Oregon meets the Pacific Ocean in a long stretch (362 miles, to be exact) of beaches and rocky, tree-covered cliffs. U.S. Highway 101 connects the towns dotted along the coast, sometimes hugging sandy beaches, sometimes climbing up into the coastal range. These towns range in size from around 16,000 (Coos Bay) to below 1,000 (such as Gardiner and Netarts). Many of these towns have small churches of dedicated parishioners.
The Oregon coast was first settled by a number of native tribes. Many of these tribes are remembered in the names of local towns (Tillamook and Coquille) or in rivers (Siuslaw). A number of these tribes still reside in the area. Europeans began to settle the area in the 19th century, and the coast was an important location for timber trade until the 1980s. The curtailment of this industry left much of the region economically depressed, and people on the coast are still feeling the loss of this trade.
Coastal Oregonians are outdoorsy and love small town life. Many of them fish and catch crab, while others walk the beaches and hike the beautiful and rugged coastal trails. In 1967, the Oregon Beach Bill, a bi-partisan effort signed by Republican Governor Tom McCall, made the beaches free public land. The towns themselves are either small and cozy or have embraced tourism (such as Seaside and Bandon). Many boast aquariums, board-walks, and shopping districts.
Whatever the type, towns often offer local fare. The Cranberry Sweet Shop specializes in cranberry candies (and offers free samples for the picking!). Tillamook, a bit further north, is the home to the Tillamook Creamery, and offers tours and free tastings. Locals and visitors also come for the aquariums in Newport and Seaside, as well as to just take in the scenery, be it the 11 lighthouses that dapple the coast or geological formations like Cape Perpetua and Face Rock. And those in the mood for some history often visit Fort Clatsop and other sites associated with the journey of Lewis and Clark.