Oregon Coast Day Trip
200 miles/322 kilometers
Your exploration of Oregon’s beaches begins by heading west on Highway 30 to the Oregon Coast’s northernmost tip, Astoria. The oldest American settlement west of the Rockies, Astoria holds the distinction of being on the National Historic Trust’s 2004 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, an annual list of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States.
Here, restored Victorian-era homes dot the hillsides while fresh seafood markets, restaurants and shops pepper the town. Downtown's Hotel Elliott is one of the National Trust's Historic Hotels of America, while the nearby Liberty Theater has been featured on HGTV's Restore America series. Other historic sites include the Flavel House Museum; the towering 125-foot Astoria Column, with its breathtaking views and murals depicting Oregon's early history; and the reconstructed Fort Clatsop, where living history demonstrations depict Lewis and Clark's 1805-‘06 winter encampment.
Children will delight in the Uppertown Firefighters Museum and Astoria Children's Museum, while the whole family will enjoy the parades, performances and food that enliven the annual Scandinavian Midsummer Festival – all capped off with a relaxing ride on the restored 1914 Riverfront Trolley.
The significance of Astoria goes back to the days of Captain Robert Gray, who discovered the mouth of the Columbia River and gave the United States its claim to the territory. Named for tycoon John Jacob Astor, Astoria lost its identity temporarily when it fell in 1813 to the British, who rechristened it Fort George. Settlers eventually reclaimed both the town and its original name.
If your Oregon Coast travels take you south on Highway 101, you’ll arrive in quaint Seaside with its two-mile-long oceanfront promenade of Coney Island-like attractions. On Broadway, the End of the Trail Monument marks the westward end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The neighboring community of Cannon Beach is a picturesque oasis of local theater, surf fishing, beachcombing, art galleries and shopping. On its shores, the surf laps against Haystack Rock, one of the world’s tallest monoliths.
Pick up some saltwater taffy for the 40-mile drive south to historic Tillamook. This coastal town is most famous for its cheese. Sample the goods at the Tillamook Cheese Visitors Center and explore the nearby Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum, which houses World War II memorabilia. For a taste of the dramatic Oregon coastline, drive 10 miles west of Tillamook to Cape Mears, the first top on the popular Three Capes Scenic Drive. Enjoy Cape Lookout and Cape Kawanda before rejoining Highway 101 about a half-hour south of Tillamook.
Continuing south, arrive at the kite-flying capital of the world, Lincoln City, with its popular Chinook Winds Casino. Watch for the world’s shortest river, "D" River, and the Tanger Outlet Center, offering more than 65 outlets. Featured at this shopper’s haven are Columbia Sportswear, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Gap Outlet, Old Navy Outlet and Coach.
Further south, in Newport, go whale-watching with Marine Discovery Tours. Or come face-to-fins with hundreds of mysterious sharks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The acclaimed aquarium, the former home of Keiko, includes sea otters, harbor seals, a giant Pacific octopus and other denizens of the deep. At the end of the day, enjoy a handcrafted beer at the popular Rogue Ales Public House.
After a full day of sightseeing, beachcombing, kite-flying, shopping and picture-taking, you will be more than ready to sample some of Oregon’s finest cuisine, from Dungeness crab to wild salmon. Feast on the bounty of fresh seafood, then return to Portland via Highway 18 to Highway 99 through Oregon's Wine Country. Just east of the Wine Country town of McMinnville on Highway 18, you’ll find the Evergreen Aviation Museum, home of the famous "Spruce Goose" and the only F-15A Eagle currently in civilian hands.