Last week, we did the ultimate Oregon Coast road trip with Travel Oregon – all 363 miles of it. It was epic! This year, the People’s Coast is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Oregon beach bill, which made all of the Oregon coast public. We always love a good road trip and were so happy to celebrate their anniversary by exploring the entire coast.
Thank you Travel Oregon for hosting our trip and thank you Toyota for letting us test drive the new Prius Prime. We can’t believe we only had to fill up one and a half times when we logged 1000 miles on this trip. As opinions are always our own. This also post contains affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: December 16, 2020
THE ULTIMATE OREGON COAST ROAD TRIP
North Oregon Coast Attractions
Not only did we love their rugged coast and getting to witness the power of the Pacific ocean, but we also loved the diversity in activities. We enjoyed the beaches, tried crabbing for the first time, sandboarded where sandboarding was invented, and hiked to waterfalls. Today, we’re sharing the best things to do on the Oregon Coast and the best beaches to visit.
The North Coast has longer stretches of sandy beaches and is the most touristy part of the Oregon Coast. It’s most well known for Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock, but did you know there are three Haystack Rocks along the Oregon Coast?
WARRENTON - Mile 6.5
- Fort Stevens State Park – Peter Iredale Shipwreck was nice during sunset.
- Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks / Fort Clatsop – it’s a National Park unit.
- Sunset Beach State Recreation Site
SEASIDE - Mile 20
ECOLA STATE PARK - Mile 29.5
- Ecola Point to Indian Beach Hike – 1.5 mi, easy – The Indian Beach Trail and viewpoints were closed due to mudslides (April 2017). Check the conditions of the trails before you go.
- Clatsop Loop Hike – 3 mi loop, 700 ft, easy, you’ll see the Tillamook Rock Light aka Terrible Tilly and Indian Beach.
- Crescent Beach Hike – 3.6 mi, 310 ft, easy – can see caves at Ecola Point, Sea Lion Rocks at Ecola Point, and Bird Rocks at Chapman Point.
- Tillamook Head Traverse Hike – 6.3 mi, 1350 ft, moderate – see Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, clifftop views, strong hikers continue 1.3 mi to the Ecola State Park Trailhead then down to Cannon Beach.
CANNON BEACH - Mile 28
- Haystack Rock – You can see them from Haystack Hill State Park and Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site is just south of it. This is a great spot for sunrise and sunset. If you’re lucky, you may see some tufted puffins on Haystack Rock (April – August)
- Castaways – moderately priced Cajun-Creole food
- Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House – hardware store that serves food. Get the fish and chips.
- Public Coast Brewing – try a flight and the burgers.
- Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge – Had a beautiful view of the beach, and the halibut cheek (a special) and the scallops were great.
Where to Stay
- Hike to Short Sand Beach and on the way see a suspension bridge too. We got lost in the park, so we didn’t end up doing any of the official hikes.
- Neahkahnie Mountain Loop Hike – 8 mi lollipop loop, 2300 ft moderate difficulty. It has nice coastal views and you go under a natural tunnel formed by tree roots. If you just want to hike to Summit Viewpoint, it is 3 mi RT and moderate.
- Arch Cape to Short Sand Beach – 15.9 mi RT, 990 ft, difficult. If you want a longer hike and want to avoid the crowds, this is the hike for you. Arch Cape to Cape Falcon is the least traveled part of Oswald West State Park.
- Kelly’s Brighton Marina (Nehalem Bay) – We’ve already been back 3 times. You need 1-2 hours to go crabbing and this can be affected by weather. We ate some of the freshest oysters and crab. Kelly taught us so much about the art of crabbing and his enthusiasm was contagious.
- Emily Reed Shipwreck – This is not always visible. Every so often the sands shift and reveal the 102-year-old shipwreck.
- Pronto Pup – where the original corndog was invented. They were too salty for my taste, but hey… it’s the original!
TILLAMOOK - Mile 65
- Tillamook Cheese Factory Tour – free and self-guided. Currently, only a portion of it is open. Check their site for updates.
- Cape Meares and Cape Meares Lighthouse – Oregon’s shortest lighthouse. You can also see the Octopus Tree and the Big Spruce here (Oregon’s largest Sitka spruce).
- Lost Boy Cave – You can only go at super low tide (-1.5 or lower, see tide charts here). There are 3 points of entry. The easiest and safest is from Short Beach from the North. The other entry point is through Tunnel Beach on the South. Legend calls it Lost Boy Cave because a boy drowned here. From the cave, you can see Three Arch Rocks and Lost Boy Beach. We were bummed that we had to skip this since the tide wasn’t low enough.
- Jacobsen Salt Co. – Do a salt tasting of the salt harvested right at Netarts Bay. It’s famous for their texture, taste, and appearance and is used by chefs all over the world. You can also do a Bee Local honey tasting, their sister company.
- Cape Lookout State Park – Popular for beachcombing, glass floats, and hiking. There are more than 8 miles of trails through lush, old-growth forest. You get amazing ocean views, easy access to the beach, and you might spot whales.
- Munson Creek Falls – 0.6 mi, 95 ft, easy hike to the highest waterfall along the Oregon coast (three-tiered 319 ft)
- Tillamook Air Museum
See many of the attractions via the Three Capes Scenic Loop (map). This 40-mile scenic byway takes you to all three Capes: Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, Cape Kiwanda. Other stops: Munson Creek Falls, Nestucca Bay, Bob Straub State Park, Clay Myers State Natural Area, and Lost Boy Cave.
PACIFIC CITY - Mile 87.4
- Cape Kiwanda – This is where you see the second Haystack Rock. It looks similar to the one Cannon Beach, and the area doesn’t have as many tourists.
- Pelican Pub & Brewery is a craft beer industry leader. They are well known for pairing their food and beer well and have been doing it for over 20 years.
- Horseback Riding (fall and winter hours are on Friday-Saturday only)
Where to Stay
We stayed at Inn at Cape Kiwanda (mid-range) – located just off Highway 101, in relaxed and uncomplicated Pacific City, Oregon. All 35 deluxe guest rooms feature private balconies with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and Haystack Rock, air conditioning, cozy gas fireplaces. It also has Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. Check Rates at Booking + Hotels.com. Read more reviews on Tripadvisor.
CENTRAL OREGON COAST ATTRACTIONS
The Central Coast is similar in appearance to the North Coast but has fewer sandy beaches and more sea cliffs, terraces, and bays. This is where the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area starts.
This is one of the bigger cities on the coast, which will give you more food and lodging options. Portlanders like to come here to cool off during the summer.
- Drift Creek Falls Hike – Takes you over a suspension bridge to a beautiful waterfall.
- Seven Miles of Smiles – the beaches from Roads End to Siletz Bay. This is famous for their Finder’s Keepers glass float hunt. Each year from mid-October to Memorial Day, “Float Fairies” will hide glass treasures along the Seven Miles of Smiles. We found a couple from the SW 51st Street Beach Access.
- D-River – this river was once named the shortest in the world! It is measured to be 440 ft (130 m) and 120 ft (37 m) at extreme high tide.
- Roads End Hike – 2.6 mi, 15 ft, easy
- Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area – quick stop and you can see it from the parking lot. It doesn’t look all that special unless you go at sunset.
NEWPORT - Mile 141
- Marine Discovery Cruise – the Sealife cruise takes ~2 hours, where they look for gray whales, harbor porpoise, seals, sea lions, pelicans, and bald eagles (depending on the time of year).
- Yaquina Head Lighthouse at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (BLM) – Oregon’s tallest lighthouse at 93 ft. The structure was completed in 1874 and is Oregon’s second-oldest continuously operating lighthouse. The area is amazing for tide pooling. I’ve never seen such a huge concentration of creatures in one spot.
- Historic Newport Bayfront – See the sea lions on the public piers and private docks. It has a nice view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge and has some nice souvenir shopping.
- Rogue Ales Brewery / Brewer’s on the Bay – this was named one of the top 50 American breweries by Beer Advocate and is on the Newport Historic Bayfront.
- Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site – Not to be confused with Yaquina Head, but this also has a lighthouse, the Yaquina Bay lighthouse. You also get a nice view of Yaquina Bay Bridge from here.
- Agate Beach State Recreation Site – beachcombing is popular here. If you’re lucky, you will find an agate.
- Nye Beach – A great place to escape to. Colorful buildings fill this seaside community, and you can shop, eat, or spend time on the beach.
- Oregon Coast Aquarium – one of Oregon’s top tourist attractions. It brings in over 40,000 students each year for its excellent educational programs.
- Hatfield Marine Science Center
Where to Stay
Sylvia Beach Hotel (luxury) – 21-room themed bed & breakfast with a homey charm. Each room is based on an author and is perfect for unplugging since there are no telephones, TVs, or wi-fi in the rooms. We stayed in the Hemingway room.
Don’t forget to check out their Tables of Content Restaurant where it’s communal style and you get to meet the other guests. Also, say hi to Shelley the resident cat for us! Call for reservations at 541.265.5428 or Toll-Free 888.795.8422. Read more reviews on Tripadvisor.
YACHATS / CAPE PERPETUA SCENIC AREA - Mile 164.4
- Cape Perpetua Scenic Area – this is where you’ll find Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, Devil’s Churn, and Cook’s Chasm. There are also plenty of tide pools to explore too. Be sure to check the tide charts here. Go at high tide for Thor’s Well (you will get soaked, but the photos are worth it!).
- Yachats Brewing – Located in an old bank building, it is now a center for food, beer, and culture.
FLORENCE - Mile 190
- Heceta Head Lighthouse – This is the brightest light on the Oregon coast and most photographed lighthouse in the state.
- Sea Lion Caves – This is America’s largest sea cave inhabited by sea lions. Take in the sounds (and smells)! There are the most seals in the cave during Winter and Spring, they then head out for mating during the Summer, and are in and out feeding during the Fall.
- Sand Master Park – We first went sand boarding in Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but on this, trip we met Lon Beale who invented sandboarding and made the world’s first sandboard park! If you’ve never done it before, you can also get lessons.
- Bridgewater Fish House – Sip elegant cocktails and dine on delicious seafood, steaks, pastas and more in the heart of Florence’s Historic Old Town at this classic coastal spot.
- Guided Sand Rail Tour – ride through the amazing sand dunes through a guided tour.
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – Riding Dune Buggies – Enjoy an exciting guided Sand Rail Tour or a Professionally guided Interpretive Scenic Tour on one of the famous big purple buggies driven by skilled driver.
- Historic Old Town
Where to Stay
SOUTH OREGON COAST ATTRACTIONS
The South Coast is more rugged and mountainous. It’s generally known to be warmer and sunnier than the North and Central coast (maybe because it’s closer to California). You will start seeing more redwoods, cedar, Douglas-fir forests, and plenty of sand dunes.
COOS BAY - Mile 237.5
- Coos History Museum & Maritime Collection
- Shore Acres State Park – a great place to storm watch and see huge crashing waves.
- Cape Arago Beach Loop – includes Bastendorff Beach, Sunset Bay State Park, Cape Arago Lighthouse Viewpoint, Shore Acres State Park and Botanical Gardens, Simpson Beach, Shell Island Interpretive Stop, Cape Arago State Park
- The 7 Devils Brewing Company
PORT ORFORD - Mile 301
Where to Stay
GOLD BEACH - Mile 328
- Rogue Jets – open May 1 to Oct 15
- Barnacle Bistro – great casual spot servicing fresh and local seafood and burgers.
- Arch Rock Brewing
- Turtle Rock – a rock formation just off the highway (west of the 101) that looks like a turtle. You can map to Turtle Rock Resort.
- Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor – just a few steps down the trail to the west, you can see Humbug Mountain. You can hike through thick Sitka Spruce rainforest to Hunters Cove (3 mi out and back).
- Meyers Creek Beach – there is a large shark fin rock formation and it a popular spot for windsurfing.
Where to Stay
Tu Tu Tun Lodge (luxury) – This was our favorite place to stay on the Oregon coast. There are regular rooms or you can rent out one of the amazing homes. It’s such a relaxing place and a great way to end a trip. We were in the River House and didn’t want to leave! Call 1.800.864.6357 for reservations or email [email protected]. Read more reviews on Tripadvisor.
Hiking trails connect all the viewpoints along Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, or you can hop in a car and go to the most popular viewpoints.
- Arch Rock Picnic Area – short walk to a couple viewpoints
- Natural Bridges – viewpoint or hike down closer to the water
- Thomas Creek Bridge – hike down to the beach to get a view of the bridge
- Whaleshead Beach Picnic Area – quick stop and viewpoint
- House Rock Viewpoint – quick stop and viewpoint
- Thunder Rock Cove – short hike
- Secret Beach Hike + Miner Creek waterfall flows into Secret Beach – unmarked stop on the road with a short hike to the beach
- Harris Beach State Park – south of Samuel H Boardman there is a feature that looks similar to the keyhole at Pfeiffer State Beach in Big Sur!
- Chetco Point Park
Local Tip: There’s so much to see! We recommend spending more than one day here.
Best Places to Stay on the Oregon Coast
- Astoria: The Cannery Pier Hotel (see full review here).
- Cannon Beach: Surfsand Resort (mid-range – luxury) – most popular hotel in Cannon Beach. You can see Haystack Rock from your balcony.
- Pacific City: Inn at Cape Kiwanda (mid-range) – you can see Haystack Rock #2 from your balcony.
- Newport: Sylvia Beach Hotel (luxury) has different rooms with an author theme. We stayed in the Hemingway.
- Florence: Driftwood Shores Resort and Conference Center (mid-range) has amazing oceanfront rooms.
- Port Orford: WildSpring Guest Habitat (mid-range) is such a cute glamping spot.
- Gold Beach: Tu Tu Tun Lodge (luxury) was our favorite place to stay on the Oregon coast.
Oregon Coast Video
Essential Tips for First Timers
- When to Go – October – May is considered rainy season. You will have the least rainy days in July and August, but the summer is also when you’ll get the crowds. September is a good month to go because it’s shoulder season. You still get a bit of the nice weather but less crowds.
- Be flexible – the weather can change dramatically day to day. Some activities will not be possible in the rain, storm, or choppy waters. Have a plan B and a plan C.
- Park Passes to Bring: Your Oregon State Park Pass is good for Ecola State Park, Fort Stevens, Cape Lookout, Heceta Head, Shore Acres (otherwise $5 per day per park). America the Beautiful Pass gets you into Lewis and Clark NRA, Yaquina Head, Cape Perpetua, Oregon Dunes NRA, and any other National Parks or BLM lands you may want to visit. There is also an Oregon Coast pass that gets you into any state and federal parks, but not the parks if you want to venture more inland.
- If you want to end your trip with a shorter drive back to Portland, start from South to North, which is what we will probably do next time.
- Lesson Learned – Planning your photo stops with Instagram and Pinterest is nice in theory, but we learned how many things were mislabelled. We spent a lot of time getting lost (and not in a good way since we were packing in so much to do all 363 miles of coast).
What to Pack for Your Oregon Coast Trip
- Pack a Raincoat: We had one partly cloudy day, and all the other days were rainy and stormy.
- Clothes to Wear: Wear clothes you don’t mind getting muddy especially on hikes. It also helps if you also wear quick dry clothes underneath your waterproof layers. It’s not necessary, but we even wore waterproof pants on one of the stormy days where it was raining sideways and we were still completely soaked. Also might not recommend going out when it’s that stormy.
- Kleenex wet wipes to wipe off the mud. I always get the germ removal kind to use on my hands too.
Have you done an Oregon Coast road trip? Anything else we missed? What’s the last road trip you’ve been on?
SEE MORE Road Trip Ideas
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Portland Oregon.