The next leg of our trip led us to a Thousand Trails resort in South Beach, just outside of Newport, OR. The resort was beautiful, with lots of trees and a great play area for the kids. Internet was a no go in this location (apparently it is coming!) which was good in a way as it gave us a bit of time to unplug. After settling in, Juliette went into town to the Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op to purchase a few groceries for dinner. We have found frequent grocery stops work well with our current set up, and bulk bins are our favourite way to shop. We went for a swim while dinner was cooking in the Instant Pot (one of our favourite kitchen tools!) and ended up having a rather eye opening conversation with a guy sporting a Make America Great hat in the hot tub. We have seen a lot of “Make America Great” bumper stickers and signs along the road, and suspect this will increase as we head further south.
The next morning we drove over to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. It was a fantastic spot, in addition to the fish and marine life you might expect to find at, well, an Aquarium, they also had a sea bird exhibit, along with a very eco-conscious focus that we really appreciated. All of the garbage locations included both recycling and compost, and there were lots of informative displays discussing the effects of garbage and other pollution on the water ecosystems. Their outdoor paths and walkways included natural landscaping which made use of locally available plants. The staff were well informed and incredibly helpful when it came to fielding questions posed by adults and kids alike.
Our next stop was the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse for a picnic lunch overlooking the ocean. Part of the fun of packing a lunch is finding a beautiful spot in which to enjoy it! We toured the lighthouse afterwards, learning about what life as a lighthouse keeper involved. We were surprised to learn what a big role the keeper’s family members played in the upkeep and general maintenance of the lighthouse! The Yaquina Bay lighthouse was only in operation for 3 years before they found a better, more visible location 3 miles away, which led to the lighthouse and residence falling into disrepair. With old spooky houses often comes ghost stories, and this one was no exception. Adele was pretty thrilled, and went over the details non stop for several days afterwards. Her threshold for scary and creepy is impressive, especially given what a scaredy cat her mama is!
The following day was very low key, Juliette caught up on some writing at Carl's Coffee Shop in Newport (with internet!) while Dom and the kids explored the beach and pathways around the resort. We finished the day by introducing the kids to Star Wars, A New Hope for the first time, so much fun! This led to several days of enactment, something that we all thoroughly enjoyed.
We visited the Newport Farmer’s Market the next morning, chatting with farmers and discovering lots of fantastic new produce. Our new vegetable finds included salsify, gilfeather turnips, parsley root and kalettes, all of which Juliette enjoyed experimenting with in the following days. We made our way down to the Nye Beach area afterwards, to wander among quaint little shops and view the beach. We attempted to visit the Depoe Bay Whale Museum afterwards, but it was not open due to the facilities being cleaned that day.
We decided to drive over to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Tide Pools instead, and were very glad we did as it was beautiful! We spent some time exploring the Interpretive Center, learning a lot about the history of the lighthouse and its inhabitants in the process. The highlight for the kids was dressing up in historic costumes and playing with old fashioned toys! We took a lovely walk down to the lighthouse, the tours were done for the day but the outside was pretty impressive on its own. We ventured down to the tide pools, the tide was pretty far in (at this time of year and time of day) so we mostly clambered on the rocks and enjoyed the views (with a couple of sea anemones spotted for good measure). The sun was setting as we made our way back up the pathway to our truck. We drove back to the RV park for a relaxed dinner and a chance to unwind a bit before heading on to our next adventure in Florence the following day!
Juliette tried her hand at driving the truck and trailer on our way down to Florence. It was a relatively short (and very beautiful) coastal drive, which made it a good introduction. The Thousand Trails resort was located just outside of town, close to the Sand Dune National Park. We found a spot backing onto a ravine with a play area right next door that the kids took full advantage of while we were setting up. RV accommodations have been a mixed bag thus far; this one was so nice that we elected to cancel our stop in Port Orford and extend our time in Florence! We updated our booking after settling in, and then headed into town for a grocery and plant run.
We have been on the lookout for a plant shop where we could pick up an aloe plant and a couple of small peace lilies. We love plants (and the fresh air they provide) and were keen to pick some up, as the weather has been cool enough that cracking windows has not been an option thus far. It is nice to know that the air we are breathing is at least a little cleaner, thanks to our plants. We had spotted a plant shop on our way through town, so after a grocery run at Fred Meyer (our old standby) we made our way over. Juliette met a cool California dude named Kermit, who gave us lots of recommendations for places to visit as we head south. He had a beautiful aloe plant that we brought home with us, but sadly no peace lilies. The conversation was highly entertaining, random chats like these are the best part of our travels, we have met so many interesting and wonderful people this way. We had a couple of missing items to pick up afterwards, and the local Safeway came through with both tempeh and two small peace lilies.
We drove past our RV park exit and into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, to take a walk along the dunes while the sun set. It was absolutely breathtaking, as the dunes extended for miles along the beach. The highlight for the kids was rolling down the steep incline, which proved a bit more challenging on the climb back up, and required us to do a lot of shimmying (and boot dumping) when we got back to the truck to get rid of all of the sand! Beaches are tons of fun, but not so much the sand that makes its way into everything afterwards.
We came home to a late Chinese New Years meal prepared by Juliette, which included Hot and Sour Soup and a fried rice dish. Hot and Sour Soup is a staple for us, it was great to be able to pull it all together despite staying in a small town. We finished the original Star Wars trilogy with a screening of The Return of the Jedi for our family movie night, and as predicted the kids fell in love with the Ewoks! It will be a bit before we are comfortable having them watch episode 1-3, but the original trilogy is quite tame in comparison. It was fun ushering in a new era of imaginative play, the kids were already picking roles to play the following day (Leia for Eloise, and Adele was debating between Han and Luke). Armand is usually happy with anything the girls select for him, although he sometimes puts his foot down if he feels the role is not to his liking! He was happy with their Chewbacca selection.
The next day progressed at a slow pace, we had a relaxed morning before making our way over to the Sea Lion Caves just outside of town. The caves were lovely, and rather pungent (we picked up a whiff as soon as we got in the elevator). They had some skeletal remains, which intrigued the kids, as well as a walkway to the old entry point along the cliff. It offered a spectacular view of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. We have loved our lighthouse visits on this trip, they are all unique and are steeped in history and tradition. When we think of the Oregon Coast it will be all about the lighthouses and bridges, both of which are unique and pretty spectacular. We finished the day with a drive through the historic section of town (Old Town, technically speaking) and made our way back home for dinner.
Our last day in Florence included a drive along to coast to Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, where we had a lovely chat with some really friendly rangers and explored the interpretive center. The staff at the parks have been fantastic, we are really impressed with how much they engage the kids and encourage them to explore and ask questions. We consulted with the ranger as to the best paths with the kids, and embarked on a 2 mile round trip hike to see a spectacular 500 year old spruce. We then hopped back in the truck to drive over to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which provided us with spectacular views, although the low stone walls with a straight drop on the other side caused yours truly a great deal of anxiety!
Our last stop of the day was the Heceta Head Lighthouse, another 1 mile round trip walk that Armand refused to take part in as his legs were (understandably) starting to get tired. We pulled out our folding wagon, and ended up giving Adele a ride on the way back down also. The path was on an incline, but was very wheelchair and stroller friendly as it used to be an old wagon road on which provisions were brought to the lighthouse staff and their family. Florence was a lovely stop, we really enjoyed our time there and are happy to have factored in a couple of days for our visit! We found Nature's Corner Market & Cafe, a lovely health food store in town, where Juliette ordered a fresh juice and we found some great kimchi and kelp noodles. It is wonderful to see that these options are available in smaller towns.
Newport & Florence Highlights
Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op - a fantastic organic market located in Newport, OR. They offer a great selection of organic produce and other groceries, including an extensive bulk bin area!
Oregon Coast Aquarium - we loved the eco-friendliness of the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which extended to recycling and compost, exhibits on the environmental impact of garbage, and natural landscaping in their extensive outdoor area (using plants local to the region). Their displays were fantastic, one of the highlights was a walk through tunnel where we saw sharks and rays swimming over our heads!
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse - a lovely historic lighthouse with an interpretive video detailing its history, recreated living spaces and a lovely outdoor seating area (perfect for a picnic lunch!) with walking trails that were unfortunately closed for the season.
Carl's Coffee Shop - a lovely coffee shop in the Nye Beach area of Newport. They have a lovely selection of drinks and a wonderful view of the beach!
Newport Farmer’s Market - The Newport Farmer's Market is a small town gem, we found some fantastic produce and hand crafted food items, and had some great chats with farmers and artisans in the process!
Nye Beach - the Nye Beach area is a quaint little village with a lovely selection of shops and cafes leading to a beautiful beach front.
Depoe Bay Whale Museum - The whale museum was closed when we got there, but we were told it is well worth a visit!
Yaquina Head Lighthouse - an historic lighthouse with a fantastic interpretive center and great walking trails leading down to the lighthouse and tide pools. Leave yourself some time for a lengthy visit, there is lots to see here!
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - these breathtaking dunes along the oregon coast are well worth a visit, especially at sunset! The kids loved climbing the dunes, it was a fun way for us to get in our exercise for the day!
Sea Lion Caves - a fun and informative stop just outside of Florence, the kids loved all of the sea lions!
Cape Perpetua Visitor Center - a fantastic visitor and interpretive center, with friendly rangers and lots of information about pathways in the surrounding area.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area - a beautiful pathway with breathtaking views of the coast. As a heads up, the stone wall along the walkway is very low, something to be aware of if you are traveling with kids or anyone with a fear of heights!
Nature's Corner Market & Cafe - a health food market and cafe in Florence, featuring a small but pretty fantastic selection of organic produce and groceries.