Looking for the best state parks at the Oregon coast? You’re in good hands.
I’m a lifelong Oregon local who spent most childhood summers at the coast. My mom is a sucker for the salty sea and would take us practically every weekend to prevent the kids from going stir-crazy at home.
Many memories of sticky hands from Tillamook ice cream, go cart racing in Lincoln City to lounging at the beach overlooking Haystack Rock.
It’s impossible to grow up with the coast as a backyard without falling in love with the state. Heck, summer doesn’t feel like summer without a week-long trip near the Pacific Ocean.
As such, I wanted to quickly roundup the best state parks at the Oregon Coast (after 30+ years of visits) for anyone planning a similar trip!
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. I LOVE Oregon and I’m here to help!
Best Oregon Coast State Parks
Oswald West State Park
A relatively “small but mighty” day trip destination lies just south of the touristy town of Cannon Beach. For a more secluded day on the coast, check out Oswald West, one of the most beautiful state parks in Oregon.
This is my go-to when I want an easy day at the beach with options to hike if I’m feeling up for it. Park in the lot for Short Sands Beach and follow the trail beneath Highway 101 through dense, soggy forest.
The trail spits you right out onto a grassy overlook with picnic tables and a restroom. From here there are dozens of options: trek down a short series of stone steps down to the beach called Smuggler’s Cove.
Or, if you’d prefer, take one of two trails that skirt each side of the cove. Both of these trails, Elk Flats and Falcon Cove, are a few miles round trip and offer hikers breathtaking views of the ocean.
Just down the highway a few minutes south is another hike not to miss on Mount Neahkahnie.
This short and moderately easy climb will reward you with a picture-perfect view of the small town of Manzanita–one of the most photographed areas of the entire coastline–on clear days.
The breathtaking beauty is one of the reasons locals consider this one of the best Oregon coast state parks and it’s hard to disagree.
Fort Stevens State Park
Found just west of Astoria is one of the most visited state parks in Oregon, Fort Stevens. A former military base, Fort Stevens now boasts one of the largest campgrounds in the country as well as a never-ending list of outdoor activities.
This area was the site of a military installation that guarded the Columbia River for 84 years. The base was built near the end of the American Civil War, and today visitors can tour the area to learn more about the history of this important place.
But as impressive as the military base is, it’s undoubtedly the skeleton of an old shipwreck lying offshore (the Wreck of the Peter Iredale) that steals the show at this Oregon coast state park.
Walk along the beach to get a closer look at the historic Peter Iredale shipwreck, one of many ships that fell victim to the treacherous waters along this stretch of the coastline back in the early 1900s.
Comb the sand in search of discarded crab shells, sand dollars, and agates while keeping a lookout for migrating Grey Whales as they feed close to shore.
Kayak tours are offered on trestle bay (sea kayaking is definitely a thrilling thing to add to your bucket list!), hike 15 miles of trails that wind through the park, and take in all of the sweet beachy views from numerous overlooks.
The overlooks and vantage points are perfect for those iconic family photos where there’s a 12% chance the grouchy kid may fake a smile (but only after being bribed with ice cream).
Cape Lookout State Park
Cape Lookout, found just west of Tillamook, is one of the most unique state parks at the Oregon coast. The reason? It’s one (of only two) Oregon coast state parks that has a campground directly on the beach.
The campground is popular, to be sure, but the day-use area is one of the most visited at the coast. The park is located on a sand split between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean, the area is ripe for exploration!
Folks love visiting this Oregon coast state park for the ample outdoor recreational opportunities. From stunning hiking trails, beachcombing and driving the picturesque Three Capes Scenic Route.
Cape Lookout State Park is conveniently located in the heart of the coast’s arresting landscape, making it a natural pit stop while exploring the breathtaking Oregon coast.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a campground (or, better yet, a cabin!) you’ll find yourself with summer memories that last a lifetime.
Offering more than 200 campsites, a handful of pet-friendly yurts and deluxe cabins, the Cape Lookout State Park campground is a favorite amongst visitors and locals alike, so book (super) early!
The park’s proximity to the ocean is hard to beat and the calming sound of the ocean lulling campers to sleep is quite the unique experience.
You May Enjoy Reading: 12 EPIC Campgrounds at the Oregon Coast
Hug Point State Recreation Site
Hug Point State Park is one of the most visited state parks at the Oregon Coast, but not without reason. This lovely sand cove beach offers a unique landscape worth getting excited about.
Hills dressed in salal (an evergreen shrub), ferns and sitka spruce, revealing a seasonal waterfall and numerous caves carved into sandstone cliffs. Tide pools expose themselves during low tide, which only adds to the fun.
There’s also a charming forested picnic area, public restroom and easy access to the beach. It’s no wonder so many folks consider this one of the best Oregon coast state parks, myself included.
But take note: Exercise caution when exploring this popular Oregon coast state park because it’s possible to get stranded by an incoming tide if you’re not careful. As you probably know, the tide changes with the seasons, so “when in doubt, don’t go out.”
Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area
The Devil’s Punchbowl is an easily accessible opportunity to see one heck of a unique rock feature right from the parking lot. The Punchbowl refers to the rock–a sea cave whose top has, well, caved in on itself, allowing visitors standing above a glimpse inside.
While this vantage point gives you a chance to marvel at the wet and colorful rocks swirling with reds, browns, and ochres, a small opening on the ocean-facing side of the formation lets water inside of the cave as the tide ebbs.
Occasionally the water will flood the cavern in such a way that results in a geyser-like explosion, or a “punch” if you will, as the water sprays upward from the force of the ocean rushing into the small cave.
While the punchbowl is typically known for being viewable from the top, folks can access the lower beach walk inside the cave at low tide. These unique geological features make Devil’s Punchbowl one of the most interesting state parks in Oregon.
Editor’s Note: Use extreme caution here: never turn your back on the ocean and be VERY mindful of the tide tables on the day of your visit, as they regularly flood the punchbowl.
Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site
While many of the Oregon coast state parks included in this list are on the coast, this is the only one that features one of the many historic lighthouses.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is quaint with its bright white exterior and tidy orange shutters surrounding curtained windows.
The last wooden lighthouse still standing in the state, this building is a vestige of a time when people braved the wild coastal weather to live in lighthouses and patrol the surf, guiding ships safely to land.
The lighthouse is open for tours between October and February, but this entire Oregon coast state park is open year-round for day use.
Access the beach, hiking trails, and picnic tables at this park, stop by the nearby Newport Aquarium to see ocean life up close. Or, better yet, drive a few miles north on Highway 101 to the similarly named Yaquina Head State Outstanding Area.
You’ll get a chance to see a completely different lighthouse, as well as gain access to beachfront trails teeming with rich coastal history and all sorts of critters on both land and sea.
Ecola State Park
Boasting a dramatic 7-mile trail with unbeatable views of Haysack Rock, Ecola State Park is often considered one of the most beautiful state parks at the Oregon coast.
As such, paying a visit (especially at sunset) is one of the best things to do at the Oregon coast.
Ecola is the Chinook word for whale. Lewis and Clark’s expedition led men this way to view a beached whale. The men went to barter for blubber and oil, but Clark found himself awestruck by the beauty, he wrote:
“From this point I beheld the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in my frount a boundless Ocean . . . . the Seas brak with great force [and] gives this Coast a most romantic appearance.”
You took the words right out of my mouth, Clark. Anyone that lays their eyes on this beauty won’t be able to shake it — this is easily one of the most beautiful state parks at the Oregon coast.
Cape Arago State Park
Cape Arago State Park serves as a gateway to the southern stretch of the coast. Located 15 miles southwest of Coos Bay, this beloved Oregon coast state park is centered by a scenic lighthouse that juts into the formidable sea.
Long before it was declared an official Oregon coast state park,the land was used by native Americans. Prized for its scenic beauty, this is one of the best state parks at the Oregon coast for whale watching.
The area is also well loved for the great hiking trails. One of the best hikes in the area is the south cove trail which meanders down to a sandy beach with great tidepools. When it comes to activities, expect to find the usual suspects: hiking, fishing, beach-combing and people-watching.
Folks also love seeing the colonies of sea lions and seals at Shell Island (which is a designation National Wildlife Refuge). Note, the trail is closed from March 1 – June 30 to protect seal pups.
Fun Fact: Sightings of Cape Arago date back to the late 1500s during Sir Francis Drake’s expedition.
Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem Bay State Park at the Oregon Coast sits on a 4-mile sand spit situation between the ocean and the bay. There’s two day-use areas leading to the ocean and the bay, with ample picnic areas and fire rings.
Easy access to the boat ramp makes this one of the most popular Oregon coast state parks for crabbing and fishing — not to mention kayaking and clamming. The boat docks are seasonal and typically stay open from mid-May to mid-October.
In terms of hiking, if you’re after a breathtaking view of the expansive sandy coastline then you need not look further than the Neahkahnie Mountain Trail, which overlooks Nehalem Bay.
The trail leads directly up a steep mountain face, so prepare to get your heart pumping. You’ll also need hiking boots with good traction to avoid slips because the trail is known to get muddy and exposed roots are common.
All this to say, Nehalem Bay is one of the most adventurous state parks at the Oregon coast and you won’t want to miss it.
You May Enjoy Reading: 10+ Jaw-Dropping Hikes at the Oregon Coast
Bullards Beach State Park
Bullards Beach State Park is one of the best Oregon coast state parks for families. Located at the mouth of hte scenic Coquille River, the park is engrossed by pines, protected from strong coastal winds.
The activities at this Oregon coast state park are limitless. From horse riding, hiking, exploring a historic lighthouse, crabbing, fishing and people-watching, you won’t have many reasons to be bored.
Note: Bullards Beach State Park is popular among equestrians. The park has 11 miles of horse trails and four miles of beach/dune trails.
Anyway you slice it, this is one of the best states parks at the Oregon coast for kids to explore. I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to see horses, or better yet, ride them?
Cape Meares State Park
Historic lighthouse, moody forest and unparalleled ocean views, when it comes to qualifying for the best state parks at the Oregon coast, Cape Meares checks all the boxes.
The park’s multiple viewpoints make this gem a hit with locals. It’s a great spot to watch sea lions and migrating whales (December & April). Don’t forget to bring binoculars when visiting, it will make the experience that much better.
This is also one of the best state parks at the Oregon coast for birding. The steep cliffs are used as a refuge for thousands of seabirds like Brandt’s cormorants, murrres and the occasional Peregrine falcon (imagine!).
While exploring this beautiful Oregon coast state park, make sure to hike over to the Octopus Tree. The easy and super short path takes you to a Sitka Spruce with multiple trunk resembling an octopus.
Humbug Mountain State Park
Attractive to nature nuts from across the state, Humbug Mountain is one of the most beautiful state parks at the Oregon Coast.
If you’re feeling adventurous (way to go, you) try your hand at a hearty 5.5 mile hike to the 1,765-foot summit of Humbug Mountain for jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean.
There’s no denying that the namesake mountain is the biggest draw at this Oregon coast state park.
Few know that Humbug Mountain is one of the tallest mountains in Oregon, the state park encompasses both the mountain and the area around the base. As you can imagine, the area is full of great hiking trails, unparalleled beach access and stunning forests.
However, it’s worth calling out that this beautiful Oregon coast state park is located right off Hwy 101, a very busy and noisy road. Expect traffic noise to avoid disappointment (it’s a stunning place but I wouldn’t call it serene).
Beverly Beach State Park
Nothing speaks to the perks of living in Oregon like a sunny day strolling barefoot along the Oregon coast, admiring the raging waves and dramatic coastline.
If the weather is cooperating (hey, it happens sometimes) settle down on a blanket with a sun hat, a titillating book, and plenty of indulgent snacks.
Breathe easy, this is Oregon and you have the privilege of enjoying a slice of one of the best state parks at the Oregon coast, Beverly Beach State Park.
Offering the a wide expanse of smooth sand to bask on as you take in the smell of the salt-crusted sea breeze and meditate to the lull of the roaring ocean punctuated by lofty caws of shorebirds in the distance.
This Oregon coast state park even features a stretch of beach studded with tens of thousands of easily visible shell fossils in the cliff faces just a short walk from the beach access trail.
Stay to watch the sunset melt into the sea and linger long enough for the stars if you can brave the inevitable coastal winds.
Or make a campfire at the park’s large campground, which offers full amenities and short interpretive hiking trails through the coastal forest of sitka spruce and cedars.
Note: Beverly Beach campgrounds will be closed Sept. 5, 2023 through May 24, 2024. The area will still be open for day use and beach access
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
Sci-fi meets nature at Honeyman, an Oregon state park adjoining the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area where a stunningly alien-like landscape of massive sand formations steal the show.
These windswept dunes tower over the landscape before gently sloping to meet the sea. The formidable size of the dunes — and stark contrast to the forested landscape surrounding them — make this one of the most interesting state parks at the Oregon coast.
The wildlife who call the dunes home are a unique group in their own right. Take, for instance, the rare Humboldt Marten. This charming weasel-like critter roams the dunes alongside eagles, deer, bobcats, and the Western Snowy Plover, a fuzzball of a bird who nests right on the sand.
Two freshwater lakes provide many opportunities for water activities, hiking trails abound, and there is plenty of room to camp at the second largest campground in the state which also has showers.
Can’t get enough of the dunes? You’ll be happy to know that this Oregon coast state park borders Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (an epic off-roading playground).
Anyway you slice it, this is one of the best state parks at the Oregon coast and shouldn’t be missed.
Alfred A. Loeb State Park
Alfred A. Loeb (most commonly just called “Loeb”) is not only one of the most beautiful state parks at the Oregon coast, it’s also one of the most unique.
This state park is one of three places in the state where you can find epic redwood trees.
Found in the Siskiyou National Forest (near Brookings) the Redwood Nature Trail is one of the best spots to see redwoods in Oregon.
The short trail meanders past a stunning grove of small to medium-growth redwoods peppered alongside Douglas-Fir.
Yep. Comfortably nestled in a dense forest divided by the Chetco River, this dreamy little Oregon coast state park completely removes you from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
Begin the hike at Alfred Loeb State Park and follow a scenic river trail before connecting with the Redwood Nature Loop. If you opt to start the hike at the state park, the trail leading to the Oregon redwood grove is around 0.7 miles.
Further Reading: 3 Scenic Spots to See Redwoods in Oregon
List of the best Oregon Coast State Parks
In sum, here’s a list of the best state parks on the Oregon coast.
- Ecola State Park
- Oswald West State Park
- Fort Stevens State Park
- Cape Lookout State Park
- Hug Point State Park
- Cape Arago State Park
- Nehalem Bay State Park
- Devils Punch Bowl State Park
- Bullard’s Beach State Park
- Cape Meares State Park
- Humbug State Park
- Beverly Beach State Park
- Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
- Alfred A. Loeb State Park
- Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area