Six years ago, couple Jacob Fu and Esther JuLee would have told you that they knew Atlanta really well. After all, they’d spent most of their lives in and around the city. But when the duo decided to move to LA in search of adventure, they began to question their previous assumptions. As they explored Los Angeles — excited to uncover its off-the-beaten-path corners and hidden gems — it occured to them that maybe they hadn’t fully appreciated the ATL.
Had they been missing out on adventures by sticking to tried and true routines?
“We realized how much we took our own city for granted,” Fu says. “You get into your rhythm and rut, and you end up revisiting the exact same places, never bothering to be an adventurer in your own city.”
The couple vowed to never fall into this trap again. No matter where they lived, they promised themselves to go on adventures near their home. JuLee started a blog to chronicle the journey called Local Adventurer. It was a hit, and as their LA stint neared its one year anniversary, they decided to move again and start the whole project in a new city. A year after that, they did it all again.
These days, Fu and JuLee move to a new city every year. Over 12 months, they explore their various adopted homes more thoroughly than many long-term residents ever get the chance to.
One of Fu and JuLee’s favorite adventures is the Oregon Coast. When they first visited, they were in the middle of a 12-month stretch in Portland. Having thoroughly explored California’s PCH, they decided to check out its northern outpost and immediately fell in love, struck by how different and ethereal Oregon’s section of the famed highway was.
“It’s a pretty unexplored area,” Fu says. “There are a couple of places that are extremely busy — like Cannon Beach. But as you head further south on the coast, it’s just a spectacular rugged drive that is relatively unexplored.”
We asked the Local Adventurer crew to help us design the perfect mini-adventure from Portland to get you out of the city routine. Try their recommendations any time you need a break from the city grind.
MORNING — DAY 1
Drive from Portland to Kelly’s Brighton Marina in Rockaway Beach where you can go crabbing year-round. This will take a little over an hour and a half. It’s Fu’s must-have pick for tasty seafood on the coast, but also, the couple love the experience of catching their own food.
“Depending on the time of the year, the crabbing isn’t always great,” Fu says, “but it’s always a fun activity.”
Back at the marina, Kelly himself will cook you up a feast. It’s a meal both Fu and JuLee still dream about.
“He boils them right into the ocean seawater,” Fu says. “I have never tasted crab better than that. You don’t need anything, you’re not dunking it in butter, it just tastes so good right out of the ocean.”
After stuffing yourself with fresh seafood, you’ll start the real coastal part of your road trip. With a constantly changing landscape, the challenge will be not stopping at every single lookout.
AFTERNOON — DAY 1
For a first stop, the couple recommends hitting up Tillamook to stretch your legs and do a little exploring. Obviously, you tour the cheese factory named for the city (you can never go wrong with cheese!), but a more unique activity is to try a quick salt tasting at Jacobsen Salt Co. The salt is harvested locally and if you’re thinking, why would I taste salt — it just tastes salty, you are in for a treat. From truffle salt to rosemary to garlic, they have a wide range of samples with diverse flavor profiles to help you train your palate.
From Jacobsen, loaded up with a trunk of the salty stuff, it’s time to venture into the thick, green forest for an easy hike. Munson Creek Falls is a lovely waterfall, surrounded by lush cover, just about half a mile from the road. At 319 feet, this is the tallest waterfall on the Oregon Coast. Take some pics, breathe in the clean air, and let the gentler pace of the forest rejuvenate you a little.
If the cascading water has made you thirsty, stick around Tillamook a little longer for a drink and dinner. Fu and JuLee love Pelican Pub & Brewery for a delicious meal paired thoughtfully with craft brews.
EVENING — DAY 1
As your first day of adventuring comes to a close, head to Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area to watch the sunset over the unique rock formation in the ocean before calling it a night at Sylvia Beach Hotel. The literary hotel (each room is named after an author) will really get you off the grid. There’s no wifi or TV, just cozy rooms decorated from time’s past, and beautiful ocean views.
MORNING — DAY 2
After a night disconnecting for technology and recharging, check out the next morning, and head to Thor’s Well for some unearthly photos. Because every good road trip should be, of course, just a little bit terrifying.
“It’s a really cool spot,” Fu says. “And really popular for photographers. It looks like a massive well right along the coast that just seems to suck water into the depths of Hell.”
AFTERNOON — DAY 2
From Thor’s Well, drive to Samuel H. Boardman State Corridor at the southwest tip of the state, where you’ll want to take the rest of the afternoon to explore. Fu and JuLee believe this beautiful park is one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets.
“It just has a lot of little secret hikes that you have to navigate your way through, and there are some incredible secret beaches there,” Fu says.
For their favorites, hike the Arch Rock Point & Spruce Island Viewpoints Trail — which is probably the most iconic place in Samuel H. Boardman — a short loop that will give you a gorgeous view of the very Oregon-esque rock formation out in the sea. They also love Natural Bridges to North Island Viewpoint.
“It’s one of the best viewpoints in the park,” Fu says. “And if you continue on that trail to China beach, you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach to hang out on.”
Finally, finish your park day with Thomas Creek Trail to Whaleshead Beach. The trail takes you on a nice walk in the forest, dazzles you with the coast, and then drops you off at the beach for some picnicking and you know, general frolicking that feels far away from the bustle of the city.
EVENING — DAY 2
After a day reconnecting with nature, Fu and JuLee’s favorite place to stay on the entire coast is Tu Tu T’un Lodge.
“It’s just a beautiful lodge down near a river just a little bit off the coast,” Fu says. “The perfect escape.”
Grab dinner at Barnacle Bistro — the seafood and burgers are both coastal comfort food done right — and tuck in for your second night, really soaking in the magical wilderness of the Oregon Coast. The next day, you’ll be heading back to Portland.
Want to go there?
From Portland: You can get to the coast in about an hour and 45 minutes via US-26 W
The full route:
Time needed: Give yourself a full weekend to check off all the boxes, but the first half of this itinerary can be done in a day if you’re just looking for a quick overnight.