The famous San Francisco sea lions that occupy prime dock space on Pier 39 first appeared there shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Then in 2009 they mysteriously disappeared for three months. Where did they go?
Oregonians believe that the celebrity sea lions headed north to holiday on the turbulent and exciting shores of the central coast of Oregon. To be exact, they headed for the famous Sea Lion Caves in Florence.
As evidence, the Oregon locals point to the massive increase in the annual sea lion population soon after the SF lions turned off the lights in their famous City by the Bay.
Sea lions everywhere
Sea lion fans rejoice. Currently, nature is providing ample amounts of the odoriferous mammalia to go around.
Along with the flabby fellows comes the infamous sea lion aroma. The gamey bouquet is pervasive on the famous California pier, and is inescapable in the celebrated Oregon cave. Take heart, most people recover rapidly from the first initial shock.
When they are in Oregon
From about December to August the jolly lions inhabit the largest sea cave in America, which is located just 11 miles north of Florence, and some 200 feet below the roadbed of busy US Highway 101.
The cave is 25 million years old, tall as a 12-story building, and about a football field in length. It’s big.
The building entrance to the cave sits on a curve in the road that during the summer months percolates with tots and teens under the watchful gaze of parents – all anxious to view the famous pinnipeds in their natural habitat.
Once you have paid your admission fee inside the gift shop, it’s a relatively-short and scenic walk down to the elevator pavilion.
The elevator was installed in 1961, and today it’s fun to watch people cheerfully bunch into the hoist that transports them 208 feet down to the giant sea grotto below.
The cave’s resident Steller and Northern Sea Lions are viewed in their natural habitat from behind a metal mesh screen, which can be a challenge for picture taking, but it is doable.
Now you see them and now you don’t
The lions come and go from the Sea Cave on a loose schedule determined by Nature. The choice rock space begins to fill up around December 1st of every year, and the last of the several hundred cave inhabitants usually have somewhere else to go by mid-August.
Even when there are just a few – if any – sea lions in the cavern, the Cave is a worthwhile experience.
Over the years, the owners of the Sea Cave have embellished the attraction with ample parking and a great topside gift shop (try the delicious homemade fudge – yummy).
What you will find down under
Look for the natural rock room where the public can view an engrossing film about the sea, cave, and the flora and fauna of the area. It’s interesting to note that there are several species of endangered birds nesting in the cave.
Additionally, there are educational displays, and creative colors and lights that are conducive to the grotto setting.
From the subterranean sea lion viewing level, walk up the staircase to the observation platform.
There you will find a dynamic panorama of the sea – an excellent place from which to view the historic Heceta Lighthouse* perched on a cliff just a few miles north of the cave.
The Sea Lion Caves is a fun family activity. We suggest you give it a go.
Where to stay
On this visit we chose to stay in Florence at the Driftwood Shores Resort, the only oceanfront hotel in the area.
The view astonishes
Every room and suite at the Driftwood Shores has a spectacular view.
All the rooms overlook miles of pristine beach, and the fresh air, and roar of the crashing waves is a welcome sleep inducer.
In addition to the usual hotel conveniences, our generous lodging had a full size kitchen,
and a front row seat to breathtaking sunsets from our private balcony.
Other unique amenities include an indoor aquatic center, and an electric car charging station.
The resort offers ocean cuddling accommodations from single rooms, to one bedroom suites, and three bedroom condos. It is a comfortable base from which to explore the many attractions and activities offered in this scenic part of the Oregon coast.
The Driftwood Shores Resort would be a great venue for a wedding, large family, or small corporate gathering. There’s ample gathering space for about 100 people.
It’s a beachy-keen accommodation that we think you will like.
Where to eat
The Surfside Restaurant and Lounge is located right on property. The food is first rate. Open seven days a week, the restaurant is a celebration of the region’s produce in a striking setting with panoramic views.
If you go
For more information about Sea Lion Caves reach out to their website at http://www.sealioncaves.com
To check on current specials or make reservations at the Driftwood Shores Resort click here.
*To read our story about the historic Heceta Lighthouse look here.
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Copyright © 2016 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff – some Driftwood Shores facility photos courtesy of Driftwood Shores Resort.