The Best Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

The Best Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

The Oregon coast is a mistress as fickle as the sea herself. Sunny and bright one day, dark and moody the next, with a beautifully rugged shoreline you won’t want to take your eyes off. This is one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders.

Having grown up in Oregon, I’ve made many trips along the coast over the years. And I’m going to share with you some of the best spots I’ve found along the way.

This Oregon Coast road trip itinerary will take you from north to south, along Highway 101, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Spend a week or two on Oregon’s coast, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it as much as I have.

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Transportation

Now if you’re flying into Portland to begin your Oregon coast road trip, you’ll need to pick up a rental car. You may also want to rent a car if you’re local and don’t want to put the miles on your own vehicle, or you just want something more reliable. Click below to explore rental car options in Portland.

Click here to reserve a car through Rentalcars.com

The Route

A note about this Oregon coast road trip before we delve into it. I like my itineraries loose, with plenty of wiggle room for spontaneity. So you won’t find a rigid schedule here, broken down by day and time.

Instead, I offer you a framework you can tailor to make your own. I’ve included the main highlights and attractions in each town, where to eat and sleep, and how long you’ll want to plan to spend in each town. So there are several ways you can adapt this itinerary.

One option, if you’re leaving from Portland, is to drive north to Astoria to start. Then drive slowly south along Highway 101, stopping in each town as you go. Lastly, return to Portland along a faster route, on I-5.

Option two also begins and ends in Portland. However, instead of returning along I-5, you’d leapfrog down the coast, hitting every other town (starting in Astoria again). For the return trip, drive back along Highway 101 again, but visit all the cities you missed the first time around.

And then there’s option three. Work this Oregon Coast road trip into your journey towards another destination. For example, we worked this road trip into our drive to the Redwoods. (Portland and San Francisco are the two closest airports and are about an equal drive to the Redwoods.)

Or, you could also work it in if you were driving from California to Portland or Seattle. But enough about the route. Let’s talk about what you really came here for. The stops on this amazing Oregon Coast road trip itinerary!

Astoria

Begin your Oregon coast road trip in Astoria. This small town sits at the mouth of the Columbia River. About a two hour drive from Portland, it’s the northern most city in Oregon on the 101.

Astoria has a few claims to fame, and even a great hidden gem. So you’ll want to plan to spend a full day here to experience all the town has to offer.

One thing Astoria is known for is the Astoria-Megler Bridge. At four miles in length, this is the longest truss bridge on the continent.

This impressive bridge spans the width of the Columbia River. So while you’re here, take a drive across the bridge, from Oregon into Washington!

Another landmark Astoria is well known for is Fort Clatsop, where the Lewis and Clark Expedition over-wintered from 1805 to 1806. Spend a couple of hours in this national historical park, watching historical re-enactments and learning about our country’s early days.

Then later that evening, discover Astoria’s secret underground world. Walk the Shanghai tunnels and learn about this coastal town’s history during a one-hour Astoria Underground Tour.

Highlights and attractions: Fort Clatsop, Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria underground tour, Astoria column

Where to eat: Broder Strand

Where to stay: Bowline Hotel

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Bowline Hotel⭐️

Fort Stevens, Oregon Coast road trip

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens is a military fortress turned state park. Located just outside Warrenton, it sits 20 minutes west of Astoria, or 20 minutes north of Seaside.

Visiting Fort Stevens is sure to be full of adventure, mystery, and intrigue. And if you love exploring abandoned buildings, this is the place to come. Here, it’s not only allowed, but encouraged!

These old concrete buildings served in defense of our country from the Civil War through World War II.

This state park offers camping of all sorts, restrooms, bike trails, military displays, and so much more. There’s even beach access and a shipwreck from 1906 you can explore!

The park is open year round; plan to spend a half day to a full day here, depending on how much you want to explore.

Just take caution not to cross anything chained or gated off, and watch your step. Some areas may be decaying, have holes or drop offs in the floor, or be otherwise unsafe.

TIP: Be sure to bring a flashlight or head lamp!

Highlights and attractions: Peter Iredale shipwreck, Battery Russel and Battery Pratt

Seaside, Oregon Coast road trip

Seaside

The next coastal town on the itinerary is Seaside. Seaside has more of a tourist draw than other coastal towns. That may have something to do with its carnival-fun, classic boardwalk atmosphere.

From bumper cars and wacky mirrors, to carnival games and an arcade, Seaside is sure to put a smile on your face. There’s endless fun things to do here.

See the town from a tandem bike, surrey, or paddle boat. Then eat lunch at the Pronto Pup, and later, buy some salt water taffy from The Candyman.

Wander along the Seaside Promenade, and watch a sandcastle artist at work. Then stop in at the Seaside Aquarium, one of the oldest aquariums on the Pacific Coast.

You’ll definitely want to plan for a full day in Seaside to take in all this town has to offer.

Highlights and attractions: Seaside Aquarium, Seaside Inverted Experience, Wheel Fun Rentals, High Life Adventure Park Ariel Challenge, Captain Kid Amusement Park

Where to eat: Norma’s Seafood & Steak, Pronto Pup, Pig n Pancake

Where to stay: Best Western Plus Oceanview or the SaltLine Hotel

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the SaltLine Hotel⭐️

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Best Western Plus Oceanview⭐️

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is just a short 5 to 10 minute drive from Seaside. But it couldn’t be more different in its atmosphere and appeal.

It tends to be a go-to spot for many Portlanders. The town gets especially crowded during the summer months, but is much quieter the rest of the year.

One of the town’s biggest draws is its iconic coastline. This picturesque stretch of beach has been featured in multiple films and is home to the Haystack Rock from The Goonies.

The closest beach access to get an up-close view of Haystack Rock is near the restaurant The Wayfarer. Locals also love visiting both Tolovana Park and Ecola State Park for beach access.

Ecola State Park is great for hiking, and from the right vantage point you can see the lighthouse Terrible Tilly off in the distance. Plus, Indian Beach is found within this state park, and is a popular location for surfing.

You can probably get away with spending a half day in Cannon Beach. Unless you plan to hike or surf. Then plan for a full day here.

Highlights and attractions: Haystack Rock, Ecola State Park, Indian Beach

Where to eat: The Wayfarer, Insomnia Coffee, Mo’s, Pelican Pub

Where to stay: Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach

⭐️Click here to check for availability at Hallmark Resort & Spa Cannon Beach⭐️

Rockaway Beach, Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach, Oregon, is about a 35 to 40 minute drive south of Cannon Beach. This small coastal town may be easy to overlook, at first glance. Especially when compared to some of Oregon’s other coastal towns.

It’s got a couple gems that really make it worth the stop, though. For starters, the coastline here is particularly interesting. Three rock formations worth checking out here are the iconic Twin Rocks, the Three Graces, and the Devil’s Cauldron (just north of town).

A ride along the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad from here will give you great views of much of this picturesque stretch of coastline.

Plus, Rockaway Beach is home to the original Pronto Pup! (A pronto pup is basically a corn dog, except it’s more savory, whereas corn dogs tend to be more sweet.)

If you stop in Rockaway Beach, you’ll want to spend about a half day to a full day here. With its stunning ocean views, you’ll be glad you added it to your Oregon Coast itinerary.

Highlights and attractions: Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, the original Pronto Pup, Twin Rocks, Devil’s Cauldron

Where to eat: Pronto Pup, Old Oregon Smokehouse

Where to stay: Surfside Resort

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Surfside Resort⭐️

Tillamook

Continuing another 25 minutes down Highway 101 will take you next to Tillamook. And if you love cheese, then Tillamook should be on your bucket list, because one of the biggest attractions in here is the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

The Tillamook County Creamery Association produces national- and international-award-winning cheeses, many of which you can sample or purchase at the Tillamook Cheese Factory Visitors’ Center. Just be aware, once you try their cheese, you’ll be hooked!

Plus, this is the only place you can purchase Tillamook cheese curds (referred to as “squeaky cheese” by the locals) to take home with you. And that alone makes Tillamook worth the visit.

But the Tillamook Cheese Factory visitors’ center also offers dining options and Tillamook ice cream. And their ice cream is easily as good as their cheese! And you can watch and learn all about the cheese making process.

Aside form the Tillamook Cheese Factory, there’s plenty of other things to see and do here. Visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse, a short, squat little thing. And while you’re there, discover the “Octopus Tree,” an ancient Sitka spruce with multiple main trunks.

Have some wine to go with your cheese at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. Then visit the Tillamook Air Museum or the County Pioneer Museum. Overall, you’ll want to plan to spend a half day to a full day in Tillamook.

Highlights and attractions: Cape Meares Lighthouse, Octopus Tree, Tillamook Cheese Factory

Where to eat: The Schooner

Where to stay: Shilo Inn Suites

⭐️Click here to check for availability at Shilo Inn Suites⭐️

Haystack Rock, Pacific City

Pacific City

About a 30 minute drive south of Tillamook, Pacific City is a smaller coastal town. And it’s a bit off the beaten path, compared to some of the other cities in this Oregon Coast road trip.

Small as it is, it’s still worth a stop though. And one of the best things to do in Pacific City is to explore Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, including an up close view of Haystack rock. And it’s a popular location for surfing and exploring tide pools.

Pacific City is also a great spot for plenty of other outdoor adventures. You can try your hand at clamming or fishing, kayaking or horseback riding, or even hang gliding!

You’ll want to plan to spend about a half day to a full day here. But whatever you plan to do with your time here, you’ll be glad you added Pacific City to your itinerary!

Highlights and attractions: Haystack rock, Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area

Where to eat: Pelican Brewing, Ben & Jeff’s Burgers and Tacos, Stimulus Coffee

Where to stay: Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa

⭐️Click here to check availability for the Headlands Coastal Lodge and Spa⭐️

Neskowin Ghost Forest

Add this short stop into your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary! Neskowin is about half way-ish between Pacific City and Lincoln City. Fun side note: Neskowin means “plenty fish.”

Visiting the Neskowin ghost forest is an incredibly unique experience. These 2,000 year old Sitka spruce trees once stood tall and proud, until one day (as the theory goes), they were swallowed by an earthquake or tsunami.

Over the hundreds of years since, the ocean has held them secret, preserved them, and morphed them into the barnacle-covered stumps you see today–merely apparitions and whispers of the trees they once were.

You won’t need more than a half day here; maybe even a few hours may be enough. But it’s the timing of your visit to Neskowin that’s most critical.

It’s best visited at low tide. And even better yet is if that low tide occurs in the morning, before the fog has worn off for the day. The effect is absolutely haunting.

Another amazing time to visit Neskowin is during a super low tide. However, that only happens three or four weekends per year, during the summer months.

Important Note: I cannot recommend visiting Neskowin without saying this. Neskowin is a unique, dearly loved and cherished place. I’ve heard from Neskowin locals that visitors during the super low tides have left this stunning coastline trashed.

Please, if you decide to visit, treat this place with respect and practice the principals of “Leave no Trace.” Take out what you take in. Let’s leave it as beautiful as we can for those who follow after us, and for generations to come.

Where to stay: Proposal Rock Inn

Lincoln City

Continue another 20 minutes down Highway 101 to Lincoln City, a town sprawled long against the coastline. In fact, Lincoln City has more miles of beach than any other Oregon coastal town.

Lincoln City is well known for its “Finders Keepers” scavenger hunt. On certain dates through out the year, you can scour Lincoln City’s beaches for these beautiful, handcrafted glass orbs.

And if you find one, you get to keep it! It’s worth checking the Finders Keepers release dates to see if you can line your Oregon Coast road trip up with one of their events. (Check dates here.)

Lincoln City also has a great outlet mall that’s popular with many local Oregonians. Some of the notable brands you’ll find here include Pendleton, Nike, and Columbia, all proud PNW brands.

One other thing I highly recommend while in Lincoln City is to hike Driftcreek Falls. You’ll find this hike about 40 minutes inland from Lincoln City.

The moderately difficult 3.2-mile hike leads you to a 240’ long suspension footbridge (the longest in Oregon!), and to a stunning, 66’ tall waterfall.

Between seven miles of beaches, adventurous scavenger hunts, and a stunning waterfall, you’ll be glad you included Lincoln City in your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary.

All in all, you’ll want to plan to spend a half day to a full day in Lincoln City.

Highlights and attractions: Finders Keepers glass floats, shopping at the outlet mall, Driftcreek Falls

Where to eat: Kyllo’s Seafood & Grill, Hearth & Table, Mo’s, McMenamin’s, Pig ‘n Pancake

Where to stay: Inn at Spanish Head Resort or the Coho Oceanfront Lodge

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Inn at Spanish Head Resort⭐️

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Coho Oceanfront Lodge⭐️

Depoe Bay, Oregon Coast

Depoe Bay

Another 20 minutes south is the small town of Depoe Bay. Blink and you’ll have driven past it. However, there’s still plenty to do, packed into this little place.

For starters, this coastal town is home to the world’s smallest bay. This little harbor is a great place to explore, catch a beautiful view of the Depot Bay Bridge, and watch the seals swim and play.

The harbor is also where you’ll embark from for whale watching tours. Depoe Bay is one of the best places to go whale watching in Oregon, and there are several charter companies available to book tours from.

However, if you’d rather not go out on a boat, you’re also likely to spot whales, watching from the sea wall or the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay. The peak months to see whales in Depoe Bay tend to be May through August. Although, you may also have luck in December through February, and again mid March through May.

Depoe Bay is also a popular location to watch the monthly King Tides in the winter, from November through February. If you plan your visit to coincide with the King Tides, just be cautious to watch for sneaker waves, especially if the weather is stormy!

There are also a few shops along the waterfront, where you can buy salt water taffy or ice cream, and souvenirs. All in all, a half day is probably adequate time to experience Depoe Bay.

Highlights and attractions: World’s smallest bay, whale watching tours

Where to eat: The Horn Public House, Gracie’s Sea Hag

Newport, Oregon

Newport

Keep driving another 20 minutes south and you’ll come upon Newport, one of the larger coastal towns in Oregon. Newport has a lot to offer, and with so many things to do here, you’ll want to plan to spend a full day here.

One of the best things to do in Newport is to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This aquarium is the largest on the Oregon Coast, rated one of the top 10 in the US, and was once home to Keiko, the killer whale.

Keiko’s former tank has since been transformed into Passages of the Deep, my favorite habitat at the aquarium. A tunnel leads you through the middle of this habitat, as sharks and other undersea creatures swim over your head. The effect is absolutely magical.

You can also visit two different lighthouses nearby. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is just minutes from the aquarium, and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is just a few minutes north of town.

And while you’re visiting the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, take a few extra minutes to check out the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl, a stunning rock formation just 10 minutes north.

Then spend some time wandering the Historic Bayfront and the Nye Beach areas. Both these locations have great shopping and dining options.

Highlights and attractions: Oregon Coast Aquarium, Ripley’s Believe it or not Wax Museum, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Devil’s Punchbowl

Where to eat: The Chowder Bowl, Rogue Brewery, Georgie’s, Mo’s

Where to stay: Embarcadero Resort

⭐️Click here to check availability at the Embarcadero Resort⭐️

Florence

About an hour and ten minutes south of Newport is Florence, Oregon. Florence sits on the coast, at the mouth of the Siuslaw River, near the Oregon Dunes. You’ll want to plan to spend a half day to a full day here.

One of my favorite places in Florence is the Heceta Head Lighthouse. This classic lighthouse sits against a dramatic background, perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean.

The small beach directly below the lighthouse is magical, strewn with tiny sea shells. (The no-collect status of this beach partially accounts for why there are so many shells here!)

Take a hike from the lighthouse to a hidden beach. This 3.6 mile out-and-back trail takes about two hours to hike, and leads you to Hobbit Beach.

Later, visit the Sea Lion Caves, just 11 miles north of town. As tall as a 12-story building and as long as a football field, this is the largest sea cave in the U.S.! And you’re sure to see plenty of wildlife here.

If you’re looking for a little more adventure, then try renting an ATV or dune buggy to explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Or go horseback riding on the beach with C&M Stables.

Highlights and attractions: Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Lion Caves, Oregon Dune National Recreation Area

Where to eat: Bridgewater Fish House and Zebra Bar, 1285 Restobar

Where to stay: The Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers House Bed and Breakfast

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers House B&B⭐️

Coos Bay

The next stop on this Oregon Coast road trip is Coos Bay. Coos Bay is about an hour south of Florence, and you’ll want to plan to spend about a half day to a full day here.

Coos Bay is another excellent area to access the Oregon dunes from. At a total of 40 miles of recreational space, it’s the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes on the continent!

A few of the campgrounds in the area with dunes access include Spinreel, Horsfall, and Riley Ranch. You can rent ATVs and dune buggies in Coos Bay, or try the latest rage—sandboarding!

Later, enjoy some fish and chips at The Boat, one of my favorite restaurants in town. And afterwards, visit the Oregon Coast Historical Railway right next door. This outdoor museum has real vintage trains you can climb aboard and explore.

Another great thing to do in Coos Bay is to visit the lighthouse. Cape Arago Lighthouse is just 20 minutes west of Coos Bay.

This lighthouse sits on a small island off the coast, and isn’t open to the public. However, you can catch a great view of this beautiful beacon from Lighthouse Beach.

Highlights and attractions: Oregon dunes, Oregon Coast Historic Railway, Cape Arago Lighthouse

Where to eat: The Boat, 7 Devil’s Brewing

Where to stay: The Mill Casino Inn

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Mill Casino Inn⭐️

Devil's Kitchen, Bandon, Oregon Coast road trip

Bandon

Thirty minutes further south is Bandon, and you’ll want to plan for a half to a full day to spend here.

Bandon is home to Oregon’s third Haystack rock. However, this haystack rock doesn’t stand alone, like the other two. It’s part of a larger grouping of monoliths, or giant rocks, standing out in the ocean.

Called the Bandon Needles, these rock formations cover a three mile stretch of Bandon’s coastline. And they are breathtaking.

Two of the best places to reach Bandon’s beaches and to view the Bandon Needles are Coquille Point and Devil’s Kitchen. At Coquille Point, a stunning staircase leads down to the sand. But Devil’s Kitchen, with its twisted tree branches, has more ample parking, restrooms, and picnic tables.

Once you get down to the beach, pause to take in the cliff side that overlooks it. Countless beach houses line the cliff top. And in the spring time, the cliffs are dotted in a vibrant yellow of blooming scotch broom.

After admiring the Bandon Needles, visit the Coquille River Lighthouse, just minutes away. Although no longer open to the public, this lighthouse’s white and red coat create a striking image against the coastline you won’t want to miss.

Wrap up your stay in Bandon by checking out the Washed Ashore Gallery. These colorful art sculptures were created from trash collected from our oceans and beaches.

While studying the art, get inspired and learn how we can be better stewards of our land. I like to play a game of “I spy” when studying these sculptures. You’ll be surprised at some of the things they found littering the ocean! This really is “art to save the sea.”

Highlights and attractions: Coquille River Lighthouse, Washed Ashore Gallery, Haystack rock/Bandon Needles, Devil’s Kitchen

Where to Eat: The Loft Restaurant and Bar, The Wheelhouse & Crowsnest

Where to Stay: Best Western Inn at Face Rock

⭐️Click here to check for availability at Best Western Inn at Face Rock⭐️

Port Orford

Port Orford is another 30 minutes south of Bandon, and you’ll want to plan to spend about a half day to a full day here. This coastal town will offer you breathtaking hikes and picturesque ocean views.

One of the top things to do in Port Orford is to visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, Oregon’s western most lighthouse. It makes a stunning silhouette against the horizon, perched atop white cliffs.

There are also several great hiking trails at Cape Blanco. The Pacific View Trail is only a mile long, fairly easy, and has beautiful views. Another short and easy hike is the Cape Blanco North Shore Trail.

Other places you’ll find good trails in Port Orford include Battle Rock Wayside Park, Humbug Mountain State Park, and Sisters Rock State Park. But here’s my personal favorite thing to do in Port Orford…

For anyone traveling with kids, or for the people who are still kids at heart, stop by the Prehistoric Gardens just 15 minutes south of town. This fun roadside attraction was founded in 1955 by an amateur paleontologist.

We visited this dinosaur park when I was a kid, and it was simply magical. Kid-version me would give it two thumbs up. Adult-version me wants to go visit again!

Highlights and attractions: Cape Blanco Lighthouse, Prehistoric Gardens

Where to Eat: The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips

Where to Stay: WildSpring Guest Habitat

⭐️Click here to check for availability at WildSpring Guest Habitat⭐️

Brookings

Brookings is Oregon’s southern most coastal town, and the last town on this Oregon Coast road trip. It’s an hour south of Port Orford, but only ten minutes from the California border. Plan to spend a half to a full day here.

One of the best things to do in Brookings is to visit the Oregon Redwoods! There are two easy trails close to Brookings that are particularly good for seeing the Redwoods.

The Redwoods Nature Trail is located in the Siskyou National Forest, only 15 minutes from Brookings. This short loop is about 1.1 miles long. It can be steep in some parts and takes about 40 minutes to hike.

Another option is the Oregon Redwoods Trail. This hike is about 25 minutes southeast of Brookings, and it’s a 1.6 mile loop of moderate difficulty. It takes about an hour to hike, and isn’t highly trafficked.

After wandering through the Redwoods, take time to marvel at the coastline, along the 12 mile stretch of the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor. There are two particularly beautiful spots you’ll want to visit here.

The first spot is Natural Bridges. This viewpoint is a must-see, and is just 11 miles north of Brookings.

Note: It’s best to admire Natural Bridges from the designated viewpoint. Although there is a trail leading down for a closer look, this trail is steep, has sharp drop offs, and is prone to landslides. People have died on this trail.

The second spot you have to see for yourself is Secret Beach, at the north end of the corridor. However, you can only visit Secret Beach at low tide.

Highlights and attractions: Oregon Redwoods, Natural Bridges, Secret Beach

Where to Eat: Super Fly, Black Trumpet, Zolas

Where to Stay: Pelican Bay Lighthouse

⭐️Click here to check for availability at the Pelican Bay Lighthouse⭐️

How many days do you need for an Oregon Coast Road Trip?

You could easily do an Oregon Coast road trip in one or two weeks. However, if you want to include every stop in this itinerary, you’ll need to plan for 10 to 15 days.

What is the best month to visit the Oregon Coast?

The best time to visit the Oregon Coast will depend on what you want out of the trip. The Oregon Coast is beautiful all year round. However, the Pacific Ocean this far north is also cold all year round, even in the summer.

Plan your trip in the summer months, from July to August, for (almost) guaranteed warm weather and sunny days. Just know that some of these coastal towns can be very crowded during this time. And lodging is usually more expensive during this peak season.

Visit between June and August for super low tides. Or if you’re chasing King Tides, visit between November through February. However, be sure to look up dates for the super low tides and king tides, as they only occur for one week out of each of these months.

My personal favorite time to visit the Oregon Coast though, is the shoulder season, in May, June, September, and October. During these months, you’re still likely to get some sunny days mixed in between stormy weather. The beaches are far less crowded, and lodging rates are typically less expensive.

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