One of the most underrated drives in the United States has to be along the 101 in Oregon. This road will take you along the rugged and beautiful Oregon coastline, and you don’t want to miss it!
If you’re only able to see part of it, then you want to head to Florence, Oregon. There, you’ll find the Sea Lion Caves, America’s largest sea cave!
About the Sea Lion Caves
The Sea Lion Caves is a natural cavern system that is about 300 feet below the road and runs approximately 1,000 feet underground to an opening that meets the ocean. It provides a safe area for the area’s wildlife to spend time throughout the year.
In 1932, a private family bought the land and decided to turn it into a wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary. That means this area can’t be built on or developed, it’s preserved for all of the animals that call it home.
Because it is a wild sanctuary, it is not a zoo. So, the animals all come and go as they please. This protected area is a hotbed for sea lion activity. They love to come here and sun on the rocks with their newborn pups, ‘hang out’ with each other and eat.
Up Close And Personal
While most people have to settle for taking photos of the sea lions from the edge of the highway, Sea Lion Caves lets you get a much better view.
There are a number of viewing areas around the center. Many people use this area as a lookout for whales. Orcas and grey whales can be seen migrating along the coast during specific times of the year.
But, the biggest thrill is going over 200 feet down through solid rock in an elevator to the cavern floor. Here, you’ll have two viewing points to see the sea lions in action. One is where the rocky shoreline meets the Pacific Ocean, and the other is inside the cave itself.
Here, inside the cavern, is where the sea lions usually gather. And while they are the biggest attraction, you can’t ignore just how beautiful the cavern is. So, be sure to bring your phone or camera with you to take plenty of pictures along the way.
Sea Lion Caves is pretty much right in the middle of the Oregon coastline. Since it’s on Highway 101, you’ll have easy access from nearby major cities. Florence also has highway access to Interstate 5 via Route 126 as well, if you don’t want to take the slower (yet more scenic 101).
The drive from Portland is about three and a half hours. While it’s just under two hours from Eugene.
Sea Lion Caves is open year round, only closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. It’s hours run from 9 am until dusk. Feel free to call ahead if you’re planning on making a day trip to learn when the sea lions are most active. Or, if you happen to be driving by, it makes for the perfect break during a long road trip!