If you’re looking for the ultimate road trip, the Oregon coast may just be the perfect destination, with craggy beaches, hikes through lush forests, and charming towns stretching for the 363 miles along the Pacific coastline.
But with so much to see, jam-packed in this stretch of U.S. Route 101, it can be hard to know exactly where you should stop along your journey. I’m lucky enough to live a short drive away and have spent many a weekends exploring this little slice of heaven. So, without further adieu, here’s 17 incredible Oregon Coast towns to add to your road trip itinerary.
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Table of Contents:
- Oregon Coast Towns You Don’t Want To Miss
- Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Oregon Coast Towns
- Tips for Visiting the Oregon Coast
- What to Pack for the Oregon Coast
To drive from the north of the Oregon coast all the way to its southernmost tip would take about seven and a half hours, but don’t rush through it!
The Oregon Coast is meant to be explored and savored, so if you only have a few days for your visit, I’d recommend picking just a certain section that sounds particularly amazing to you and spending your time there.
Going from north to south, I’m going to share some of the best Oregon Coast towns, highlighting things to see and do in each of them, and include the time it takes to drive from place to place. Near the bottom of the article, you’ll find some sample itineraries to make sure you have an amazing time, no longer how long- or short- you have to explore the coast, in addition to tips to help make your trip awesome.
So, basically, everything you need to plan the best Oregon Coast road trip possible.
This post is absolutely STUFFED with information, so grab a coffee or a glass of wine and keep on scrolling to learn all about the best Oregon Coast towns. Alternatively, if you’re only interested in a specific area of the coastline, I’ve divided this article into three sections (North, Central, and South), which you can jump to here:
- North Oregon Coast (from Astoria to Pacific City)
- Central Oregon Coast (from Lincoln City to Florence)
- South Oregon (from Coos Bay to Brookings)
With that, let’s go into it!
Oregon Coast Towns You Don’t Want to Miss
North Oregon Coast
Drive time from Portland to Astoria: One hour and 45 minutes
Astoria is a bit unique from other towns you’ll find along the Oregon Coast and feels like an ‘80s harbor town with some strong industrial fishing vibes mixed in. That’s not to say that Astoria isn’t charming- between its undeniable nostalgia (the beloved Goonies movie was filmed here!), fantastic brewery scene, and interesting parks, Astoria is a good starting point for any Oregon road trip.
What to See and Do in Astoria:
- Walk the Cathedral Tree Trail, a 1.5 mile out-and-back hike to an enormous sitka spruce, which continues on to the town’s iconic Astoria Column. For $5, you can climb the 164-stairs to reach the top of the 125-foot column, which offers 360 views of the surrounding town and the Columbia River.
- If you’re a Truffle Shuffle fanatic (same!), you can visit the Goonies film sites, like the jail cell that held Jake Fratelli before he escaped, at the Oregon Film Museum (which, to set expectations, should really be called “The Goonies Museum”, if you’re hoping to see any other kinds of film memorabilia).
While you can also see the Goonies house in town, be forewarned- it’s a private residence, so the neighborhood can be wary of visitors. There’s been a variety of owners of the home, who have vacillated between being happy about having fans visiting it to strictly prohibiting it.
The most recent owner has allegedly undergone a sea change (pun intended!) from previous owners and welcomes Goonies enthusiasts. Nevertheless, if you do visit, refrain from parking on the street itself, which is narrow and has limited parking, heeding any signs that are posted, and generally being quiet and respectful of the residents.
- Head 20 minutes west to Fort Stevens State Park, which offers the only Civil War era earthen fort on the entire west coast, as well as the skeleton of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, a 1906-sailing vessel that was sunk due to a gnarly storm and now is embedded into the park’s sandy shores. If you want to get up close and personal with the shipwreck’s skeleton, be sure to time your visit with low-tide (check out the tide chart here).
What to Eat and Drink in Astoria:
- Buoy Beer Company is one of my favorite breweries along the entire Oregon coast, thanks to its inventive beer lineup and chill vibes, including a lovely dog-friendly patio!
- Astoria Coffeehouse and Bistro offers delicious pastries and coffee for your morning pick-me-up.
- With bang-for-your-buck authentic Mexican dishes and killer margaritas, La Cabana de Raya and its awesome patio with a riverfront view is one of Astoria’s best hidden gems.
Where to Stay in Astoria:
- The Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa, alone, is kind of worth the trip to Astoria. The hotel is super unique, as it’s built on top of a century-old pier that juts out 600 feet into the Columbia River and was once the home of the Union Fisherman’s Cooperative Packing Company. Every room has a balcony with a view, so keep an eye out for any sea lions swimming below!
Drive time from Astoria to Seaside: 27 minutes
Seaside kinda feels like something you’d find on the Jersey Shore- this, well, seaside town is full of souvenir shops, arcades that look straight out of the 1980s, and hotdog and ice cream stands. Perhaps because of this vibe, it seems to be one of the most popular destinations for families along the coast.
In some respects, Seaside lacks a bit of the coastal charm found in some of the other towns on the Oregon Coast. But if you’re traveling with little kids, looking for more affordable accommodations close to Cannon Beach (lodging here is definitely more affordable than some other places along the northern coastline), or dig kitschy nostalgic vibes (for example, you can rent one of those retro-y swan boats to paddle around the river), Seaside may just be right up your alley!
What to See and Do in Seaside:
- While the Jersey Shore has boardwalks, Seaside has its very own promenade-colloquially referred to as the “prom”. Dating all the way back to the 1920s (and retaining some of its original boardwalks!), the prom is a walking and biking path that stretches 1.5 miles across the coastline, offering spectacular ocean and dune views and is lined by plenty of shops, restaurants, and theaters.
The prom is one of the most popular things to do in Seaside and the perfect introduction to the town, given its excellent people-watching opportunities and mixture of beautiful coastal views with the nostalgic kitschiness that is Seaside.
- The Seaside Beach is perfect for families- unlike a lot of beaches along the coastline, it has a wide, flat sandy shore, with nothing but the undisturbed Pacific Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see (i.e., you won’t find any craggy sea stacks, cliffs, or mysterious coves here). So whether you’re looking to have a beach picnic, go swimming (word of warning- its water is FREEZING year round), or even try your hand at surfing, Seaside Beach is an awesome option.
What to Eat and Drink in Seaside:
- Housed in an old theater, Sisu Beer offers tasty pub food and a decent beer selection.
- Sea Star Gelato provides friendly service, an enormous array of, like, really good gelato, and hefty scoops. What’s not to love?
Where to Stay in Seaside:
- Hi-Tide Oceanfront Inn is within walking distance to all of Seaside’s main attractions and offers ocean view rooms with your own private balcony. While the rooms are a bit on the dated side, they’re clean, comfy, and definitely affordable for the Oregon coast.
- If you prefer something a bit more secluded, Lanai at the Cove, tucked away in a quieter part of Seaside, is a boutique hotel, with tons of amenities (like in-room kitchenettes and a heated pool), fantastic views of surfers catching waves, and incredible service.
3. Cannon Beach
Drive time from Seaside to Cannon Beach: 14 minutes
Even though Cannon Beach is just as touristy as Seaside, it still is impossibly charming (and, in my opinion, one of the best towns on the Oregon Coast), with its coastal cottages, quaint storefronts, and one of the most picturesque beaches, thanks to the famed Haystack Rock.
Beyond being kind of iconic along the Oregon coast, this 235-foot tall basalt sea stack offers so many points of interest, from observing the puffins that nest here from April through July to its incredible tide pools, teeming with sea creatures.
What to See and Do in Cannon Beach:
- There’s a ton of awesome trails close to town that wind through lush pine-tree forests and along rugged coastlines- there’s so many, in fact, that we wrote an entire post about the best hikes near Cannon Beach!
For the very best trails in the area, I’d recommend heading to Ecola State Park (just 12 minutes north of town!), with trails like Crescent Beach, which will lead you through a dense forest down onto a secluded beach, or the Indian Beach trail, with stunning views of sea stacks jutting out of the Pacific.
Oswald West State Park (about 10 minutes south of town) also has some fantastic hikes, like the Cape Falcon trail, which culminates at a volcanic headland jutting into the ocean, with sweeping views of the (pirate-y sounding) Smuggler’s Cove and the rugged cliffs beyond.
- While the town’s beach is absolutely beautiful, there’s tons of other ones that are worth checking out nearby as well. Consider heading to Hug Point State Park, with a waterfall you can walk right up to and sea caves to explore, or Short Sands Beach in Oswald West, probably the best spot on the entire Oregon Coast for surfing (or, if you’re a baby about cold water like me, watching other people surf!).
- One of my favorite memories from our trips to the Oregon Coast is having a campfire on Cannon Beach (just make sure there aren’t any fire restrictions in effect, which can sometimes be imposed through the fire season from July through September). Set up your camp chairs before sunset, roast some hot dogs over the fire, and enjoy one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular sunsets (just remember to bring a coat- it gets really chilly here at night!).
And pssst… please catch all the sunsets you can while you’re exploring this area– with its location along the west coast, they’re consistently some of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen anywhere on the planet.
Honestly, there’s tons of things to see and do here- in my opinion, Cannon Beach is worth dedicating a whole day (or three) to. If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into this adorable town, check out our post on all of the incredible things to do in Cannon Beach.
What to Eat and Drink in Cannon Beach:
- Start your morning at Sleepy Monk with excellent coffee and incredible homemade pastries. Just prepare for a wait- this little coffee shop is popular!
- Another one of our very favorite breweries is Public Coast, which has really unique brews (think peanut butter and jelly stout and fruit punch sours) and seriously good french fries. Cozy up to their firepit with a pint and thank me later.
Where to Stay in Cannon Beach:
- The Hallmark Resort and Spa is as close to Haystack Rock as you can possibly get, offers pet-friendly rooms, AND dishes out hot cookies at check-in.
- The Inn at Cannon Beach is the perfect mixture of rustic and upscale- just imagine a bougie summer camp for adults, complete with fire pits to chat about your day’s adventures over.
Drive time from Cannon Beach to Manzanita: 20 minutes
This tiny and adorable town is kind of a hidden gem and way less crowded than its northerly neighbors. It’s basically comprised of a couple blocks of storefronts with a hippie/artsy vibe- think yoga studios, organic juice shops, and art galleries. Beyond the itty bitty downtown is the sparkling Pacific Ocean and a flat sandy beach that stretches on and on for seven miles (one of the longest on the coast!).
What to See and Do in Manzanita:
- Manzanita Beach is famously windy, which may not be great for swimming but is totally awesome for things like flying kites, windsurfing, and kite surfing. While there are no kiteboarding rentals or schools in town, if you’re looking for an instructor, I’d recommend reaching out to Air Pirates, who may offer private lessons (although you should expect to pay an extra fee for them traveling to the coast) and may be able to hook you up with an instructor.
- Mosey around town and check out the charming shops and restaurants. Some of my favorites are Wild Grocery and Cafe for fresh juices and yummy grab-and-go items; MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar for an impressive whiskey selection and handcrafted cocktails; Unfurl for eco-friendly clothes and home decor; and The Winery at Manzanita for its fire pits and wonderful wine selection.
5. Rockaway Beach
Drive time from Manzanita to Rockaway Beach: 20 minutes
Rockaway Beach isn’t quite as picturesque as its neighbors to the north, but with affordable accommodations, an expansive beach, and clusters of antique and home decor stores dotting its main drag along Highway 101, this may be a good choice to call your home base if you’re looking for centrally located lodging for the northern part of the coast.
What to See and Do in Rockaway Beach:
- Hike 0.5 miles to see the Rockaway Big Tree, a Western red cedar that towers 154 feet overhead and is almost 50 feet in diameter! While the tree itself is interesting, the boardwalk to reach it goes over a coastal bog, thick with skunk cabbage and salmonberry- definitely a departure from most of the trails in the area!
- Are you a train nerd (I know you’re out there- my dad is definitely in the “train nerd” camp!)? Take a scenic ride in a train, pulled by a historic locomotive, from Rockaway Beach to the tiny fishing town of Garibaldi, with stunning views of the Tillamook Bay and the coastline the entire way.
- Visit the Twin Rocks, the famed sandstone outcroppings, including a picturesque sea arch, that you can view from the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach.
Where to Eat and Drink in Rockaway Beach:
- Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Offshore Grill and Coffee House dishes out elevated classics, like burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
- If you’re looking for a bang-for-your-buck meal (which, frankly, can be hard to find along the pricy coastline), New Taste of India provides comically huge portions of flavorful Indian dishes.
Where to Stay in Rockaway Beach:
- Tradewinds Motel is an excellent option for affordable lodging along the northern coast. Starting at under $100/night, this motel is right on the beach and offers impeccably clean and comfy rooms.
Drive time from Rockaway Beach to Tillamook: 22 minutes
While Tillamook is mostly known for the Tillamook Creamery, this seems like a huge oversight- the town also offers coastal bluffs, secluded beaches, and a cute little downtown area.
What to See and Do in Tillamook:
- Take a guided tour with Kayak Tillamook, who will take you out in a kayak in Nehalem Bay or other bodies of water near Tillamook- their tours are often joined by river otters, harbor seals, and elk!
- Make a stop at the thoughtfully-designed Tillamook County Pioneer Museum, which provides an overview of the local history, from the Indigenous people who called this land home to the importance of the logging industry. Beyond just being an impressive museum (there’s 50,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection!), it also provides helpful context that will help you understand and appreciate this beautiful place.
Drive time from Tillamook to Oceanside: 16 minutes
Oceanside is a sleepy little town, with just a handful of cafes and shingled homes sprinkled along the coastline. What it lacks in bars and restaurants it makes up for in breathtaking natural beauty, with sea stacks jutting out of the Pacific and untamed beaches- kind of perfect for a low key romantic getaway. Plus, given that the area is kind of a hidden gem, you’ll mostly have it to yourself!
What to See and Do in Oceanside:
- Visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse from 1890 that you can walk right up to (and even take tours of at certain times of the day!).
- Hike to the Octopus Tree, a 300-year old sitka spruce with unusual looking branches. While scientists were mystified for quite some time as to why the Octopus Tree has such a unique shape, it’s now believed that Indigenous people trained the tree, some 250 years ago, to be in its cage-like shape to use in the tree in certain burial rituals.
- Hit the trails at Cape Lookout State Park, like the Cape Trail, which will lead you through a cathedral of western hemlock and sitka spruces to the eponymous cape, which towers 800 feet over the Pacific Ocean. This is an excellent lookout spot for gray whales, who migrate through these waters each year. It’s one of the best things to do in winter and spring in Oregon!
- While Oceanside Beach is generally pretty uncrowded, you can head through a neat little tunnel carved into the sandstone cliffs on the north side of the beach and find an even more secluded and rugged stretch of sand (which is creatively named “Tunnel Beach”).
Where to Stay in Oceanside:
- For a quiet retreat, the Oceanside Inn is the perfect escape- the oceanfront rooms offer a roomy wooden patio, many of the rooms come with fully-functioning kitchens, and there’s stairs that lead from the hotel literally down to the beach.
8. Pacific City
Drive time from Oceanside to Pacific City: 38 minutes
Another surfing hotspot, Pacific City is, confusingly, home to a SECOND (and, actually, even taller) Haystack Rock, a 250-foot sand dune, and the epic sandstone Cape Kiwanda jutting into the ocean.
I LOVE Pacific City- it’s one of my favorite beaches on the coastline, but be warned- this spot is popular! Expect to be vulturing for parking spots in the beach’s lot if you arrive anytime past 9 AM on a busy summer weekend.
What to See and Do in Pacific City:
- For a workout and some epic views, hike up the giant aforementioned sand dune! Once you huff and puff your way to the top, you’ll have beautiful views of the cape and Haystack Rock and if you’re lucky, you can even watch paragliders take off. Plus, there’s nothing more fun than sprinting like a giddy little kid down the sand!
- Drive right on top of the sandy shores of McPhillips Beach, directly north of Pacific City Beach. Just do your research ahead of time and make sure you have the right vehicle and the requisite knowledge to navigate on saturated beach sand (…. or you could permanently ruin your car).
- There’s a special kind of open-hulled and flat-bottomed vessel that’s used by fishermen here, called a dory boat, which are launched and landed directly from the sandy shores of Pacific City Beach. While dory boats are used throughout North America, Pacific City is the only known place along the West Coast where dory boats are launched and landed in this manner, making them kind of a beloved and quirky part of the local culture.
It’s a little shocking to see them land at first if you don’t know what’s going on (i.e., it’s just a tiny boat blasting its horn and hurtling directly towards the shore at high speed), but it’s a really unique and thrilling part of Pacific City’s history to see. You can even book a tour on one and get a closer look at Haystack Rock!
There’s a ton of things to explore around Cape Kiwanda, so if you’re interested in spending time here, check out our post all about the awesome things to do in Pacific City.
What to Eat and Drink in Pacific City:
- Stimulus Coffee and Bakeshop is AMAZING- it’s right across from the beach, has seriously delicious pastries and coffee, and oozes SoCal vibes. Highly recommend!
- Grab a beer at the original location of Pelican Brewing– with a walk-up to-go window, this brewery is literally on the sands of the beach. It’s a pretty epic place to watch sunset, beer in hand!
Where to Stay in Pacific City:
- For a fun and unique stay, check out Hart’s Camp Airstream Hotel and RV Park just a stone’s throw away from the beach. Here, you’ll have your choice of an array of vintage and new Airstreams to call your own for a night or two.
- If you’re feeling something a bit more bougie than an Airstream, consider a stay at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, where each room has its own private balcony overlooking the ocean and a fireplace for maximum cozy vibes. There’s also tons of cool perks included in your stay, like beach cruiser bike rentals and complimentary weekend happy hours, showcasing local wines.
Central Oregon Coast
9. Lincoln City
Drive time from Pacific City to Lincoln City: 28 minutes
Lincoln City is one of the biggest towns on the Oregon Coast and, while it may lack the charm of some other less-commercialized coastal villages, there’s still plenty to love about it, like its 7-mile long beach, its artsy undercurrent, and the awesome nearby hiking trails.
What to See and Do in Lincoln City:
- Some of the my favorite Oregon Coast hikes are right near Lincoln City, like a 4.3-mile trail to God’s Thumb, an unusual knoll with basalt cliffs jutting out above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, or the Drift Creek Falls trail, which leads you across a 240-foot suspension bridge (allegedly, the longest in Oregon) and to the foot of a 66-foot waterfall cascading down a basalt cliffside.
- Because of Lincoln City’s robust glass blowing scene (who knew?!), the city organizes a really fun program called Finders Keepers. Every year, over 3,000 blown-glass floaters, made by local artisans, are hidden along the expansive shores of Lincoln City Beach to be found- and kept!- by a lucky beachcomber. After finding a float, there’s even a registration page, where you’ll get a certificate of authenticity and find out about the artist who created your float. You can find out more about the program here.
- If you’re not quite up to stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking in the mighty (and did I mention cold?) Pacific Ocean, try your hand at paddling the calm waters of the deceivingly-named Devil’s Lake. There’s a couple of shops in town, Safari Town Surf Shop or Blue Heron Landing, where you can rent boards or kayaks so you can hit the water!
- The Cheeky Cauldron is a Harry Potter-themed restaurant and will be a hit with Potterheads (like me!), with fun drinks, like the Mandrake Draught, and yummy English grub, like shepherd’s pie. You can even make reservations for high tea here!
Where to Stay in Lincoln City:
- Offering rooms with jacuzzis that overlook the ocean, in-room fireplaces, and private balconies, Starfish Manor Oceanfront Hotel is an excellent place to call home for a night. Plus, doesn’t Starfish Manor just sound straight-up fun?
- The Shearwater Inn has a ton of awesome perks- it’s dog-friendly; you can get continental breakfast delivered to your room (amazing!); and there’s a daily wine social.
10. Depoe Bay
Drive time from Lincoln City to Depoe Bay: 17 minutes
Instead of beautiful beaches, Depoe Bay is really known for one thing- whales! Well, actually, two things- the town also proclaims to have the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor. If whales excite you more than tiny harbors, buckle up- Depoe Bay is known as the “Whale Watching Capital of Oregon”, thanks to the 40 gray whales that take up residence in its waters.
What to See and Do in Depoe Bay:
- Obviously, you should try to spot a whale! While the annual gray whale migration takes place between December and March, the best time to see Depoe Bay’s resident whales is from June through September. From the shore, you can try to spot them from the Whale Watching Center or alternatively, take a Depoe Bay whale watching tour, like with Whale Research Eco-excursions.
- Peruse its cute little downtown area, with plenty of candy stores, art galleries, and coffee shops.
- Check out the Spouting Horn near the downtown area, where waves that are forced into a tiny fissure in the sea wall shoot up and create a violent plume of water in the air, much like a geyser. In fact, the water can shoot dozens of feet in the air and is known to even spray cars as they drive across Highway 101!
Where to Eat in Depoe Bay:
- Pirate-themed coffee shops aaaargh hard to come by, but Depoe Bay pulls through with Pirate Coffee Company. Seriously good coffee, tasty breakfast pastries, and a commitment to the pirate theme makes this an unmissable coffee stop. I promise you’ll be hooked.
- With spectacular ocean views from the second floor and stick-to-your-ribs food offerings, like pizza, burger, and beer, The Horn Public House and Brewery is an excellent spot to grab some lunch or dinner.
Where to Stay in Depoe Bay:
- Between its unique Scandinavian-meets-surfer design, construction of local and sustainable materials, and killer views of the harbor, SCP Depoe Bay is one of my favorite hotels along the Oregon Coast.
Drive time from Depoe Bay to Newport: 18 minutes
Newport is one of the larger cities on the coast and has a more touristy vibe than some of the other Oregon Coast towns, with attractions like the Wax Works museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. If you’re like me and don’t really think that wax museums are the bee’s knees (so many puns in this post!), not to worry- Newport is still one of the best towns on the Oregon Coast, with a charming downtown full of bustling restaurants, shops, and galleries to explore right by its colorful and historic harbor.
What to See and Do in Newport:
- One of the best things to do in Newport is head to its harbor and spot some sea lions. The best place to see them is the aptly named Sea Lion Docks in downtown Newport- there can be upwards of a hundred sea lions vying for a spot to snooze on a set of floating wooden docks right off the pier.
My husband, Justin, and I have spent WAY too much time on this pier, just watching these goofy creatures bark, flipper their way over each other, and generally be adorable.
- Head to Seal Rock State Park. While the name is slightly misleading (the park is named literally after a rock that vaguely resembles a seal, not because it’s a seal hotspot), you may get lucky and encounter sea lions, sea birds, and maybe even seals! But what makes this park really special is its excellent tide pools filled with colorful sea creatures. Just be sure to time your visit with low tide (check out this tide chart).
- Visit the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the entire state! Perched atop a basalt headland that juts into the Pacific Ocean, this lighthouse, originally constructed in 1872, is one of the most picturesque spots on the entire coast. While the lighthouse currently is not offering tours inside, you can hike right up to it and afterward, stop by the Interpretive Center to learn more about the lighthouse’s and the surrounding bay’s history.
Where to Eat and Drink in Newport:
- Local Ocean Seafood dishes up delightful local food and unique cocktails in a restaurant with incredible views. If you’re going to eat out at just one spot in Newport, make it this!
- With tons of incredible beer options and elevated bar food, Rogue Brewing is a fun stop while you’re in town.
There’s actually quite a few good breweries in town to check out, like Wolf Tree Brewery, which has really unique brews and a laidback vibe or the Newport Brewing Company, with a full restaurant and bar which includes a dog-friendly outdoor patio.
Where to Stay in Newport:
- Located by the adorable Nye Beach neighborhood and across from the stunning Nye Beach, The Whaler provides ocean views from every single room- and has a hot tub!
- Arguably the most upscale hotel in Newport (and yet, reasonably priced), The Hallmark Resort offers dog-friendly rooms, outstanding customer service, and an excellent view of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Drive time from Newport to Yachats: 31 minutes
The town of Yachats (pronounced Yah-hots) is a pretty tiny town, with a handful of restaurants and a population of just 553 people. While Yachats itself is pretty sleepy, the main attraction here is the dramatic cliffs and rugged coastline that surrounds the town. If you’re looking for wild and untamed natural beauty, as opposed to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, Yachats may just be the perfect escape.
What to See and Do in Yachats:
- Okay, listen, the Oregon Coast is full of cute and picturesque things, but Heceta Head Lighthouse may just take the cake. To get to this lighthouse, perched on the cliffside, you’ll need to hike up a 0.5 mile trail through a beautiful pine tree forest, to see the light that has beaconed mariners since 1894.
For the best view of the lighthouse, continue past its base to the path towards the right. This trail will lead you to an overlook with a birds eye view of the lighthouse and the sparkling turquoise water of the Pacific Ocean beyond.
- Cape Perpetua Scenic Area in Siuslaw National Forest is exactly what you think of when you hear “the Oregon coast”- rocky coastline, dense forests, and rugged cliffs. There’s quite a few different attractions here, many of them with metal-sounding names like Thor’s Well (a sinkhole that gives the illusion of sucking up the surrounding water) and Devil’s Churn (a narrow inlet that causes some intense waves at high-tide). Beyond the water features with really intense names, there’s also plenty of scenic viewpoints, hiking trails, and awesome tidepools.
- If you’re looking for something more off-the-beaten-path, Strawberry Hill is a secluded slice of the coastline, with volcanic outcroppings, tide pools full of sea anemones, and hidden caves to explore. This is an excellent place to keep an eye out for whales and harbor seals playing right off the shore.
Drive time from Yachats to Florence: 34 minutes
With a charming Old Town with candy-colored historic buildings and a slightly different vibe than other coastal cities, thanks to its location on the banks of the Siuslaw River, Florence is kind of like the Goldilocks of the Oregon Coast- it’s not too small, not too big, and has just the right amount of quaintness and salt water taffy.
What to See and Do in Florence:
- Inarguably, the best thing about Florence is moseying around its ridiculously cute historic Old Town area– poke around the antique shops and bookstores, grab a coffee or an ice cream cone, and drink in that sweet, sweet Oregon Coast nostalgia. Ah…
- If you’re really jonesing to make some new marine creature friends, the Sea Lion Caves is one of the best places in the United States to spot these flippered cuties. In a protected cavern just north of Florence (allegedly, the largest sea cave in America!), a colony of around 200 sea lions take up residence here, where you can watch, listen, and well, smell these delightful creatures.
Word of warning- this attraction has gotten rather pricey in recent years ($18/adult). Plus, depending on the time of year, the sea lions may not actually be in the cave itself- they spend most of spring and summer outside of the caves mating. So depending on how much you love quirky roadside attractions, you may or may not want to skip this one!
- Enormous sand dunes stretch for 40 miles along Florence’s coastline (all the way down to Coos Bay), so what are you waiting for- let’s go ride those suckers! Whether you want to try your hand at sandboarding, ATVing, or dunebuggying, there’s a ton of opportunities to play in the dunes.
In fact, there aren’t many places in the world to sandboard, but Florence is the self-proclaimed “Sandboarding Capital of the World” AND has the world’s first sandboarding park, Sand Master Park. Between the staff that are SUPER into sandboarding here and the incredible views from the dunes, you’d be remiss not to try this unique activity during your time in Florence.
- There’s tons of awesome hiking trails near Florence, like the Hobbit Beach Trail and China Beach Loop, which leads you through a fairytale forest to a secluded beach, or Siltcoos Lake Trail, which winds through yet another lush forest to a beautiful freshwater lake.
Where to Eat and Drink in Florence:
- River Roasters serves up great coffee and has a patio with riverfront views. Don’t forget to grab one of their delicious pastries while you’re there!
- With a laidback and lively atmosphere and a seriously yummy homemade grub, Homegrown Public House is an excellent spot to grab dinner and a beer.
Where to Stay in Florence:
- While the rooms are modest, the Old Town Inn is sparkling clean, has affordable rates, and is within easy walking distance to the historic downtown (which, if you can’t tell, is definitely my favorite part about Florence!).
South Oregon Coast
14. Coos Bay
Drive time from Florence to Coos Bay: 1 hour
As you get closer and closer to the California border along the southern Oregon Coast, the seascapes become more dramatic and rugged, with thick pine tree forests giving way to craggy coves and towering sea stacks. Coos Bay is one of the first places along the southern coastline where you can start to feel this shift in the landscape. So if you’re looking more for outdoor adventure than charming seaside cities, Coos Bay may be one of the best towns on the Oregon Coast for you.
What to See and Do in Coos Bay:
- Check out Sunset Bay State Park, for awesome hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Cape Arago Lighthouse. This lighthouse, built in 1886, is perched on top of its own island, Chief’s Island (which is owned by the surrounding Native tribes and not accessible to the public), with jagged sandstone cliffs rising out of the Pacific Ocean.
- Make some new elk friends at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. There are several viewing platforms that overlook pastures frequented by herds of Roosevelt elk, especially in the early morning and before dusk.
- Didn’t get enough of the dunes in Florence? There’s still plenty of opportunities to work up a sweat in the sand (seriously, have you ever walked up a sand dune? It is a workout, my friend!) in Coos Bay in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Climb up and over the dunes (some of which are 100,000 years old!), along the 5.4-mile John Dellenback Trail, which loops through both the dunes and a lush forest, or the Tahkenitch Dunes, a 6-mile hike that will lead you across the coastline.
Where to Stay in Coos Bay:
- One of the most unique places to stay along the coastline is Bay Point Landing, with Airstreams and stylish tiny cabins with huge glass windows that you can stay in right on the bay. With an indoor pool (with bay views) and firepits, perfect for chatting about your day’s adventures, this is one of the most epic glamping experiences in the Pacific Northwest.
Drive time from Coos Bay to Bandon: 28 minutes
Bandon is a tiny town that packs a lot of punch, with artsy vibes and more of the wild beauty of the southern Oregon Coast. With a small but charming main drag and one of the most stunning slices of the coastline (more on that below!), Bandon should definitely be on your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary if you’re driving along the southern portion.
What to See and Do in Bandon:
- Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint is an absolutely gorgeous stretch of sand with unique rock formations that will knock your socks off if you’re a photographer. Check out the towering formations, all with fun names like Face Rock, Cat and Kittens, and Wizard’s Hat (amazing!). For sunset, head to Coquille Point and watch the fading sun light up the rocks- it’s nothing short of dazzling.
- Like any good Oregon Coast town, Bandon’s got a cute, historic Old Town, complete with a boardwalk, candy stores, and restaurants. Some of my favorite places are Bandon Brewing Company and Bandon Coffee Company.
- One of the coolest things about Bandon is its quirky works of art. For example, Washed Ashore is a really incredible gallery that creates art out of waste that’s washed up on beaches, with the hopes to educate folks about plastic waste and inspire positive change (so. much. yes.).
Bandon is also home to the Circles in the Sand community art project, which creates intricate labyrinths on the shores of Face Rock. After the group has “installed” these beautiful creations, you’re welcome to walk along the one-of-a-kind design and ponder deep thoughts before the labyrinth is washed away by the rising tide. You can even help create a labyrinth if you time your visit right- just contact them directly through the information provided on their website.
16. Gold Beach
Drive time from Bandon to Gold Beach: 1 hour
Gold Beach is a small and quiet town that lacks the salt water taffy and ice cream shops of a lot of the other, for lack of a better word, cuter Oregon Coast towns. But its sleepy vibes and untouched natural beauty may be perfect for those looking for an outdoor adventure- without all the crowds.
What to See and Do in Gold Beach:
- Gold Beach offers one of the most adventurous activities along the coast- taking a jet boat tour! With Jerry’s Rogue Jets, there’s four tours you can choose from to get you out on the water, ranging from an easy two-hour excursion around the bay to a seven-hour tour of the wilderness area of Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. The wilderness tour is an excellent place to spot wildlife, thanks to the remoteness of the area (which can only be reached via boat or on foot!).
- Hike the Cape Sebastian Trail in Cape Sebastian State Park for incredible coastal views throughout the 2.7 mile hike and, if you time your visit with low-tide, you’ll even end at a secluded beach you’ll likely have all to yourself.
- If you love spotting wildlife, Otter Point Recreation Site, one of the best hidden gems in the area, is an excellent place to spot sea stars, gray whales, and even the eponymous otters! It can be a bit tough to find this spot, though (it’s not very well-signed, hence the hidden gem-ness), so make sure to slow way down as you’re approaching your turn off the highway.
Drive time from Gold Beach to Brookings: 32 minutes
While all of the Oregon Coast is gorgeous, if I had to pick the most beautiful spot, it would be Brookings. With turquoise water, pine-tree topped sea stacks, and hidden coves, it’s one of the most otherworldly spots I’ve ever seen.
If you want a break from exploring the incredible landscape here, Brookings also has a cute harbor, dotted with colorful boats, and a small, but charming downtown area. But, seriously, trust me, you won’t need a break from Brookings’ jaw-dropping beauty!
What to See and Do in Brookings:
- You could spend days exploring Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, with endless epic viewpoints, hikes through lush forests, and insane coastal views. Some of the best things to check out in the park are:
- Natural Bridges: Arguably one of the most Instagram-famous spots along the Oregon Coast- and for good reason!
- Whaleshead Beach: A gorgeous beach with tidepools, a cave with a “window” that looks out onto the coast, and an enormous sea stack that resembles, yep, a whale!
- Indian Sands Trail: Along this 1.1 mile trail, you’ll cross volcanic headlands, dunes, wildflowers, craggy cliffs- it definitely packs in a lot of punch for such a short (but steep!) hike. Make sure, though, to download the All Trails app and the map for this hike– the trail can be hard to find without it!
- If you haven’t had enough sea stack-strewn beaches yet, Harris Beach State Park may be the answers to your prayers. Beyond just its dramatic scenery, Harris Beach is an excellent place to spot unique species of sea birds- in fact, the beach overlooks the rocky Bird Island, where tufted puffins nest in the spring and summer. Just be sure to bring along some binoculars!
- Paddle along the Chetco River estuary to take in the beautiful surrounding plantlife and abundant wildlife, including bald eagles, otters, and even some very cute sea lions! This tour will take you a 2.5-mile paddle with a guide who seemingly knows everything about all the incredible creatures you’ll see along your adventure.
- Did you know that the tallest trees on Earth are not just found in Northern California but also Southern Oregon? For a unique day hike in the area, start at Alfred A. Loeb State Park’s Riverview Nature Trail, which will lead you to the Redwood Nature Trail loop in Siskiyou National Forest. Along the way, you’ll pass a babbling creek, a waterfall, and several groves of old-growth towering redwoods.
Pssst… are you continuing on down to California after your time along the Oregon coast? If so, check out our post about the best hikes in the redwoods in Northern California- I’m a little obsessed with these ancient giants!
Where to Eat in Brookings:
- To end your trip down the Oregon coast, I’d say a slice of pizza is necessary, right? Zola’s Pizzeria creates pies with fresh ingredients, has a rock star staff, and has a funky atmosphere (the ceiling is covered with colorful dollar-dollar bills, y’all).
- Chetco Brewery offers a staggering selection of beer, some of which are brewed with hops, herbs, and fruits grown onsite- PLUS it has an all-vegan food truck, dishing out tacos, nachos, and other Mexican-inspired fare- totally up my alley!
Where to Stay in Brookings:
- The newly-renovated Beachfront Inn has all the things you need for a stay along the coast- fantastic ocean views, a hot tub, and free breakfast!
Suggested Itineraries for Exploring Oregon Coast Towns
So here’s the thing- you have a ton of flexibility when exploring the coast. It’s the perfect trip for just a weekend away or even a two week trip (heck, you could explore the coastline for an entire year and still not see every trail, beach, or sea-lion strewn dock here).
One of the great things about the Oregon Coast is that most of the towns aren’t very spread-out, so you can cover a lot of ground in a fairly short period of time. That being said, I’d encourage you to not pack in too much stuff in a short time frame- the Oregon Coast is designed for exploring hidden corners of beaches, hiking through luscious forests, and soaking in all that natural beauty and coastal charm.
Depending on how many days you have and which part of the coast you’re hitting, here are some suggested itineraries:
1 or 2 days:
Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Oceanside, Pacific City
Astoria, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City
Same itinerary as 5 days, but add Depoe Bay and Yachats (you can stop in Newport if you have time, but I’d recommend checking out the outdoor adventures around Yachats over Newport)
Same itinerary as 7 days, but add Newport and Florence
Same itinerary as 10 days, but add Coos Bay, Bandon, Gold Beach, and my fave, Brookings!
Tips for Visiting the Oregon Coast
Okay, now that you hopefully have a better idea of where you want to go, here are some things you should know before your trip:
While I blathered on and on about all of the coast’s beaches, it’s important to know that it’s usually much more appropriate to don a sweater as opposed to a bikini in Oregon’s temperate- and often temperamental- weather.
If sunny skies and taking a (still very chilly) dip in the ocean are what you’re after, I’d recommend visiting between July and September, when the weather will be at its clearest.
The Oregon Coast, though, is also at its very busiest during this timeframe- so if you don’t mind a bit of moodiness and rain, I wouldn’t discount visiting during the quieter fall, winter, and spring months. In fact, I think the low-hanging fog and gray weather can add to the coastline’s rugged beauty. Just don’t forget to bring a raincoat (like this one for men and this one for women)!
Prepare for poor cell service.
Along most of the coast (and really, large swaths of the state of Oregon), cell service is spotty at best. Be sure to download offline maps in the free Google Maps app before you hit the road!
Similarly, if you plan on hiking any of the trails I recommended above, download an offline trail map on AllTrails, so you can easily follow along and make sure you’re staying on the right trail.
Pssst… you'll need the AllTrails Pro version of the app to download offline maps, but you can get a 7-day free trial here. If you're wondering whether the app is for you, we wrote a whole post on whether AllTrails Pro is worth it.
The Oregon coast can get crowded.
The Oregon Coast is a REALLY popular destination, both with folks that live in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Hotels, campgrounds, and Airbnbs can book up several months in advance, especially for the summer, so I’d recommend booking your accommodations early.
On a similar note, if you’re visiting during the summer, especially on weekends, be prepared for crowds and, if you want your sanity, to get places early. Some of the infrastructure, like trailhead or beach parking lots, have not kept pace with the popularity of the coast, so it’s not unusual for lots to become a sort of Battle Royale for parking spots by mid-morning.
What to Pack for the Oregon Coast
We linked to our FREE downloadable road trip packing list above, but there are some things you should be absolutely sure you take with you on your trip exploring Oregon Coast towns:
- Rainjacket (his/hers)/ umbrella: As mentioned above, the Oregon Coast isn’t exactly known for its sunny- or even predictable- weather. Regardless of what time of year you visit, be prepared for random weather, from sudden gusts of wind to rainstorms.
- Sunglasses/ Sunscreen: Did I mention the weather here can be unpredictable? Oftentimes, mornings along the Oregon Coast can be quite foggy, which usually burns off by the early afternoon, leaving nothing but sunshine- so bring protection for your skin and eyeballs.
Remember to make sure you’re buying sunglasses that have UVA/UVB protection- I personally love Warby Parker, given they make sunglasses both with and without prescriptions AND give away a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold.
- Waterproof hiking boots (his/ hers): Due to the intermittent rainy weather, most hiking trails around the Oregon Coast can have puddles and are oftentimes REALLY muddy. There was one trail we hiked where the entire length of my legs got covered with mud spattering from my hiking boots with every mud-squishing step I took. So bring along actual hiking boots, which provide traction on slippery trails and protection from the various roots and stabby rocks you’ll find along most pathways here.
- Hiking sandals: For walks or hikes along the beach or wading in the ocean, Justin and I both love our Tevas (he has a pair like this and I have a pair like this), which effectively function as both hiking sandals and water shoes. They strap to your feet so you don’t have to worry about losing them to a particularly gnarly wave, but they’re super simple to take on and off and shake out any sand that weasels its way in there.
- Layers: It’s chillier here than you think. Definitely bring things for sunny weather, but also pack lots of cozy layers (like my beloved zip-up fleece I take everywhere).
- Camp Chairs: A beach campfire along the Oregon Coast is a must (.. so long as there isn’t fire restrictions) and what’s a campfire without some camp chairs?
- Picnic blanket: Listen, if you don’t have a picnic at one of the picturesque beaches you go to, you’re straight up doing it wrong. Bring a blanket to spread out and have your meal with an incredibly epic view.
- Cooler: Handy for the aforementioned picnics and for any local fresh goodies you may pick up along the way, like beer or fruits
- Reusable water bottle: Regardless of where we’re going, we each bring along a giant Nalgene bottle that we take along with us on hikes, picnics, or beach days. They’re way better for the planet than single-use bottles, easier on our wallets, and keep us hydrated on the go. So much winning!
- Battery pack: Between the two of us, we have approximately a gazillion rechargeable devices (GoPro, two cameras, two cell phones, headlamps… I could go on). We bring our battery pack with us everywhere so we can charge up our devices even if we’re out and about. Plus, this one is flat, light, can charge four devices at the same time, and has an incredible battery life! We loved it so much we bought two.
And that’s a wrap on my run-down on the best Oregon Coast towns to add to your itinerary. Are there towns, restaurants, or favorite activities I missed? Let me know in the comments below!