Lined by Highway 101 to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Oregon Coast is 363 miles (584 km) of rugged shoreline, where tide pools and hiking trails share sunsets with beach towns and lighthouses. Oregon state law stipulates that from the surf to the brush, “the public has free and uninterrupted use of the beaches.” Read on for our highlights of the expansive and breathtaking Oregon Coast.
Tips for Visiting the Oregon Coast
When is the best time to visit the Oregon Coast?
If you have a limited travel budget or dislike crowds, plan your trip for spring or autumn (and bring a raincoat). Most of the Oregon coast’s top attractions are accessible during these shoulder seasons, and you’ll save a little money on lodging.
What are the best things to do on the Oregon coast?
Kid-friendly activities include aquariums, tidepools, kite flying and the Tillamook Cheese Factory (they sell ice cream too).
The Oregon Coast is packed with historical sites, including Fort Clatsop and Astoria, the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. If road trips are your thing, there are nine historic lighthouses along Oregon’s coastline and plenty of scenic views in between.
Can you swim in the ocean in Oregon?
If kids want to splash in the water on a hot day, stay close and keep an eye on them at all times. Make sure they stay away from logs resting on or near wet sand.
Twice a year, approximately 18,000 whales can be seen migrating in both directions along the length of the Oregon Coast. The Whale Watching Spoken Here program stations volunteers at prime viewing spots along the coast for a week in December and in March. Visit the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay for a quick study of local aquatic plants and wildlife and year-round whale spotting tips.
Hiking and Camping
All along the coast, dozens of Oregon state parks offer great spots for hikers and campers. Popular parks for camping include Fort Stevens State Park outside Astoria, Nehalem Bay State Park in Manzanita, and Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park in Florence.
For hiking, Neahkahnie Mountain, Cape Lookout and Cape Perpetua all offer trails that, on a clear day, provide stunning views of old-growth trees and the vast Pacific Ocean. On the central coast, check out the Umpqua Dunes in the Oregon Dune Recreation Area, where you’ll find the state’s highest dunes and widest beach — and no off-road vehicles.
Another way to soak in the scenes is with Oregon Coast Rail Riders. Explore the Oregon Coast by causually pedalling along decommissioned railways with the whole family.
Find out why locals love to visit the coast in the winter, too: Storm watching at one of Oregon’s many beachfront resorts is an exciting and romantic off-season pastime.
Up to 20,000 gray whales migrate along Oregon's coast every winter and spring — this handy guide to whale watching on the Oregon Coast covers prime spots to see migrating whales, top whale-watching charters, when to go and more.
Get the full Oregon Coast experience with chilly Northwest surfing, tide pool viewing and a warm cup of clam chowder.
To truly appreciate the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, you can spend a memorable night under the stars at these scenic campsites — from rustic tent camping to cabins and yurts — all located within an easy drive from the city.
In Oregon’s northwestern corner, the busy port city of Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Home to art galleries, restaurants and antique shops, and many must-see attractions. From the towering 125-foot (38 m) Astoria Column, with its breathtaking views and murals depicting Oregon’s early history, to the reconstructed Fort Clatsop, where living history demonstrations depict Lewis and Clark’s 1805-06 winter encampment, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum where visitors can tour a floating lighthouse, the Lightship Columbia.
About 15 miles (24 km) south, the beach town of Seaside is where locals go to play in the surf and enjoy a beach day, complete salt water taffy and ice cream. Stroll or bike the two-mile (3.2 km) oceanfront promenade with its Coney Island-like attractions.
Cannon Beach, 20 minutes further down the road, can seem a world away, with a laid-back, artsy beach-town vibe that compels visitors to take it slow — especially when the sun is setting behind picturesque Haystack Rock.
For a taste of the dramatic Oregon coastline, drive 10 miles (16 km) west of Tillamook to Cape Mears, the first stop on the popular Three Capes Scenic Drive. Enjoy Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda before rejoining Highway 101 about a half-hour south of Tillamook.
Wondering where you’ve heard the town name “Tillamook” before? Taste the answer at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where samples of cheddar, cheese curds and freshly-made ice cream demand a stop.
The Oregon Central Coast starts at Lincoln City where you can fly a kite or roll the dice at the popular Chinook Winds Casino. Watch for the world’s shortest river, “D” River, here, too, as well as shopping at the 65+ stores of the Lincoln City Outlets.
Continuing south 25 miles (40 km), you’ll find the historic fishing and shipping town of Newport. There’s lots to do here, from coming face-to-fins with hundreds of sharks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium to sampling chowder at Mo’s and sipping locally crafted Rogue beer or spirits. Newport is also home to an active arts community, as well as one of the state’s nine historic lighthouses. Illuminated in 1873, Yaquina Head Lighthouse stands 93 feet (28 m) tall and still guides ships today.
Another 25 miles (40 km) or so south on Highway 101, Yachats State Recreation Area and Cape Perpetua are favorite stops for their tide pools populated with starfish, sea anemones, crabs and other coastal critters.
Florence, 49 miles (79 km) south of Yachats, marks the gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a 40-mile-long (64 km) playground for sand-boarders, dune buggies and off-highway vehicles (ATVs).
The Southern Oregon Coast includes the towns of Coos Bay, known for its botanical garden, Shore Acres, busy retail center and The Mill Casino and RV Park; Bandon, home to the acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort; Gold Beach, the sunniest spot on the Northwest coast; and Brookings-Harbor, renowned for its reliably warm weather.
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