Oregon has the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America (top); (inset) Oregon received hostile action during the Second World War when Japanese submarines surfaced off the coast.

Oregon has the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America (top); (inset) Oregon received hostile action during the Second World War when Japanese submarines surfaced off the coast.

Feel the Oregon difference

I am not the first to notice — Tourism Oregon adopted the slogan “Oregon — Things Look Different Here” in the 1980s. Tourism marketers did not want travellers to think the state was Idaho with a coast or confuse it with Washington or California.

“Things look different here,” I thought driving along Oregon’s Coastal Hwy 101.

I am not the first to notice — Tourism Oregon adopted the slogan “Oregon — Things Look Different Here” in the 1980s. Tourism marketers did not want travellers to think the state was Idaho with a coast or confuse it with Washington or California.

Oregonians are proud of their differences. It is the only state with a two-sided flag — a shield on one side and a beaver on the other, if you are wondering. And they believe everyone should enjoy the beaches — the Oregon Beach Bill says that the public has access to the whole beachfront and that private landowners cannot own land within 4.9 vertical metres of the low tide line.

Getting this type of beach access was not easy. When some businesses staked a claim on the beach in 1967, then-governor Tom McCall rented two helicopters for a beach tour by surveyors and scientists. The ensuing media coverage solidified support for the Beach Bill, McCall passed it into law and Oregon displayed a different way of establishing zoning!

Hwy 101 is 580 km of coastal scenery. Although you could cover that distance between Red Deer and Medicine Hat before supper, this drive will take days as you stop every few minutes for another photo.

The coastline includes the longest stretch of dunes in the U.S. and some of its prettiest agate beaches. Bring a belt to hold your pants up if you wander among the agates — once you pick up one rock, its friends want to come, too!

There are several attractions worth a stop on Hwy 101. The Seaside Aquarium in Seaside was the first facility in the world to breed harbor seals in captivity and the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City lets you view rescued marine mammals. The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport was home to the orca that starred in the movie Free Willie and is now ranked among the U.S.’s best aquariums.

R.E. Clanton turned the Sea Lion Caves near Florence into a tourist attraction in 1927 to convince people to watch, not shoot, sea lions.

Business was slow when visitors had to scramble down 120 metres of steep rock cliffs and back up. Not surprisingly, once an elevator was added, business picked up and it is now one of the most popular stops on the coast.

I loved the water-level view, feeling the ocean spray on my face, and watching sea lions lurch around in the surf like socks going round in the wash.

You will notice other differences when you visit Oregon. Milk is the state beverage, you cannot pump your own gas at a self-serve gas station, and there are more ghost towns than in any other states.

But the access to 80 state parks and recreation areas along Hwy 101 and the freedom to roam every beach are Oregon’s best differences.

If you go:

Driving tips: Allow several days to see the coast — the viewpoints are irresistible, even when you are in a hurry. Try to drive Route 101 from north to south as most pullouts are on the west side and you cannot access all of them from northbound lanes.

References: Order a free copy of the Oregon Mile-By-Mile Guide or get the online version at www.oregoncoasttravel.net . The guide lists activities, food and lodging options for every mile of the highway.

Carol Patterson helps businesses and people reinvent themselves through adventure. When she isn’t travelling for work, Carol is travelling for fun. More of her adventures can be found at www.carolpatterson.ca.