10 best things to do in Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Rockaway Beach, Oregon, is a small coastal town, about an hour and a half drive from Portland. Trips to the Oregon Coast are one of my favorite go-to weekend getaways, and I’ve visited Rockaway Beach many times over the years.
After several visits to this quiet little town, I’ve discovered some of the best things to do in Rockaway Beach. And after reading this list, I’m sure you’ll want to plan a visit too!
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Best things to do in Rockaway Beach, Oregon
1. Ride the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad
Hands down, one of the best things to do in Rockaway Beach is to ride the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. This quaint vintage train rambles down the tracks at a leisurely pace with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The train leaves from Rockaway Beach, headed either 45 minutes north to Wheeler, or 30 minutes south to Garibaldi. Before your return trip, expect a minimum 45 minute layover in Wheeler or a 30 minute layover in Garibaldi to stretch your legs, sight see, shop or eat.
When ordering tickets, you’ll get to select seats from four options. There’s an open car and a covered car. Both these options are open to the air, a great way to enjoy the ocean breeze in summer months, but may be cold in the winter!
The other two seating options include a 1910 dining car or a 1950’s car. Both of these cars have tables and chairs and are fully enclosed, with windows to enjoy the view. (Windows in the 1950’s car are extra large!)
Train excursions are seasonal, and include highlights of the fall foliage, the Rockaway Beach Tree Lighting, and cocoa and cookies with Santa, among others. Whichever excursion you choose though, you’re sure to have a great time.
Price: $28/adult, with discounts for children, seniors, and veterans.
Note: All tickets are round trip tickets.
2. Hike to Devil’s Cauldron
There are two great hikes located in Oswald West State Park, just 20 minutes north of Rockaway Beach. Those two hikes, Devil’s Cauldron and Elk Flats, both promise amazing ocean views. Plus, both hikes are dog friendly, so long as they stay on a leash.
Devil’s Cauldron is a short and easy, out-and-back hike. It’s 0.1 miles one direction, only takes about 15 minutes, and ends with a stunning view of the Pacific ocean.
The hike is generally considered easy, although the start of the hike is a bit steep, covered with loose gravel. At the end of the trail, relax on a bench at the vista point while you listen to the crush of the waves against this rugged coastline.
Note: The drop offs around the vista point can be quite steep. Be sure to stay behind any roped off sections.
3. Hike Elk Flats Trail
If you’re looking for a longer or more challenging hike than Devil’s Cauldron, try the Elk Flats Trail instead. Elk Flats and Devil’s Cauldron share a trailhead, however Elk Flats is a more moderately difficult hike.
Another out-and-back hike, Elk Flats trail roughly parallels the coastline. It’s about 1.3 miles one way, or nearly three miles round trip if you include the Devil’s Cauldron vista point. All in all, plan to spend an average of an hour and a half hiking this trail.
In the spring, you’ll trek through verdant green fields filled with wildflowers. However, it can get a bit muddy during the winter months, so it’s usually best to visit between April and November.
4. Go to the beach
Rockaway Beach has seven miles of tranquil, sandy beaches, with 20 plus beach access points along the way. If you prefer to have the beach to yourself, the beaches here are usually far from crowded.
Stroll along the Pacific Ocean and admire Rockaway’s iconic Twin Rocks out on the horizon. These happen to be some of the most well-known rock formations off the Oregon coast. And you’ll find the best view of them from Minnehaha Street.
TIP: Instead of bringing your own beach toys, look for the beach toy library at one of the beach access points at the end of Third Street. Or, if you happen to buy beach toys and don’t want to take them home, donate them to the library!
5. Explore the tide pools near the Three Graces
These rock formations create an almost haunting silhouette against the horizon. Called the Three Graces, their name only adds to their intrigue.
The Three Graces are just south of Rockaway Beach, right off the side of Highway 101. Visit them at low tide and you’ll discover some excellent tide pools surrounding them. Common sea life you may find in tide pools off the Oregon coast include crabs, snails, starfish, sea urchins, and anemones.
A few words of caution to remember when visiting the tide pools: Never turn your back on the ocean. And remember that the tide will eventually come back in! If you’re not paying attention, you may find yourself stranded or having to swim back to dry ground.
Note: There is no safe parking close to the Three Graces. You’ll have to park in town and walk south on 101, across the train tracks to get there.
6. Walk the Old Growth Cedar Preserve
This beautiful old growth preserve sits on the edge of town, right off Highway 101. The trail is a one mile loop that meanders along a boardwalk, through sitka spruce, western red cedars, and wetlands.
It takes about 20 minutes to complete. And it leads to the tallest western red cedar in Oregon!
At 154 feet tall and 49 feet wide, this giant tree towers over the neighboring coastal town. The boardwalk encircles the tree so you can appreciate it up close, without compacting the dirt or damaging the root structure.
This is an easy and fairly level trail, open all year round. It’s ADA accessible, and great for strollers, small children, or people with mobility issues.
7. Go Crabbing
The taste of the salty sea air, the wind in your hair, the rocking of the boat beneath your feet…If you’ve ever imagined what it would be like to be a fisherman out on the ocean, this is your opportunity to find out. You don’t have to have experience or equipment to go crabbing from Rockaway Beach!
Kelly’s Brighton Marina is the place to go for crabbing in Rockaway. They’ll provide the boat, the crab traps, and life jackets. And they’ll teach you how to crab, and even cook your catch for you afterwards. No reservations are required, but it is first come, first serve.
Note: Your shellfish license is not included in the price, but can be purchased through the crabbing company. And it’s pretty inexpensive! Just $10 for in state, or $19 for out of state.
8. Get lunch at the Pronto Pup
Another must-do in Rockaway Beach is to get lunch at the restaurant that invented the pronto pup. A “pronto pup” is very similar to a giant corn dog. The main difference between the two is that a pronto pup tends to be more savory, whereas a corn dog leans more toward the sweet side.
The pronto pup was created one rainy day out of necessity. One day George and Versa Boyinton’s hot dog buns became rain sodden in their little hot dog stand. So George set to work solving their problem by inventing a hot dog bun they could produce on the spot.
The name of the restaurant bears the same name as the food: Pronto Pup. Locals on the Oregon coast rave about Pronto Pup, so you know it has to be good. Formally introduced to the world in 1941, they still use their original recipe today.
However, they’ve got several other heavenly, deep-fried delicacies worth trying on the menu now. For example, the “Pickle Pup,” the “Cheesy Pup” (deep fried cheese), and the “Zuchi Pup.” They’ve even got a vegetarian option!
It’s the perfect spot to stop for a quick, hot lunch. And it’s easy on the wallet too!
TIP: Be sure to bring some change to ride the mechanical Pronto Pup out front!
9. Shop the antique stores
There are some amazing antique shops along the Oregon coast, and Rockaway Beach is no exception. This small town is home to three antique shops, all right on Highway 101, the main road through town.
The Little White Church Antiques has a quaint, polished appeal, and sits close to the edge of town. Whereas Trash & Treasures and The Little Crow sit in the center of town.
Antique shops are one of the funnest places to go thrifting. You’re likely to come across some unique finds worth giving a second life to.
10. Visit the Annual Kite Festival
Hosted by the American Kitefliers Association, The Rockaway Beach Kite Festival is held every September. See the skies on Rockaway Beach filled with soaring kites of all shapes and sizes.
Spend the weekend watching special kite demonstrations and competing in kite flying contests. Everyone is welcome to participate! There’s even kite building workshops and kite flying classes for the children.
Plus, enjoy the live music, artisans and vendors, and some delicious food, all while strolling along the beautiful Oregon coast. It’s sure to be a weekend full of care-free memories and magic!
Where to stay in Rockaway Beach
Two beach front hotel options in Rockaway Beach are the Surfside Resort and Rockaway Beach Resort.
However, we were able to find a cute vacation rental right in the middle of Rockaway that was walking distance to the beach and restaurants.
Where to eat in Rockaway Beach
Even though Rockaway is a small town, there are still some great places to eat there. Restaurant options range from seafood to Mexican food, and of course include fast food as well.
The Old Oregon Smokehouse serves a delicious clam chowder or fish and chips. They also serve pulled pork sandwiches and seafood sandwich melts.
Be aware, their seating is mostly outdoors. But on cold rainy days, they’re a great option for a grab n go meal.
There are two Mexican restaurants to choose from in Rockaway: The Beach Bite & Dos Rocas, and El Trio Loco III. And don’t forget to grab lunch at the Pronto Pup! All of these restaurants are conveniently located on the main street through town, Highway 101.
Final Thoughts on Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Rockaway Beach may be a quiet little coastal town, but there’s plenty of fun to be had here, none the less. It makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway from Portland. Or, you can include it on your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary. Either way, you’ll be glad you visited!