PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Oregon Coast

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  • Over 300 miles of scenic coastline
  • A quiet region without big cities – the largest town has a population of under 16,000
  • Many unique natural sights, including waterfalls, seastacks, and even a “Devil’s Chasm”

When To Visit: April-October

Climate: Cool to warm with average highs in the 50s and 60s year-round. Lots of rain November-March, some precipitation year-round.

Location: Western Oregon – 1.5 hours west of Portland and the I-5 corridor

The Oregon Coast is a stunningly beautiful stretch along the Pacific Ocean with quiet beaches and cute small towns. You may find yourself to be the only person on many of the region’s tranquil beaches, but don’t expect a Florida or Hawaii experience – the water is bitterly cold and the temperatures rarely achieve much heat in this moist area.

Photo: Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence

What To See & Do on the Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast Driving Tour

You can see many of the area’s most stunning sights by driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Astoria to Brookings. Even if you only have time for a small portion of this 7.5 hour drive (without stops), you’re sure to see some wonderful coastal beauty.

I’ve highlighted some of the major towns, but don’t limit yourself to this list – there are dozens upon dozens of cute small towns you’ll encounter along the way.

  1. Astoria

    • The northwest tip of Oregon
    • Where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet
    • Victorian-style homes and a bustling downtown
    • Take 164 spiral steps to the top of the historic Astoria Column tower
    • Visit Fort Clatsop, which marks the westernmost camp of the Lewis & Clark Expedition
  2. Seaside
    • 30 minutes south of Astoria
    • One of the most fun towns on the coast, with great activities for kids (and fun-loving adults) like an arcade, carousel, bowling alley, surrey bike rentals, and swings on the beach.
    • The 1.5 mile Seaside Promenade is a beautiful boardwalk along the beach
    • Find the statue of Lewis & Clark at the city’s central turnaround
  3. Cannon Beach
    • 15 minutes south of Seaside
    • Was named one of the 100 Most Beautiful Places in the World by National Geographic
    • Home to Oregon’s iconic Haystack Rock, which you can see from the highway or on the Indian Beach Trail (see Hikes below)
    • Hosts a sand castle building festival annually in June
  4. Tillamook
    • 45 minutes south of Cannon Beach – on the way, stop at the very small and adorable towns of Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi
    • Home to one of Oregon’s most popular landmarks – the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which has to-die-for ice cream, free cheese samples, and factory tours
    • Hosts a large bay and over 800 miles of waters you can kayak
  5. Lincoln City
    • 1 hour south of Tillamook – for a more scenic (and only 15 minute longer) route from Tillamook to Lincoln City, take the Three Capes Scenic Loop drive to see incredible natural sights, including the Three Arches Rocks and Haystack Rock
    • Named Kite Capital of the World due to its strong winds
    • Visit a suspension bridge with an excellent view of Drift Creek Falls 30 minutes outside of town (easy 1.5 mile hike required – see Hikes below)
    • Take the 7 mile round trip Cascade Head Trail for one of the best views on the coast (see Hikes below)
    • Devils Lake just north of the city has all types of boat and board rentals
  6. Newport
    • 30 minutes south of Lincoln City
    • Home to the state’s most famous aquarium: the Oregon Coast Aquarium ($23 admission)
    • Enjoy the cute shopping and dining area of Aquarium Village
    • The stunning Yaquina Head Lighthouse (Oregon’s tallest) is just north of town
    • Tour the historic Victorian Burrows House (free, donation suggested)
  7. Florence
    • 1 hour south of Newport
    • Halfway between Newport and Florence, stop at viewpoints for Devil’s Chasm (an amazing rocky area with strong waves) and Thor’s Well (a huge sinkhole known as the Pacific’s drainpipe)
    • Adjacent to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you can rent dune buggys and ride over lovely beachside dunes
    • Check out the Heceta Head Lighthouse (pictured above), often called Oregon’s most beautiful lighthouse
    • The Sea Lion Caves 11 miles north of town are North America’s largest sea caves – you can take an elevator down to see this stunning sight ($14 fee)
  8. Coos Bay & North Bend
    • Twin towns 1 hour south of Florence known as Oregon’s “Bay Area”
    • Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast…with a whopping 16,000 people!
    • Mingus Park has an arborterum, Asian-style garden, and fountains
    • The historic Tioga Hotel dates back to 1925
    • Drive an hour east to do a 2.8 mile round trip hike to powerful and remote Golden Falls (see Hikes below)
    • See gorgeous rocky coastline at Shore Acres State Park a half-hour outside the towns and nearby Simpson Reef Overlook to see seals lounging on rocks
  9. Brookings
    • The southernmost town on the Oregon Coast – 2 hours south of Coos Bay
    • On the way from Coos Bay to Brookings, stop to see the Bandon Needles, unique seastacks, rocks, and islets just off the coast. They’re best viewed from Coquille Point.
    • The 12 miles of highway driving south into Brookings are known as the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor and has dozens of scenic viewpoints. Cape Ferrelo is one of the most incredible stops.
    • Part of Oregon’s “Banana Belt,” which gives it warmer temperatures than the rest of the coast
    • Azalea Park has 33 acres of native azalea flowers
    • Harris Beach State Park has the largest island on the Oregon Coast and stunning sea stacks
    • Just a half-hour across the California border from Brookings is amazing Redwood National Park, home to the tallest tree in the world

Oregon Coast Hikes

I’ve listed these impressive trails from North to South along the coast.

  1. Indian Beach Trail (Cannon Beach)
    • 2 miles round trip, out & back, 1-1.5 hours, 606 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Begin at Indian Beach Trailhead
    • Great panorama of Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
    • Access to quiet and peaceful Indian Beach
    • One of the most photographed areas in Oregon
  2. Cape Kiwanda Trail (Pacific City – between Tillamook & Lincoln City)

    • 2.2 mile loop, 1-1.5 hours, 230 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Begin at Pacific Avenue Trailhead
    • Great views of famous Haystack Rock
    • Walk down the Great Dune, a dramatic sand dune, onto a pleasant beach
    • Splendid sandstone rock and Sitka spruce trees
  3. Hart’s Cove Hike (Neskowin – north of Lincoln City)

    • 5.4 miles round trip, out & back, 2-4 hours, 1000 foot elevation gain, moderately strenuous
    • Begin at Hart’s Cove Trailhead
    • Walk through a majestic meadow and along a rushing creek
    • Ends at stunning Hart’s Cove, an untouched body of water home to Chitwood Falls
    • You’ll pass countless old-growth trees and see tons of wildflowers in spring and summer
  4. Cascade Head Trail (Lincoln City)
    • 6.8 miles round trip, out & back, 3-6 hours, 1,310 foot elevation gain, moderately strenuous
    • Begin at Cascade Head Lower Trailhead
    • Panoramic views of some of Oregon’s most exquisite coastline
    • Hosts an endangered butterfly species and the Cascade Head Catchfly plant, which lives almost exclusively on a single hill along this trail
  5. Drift Creek Falls (Lincoln City)
    • 3 miles round trip, out & back, 2-4 hours, 490 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Begin at Drift Creek Falls Trailhead
    • You’ll cross a breathtaking suspension bridge over a 100 foot canyon
    • Ends at a 75 foot waterfall in a very green, rainforest-esque area
  6. Devil’s Punchbowl Trail (Otter Rock – north of Newport)
    • 1.8 miles round trip, out & back, 1-2 hours, 100 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Begin at Devil’s Punchbowl Trailhead
    • The trail ends at a large arch and some sea caves
    • After you walk through the arch, you’ll see a jaw-dropping view of Devil’s Punchbowl, a bowl-shaped rock area that gets pounded by violent waves
  7. Golden & Silver Falls Hike (east of Coos Bay)
    • 4.2 miles round trip, out & back, 3-4 hours, 387 foot elevation gain, easy
    • Begin at Golden & Silver Falls Trailhead (accessed via 10 miles on a gravel road that is slow but passable for any car)
    • This hike takes you to two 200-foot waterfalls in a very quiet, remote area
    • Many banana slugs live in the area

Where To Eat on the Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

I’ve listed these eateries in order from North to South.

Astoria Restaurants

Bowpicker Fish & Chips: This boat turned eatery has a casual walk-up counter that literally only serves fish and chips at very affordable prices. 1634 Duane Street, Astoria. (503) 791-2942

Seaside Restaurants

Patty’s Wicker Cafe: You’ll get a very cheap, down-home breakfast at this cozy riverside restaurant that’s popular among locals. 600 Broadway Street, Seaside. (503) 717-1272

The Stand: Almost everything is under $10 at this casual joint with an excellent selection of salsas and some of the most authentic Mexican food on the Oregon Coast. Cash only. 109 North Holladay Drive, Seaside. (503) 738-6592

Cannon Beach Restaurants

Camp 18: If you take Highway 26 to the coast, you must stop and try the ginormous cinnamon rolls at this log cabin restaurant with the largest ridgepole in the country! 42362 Highway 26, Elsie (30 minutes east of Cannon Beach). (503) 755-1818

Castaways: This stylish yet affordable eatery serves a fusion of Cajun, Caribbean, and Mediterranean food. Try their amazing bananas flambe dessert. 316 Fir Street, Cannon Beach. (503) 436-4444

Lincoln City Restaurants

Otis Cafe: The New York Times described this small town restaurant’s cuisine as “legendary” and I concur! Toast made from homemade bread, white cheddar hash browns, and daily specials are sure to delight. 1259 Salmon River Highway, Otis (near Lincoln City). (541) 994-2813

Newport Restaurants

Cafe Mundo: There’s a great vegetarian menu and a mix of Asian, Latin, and American dishes at this upbeat restaurant with frequent live music. Closed Mondays & Tuesdays. 209 Northwest Coast Street, Newport. (541) 574-8134

Arctic Circle: One of the last remaining locations of a fast food chain, this quick stop is renowned for its fry sauce and fruit milkshakes. 340 North Coast Highway, Newport. (541) 265-7822

Florence Restaurants

Nature’s Corner Cafe & Market: There’s probably more vegetarian and vegan options at this grocery store and cafe than anywhere else on the Oregon Coast! They serve an excellent breakfast and lunch and have an array of baked goods. 185 Highway 101, Florence. (541) 997-0900

Coos Bay Restaurants

Captain’s Cabin: This local hangout pub is located next door to the historic Tioga Hotel and has a simple yet tasty food menu. 275 North Broadway, Coos Bay. (541) 267-7772

Brookings Restaurants

Khun Thai: There’s great vegetarian options at this surprisingly tasty Thai restaurant. Try their adorable heart-shaped mango sticky rice as a side or dessert. 925 Chetco Avenue, Brookings. (541) 412-0555

Nearby Side Trips from the Oregon Coast

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Latourell Falls in the Columbia Gorge

Portland: Known as the hipster capital of America, this city 1.5 hours to the east is perched on the junction of the mighty Columbia & Willamette Rivers with a panoramic view of Mt. Hood to the East. Stroll through one of its many famous gardens or venture out to see nearby forests & waterfalls. Read more.

Columbia Gorge: The stretch of the mighty Columbia River just east of Portland 2 hours from the coast has a high concentration of waterfalls and some of the best hiking in Oregon. Read more.

Silver Falls State Park: The premier hike in this tranquil park 1.5 hours from the coast takes you past 10 waterfalls in only 7 easy miles. Read more.

 

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