Monday, April 25, 2011
When my parents first moved to Waldport, Oregon, I wasn’t too impressed. I wanted the bright lights of Lincoln City, the art-y district in Newport, or the sand dunes in Florence. A tiny fishing village with a population of 2,000? Er, no. Over time, Waldport won me over. The tiny town bustles in the summer season, and is lovely and quiet during the long winters, after the tourists leave. And the people are what make Waldport really special. Sparkling in the light of the chandelier, with the rain whipping the windows, we’ve enjoyed many a bowl of Cioppino, crab bisque or clam chowder and local beers, surrounded by my parent’s unique group of friends- a builder, a commercial fisherman and a photographer, to name a few.
Where to Stay in Waldport, Oregon
I wanted to focus on weekend trips to Waldport because with a three-hour drive from Portland, it’s unlikely that you’ll turn around and go back to Portland on the same day. There are several options for places to stay in Waldport. Your best bet is to find a house to rent on Bayshore (the oceanfront peninsula that rests across the bay from town) or in town. Look online and on craigslist to find these deals. The hotel on Bayshore has gone through several iterations and owners over the last couple of decades and we hear it will next be turned into a conference center. But it was never terribly impressive and not something I’d recommend to anyone. There are a couple of other motels and cottages for rent in town that have positive reviews online. If you visit one, let me know about your experience there.
Which Route to Take to Waldport from Portland? Pros and Cons of Routes 20 and 34
The drive from Portland to Waldport, which rests on the central Oregon Coast, takes about three hours. I recommend taking I-5 to Corvallis, then cutting across Corvallis to jump on one of the highways to the coast. You have a choice outside Philomath- you can take Route 20 and end up in Newport, then cruise down 101 via Seal Rock to Waldport. Or, you can take Route 34 and you’ll wind up right in Waldport.
The two roads have a couple of pros and cons. Route 34 is full of switchbacks as you cross over the pass, and the beautiful road is exhilarating to drive. You pass through tiny Alsea on the way and the general store is a must-stop for the locally made goat cheese. However, you’ll likely be without cell phone service for most of the drive. In addition, it isn’t at all uncommon to be stopped- and turned around- midway through your route due to flooding or a downed tree on Route 34. That happened to me so often in the early years (“You mean I have to drive all the way back to Philomath?!”) that for a long time, I avoided the road altogether.
Route 20 ensures you’ll have cell phone service for most of your drive, has lots of passing lanes, and even features a rest area about 20 miles outside of Philomath. The Waldport road doesn’t have a rest area. There might be a couple of working outhouses along the way but they look sketchy. Also, Route 34 doesn’t provide much in the way of passing lanes. If you get stuck behind some slowpokes, you’ll likely amble behind them for most of your drive.
Route 20 through Newport takes a few minutes longer, but the difference is negligible and the amenities (cell phone service and a rest area) might make it preferable for older travelers and families. Route 34 is just wickedly fun and wildly beautiful, so it’s a tough choice. Ideally, you’ll take one road out there, and another road home- that way you can experience both drives.
2011- Waldport's 100th Anniversary
In 2011, Waldport, Oregon celebrates its centennial. As with any town on the Oregon Coast, summer is the time to go. The 4th of July fireworks on the peninsula in the Bayshore neighborhood actually take place on July 3rd and if you go out for the week, you’ll find other fireworks displays in the neighboring towns on the days leading up to and after the Waldport fireworks. Waldport will likely have a couple of tricks up its sleeves for the town’s birthday, but really, there’s plenty of fun to be had in this tiny town (crabbing, fishing, beachcombing the vast beach, building driftwood homes) without any special reason to go.