A scenic road trip down the historic US Highway 101 is not complete without an overnight stopover in this dreamy little Lincoln County town
A sleepy little Oregon coastal town with a handful of picturesque homes, a few eateries, a few glass and crystal shops – and very little else by way of bricks and mortar. And yet, Yachats pops up so often in Top 10 `American small town’ lists every year. Far away from touristy Oregon coast hotspots like Cannon Beach and Seaside, Yachat’s fame as an incomparable resort experience is known only to a few – such as Arthur Frommer, founder of Frommer’s Travel Guides, who named Yachats as his seventh favorite vacation destination in the world.
Comprised of a windswept portion of the Oregon Pacific, the town’s main feature is an undisturbed crescent of sparkling beach and deep cobalt water, punctuated with roaring heads of white foam bouncing off craggy rocks sticking out of the sea. If nature’s your thing, and beachcombing is a daily activity on your vacation to-do list, you can easily spend 3 nights or even 3 weeks in Yachats, completely engaged with your pleasure of the sea and never minding the fact that you’ve already tasted all the food and all the shopping the town has to offer – several times over.
Living can be as rustic and oceanfront as you please with motels, small, resort-style hotels and well-maintained holiday homes run by rental agencies. Not too expensive by coastal hotel standards, you can get free night deals and extend your stay in kitchen-equipped cottages you’ll be sorry to leave when the time’s up.
It is very unlikely that you’ll be using your car much on this trip as there’s no need – and no destination, really — to drive to. The hub of town is a short, leisurely walk, where Yachat’s small art community runs gift shops of the local handmade kind. Browse for crystals and books, admire beads and candles made by neighborhood artisans and taste some exotic teas from the Green Salmon’s ambitious beverage menu. Meet friendly locals at the ice-cream shop or at the mercantile, and receive a tide timetable from whoever you happen to say hello to. When the sun drops low in the horizon, wander off to watch the sunset from a fresh viewing point every day. The town has thoughtfully provided benches for visitors all over the area.
And when you want to do a short tour around Yachats, take the Yachats River Road that snakes uphill from next to the Drift-Inn Bar & Café. It’s an enchanting drive tourists often miss, that, several mind-blowing sceneries later, wind up to the small, covered North Fork bridge – one of the few covered bridges in Oregon – that seem to lead to nowhere.
Negotiating this hidden gem of a town on the Oregon coast is leisurely and easy – as you would probably want a holiday retreat off the historic Highway 101 driving experience to be. Yachats is certainly that, and more – encapsulating all the reasons why many travelers believe that the Oregon stretch of the 101 is far more visually rewarding that its celebrity cousin – the California 101 strip.
Just know one thing before you go: ‘Yachats’ is pronounced ‘Ya-hots”. All the knotty/yatchy `ch’ stuff in the name remains silent.
TOP PICK: WHERE TO STAY IN YACHATS, OREGON
There’s plenty of lodging options in Yachats to accommodate the modest turnout of visitors every year, but our favorite place to stay is in one of the Rock Park rental cottages run by Sweet Home Rentals, who have suitable units for both small and large families scattered in and around Yachats.
Each unit in the Rock Park row of cottages is a throwback in time, with vintage interior wood facades, hand-knitted Afghan throw blankets and a surfeit of overstuffed cushions that inspire a warm sense of granny comfort.
A perfect space to call home in a quiet beach community where the leisurely passage of time depends not on the clock but on the ebb and flow of the tide. Pet friendly, with a fully-equipped kitchen, these modestly-priced cottages are less than a minute’s walk from the beach.
TOP PICK: WHERE TO EAT IN YACHATS, OREGON
Officially, the place was called “Drift-Inn Tavern”, but the sign fell off years ago, and nobody thought to re-install it as every local or visitor in Yachats knew it to be `Lester’s place’.
Today, the Drift Inn Historic Bar & Café as it is called, serves fabulous home-cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners – and a mean Romesco sauce – in a quaint, upside-down umbrella themed restaurant and bar, with a small gift shop in front. The food’s unexpectedly good and the menu’s pretty diverse for a tiny coast town (Persian fusion rice bowl? Indian samosa?), but what makes Drift Inn a true travel `find’ is its romanced history with a bad-boy owner called Lester Blair, who ran the establishment less as a business and more as a place for his buddies to hang out until all hours of the night with a pool table, beer, wine, pepperoni sticks and Snickers candy bar.
Infamy, naturally, followed in Lester’s footsteps until the Drift Inn became synonymous with the raffish image of its eccentric proprietor who cast caution to the winds and ran the place as he pleased – serving folks he declared to be his friends rather than fully-paying customers. So the party carried on, and at the time of his death, he left books full of open tabs and unpaid debts to prove that he and Drift Inn had both lived a legendary – if not lucrative – social life.
If you’re dining at the Drift Inn, read fascinating pieces of printed text on the menu card journaling Lester’s fascinating biography. And do order these two dishes: Black Forest ham and asparagus crepes and the Artist’s pile, consisting of grilled eggplants, caramelized onion, artichoke hearts, basil, tomato and feta cheese. Served over polenta with the aforementioned, mouthwateringly good Romesca sauce.