Mile-by-Mile considers the Central Coast to be from Lincoln City to about 40 miles past Florence, Oregon. Two -ests occur between Lincoln City and Newport, and the entire Central stretch never leaves Highway 101 as it provides some of the most dramatic views on this roughly 360 mile journey.
The 1st -est is the D River that is 120 feet long, making it one of the world’s shortest. A bit past that not-exactly-life-changing sight you pass the Salishan Spa and Golf Resort very near to the town of Gleneden Beach, which is a lot like Gearhart. Salishan is one of the best complete resorts on the entire Oregon Coast. When you see the Shops at Salishan on your right with a golf course across the highway, turn in, turn right, and park on the north end of the lot. Walk behind the shops and look for a sign that says NATURE TRAIL TO OCEAN. Take it to one of the most spectacular sights on the entire coast. It’s not a long walk around a bay, along a golf course, and through some dark woods to a headland/ocean view that almost no one knows about unless someone local tells you.
Depoe Bay, the next town, has the other -est, the world’s smallest harbor. A 1927 Conde McCullough bridge (Use Search to find “Oregon Coast Bridges” for details) spans the treacherous entrance to this minuscule but bustling harbor and affords fine views of it. It was lots of fun and a definite thrill to cross 101 and stand on the deck of the Whale Watching Center (WHALE WATCHING SPOKEN HERE) to see tour boats negotiate that narrow entrance far below. It was whale watching week, but the Center was only opened from 10 am to 1 pm.
This part of 101 gives access to appropriately named spots like Boiler Bay State Park, the Devil’s Punch Bowl, and Cape Foulweather. There are 4 towns worth stopping to see. The tsunami-focused city of Newport has several top attractions like the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It’s best restaurant is Georgie’s. Agate Beach, where a complete dock washed up after the Japanese tsunami and nuclear disaster, is just north of town. At Waldport travelers cross the newest bridge on 101 and visit the Alsea Bay Bridge Interpretive Center. Yachats is a village specializing in fests centered on Celtic music, mushrooms, etc. Florence, gateway to the 40-mile stretch of 101 that passes but does not reveal the impressive Oregon sand dunes, has 2 commercial centers and an original, legendary McCullough Bridge. There are 3 for-sure tourist magnets on the Central Coast between Newport and Florence–2 lighthouses to be discussed later and Sea Lion Caves. At the latter travelers have driven about 180 miles and are at the half-way mark on their journey.
There are differences between North and Central. Central is less tame, has fewer people, offers grander viewpoints, and is great preparation for the South Coast. 800 feet above the Pacific, Central’s Cape Perpetua headland is the highest car-bound sightseers will be on the entire Oregon Coast. Both North and Central have exciting and diverse attractions, but driving through Central after experiencing North is like seeing a movie in 3-D on a IMAX screen after watching the 2-D version on an old TV.