A trip down the Oregon Coast is one of America’s best road trip destinations, with heartstopping views every step of the way. The following eleven towns best capture the essence of the Oregon Coast. You could, of course, go either direction, but we will begin at the northernmost coastal city in Oregon and work our way south because of the ocean views along the way. So, get ready for a 340-mile trip featuring small charming fishing towns, iconic scenic views, and vast, pristine beaches without another person in sight for miles. So let’s start with the northern Oregon Coast.
First stop is Astoria, the northernmost Oregon coastal town, sitting at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria Riverwalk along the Columbia River is the perfect place to find great shopping and lots of wonderful seafood restaurants. Dig into some delicious beer-battered albacore tuna at Bowpicker Fish and Chips.
The next stop on your trek down the coast is Seaside, which draws tourists worldwide because of its historical significance as one of the west coast’s first popular resort towns. The one-and-a-half-mile Oceanfront Promenade — the Prom — has, for over a hundred years, been a great place to walk, ride bikes, or just chill.
Seaside Beach is great for swimming or just enjoying a few hours by the beach. You’ll also find unique shops, great restaurants, and fun things to do. Unlike many other Oregon coastal towns, Seaside can be quite touristy, but nevertheless as lovely a place to visit as the rest.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Mountain Range, Cannon Beach is one of the most photographed places in Oregon. You’ve seen it on tons of postcards, movies, and commercials. The tiny beach town of Cannon Beach is a great place to relax. Stroll around the town’s unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants before settling in for the night at the luxurious Hallmark Resort Hotel and Spa, located right on the beach and perfect for viewing beautiful sunsets from your room.
The defining landmark of the long, sandy beach is the famously photogenic Haystack Rock, a giant rock on the edge of the beach that can be seen from anywhere in town. You’ve seen lots of postcards with Cannon Beach serving as a backdrop because this is the quintessential Oregon coastal town. Movie buffs might recognize the dramatic views and quaint settings in town that inspired scenes from such movies as The Goonies, Point Break, and Twilight.
Located in dairy country on the Oregon Coast, Tillamook is not just home to a world-famous creamery but is also renowned for its natural setting. Beaches and the nearby forest offer plenty of great exploring and spectacular scenery. The century-old Tillamook Creamery is one of the most popular destinations on the Oregon Coast and a great experience for the whole family. Witness the cheese- and ice-cream-making process first hand and eat some of the yummiest cheese and creamiest ice cream you’ve ever had. The Creamery can get crowded, but it’s well worth the wait. This is cheese heaven!
When you are in Pacific City you are already on the Central Coast of Oregon. This is a great beachfront town with lots of adventures centered on Cape Kiwanda. Cape Kiwanda is best known for its giant sand dunes and sweeping view of the coastline. When all this exploring makes you hungry, stop in at the Riverhouse Nestucca for some mouthwatering Dungeness Crab Mac and Cheese. The beach at Cape Kiwanda is great for hiking, and you can actually drive out onto the beach for a romantic sunset.
Beautiful natural surroundings with a small-town feel have made Lincoln City a favorite hangout spot for Oregonians throughout generations. The soft, sandy beaches are perfect for swimming or just lying around. This gem of the Oregon Coast is full of charming shops and wonderful restaurants. The Bay House Restaurant is great for a special night out, with an amazing menu that features sea scallops, Muscovy Duck, and crab cakes. Lincoln City is a great place for a day trip.
Next stop: the central coast town of Newport. Newport’s historic Bayfront with its shops and restaurants is a nice place to take a break and stock up on food and supplies to continue your trip down the coast. A natural beauty of the central coast, you cannot miss is a visit to Devil’s Punchbowl, eight miles north of Newport. This odd geologic marvel is a natural bowl, which was created when two coastal caves collapsed. Waves enter the bowl with such force that the water churns and foams, resembling a witch’s brew in a cauldron.
Thor’s Well – Between the towns of Newport and Florence, Thor’s Well is one of the most popular and unique attractions on the Oregon Coast. Thor’s Well features an almost perfectly round sinkhole embedded in the coastal rocks. As waves wash over the hole, water spouts up with great ferocity, then gets sucked back down into the hole. A wondrous view during stormy weather or at sunset. It’s a great place for taking pictures, but be careful, and don’t get too close.
Sea Lion Caves – About ten miles north of Florence is a privately owned wildlife preserve known as Sea Lion Caves, which has about 200 sea lions. Walk or take a brief elevator ride to an observation platform that provides awesome views of the sea lions as they relax and socialize on the rocks below.
Locals seeking relaxation and recreation flock here in the summer, but tourists are equally welcomed. With miles of beaches, rolling sand dunes, fancy boutiques, antique shops, and excellent seafood, Florence is all about enjoying yourself. The town boasts some of the Oregon Coast’s best scenery, most notably Herecta Head Lighthouse, (only 13 miles North of Florence), which sits 1,000 feet atop a seaside cliff; it’s a jaw-dropping sight to behold. Allow yourself plenty of time to savor Florence, as you will want to take in all this wonderful town offers.
Coos Bay is lovingly cradled by a beautiful bay, lush forests, and the Pacific Ocean, and it’s generally known as the hub for the southern Oregon coast. The coastline becomes more rugged as you head south, and there are fewer towns along the way, making Coos Bay the last large city on the Oregon Coast. While in Coos Bay, check out the iconic Cape Arago Lighthouse, then visit Cape Arago State Park, Oregon’s largest natural habitat for birds and other marine animals. It’s also a great place for watching migrating whales.
Bandon is one of the best little towns on the Oregon Coast. Explore the antique shops in Old Town Bandon while your partner shoots a round of golf at the highly acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, one of Oregon’s finest. When hunger strikes, nothing beats Tony’s Crab Shack and its famous crab sandwich. The main attraction here is the view from Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. Magnificent panoramic views will mesmerize your senses.
You’ve reached the last town on your journey down the Oregon coast. Brookings sits just six miles from the California border and is known for having the warmest temperatures on the Oregon coastline. The most notable sight in the area is the popular Natural Bridges Viewpoint. The short hike to this viewpoint is a little steep and can be slippery, so wear hiking boots. Noted for a set of giant rocks and a natural rock bridge along the shoreline, this unforgettable view will stay with you long after your trip is over.