Oregon

Dunes and damn good chowder, from Oceanside to Brookings
Bonnie Henderson

• Height of tallest dunes, Oregon Dunes: 400 feet

• Average July water temperature, Newport: 55°F

• Size of find sand grain: 0.07 TO 0.4 MM

Oregon's beaches usually have three things in common: Sand - lots of it, wider than summer's waves can wash. Weather - from gray mists to epic tempests, though storms generally take a vacation July through September, leaving breezy, dry days to beach-sit. And access - by law, it's really easy to reach the beach in Oregon. So what are you waiting for?

BEACHIEST CAFE
Roseanna's, Oceanside

Roseanna's is the best restaurant in town, and probably would be even if it weren't the only one in town. Decorated like your eccentric aunt's beachfront cottage, with a view nearly to Japan. Seafood's the theme, prepared every which way but deep-fried.

1490 Pacific Ave. Entrées $6.00-$20.00. (503) 842-7351.

BEST BEACHSIDE CAMPING
Cape Lookout State Park, Tillamook

Far from the rush of U.S. 101, Cape Lookout State Park is nestled between Netarts Spit and jutting Cape Lookout. From your campsite, stroll north to the tip of the sandy spit, hike south and west to the cape's end ... or just grab a blanket and binoculars and stay put.

On Whiskey Creek Rd. $22 tent-only sites, $26 sites with hookups, $33 yurts. Reservations: (800) 452-5687. Information: (800) 551-6949; www.oregonstateparks.org.

BEST BEACH RETREAT
Salishan Lodge, Gleneden Beach

Let it rain. When you're at Salishan Lodge, it's all the excuse you need to nest in your artful room, or browse the gallery, or enjoy a memorable dinner in the lodge. Granted, it's not right on the beach; drive two minutes, or follow the nature trail between the golf course and Siletz Bay to Salishan Spit.

On U.S. 101 in Gleneden Beach. $189-$269. (800) 452-2300.

MOST ROMANTIC BEACH
Nye Beach, Newport

SWF, Sagittarius, seeks soul mate to share candlelit dinners, intimate B & B weekends, and moonlit walks on Nye Beach. We'll stroll on stars of phosphorescence, while beams from the lighthouse dance upon the black water. The moon is full July 24; will you be there?

From U.S. 101 just north of U.S. 20, follow signs to Nye Beach.

BEST HISTORIC B & B
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats

Between the four-poster bed and thick comforter, and the roar of the surf that lulls - nay, pummels - you to sleep, it's hard to imagine how a lightkeeper ever left his bed to tend that whale-oil lamp. Five bedrooms and seven-course breakfasts greet travelers in the 106-year-old keepers' quarters below Heceta Head Lighthouse.

10 miles north of Florence. $135-$250. (541) 547-3696; www.hecetalighthouse.com . www.fs.fed.us.

BEST CHOWDER AT THE BEACH
Ruby Begonia's, Florence

After a day beachcombing at South Jetty, roll in to Ruby Begonia's, at the junction of U.S. 101 and State 126. Order chef José Garcia's specialty: golden seafood chowder. Garcia has redefined Oregon chowder, adding salmon, halibut, and prawns to the standard clams, and lightening up on the cornstarch.
1565 Ninth St. (541) 997-1821.

SANDIEST BEACH
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Tidepools are intriguing, headlands inspiring, but beaches mean sand, and nowhere in the coastal United States will you find a larger stash of it than in the 40 miles stretching the river mouths at Florence and Coos Bay. Hike, bird-watch, or just gaze; plenty of opportunities for any of that right off U.S. 101.

ODNRA headquarters, U.S. 101 and State 38, Reedsport. (541) 902-8526.

BEST SWIMMING BEACH
Sunset Bay State Park

A small, shallow bay, protected from big breakers, with no resident riptides: the combination makes Sunset Bay the most swimmable spot on the Oregon coast. Granted, you wouldn't call the water warm--just not completely inhospitable for wading. Take care if you do take the plunge: no lifeguards are waiting to pull you out.

13 miles southwest of Coos Bay on Cape Arago Hwy. (541) 888-4902; www.oregonstateparks.org.

LONELIEST BEACH
New River

Between Bandon and Cape Blanco lie miles of uninterrupted beach, backed by grassy dunes and shore pines. In 15 years, state trails coordinator Pete Bond has never run into another person on the beach here. Never. Walk south from Bandon, or drive south to the county park at Floras Lake, cross the dunes south of New River, and continue west 1/2 mile over the dunes to the beach.

From Langlois, 13 miles south of Bandon, follow signs 3 miles to Boice Cope County Park. (541) 247-3306.

BEST BEACH TO GET A TAN
Brookings

We know tanning isn't PC. But you might want to know that the beach in and around Brookings, on the far southern coast, has more sunshine and can be 20° warmer than beaches just 10 miles to the north or south. Something about the coastline's curve, and clouds dissipating when prevailing winds blow them over the land. Whatever. Just don't forget the SPF 30.

Brookings Harbor Chamber of Commerce: (800) 535-9469.