Oregon’s coast is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. From unforgettable beaches to charming coastal towns, the coast is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Here are 25 must see Oregon coast stops, based on my own fantastic adventures, for your next road trip.

We’ve taken several trips to beautiful Oregon state as a family and have stopped at all of these attractions. Some of them more than once. The hardest part perhaps, is choosing what to see on the Oregon coast. But there is no wrong choice.

The top attractions, the must-see Oregon coast stops to make.
💚Three Capes Scenic Loop
💚Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
💚Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
💚Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Must see Oregon Coast

Must See Oregon Coast Stops

Oregon Coast Lighthouse Recommendations

There are a total of 11 lighthouses on the Oregon Coast, some privately owned and some available to the public.  Each of these lighthouses has its own unique history and architectural style. Many of them are open to the public for tours and visits. These are four of the very best ones.

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse

1. Heceta Head Lighthouse

Don’t miss this historic lighthouse with absolutely stunning views of the coast. Located about 12 miles north of Florence, it offers guided tours to learn about its history and operation. You can also enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coastline from the top.

The lighthouse is an iconic structure built in 1894 and named after the Spanish explorer Bruno de Heceta. Its served as a vital navigation aid along the treacherous Oregon coast with a fascinating history.

When visiting, the best times are late spring to early fall for optimal weather, though winter offers dramatic ocean views. The site features a parking area with a day-use fee, leading to a short trail to the lighthouse.

For photographers, or aspiring ones like me, the area at sunset is a dream come true.

The lighthouse is more than just an historical monument, however, it’s a gateway to the local culture. Stories of a friendly ghost named “Rue” add a touch of mystery here and there, while community events often celebrate their maritime heritage.

The nearby, charmingly unique Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast offers a comfortable stay.

2. Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Established in 1870, it holds the distinction of being Oregon’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse, playing a vital role in maritime navigation along the treacherous coastline. When planning a visit, it’s essential to check the current opening hours and fees, as these can vary.

The lighthouse is accessible by a scenic drive, but be prepared for windy and foggy conditions typical of the area, so dressing in layers and carrying a windbreaker is recommended.

Guided tours are available in summer, providing a wonderful look into the lighthouse’s operations and its keepers’ stories, including the notable James Langlois and his family. These tours, coupled with the lighthouse’s distinctive architecture, offer a delightful dive into Oregon’s maritime history.

The local community’s involvement in the lighthouse’s preservation is a testament to its significance. Special events and tours, including occasional nighttime tours, add to the allure of the Cape Blanco experience.

The area is also a habitat for diverse wildlife, including seabirds and migrating whales, adding to the natural appeal.

Visiting Cape Blanco Lighthouse is far more than just a tour of an old beacon; it’s an immersive experience into Oregon’s maritime past, set against a backdrop of natural beauty and a tranquil, windswept coastline.

While there are no facilities directly at the lighthouse, nearby towns offer plenty of accommodation and dining options.

3. Coquille River Lighthouse

The Coquille River Lighthouse, located in my favorite Oregon coast town Bandon, is a notable and picturesque destination for those exploring the Oregon Coast.

Constructed in 1896, this historic lighthouse served as a navigational aid for mariners entering the Coquille River until its decommissioning in 1939. The lighthouse, with its unique octagonal design, has since become a symbol of the area’s rich maritime history and a popular site for visitors.

When planning a visit, it’s essential to note that the lighthouse is accessible through Bullards Beach State Park. And although the lighthouse is no longer in operation, you can still go inside, and visit the nearby museum as well.

The climate can be quite variable, often windy and misty, so you should definitely dress in layers and bring rain gear.

The area around the lighthouse offers several trails for walking and birdwatching, and the nearby river and beach provide opportunities for more photography and of course, beachcombing.

Coquille Lighthouse

4. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is one of the best stops for a unique and beautiful experience. Explore the beach, search for marine wildlife, and learn about the area’s history and ecology.

Dominated by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, this area is renowned for its rugged coastline, tide pools, and seabird colonies.

The lighthouse serves as a beacon for maritime navigation and as a historical landmark, drawing visitors interested in Oregon’s maritime past.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the site, and there’s an entrance fee. You can also take a tour of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, a historic building that was first lit in 1873 and is still in operation today.  Reservations are recommended, and worthwhile!

KEY TIP: wear sturdy shoes, as exploring the rocky shoreline and trails can be uneven.

You can also walk along the well-maintained trails like the Salal Hill Trail, which provides stunning ocean views and opportunities for whale watching during migration seasons.

RANDOM FACT: Yaquina Head was originally given the name Cape Foulweather, by Captain James Cook in 1778 due to the bad weather he encountered.

Best Oregon Beaches

Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach

Oregon has some truly impressive beaches, with miles of stunning coastline that offer something for everyone. If you’re looking for what to do on the Oregon coast, their beautiful and unique beaches should be absolutely be a priority.

Seaside and Bandon Beaches, two of the best by far, are discussed with their respective and delightful towns further on in this article.

5. Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is an extremely popular tourist destination with miles of sandy beaches and stunning ocean views. There are many activities nearby, other than the beach, such as hiking, shopping and visiting local art galleries.

Getting to this beach is the most difficult part because it is nearly always crowded, but you should go anyway. It’s really on one of the best things to see on the Oregon coast. I often stop here even when it’s super crowded, because it’s just too beautiful.

The most popular attraction at Cannon Beach is undoubtedly Haystack Rock. A massive sea stack the rock is a 235-foot sea stack that rises out of the ocean and is home to a variety of seabirds, including tufted puffins, cormorants, and seagulls. 

The area around Haystack Rock is designated as a protected marine garden, emphasizing the conservation of its unique ecosystem. Not long ago, there was a great deal of drama surrounding a cougar that got stuck there when the tides came up.

FUN FACT: he town was named after a cannon from the USS Shark, a shipwrecked Navy vessel, washed ashore in 1846.

When visiting Cannon Beach, the weather is a key consideration. The area is known for its variable climate, with possibilities of rain, fog, and sunny spells, so be sure to dress in layers and be prepared for any condition.

The town is relatively small and walkable, with a variety of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, reflecting its reputation as an artistic hub. Accommodation options range from cozy bed and breakfasts to upscale resorts.

6. Yachats Beach

This quiet, dog friendly beach is nestled between rocky cliffs and provides a peaceful retreat for those looking to get away from it all. The highlights near here for us were exploring Cape Perpetua Scenic Area and the North Fork Yachats covered bridge.

Unique Activity: Explore the Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site, where the ocean crashes against a unique rocky shoreline.

Thor’s Well is also a must do, or must see really, and is most impressive as the tide is rising. We stop by here every time we’re going by, it’s just that impressive!

You can also explore Amanda’s Trail, a charming and historical hike leading to a statue commemorating a Native American woman named Amanda. The story of Amanda is a poignant part of Oregon’s history, particularly relating to the treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century.

Amanda was a blind Coos woman who represents the suffering and resilience of Native Americans during this period. The trail named after her, “Amanda’s Trail,” connects to the larger Oregon Coast Trail and runs from Yachats to Cape Perpetua.

The significance of her story lies in the forced relocation of Native Americans.

In the 1850s and 1860s, many Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, including Amanda, were forcibly removed from their homelands and marched to the Coast Reservation, a process that often involved great hardship and suffering.

The story goes that Amanda, despite her blindness, was forced to walk over rough terrain, symbolizing the broader experience of displacement and mistreatment faced by many Native Americans during this era.

Amanda’s Trail serves as a tribute to her resilience and as a reminder of this dark chapter in American history. It’s a place of reflection and recognition of one of too many injustices faced by indigenous populations.

Yachats Beach

7. Hug Point Beach

This somewhat secluded beach offers a variety of activities, including awesome caves and hiking trails, as well as a little waterfall and stunning ocean views. Be sure to check the tide schedule before visiting, as a low tide is necessary to reach the caves.

It’s rather popular during the summer, but can be quite peaceful during spring and fall months. If you enjoy caves, you will love this beach. I always stop at this charming beach when I’m in the area, even if it’s just to check out the cave or see if the waterfall is flowing.

8. Harris Beach

This beach is located near Brookings on the southern coast and has dramatic sea cliffs, tidal pools, and a wide, soft, sandy beach. At low tide, the rocky shoreline is exposed, revealing a fascinating world of tide pools filled with colorful sea creatures such as starfish, anemones, and crabs.

Unique Activity: Bring your binoculars to view Bird Island (also known as Goat Island), the largest island off the Oregon coast and a breeding site for rare birds.

Harris Beach also has a campground, with lovely sites for beach camping. In the summer, the clear skies offer an excellent opportunity for stargazing.

Best State Parks & Recreation Sites

Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor
Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The coast of Oregon is dotted with incredible state parks and recreation sites, known for their natural beauty, beautiful landscapes and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Be sure to drive along the breathtaking Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor if it’s at all possible.

9. Ecola State Park

Located between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park has stunning coastal views, fantastic hiking trails, and a unique history as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Spot elk and bald eagles in their natural habitat.

Indian Beach, Ecola Point Viewpoint and Clatsop Loop Trail are some of the most popular and memorable places to see. Indian Beach in particular can often be a serene spot for a picnic with less crowds

Unique Activity: Enjoy the view of the famous Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, often enveloped in mist, from one of the park’s viewpoints.

Ecola State Park

10. Oswald West State Park

Located along the northern coast of Oregon, Oswald State Park has some great hikes and sites, including the Devil’s Cauldron, Neahkahnie Mountain and Short Sand Beach, among many other wonderful activities.

If you make it here, be sure to set aside plenty of time to explore Short Sand Beach and Cape Falcon Overlook. You won’t regret it.

Unique Activity: Take a surf lesson at Short Sand Beach, a popular spot for beginner surfers.

The winery in Manzanita is a fantastic place for lunch and dog-lovers. Their theme is labradors and it is more than dog friendly. They also have great coffee and beer, with fire pits on the patio.

11. Cape Arago State Park

Also near Coos Bay, Cape Arago has some amazing landscapes, tidepools, wildlife opportunities and hiking trails. The park is also home to several historic sites, including the Cape Arago Lighthouse and the Simpson Reef Overlook.

Unique Activity: Explore the nearby Shore Acres State Park’s botanical garden.

Watch for gray whales during migration seasons, May through October, and visit the nearby Simpson Reef to observe seals and sea lions.

12. Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon is on the northern coast and is one of the largest state parks in the state, covering over 4,200 acres. It’s one of the more unusual things to do along the Oregon coast. There are also many miles of bike trails offer a scenic way to explore the park.

One of the coolest attractions of Fort Stevens State Park is the historic military fort, where you can explore the fort’s amazing underground bunkers, gun batteries, and other structures, as well as learn about the history of the fort.

Unique Activity: Explore the remains of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, a historic vessel that ran ashore in 1906.

The park also offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and beachcombing. There are several miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through the park’s forests and dunes, as well as several miles of beach that are great for walking and exploring.

Fort Steven's State Park ship wreckage looking out

13. Seal Rock State Recreation Site

An excellent place to see (and smell!) seals, sea lions and other wildlife. The main attraction of the recreation site is Seal Rock itself, which is a large rock formation that rises above the water and is home to a variety of seabirds and seals.  

Make very sure to wear shoes with good grips. Also realize it’s a bit of a walk and you need to take a very small elevator down to see them.

Seal Rock Recreation Area
Seal Rock

Seal Rock is an exceptional location for watching sunsets. You can search for agates and other ocean treasures along the shoreline while you wait!

14. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Located about 2.5 hours southwest of Portland, Cape Perpetua offers stunning coastal views, ancient forests, and unique geological features.

Take the Cape Perpetua Scenic Drive, hike the Captain Cook Trail or be amazed by Thor’s Well. We were! Whatever you choose to do, there’s something for everyone.

15. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

This is a beautiful spot with hiking trails and sand dunes. The Oregon Dunes are also a popular destination for dune buggy enthusiasts, or novices like my family, and there are several rental companies that offer dune buggy rentals in the area.

My youngest still talks about this particular adventure and I must confess it was a highlight for me as well.

Also don’t miss the bird watching while you are here. The area is home to an amazing variety of bird species.

16. Neskowin Beach Recreation Site

The Neskowin Ghost Forest is definitely worth visiting if you’re interested in natural history and geological phenomena. The Ghost Forest is a unique site where the remains of an ancient Sitka spruce forest have been preserved in the sand for more than 2,000 years.

The stumps of these trees were uncovered in the 1990s after a series of powerful storms and have since become a popular attraction for visitors to the area.

The stumps are best seen at low tide, so it’s important to time your visit accordingly. The best time to see these incredible stumps is during a low tide of 2 feet or lower.

Unique Activity: Explore Proposal Rock, a landmark rock that’s accessible during low tide and offers a great view.

Must See Oregon Coast Towns

Must see Oregon coast
Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area

The Oregon coast is made of some pretty charming towns, with all kinds of fun activities during the summer months.

17. Newport, OR

  • Location: central Oregon
  • Where to eat: Pacific Kitchen at Nye Beach
  • Where to stay: Inn at Nye Beach
  • Things to do in Newport, Oregon: Oregon Coast Aquarium, Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Newport, Oregon is a beautiful coastal town, known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and abundance of recreational activities.  The town also has several beautiful beaches, including Nye Beach and Agate Beach, which are great for beachcombing, tidepooling, and surfing.

Agate Beach is dog friendly and even allows them off-leash if your dog is under voice control.

The town also has a historic bay front district with shops, a lovely lighthouse, restaurants, and galleries, as well as a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and kayaking.

FUN FACT: The Rogue Brewery Tour is the famous for its unique brews.

If you have little ones, be sure to stop at the Newport Discovery Zoo. You can pet foxes and sloths, and feed all sorts of cute animals. Your kids will love it!

18. Astoria, OR

  • Location: northern Oregon
  • Where to eat: Mo’s Restaurant
  • Where to stay: Norblad Hotel
  • Things to do in Astoria, Oregon: Astoria Column, Columbia River Maritime Museum

Astoria, Oregon is a charming and historic town located at the mouth of the Columbia River, known for its rich maritime history and beautiful landscapes.

The town has a vibrant arts scene, with galleries, studios, and performance spaces showcasing the work of local artists and musicians. Astoria is home to several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Astoria Regatta and the Astoria International Film Festival.

Unique Activity: Climb to the top of the Astoria Column for a panoramic view of the town and the surrounding areas.

Astoria is also a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking trails, fishing spots, and kayaking opportunities throughout the area. The town is located near several beautiful state parks, including Fort Stevens State Park and Ecola State Park.

The Astoria Riverfront Trolley, a heritage streetcar that runs along the waterfront, is a fantastic scenic ride through the heart of Astoria’s historic district. It’s a great way to see the sights and experience the history and charm of Astoria.

Astoria, Oregon bridge and trolley tracks

19. Bandon OR

  • Location: southern Oregon
  • Where to eat: The Wheelhouse & Crowsnest
  • Where to stay: Table Rock Motel
  • Things to do in Bandon, Oregon: golfing, crabbing, Coquille River Lighthouse, cranberry festival

Bandon is a completely charming and picturesque coastal town that offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors. It’s known for its beautiful and scenic beaches, as well as its golf scene.

Bandon Beach is famous for its dramatic rock formations, including Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. It’s a great place for beachcombing, tidepooling and photography. The best time to go for awesome photos, in my opinion, is when low tide corresponds to sunset.

Circles in the Sand at Bandon Beach, Oregon are intricate and beautiful patterns created by a local artist named Denny Dyke. Denny is known for his “Circles in the Sand” events, where he creates large-scale labyrinths and mandalas in the sand using only a rake and a stick.

The patterns are often inspired by sacred geometry, and Denny encourages people to walk the labyrinth as a meditative practice. The circles in the sand have become a popular attraction for visitors to Bandon Beach, and Denny continues to create new designs throughout the year.

You can also explore the Face Rock Creamery and taste some of Oregon’s finest cheeses and watch them being made.

20. Seaside, OR

  • Location: just north of Cannon Beach
  • Where to eat: Dooger’s Seafood & Grill
  • Where to stay: Rivertide Suites
  • Things to do in Seaside, Oregon: Seaside Beach, walk the “Prom,” Cannon Beach close by

Seaside is a popular coastal town, for many good reasons. It’s beautiful, it’s charming and it’s not nearly as crowded as Cannon Beach.  Seaside’s historic oceanfront promenade is a popular spot for strolling, people-watching and enjoying the view.

The promenade features shops, restaurants, and an arcade, as well as a statue of Lewis and Clark. There are many fun things to do for kids and families here, so be sure to check the city’s events page before you go.

Unique Activity: Try your hand at crabbing or clamming along the Seaside beach, a fun and rewarding activity for all ages.

Seaside beach at low tide

Best Oregon Coast Stops

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    More Oregon Coast Adventures

    Deer on hiking trail
    Views while hiking

    Some of the best things to do on the Oregon coast are the more unusual ones as well.

    21. Take a whale watching tour

    Being out on the open ocean and getting a chance to see these massive creatures in their natural environment is a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience.

    In addition to the chance to observe whales, many tours also offer the opportunity to see other marine life, such as dolphins, seals, and seabirds. 

    22. Visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory

    The Tillamook Cheese Factory is one of the largest and most popular cheese factories in the United States. You can take a self-guided tour of the factory to learn about the cheese-making process, see the cheese being made, and taste some of the different varieties of Tillamook cheese.

    23. Visit the Tillamook Forest Center

    Located in the heart of the Tillamook State Forest, the Tillamook Forest Center is an educational facility that offers a variety of exhibits and interactive displays to help you learn about the forest ecosystem and the history of the region.

    24. Hunt for agates

    The Oregon coast is well-known for its agates and is a popular destination for rockhounding enthusiasts. Agates are typically found on beaches and in rocky areas where erosion has exposed them.

    The best places to visit for agates on the Oregon Coast include beaches such as Beverly Beach, Siletz Bay and Nye Beach. You may also want to check out the areas around Yaquina Head and Cape Perpetua.

    25. Explore in a kayak

    Take an unbelievably beautiful kayak tour and explore the coastline from a different perspective. Kayaking is a great way to get some exercise and have a lot of fun at the same time.

    Some popular areas for kayaking along the Oregon coast include Brookings, Nehalem Bay, Netarts Bay, Tillamook Bay and Coos Bay.

    Here is visual image of where everything is relative to each other, a map of things to do on the Oregon coast.

    What are the key attractions on the Oregon Coast?

    The Oregon Coast offers a range of attractions, including scenic loops like the Three Capes Scenic Loop with views at Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda.

    Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and Cape Perpetua Scenic Area are also popular for their lighthouses, seabirds, marine life, and dramatic coastline. Another highlight is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America​​.

    Are there unique natural features to see?

    Yes, there are several unique natural features. For instance, Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a notable monolith, and the black sand beach at Yaquina Head in Newport is known for its basalt composition.

    Additionally, places like Strawberry Hill are ideal for finding agates, especially during low tide​​.

    What are some less known but worthwhile spots to visit?

    Lesser-known spots that are worth visiting include the Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint for whale watching, House Rock Viewpoint for its memorial and hiking trails, and Whaleshead Beach for its scenic views.

    The Natural Bridges offer a view of iconic arch rocks and blowholes, and Arch Rock provides a view of offshore sea stacks and islands. For a unique experience, the Prehistoric Gardens in Gold Beach offer life-sized dinosaur sculptures in a natural rainforest setting​​.

    Things to Do Oregon Coast FAQs

    Intertidal invertebrates
    Intertidal Zone Sea Anemones
    What is the most beautiful part of the Oregon Coast?

    There are many beautiful areas along the coast, including Cannon Beach, Cape Perpetua, Samuel H.Boardman Corridor, Bandon Beach, Ecola State Park and several others. It’s impossible to choose which is the most beautiful as they’re all unique.

    What is the best month to visit the Oregon Coast?

    The best time to visit the Oregon coast depends on what you’re looking for. Summer is the most popular time. Fall and Spring however, offers mild weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. The fall foliage is also beautiful, and you may be able to spot whales migrating south.

    How many days do you need on the Oregon Coast?

    The amount of time you need on the Oregon coast depends on how much you want to see and do. If you’re looking to visit some of the main attractions and spend time in a few different towns, a minimum of 3-5 days is recommended.

    Final Thoughts: Must See on Oregon Coast

    With over 363 miles (584 kilometers) of stunning coastline, the Oregon Coast offers a unique blend of natural beauty and charming coastal towns that make it a popular tourist destination for travelers worldwide.

    Some of the top attractions on the Oregon Coast are the iconic Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, the picturesque Cape Perpetua Scenic Area near Yachats, the stunning Thor’s Well near Cape Perpetua, and the quaint town of Newport with its historic bayfront and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

    The Oregon Coast also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, beachcombing, fishing, surfing, and whale watching.   

    Overall, the Oregon Coast is a beautiful and unique destination with something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, an outdoor adventure, or a fun family trip, the Oregon Coast is definitely worth a visit.