In a rush to get to the Oregon coast, we often overlook the journey itself.
Those of us who drive to the ocean via Oregon 18, the highway that runs from Dundee to Lincoln City, have a wealth of options for side-of-the-road shops and attractions that get missed in our hurry to get to where we’re going.
These are more than just places to stretch your legs – they’re local farms and vineyards, fascinating museums, beautiful parks, historical sites and funky shops. Many have been around since the times when pulling off the highway was more commonplace, and some still hold out hope that people will once again slow down long enough to re-discover them.
Of course, not all of these places are “overlooked” exactly. Some, like the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, are destinations in their own right. Others, like Farmer John’s, draw a steady stream of customers in the spring and summer. (The Spirit Mountain Casino, one of the most popular destinations in Oregon, is not included on this list because it cannot in any way, shape or form be considered “overlooked.”)
But even those who pride themselves on pulling over at every farm stand and little park will likely have missed a place or two along the highway – those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it businesses that seem hidden in plain sight.
For those places, and for all the people who pass them by, here is a handy list to carry with you on your next trip to wine country or the coast: 18 overlooked attractions on Oregon 18, listed from east to west along the 60-mile highway.
HONORABLE MENTION: I was unable to visit a few businesses that were either closed for the day or temporarily closed due to the pandemic on my latest trip down Oregon 18. Those spots deserve mention here at least: the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center in McMinnville, as well as the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center, and Bonanza Antique Mall, both in Grand Ronde.
There are dozens of wineries along Oregon 18, which cuts directly through the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. Stopping at all of them on one trip is both infeasible and unwise, but Michael Alberty, who writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive, has been kind enough to highlight his favorite spots along the highway.
2. C&H Family Jewels Rock and Lapidary
A rock and gem shop that also offers lapidary services (cutting and polishing stones), C&H Family Jewels is a great stop for rock hounds or anyone looking for something colorful and shiny to take home. Even browsing is a fun excursion, with crystals, orbs and precious stones tucked into every nook and cranny of the shop.
Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wed-Sun.; 4270 N.E. Blanchard Lane, Dayton; 503-583-5030.
3. Fulton Family Farms
One of the newest farm stands along Oregon 18, Fulton Family Farms offers fresh produce, flowers, preserves, and home and travel goods at the intersection of Oregon 99W. The farm has been hosting barbecues this spring and plans to offer a pumpkin patch come fall.
Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wed.-Mon.; 3005 S.E. Dayton Bypass, Dayton; 503-864-2337.
4. The Vintages Trailer Resort
Offering the “quintessential glamping experience,” The Vintages Trail Resort is a kitschy campsite filled with vintage trailers for those looking to stay a night in the Dayton area. Each trailer comes with a pair of cruiser bikes, and some trailers have soaking tubs. A communal fireside area and seasonal pool offer opportunities for those looking to relax at the resort.
$119 to $218 per night; 16205 S.E. Kreder Road, Dayton; 971-267-2130; book online at the-vintages.com.
5. Fort Yamhill Blockhouse
The Fort Yamhill Blockhouse was originally constructed in 1856 at the site of Fort Yamhill, but these days the historic building resides at Courthouse Square Park in downtown Dayton. Originally built to limit conflict between white settlers and local Native American communities, the blockhouse was later used for storage and as a jail on the Grand Ronde Reservation.
Park open 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; blockhouse is at the corner of Main Street and Southeast Dayton-Salem Highway, Dayton.
6. Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
It might not necessarily be overlooked, but the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is easily one of the biggest and best attractions on Oregon 18. You can spend all day exploring the massive buildings that house Evergreen’s aircraft, including the famous Spruce Goose, a Wright Flyer replica and a Titan II SLV booster rocket. Evergreen is also home to the Wings and Waves Waterpark, which will soon be reopening at limited capacity for the 2021 season.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fri.-Sun.; 500 N.E. Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville; 503-434-4180; $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and veterans, $10 for kids.
7. Galen McBee Airport Park
Known for its mushroom house sculpture and whimsical fountains, Galen McBee Airport Park is a fascinating little park beside the McMinnville Municipal Airport. First opened in 1977, the park began to fall into disrepair in recent years, but was rehabilitated in 2018 thanks to help from the local Sunrise Rotary Club. The short, forested trails offer a small adventure just off the highway.
Open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset daily; 375 S.E. Armory Way, McMinnville; 503-434-7310.
8. Joe Dancer Park Trail
Most of the 100-acre Joe Dancer Park is taken up by sports fields, but there’s also the 1.2-mile Joe Dancer Trail, which leads through a wooded area above the South Yamhill River. It’s a nice place to get out and stretch your legs or take your dog for a walk (leashes are required). The parking area at Kiwanis Marine Park just off the highway gives easy access to the trail, as well as a small picnic area across a wooden footbridge.
Open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset daily; 1650 S.E. Brooks St., McMinnville; 503-434-7310.
9. Schmidt Farm
Unlike most other farm stands, Schmidt Farm is open only seasonally, selling fresh hazelnuts and walnuts in the fall. Stop by in October when you can buy nuts in enormous quantities, with bags ranging from five to 100 pounds.
Closed for the season; 13940 S.W. Oregon 18, McMinnville; 503-472-8234.
10. Farmer John’s
Selling fresh fruit, vegetables, canned goods, ice cream and other treats, Farmer John’s is a reliable stop for produce and snacks on your way to the coast. Their U-pick berry field can also turn your pit stop into a longer adventure.
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; 15000 S.W. Oldsville Road, McMinnville; 503-474-3514.
11. Erratic Rock
Erratic Rock is a 90-ton boulder that researchers believe floated 500 miles in an iceberg before landing in the Willamette Valley sometime between 12,000 and 17,000 years ago, courtesy of the Missoula Floods that helped shape the region. Today, it’s found at an Oregon state park site off Oregon 18 near McMinnville.
Open dawn to dusk daily; trailhead found on Oldsville Road near Southwest Dusty Drive, .8 miles from Oregon 18; 503-393-1172.
12. Bernards Farm
Recognizable by the big white barn on the side of the highway, Bernards Farm is a farm stand that specializes in plants, selling vegetable starts, flowers and hanging baskets. The farm also has U-pick fields and sells hazelnuts, honey, eggs and other farm-fresh goods.
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; 18755 S.W. Oregon 18, McMinnville; 503-472-4933.
13. Lawrence Gallery
The Lawrence Gallery is simply one of the best, most often overlooked attractions on Oregon 18. The fine arts gallery was founded by local artist Gary Lawrence in 1977 and is well known for its permanent Salvador Dali collection. Make sure to stop in and browse the gallery this summer, because the owners plan to move it to Lake Oswego by the end of the season.
Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 19700 S.W. Oregon 18, McMinnville; 503-843-3633.
14. Stuart Grenfell County Park
A small park along Mill Creek, Stuart Grenfell County Park is perhaps most commonly used as a rest stop for both people and pups. The tree-lined park is also a nice spot for a picnic lunch, and if you follow the perimeter you’ll find paths that lead down to the shallow creek.
Open one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset daily; found on Harmony Lane just off Oregon 18, Sheridan; 503-434-7515.
15. Jim’s Trading Post
Stock up on your beach reading at Jim’s Trading Post, a used book store that also sells tools, toys and housewares. First opened in 1968 by Jim and Lillian Hosley, the business is known for its massive collection of books, including classic comic books, old westerns, cookbooks and so much more.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 29335 Salmon River Highway, Grand Ronde; 503-879-5411.
16. Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area
You won’t find many historic buildings at Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area, but you will find an open meadow with small signs telling you what used to be there. That might be one reason why the park site gets overlooked, ranking it among the least-visited s
tate parks in Oregon, but with nice scenery and some local history, the quiet park site still makes a nice stop on a sunny day. To see the historic blockhouse that once stood at the site, head east to Courthouse Square Park in downtown Dayton.
Open dawn to dusk daily; found off Oregon 22, one mile from the junction with Oregon 18, Grand Ronde; 503-879-5814.
17. H.B. Van Duzer Forest State Scenic Corridor
With twin rest stops on each side of the highway, the H.B. Van Duzer Forest State Scenic Corridor is best known as a place to pull off for a pit stop in the Coast Range. The southern rest area also has a wide-open meadow with picnic tables and trails that lead down to an old-growth forest along the Salmon River.
Open dawn to dusk; on Oregon 18 between Grand Ronde and Rose Lodge; 541-994-7341.
18. Drift Creek Covered Bridge
The Drift Creek Covered Bridge was originally built in 1914, serving locals on an old north-south route along the Oregon coast. The bridge became obsolete by the 1960s, was closed to the public in 1988 and in 1997 was dismantled and moved to a private property just off Oregon 18. The property owners have given the public permission to visit the bridge, which now spans Bear Creek in the Coast Range.
Open dawn to dusk daily; found on Bear Creek Road off Oregon 18 at Rose Lodge; 541-265-5747.
–Jamie Hale; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-4077; @HaleJamesB