes of these when the surf's up and the tide is right. It's a large parking area on the ocean side of the highway, overlooking Thor's Well, a giant blowhole in an underwater cave that you can watch for hours as the waves come in and waters sloshes in and out of it. And the best part is – the waves are phosphorescent on moonless late summer nights. It's an eerie blue-green glow in the breakers – unforgettable. And this is where I spend the night – the daytime places are even more scenic.

Fiona enjoys the view (and the floor show by the local field mice) at one of the day stay areas, Ocean Beach
Fiona enjoys the view (and the floor show by the local field mice) at one of the day stay areas, Ocean Beach

South of Cook's Chasm are a series of day stay areas to which we decamp every morning – Neptune North and South, Stonefield Beach, Ocean Beach, Strawberry Hill, and Muriel Ponder Memorial.Β  These are administered by the state park system, which prefers you be in one of their campgrounds if you're going to spend the night, so it's day stay only for us. We just pick one at random, drive down there, set up the dishes, and watch the ocean, whales, and sea otters all day. As twilight falls, it's time to go back to Cook's Chasm, watch the sunset, eat dinner, wash dishes, have our tea, and then watch the phosphorescence and listen to the waves booming in the caves as we drift off to sleep.

Thor's Well erupting - part of our evening entertainment at Cook's Chasm.
Thor's Well erupting – part of our evening entertainment at Cook's Chasm. The glowing ocean comes later.

Logistics? There's a bread-milk-eggs store in Yachats, a real grocery store in Waldport, and a Walmart and Safeway for serious restocking in Newport.Β  Propane can be purchased at either Yachats or Waldport, and there's fresh water and a dump at Washburne State Park, ten miles south of us.Β  It's free – Oregon parks sometimes ask for donations, but they generally let people dump and get water at state parks even if they aren't camping there. A nice place, like I said. We average maybe 10-20 miles of driving a day when we're here, so a tank of gas lasts for two weeks easy. Our only real cost to stay here is the food we eat.

Like I said, we may stay here a while. Daytime highs are 70 or so, nighttime lows are 50ish, and it's sunny every day after a foggy dawn. I could get used to this.

RV Lifestyle

Published on 2013-07-29

53 Responses to “Boondocking Along the Middle Oregon Coast”

December 11, 2015at11:06 am, Matt Lockyer said:

Awesome post man, really found it useful. Are these 12 hour laws still standing? Thanks again!

January 30, 2015at2:43 pm, Randy van Vliet said:

Worth doing and boon docking for a bit with a 21 ft travel trailer in the middle of Feb, or is it a risk of deluge of rain and no visibility?

July 15, 2014at12:32 pm, Amy Summerfelt said:

Yes! Come and boondock here!!

July 15, 2014at9:36 am, Linda Peden said:

A timely share — I will be there in 2 weeks! Cape Perpetua is one of my favorite places. Tide pools, old growth forest, mountain top vistas, WWII history, hiking trails… it’s a great place!

July 14, 2014at9:19 pm, Catherine Massaro said:

Mmmmmm… The coast sounds really nice right a out now.

July 14, 2014at4:36 pm, Cindy Pownall Madden said:

Visited this state once! It’s beautiful someday would love to live there!!

July 14, 2014at10:25 am, Determinewho C said:

Beautiful picture.

June 02, 2014at9:48 pm, Pete Updike said:

Been there and done that and it is great!

June 02, 2014at11:03 am, Timothy Hampton said:

I was there many times when i was out in portland org. for a 9 month break from Calf, and Arz.>???

June 02, 2014at1:25 am, Dorothy Short Inglis said:

My summer hangout, though this year I’m on Cape Cod. Grew up on the Atlantic.

June 01, 2014at11:19 pm, Teresa Carr said:

Looks beautiful. …

June 01, 2014at10:03 pm, Tami Ingraham said:

my son lives there and I visit annually..

June 01, 2014at9:42 pm, Pat Mesic said:

I have spent the last two summers there, beautiful!!

June 01, 2014at8:20 pm, John O'Connell said:

Lived in that area for 6 years,,every other weekend,it was either the coast or the high desert.

June 01, 2014at7:48 pm, Elda Eller said:

This is a beautiful picture!

June 01, 2014at6:09 pm, Wallace Wanda said:

OMG ! beautiful and I will never see it except on here πŸ™‚

June 01, 2014at5:36 pm, Shelley Rosendale Blachuta said:

You are right where I want to be!! Love that area.

January 23, 2014at8:29 pm, Daljit Nagpal said:

Wow, that’s beautiful.

January 23, 2014at1:54 pm, Christine Andrada said:

Gold beach is nice too

January 23, 2014at5:18 pm, Campskunk said:

it is, christine – i wrote up the pistol river/gold beach stretch here:

January 23, 2014at12:00 pm, Jamee Vaughn said:

Looks like a beautiful spot to spend a week!!!!

January 23, 2014at11:33 am, Steve-Gaitha Athans said:

Mike you need to check out Bandon, OR if you guys havent all ready… πŸ˜‰

January 23, 2014at12:08 pm, Campskunk said:

i like Bandon – we sat in the park there where Face Rock is several times doing day stays on our way up and down the coast. we still can’t figure out where to boondock around there, though – the parks are all posted no overnight camping.

January 23, 2014at11:29 am, Pat Mesic said:

Thanks for the info, I will stay there next time I am down that way.

December 29, 2013at9:23 pm, Thom L. said:

Campskunk you are right!
I pass by that little gravel pull out (room for a couple class A’s anyway) on my daily commute. And as you said there is a time limit. The Sheriff department is just up the hill ~2 miles away and this is how they get to/from the “Office”…so it is watched closely. And yes, no scenic view, but if one is tired and doesn’t mind getting on the road within that 12 hour limit you are good to go πŸ™‚

December 29, 2013at4:09 pm, Thom L. said:

Greetings, I thought i’d chime in here since my wife and i live in Astoria. Unfortunately all the cities in the area (Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside) all have no-overnight-camping city ordinances and will tow at owners expense. There is no parking allowed in the parking lots of any of the big-box stores/etc. And the Walmart coming in summer of 2014 will have no-overnight-parking due to these ordinances (from what i’ve gathered in local news).

soooo… If you want to camp legally, i would recommend Cape Deception State Park across the river in Long Beach WA, or Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, or Nehalem State park about an hour south.

This time of year (after Labor Day weekend and before Memorial Day weekend) it is easy to find a campsite and the rates are off-season.

Happy Trails,

December 29, 2013at8:22 pm, Campskunk said:

i did a little research and there’s one bright spot in this dreary land of anti-RV ordinances: the Fort Clatsop Historical marker pullout, halfway between Astoria and Warrenton on 101. it’s not in any city limits, so the general 12 hour limit in any 24 applies. it’s not scenic, but at least you can spend the night there legally.

December 29, 2013at8:29 pm, Melissa said:

Thanks Campskunk! Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

December 29, 2013at8:27 pm, Melissa said:

Thanks Thom!

December 29, 2013at12:53 pm, Melissa said:

Hi Campskunk! Any experience with good places to boondock near Astoria on the northern Oregon coast? We’re looking to head out there from Portland to celebrate New Years in our GoodTimesVan (2006 Adventurous). Thanks!

December 29, 2013at3:12 pm, Campskunk said:

i was usually there in the summer and the north coast was too crowded for me, but this time of year it should be much better. i’d say just do the same thing i did- stay out of the parks and off private property, and move every 12 hours. i don’t know any particular places because all i ever did was drive through on the coastal highway.

August 29, 2013at7:32 pm, Thom L. said:

Thanks for the mid-oregon-coast boondock info Campskunk. My wife and i call Astoria our home (full time in a 38ft mobile suite) but once a month head out for a week long adventure in our van+…i had been trying to find some spots down the coast from us and you did the homework (and nice writeup) for us!

August 13, 2013at12:09 pm, Sue said:

I loved Oregon and thought it one of the prettiest places I’d been. I’d go back in a heart beat! Remind folks that there is a lot of history along the coast and it’s fun to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, too. But the scenery is the main draw and it is truly breathtaking!

July 31, 2013at7:34 pm, Debbie Broadstreet said:

Several years ago we volunteered at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center for 6 months (May through October). In return, we got a free RV site with full hookups, 50 amp service and a washer & dryer. We spent 4 hours each day at the Devils Churn watching gray whales, answering tourist questions and selling passes. Devils Churn is great because Kyleen sells espresso and hot dogs. We explored the whole Oregon coast while there. Awesome! There is a Fred Mayer Market Place (Kroger) just north of Florence with great diesel prices and gobs of supplies. The drive from Yachats to Florence is the most scenic 21 miles of the middle coast. This is our favorite place ever!

July 31, 2013at8:53 pm, Campskunk said:

we just drove that today- we’re down in North Bend getting our west coast dental cleanings and picking up a package from “home” at the UPS Store here. it’s a really amazing landscape – the forests come right down to the ocean, with the trees getting smaller and smaller as they approach the beach. the coastal road loops inland a hundred yards and suddenly you’re completely surrounded by giant spruce and fir trees. there are sand dunes too, which i avoid because of the ATV infestations, but they’re really beautiful.

August 05, 2013at9:40 pm, Greg Burbach said:

Hello Mr Campskunk,
Hey, you are in my old stomping grounds, I grew up in Florence and worked up and down Hiway 101 for many years. Believe it or not, when I was in the USCG, there was a open wire CG telephone line that went along the coast. We worked out of Coos Bay and maintained the line from Brookings to Depoe Bay. It went right up and over the top of Cape Perpetua just N of where you camp. That was one of the tougher spots to keep the line up in the winter-time. If you have any questions about the area, stop a couple miles south of Sea Lion Caves at the house where the Bones Rhododendron Nursery sign is. I grew up with Mike Bones and he is a super friendly guy. He has lived in the area all his life and retired from the Or State park system. ( He used to be in charge of Washburne State Park where you dump and get water.) Stonefield and Ponsler state parks? Yes, knew those families. Sea Lion Caves? Yes, knew the 3 families that developed the place. (Florence was small in the old days and everybody knew each other) One word of warning, and this has been going on for years, be aware of thieves at the waysides you frequent. Stop in and visit us in Albany. Greg and Susan Burbach, 2000 190P

August 05, 2013at11:00 pm, Campskunk said:

hah! see all the stuff going on that i just drive by unawares? i’ve read hair-raising stories of the old coastal mail routes before there were roads here- the guy went around cape perpetua holding onto his horse’s tail when the weather got bad enough. that’s one thing i’m happy to miss – the weather here for the 10 months of the year that i’m gone. we lock everything up tight when we camp alongside the road, and trying to break in would be… inadvisable πŸ˜‰

July 30, 2013at1:55 am, Susan Adame said:

Thanks, for sharing the details. I know the area well, but haven’t traveled it since we had our Roadtrek. Now I want to revisit it in Campskunk style!

July 29, 2013at11:37 pm, Skinny Badger said:

I sure do enjoy your posts. I’m keenly interested in boondocking and while I can’t do much now it is sure nice to read the details of how you’re doing it. Keep ’em coming.

July 29, 2013at11:10 pm, Barbara Wadkins said:

Very nice article about our beloved Central Coast. If you plan ahead, and reserve your spot ahead of time (very popular campground) try out Beachside State Park. It’s right on the beach and very quiet (even though it’s just off Hwy 1). It’s our favorite stop but we usually have to reserve our favorite site a year ahead of time. Safe Journey!

July 29, 2013at11:40 pm, Campskunk said:

yes, it looked full when i drove past it on the way down here. Tillicum National Forest Campground, where i had a great stay after Labor Day two years ago, also had the “campground full” sign out. people are getting in their family vacations now, because the kids will be back in school soon, so us fulltimers need to be gracious, knowing that our time is coming πŸ˜‰

July 29, 2013at2:02 pm, Cheryl said:

This is just perfect. Thanks again for sharing!

July 29, 2013at12:48 pm, Stu said:

Boy you sure make it hard on us folks that can’t get out right now ,can I say envious. But keep these travel reports coming because some day I will be free to roam and I’m taking notes. Thanks again for a great story and sharing your travels with us.

July 29, 2013at11:24 am, Roberta said:

We were just talking about Yachats, yesterday. Our home is in escrow so we will take to the road and do some road trekking to, eventually.

July 29, 2013at9:34 am, Nancy said:

That sounds like something I could get comfortable to in a hurry! Thanks for sharing!

July 29, 2013at9:22 am, Freida said:

Thanks Campskunk…Beautiful. I love traveling with you through The Cyber World.

July 29, 2013at9:03 am, Maureen said:

Thanks for all the details. I too love the Oregon coast. One has to go out on the sand dunes at least once to experience the expanse of them and see all the “tree islands.”

July 29, 2013at8:53 am, Gordon said:

Very Nice Place and Very nice report. Thanks!

July 29, 2013at8:41 am, Laura Robinson said:

Another place for me to travel! That looks wonderful and thank you!

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