Last updated: November 30, 2023
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.
Must See Oregon Coast Stops
We’ve taken several trips to beautiful Oregon state as a family and have stopped at many of these attractions along the way. The hardest part perhaps, is choosing what to see on the Oregon coast. But there is no wrong choice.
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, and many are open to the public for tours and visits. These are four of the very best ones.
1. Heceta Head Lighthouse
Don’t miss this historic lighthouse with absolutely stunning views of the coast. Located about 12 miles north of Florence, Heceta Head Lighthouse offers guided tours to learn about its history and operation, and provides panoramic views of the surrounding coastline from the top.
2. Cape Blanco Lighthouse
Located near Port Orford, Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in Oregon and one of the most scenic lighthouses on the west coast. They’re open for tours in the summer and you can climb to the top for a truly unforgettable view.
3. Coquille River Lighthouse
Located in Bandon, OR, the Coquille River Lighthouse was first built in 1896 and has since become an iconic symbol of the Oregon coast. Although the lighthouse is no longer in operation, you can still go inside, and visit the nearby museum as well.
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.
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!
Best Oregon Beaches
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.
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.
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!
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.
Harris Beach also has a campground, with lovely sites for beach camping.
Best State Parks & Recreation Sites
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.
Indian Beach, Ecola Point Viewpoint and Clatsop Loop Trail are some of the most popular and memorable places to see.
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.
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.
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.
One of the main 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Must See Oregon Coast Towns
The Oregon coast is made of some pretty charming towns, with all kinds of fun activities during the summer months.
- 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. Newport 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More Oregon Coast Adventures
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.
Things to Do Oregon Coast FAQs
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.
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.
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.