Travels from Portland to San Francisco, Part 1

For a few years, we’ve been talking about doing a drive along the Pacific Coast from Portland to San Francisco. My wife has spent a fair amount of time in Portland and I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco, but we’d never connected the dots in between, taking the time to see the rugged Oregon and Northern California coastline nor the towering redwood trees that the region is famous for.

We finally decided to take the plunge once the world had forgotten about the pandemic, so we booked a flight, rented a car, booked some hotel rooms, confirmed our dogsitter’s availability and packed our bags.

As you probably know, other than doing software stuff, photography is my second life. So this would be a combination vacation/photo-adventure, so we made sure to plan a route that would maximize photo opportunities. I’ll be sharing photos from this journey for a long time on my daily photo site, 75CentralPhotography, so be sure to follow me there (I’d keep an eye on the Oregon and California categories).

However, this site isn’t geared towards sharing my photography, but more about random, ephemeral things, so I thought I’d share our route, as recorded by my GPS logger (along with a few shots I shot on my iPhone for context). I log my travels when out taking photos to ensure that I can later add a location to every photo I take and you can read more about this process at my rarely-updated photography blog here.

Day 1

Our first day entailed first flying from our home airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, to Portland International Airport. So, naturally, I fired up my GPS logger and was surprised that, for the most part, I was able to get steady GPS signals.

It’s always amazing to me, every time I fly out west and have a window seat, to see just how unsettled the western half (or even two-thirds) of the United States is. Lots of area to get lost or start a cult or militia or some other crazy group, or just see some amazing scenery.

The outskirts of Salt Lake City—one of the few signs of civilization on the air route between Dallas and Portland.

Once we arrived in Portland, our agenda was pretty simple for the rest of the day: meet my wife’s brother for lunch at McMenamins on the Columbia across the river in Vancouver, Washington, visit Powell’s City of Books (purported to be the world’s largest independent bookstore) and see the interesting architecture of the St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park.

St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park

Day 2

We got up early the next morning and headed out. Our first stop was Multnomah Falls, east of Portland on the south bank of the Columbia River. The falls are 620 feet tall and are well-worth the visit:

Multnomah Falls

We then reversed course and went back through Portland on our way to Cannon Beach, most-famous for being the location where the final part of The Goonies was filmed. It’s also famous for the 235-foot-tall sea stack known as Haystack Rock:

After leaving Cannon Beach, we drove down the coast a ways before heading inland a bit to the Tillamook Creamery for a cheese snack, then head back out to the coast to Cape Meares for a quick stop.

Cape Meares

Other stops included Pacific City Beach:

Pacific City Beach

Siletz Bay:

Siletz Bay

Boiler Bay:

Boiler Bay

Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint:

Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint

Before arriving at that evening’s destination, Otter Rock. We stayed at the Inn at Otter Crest, which would’ve afforded us a great view of the sunset over the Pacific had it not been overcast at sunset, but otherwise offered great views of the rugged coast as well as a tasty pizza and local beers for dinner.

Day 3

Our third day’s journey found us doubling-back a bit to visit Depoe Bay and the coast north of there before heading back south to our day’s destination, Coos Bay.

Depoe Bay Harbor

Depoe Bay is known for its 6-acre harbor that is purported to be the world’s smallest navigable harbor. Interesting fact about this harbor is that it was was damaged by a tsunami resulting from the same 2011 earthquake in Japan that caused the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

Coastline north of Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay Scenic Park
Rocky Creek Bridge

 

The Inn at Otter Crest—our previous night’s stay—as seen from the nearby Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint

One of the more-scenic stops for the day was the Devils Punch Bowl—a large rock formation along the coast near Otter Rock:

Devils Punch Bowl

After leaving the Devils Punch Bowl, we continued south towards Newport, stopping for a bit in Beverly Beach:

Beverly Beach

Reaching the outskirts, of Newport, we stopped at Yaquina Head to see the lighthouse and surrounding coast.

Yaquina Head Light
Cobble Beach
Cobble Beach

We then drove the rest of the way into Newport, where we stopped to view the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Yaquina Bay Bridge

We then stopped on the Newport Bayfront for lunch at the Rogue Brewery and the view the local residents:

Sea lions in Newport Bay

After lunch and a couple of pints, we got back on the road to our next stop, Cape Perpetua:

Cape Perpetua
Cape Perpetua

A quick detour then took us to Sealion Beach, which lived up to its name with an uncomfortably large number of sealions lying about:

Too many sealions!
Sealion Beach and Heceta Head Lighthouse

We finished our day by checking into the very-quirky Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, which features themed rooms and some awesome murals:

Itty Bitty Inn murals

Followed by a couple of pints and dinner at the 7 Devils Brewing taproom in Coos Bay

Mmmm…beer

Day 4

Day 4 of our adventure would find us wending our way down the coast from Coos Bay to Eureka, California.

Our first stop was in Port Orford, where we took in Battle Rock and the nearby scenery:

Battle Rock
Port Orford Lookout
Port Orford Lookout
The Oregon Coast south of Port Orford

Continuing south, we stopped at Gold Beach:

Gold Beach

Where we encountered this bit of Lovecraftian nightmare fuel:

Turns out, it’s a type of kelp

And then on to Sisters Rock:

Sisters Rock (I don’t have a sister, so I can’t speak to the fact as to whether they rock or not)

We then stopped at Meyers Creek Beach for a view of the sea stacks there:

Meyers Creek Beach

And then onto Ariya’s Beach at Gold Beach, Oregon:

Ariya’s Beach

The next stop, Natural Bridges, Oregon, offered an amazing, dramatic view:

Natural Bridges

Finally, we crossed the border into California and got our first good look at the giant Redwood trees we’d been yearning to see:

After exploring the Redwoods for a bit, we rolled into Eureka for the night, stopping for a bit to view the channel that leads from the Pacific to Humboldt Bay and it’s accompanying jetty:

That concludes the first part of our epic drive from Portland to San Francisco. Next time, we’ll cover the conclusion of our journey, driving from Eureka to San Francisco.