You don’t need to be a lifelong Oregonian to understand the appeal of an epic Oregon coast road trip. Far from it.
Highway 101 is no stranger to Americans as a whole for a reason — this stretch of breathtaking coastline speaks for itself, especially during the summer months.
Full of irresistible small towns and epic scenery, the Oregon coast is known for being moody and gray almost year round (which only adds to the alluring mystique). But there’s a higher chance of clear skies during summer, which is when the area swells with locals and visitors alike.
While I can’t guarantee the sunshine, I can share an incredible Oregon road trip itinerary designed to inspire your next adventure. Let’s get to it!
Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary
I’m Antonina (born and raised in Oregon) and I’ll be your guide for the day.
How to use this Oregon Coast Road Trip Guide
The beauty of any good road trip is that it welcomes you to leave some of the things you do and see up to chance.
As such, this Oregon coast itinerary includes some important “hubs” like larger towns with food and lodging (and some hikes), while giving you enough breathing room to add stops that interest you specifically.
This Oregon coast road trip itinerary follows Highway 101 starting in the north and ending in the south (spanning the entire 362-mile length of the coastline).
And while a hearty sense of adventure is a must for every road trip, a loose itinerary makes things that much easier. As such, I’ve segmented this guide into three sections: north, central, and southern.
So whether you plan to use this as a one week Oregon coast itinerary or a simple 3 day Oregon coast road trip, you’ll be able to pick and choose the spots that interest you most. Because, after all, you know yourself best.
Northern Oregon Coast Road Trip
- Highway Mile Markers: 1-90
- Travel Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Recommended Duration: 1-3 days
Standing in the northernmost tip of the state, our great Oregon coast road trip starts in the cool town of Astoria. Oozing charm, Astoria has been attracting locals and visitors alike for ages.
Mostly recently, it’s the craft brew scene that entices folks to make the trip from Portland. With more than 5 breweries in town, you won’t go thirsty.
Plus, most of the breweries in Astoria are ranked among the best on the entire coast. Beer aside, the town has plenty to offer.
The Astoria Sunday Market (open May-October) is prime for fresh local produce and unique arts, crafts, and gifts for sale. It’s also nice to stroll through the quaint neighborhoods lined with Victorian-style houses painted in a rainbow of pastel hues.
If you’re keen on hiking, check out the Cathedral Hill trail. The hike begins in a charming neighborhood and takes you through old growth forest up to the Astoria Column, a giant man-made pillar that stands on the highest point in the city.
Make sure to admire the incredible Astoria-Megler Bridge that spans the bay between Oregon and Washington.
Walk through dense forest, visit a 300-year old Sitka spruce, and emerge from the trees onto an open bluff that overlooks the entire Astoria bay. Driving up to the Column is also an easy option, too.
If you’re smitten by the city and plan to spend a bit of time in town, you may enjoy reading: 10+ Best Things to Do in Astoria, Oregon.
Oregon Coast Road Trip Must-See Stops Near Astoria
- Visit the town of Astoria and enjoy a brew at Fort George
- Learn About the Wreck of the Peter Iredale
- Explore Fort Clatsop (where Lewis & Clark bunked in the winter of 1805)
After you get your fill of Astoria, pop in the car and start heading south for the next part of this Oregon coast road trip itinerary.
Seaside may feel like a tourist trap to some, but as someone that grew up playing at Funland Seaside Arcade and enjoying one too many ice cream cones from Zingers Ice Cream, I think it’s a great spot to visit during a road trip to the Oregon Coast.
A mere 30 minute drive from Astoria will spit you out in Seaside, a fun little town full of kitschy shops, a boardwalk, and plenty of beach access points.
If you’re hungry for lunch, swing by for fish tacos at the Grizzly Tuna. Afterwards, stroll along the boardwalk with an ice cream cone while enjoying the ocean view is one of our favorite low-key activities to break up a long drive.
Local’s Tip: (Coming Soon) See our full guide on Seaside for more of the best things to do while visiting.
Just a minute south of Seaside is the unassuming gem of Gearhart. With a population of around 1,500 people and only a single stoplight within city limits, blink and you’ll miss it.
Pity. This little town has a beach that’s worth the quick stop when you’re passing through on highway 101. Especially if you need to stretch your legs before embarking further on your Oregon coast road trip.
Unlike the towering cliffs and jigsaw-like coves outlining much of the rest of the Oregon coast, this beach is simply delightful 8-mile stretch of soft, fine sand sloping into the gently rolling ocean.
You’ll access the beach by parking at a dead end down Pacific Way (turn right at the lone stop light. Take a short walk through the tall grasses waving over picture-perfect sand hills lining the shore.
Once on the beach you can stroll north, though beware that vehicles are allowed to be driven on the sands that lie that way. Head south to find the mouth of the Necanicum River flowing into the sea, and look further south for a glimpse of Haystack Rock, the giant icon of the Oregon Coast.
There’s also a great chance of seeing Roosevelt elk herds lounging on the grassy knolls, so keep your eyes peeled (while keeping a safe and respectful distance).
Local’s Tip: Gearhart Beach is one of the best places in all of Oregon to find sand dollars. We’ve also come across whelk, mussel, and clam shells here, as well as plenty of washed up Dungeness crabs.
#4. Cannon Beach
Next up is Cannon Beach, the unequivocal darling of this Oregon coast road trip guide. Cannon Beach is world renowned for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and it’s not hard to see why.
With the iconic Haystack Rock looming offshore to the charming shops and restaurants lining bustling city streets, there’s no denying that Cannon Beach is the definitive beachgoer’s destination.
Check out Ecola State Park for some sensational hiking trails and beach access points along with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities along the way.
Hungry? Swing by the deck at Pelican Brewing, a family friendly joint serving classic American cuisine alongside great brews.
Local’s Tip: (Coming Soon) See our full guide on Cannon Beach for more of the best things to do while visiting.
#5. Hug Point & Oswald West State Park
As you continue your trip along the highway from cannon beach you’ll quickly reach signs for Hug Point and Oswald West State Park. These two stops are non-negotiable on this Oregon coast road trip guide, so plan to pop in.
At low tide you can park and access Hug Point for some time on the sand as well as views of the seasonal waterfalls that cascade from the bluffs.
Oswald West is accessible most of the time even at high tide and is one of our favorite places to stop to stretch our legs or have a picnic. A short hike through coastal forest will take you to the shore of a small cove situated between two imposing headlands.
You can hike out to the jutting points of each of these cliffs or just hang back on the lovely secluded beach–both are excellent options at this beautiful and little-known side stop.
Bonus: looking south you’ll be sure to see a small mountain looming over the highway on your left.
This is Neahkahnie Mountain and a short hike will take you to the top of it for some truly stunning views of the coastline from its wildflower-speckled peak.
To round out the first portion of your journey down the coast, reward yourself with treats from the famous Tillamook Creamery, located in the town of — you guessed it — Tillamook.
The headquarters for some of the best dairy in the state, the Creamery dishes out delicious cheese samples and has an ice cream bar stocked full of their best flavors.
If you have time there is also a guided tour available to give visitors insight into how their products are made. Tour or not, grab a couple of scoops on a freshly made waffle cone and vamoose back to the car–we’ve got many more sweet sights to see on our road trip down the coast.
From Tillamook you’ll have the option to take a detour on the Three Capes Scenic Route, which adds very little time to your trip but is far more interesting than the humdrum highway!
This 35 mile loop takes you to three separate headlands, giving you the option to view the ocean from some incredibly dramatic vantage points. Gawk from the car or get out and walk around the capes a little–either way you won’t be disappointed you chose the scenic route here.
#7. Pacific City
Of all the Oregon coast towns I’ve grown to love, Pacific City feels like the most peaceful beach town. But don’t get me wrong, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, especially if you enjoy surfing.
Visit Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, one of the most beautiful places to watch a sunset and most popular areas to visit on the entire Oregon coast.
Pelican Brewery is great spot for a delicious brews and breathtaking views of the sea after a day exploring.
Central Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary
- Highway Mile Markers: 91-186
- Travel Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Recommended Duration: 2-3 Days
The Central Coast quickly begins to feel quite different from the Northern leg of our road trip.
While the north coast is dominated by wide open beaches and plenty of human development, the terrain begins to get more rugged and remote as we journey further into the central and southern regions of the coastline.
We already got a small taste of this more complex landscape along the Three Capes Loop, and you can bet there are plenty more cliffs, peaks, bluffs, and crags where we’re headed!
Expansive beaches tend to become interrupted by imposing basalt headlands and craggy bluffs; remnants of volcanic activity shaping the region in eons past.
Many more state parks and hiking opportunities through the increasingly lush swaths of coast forest can be found in this region, as well as ample places to enjoy a range of outdoor recreation activities.
We recommend planning extra time while traveling around the Central coast to stop and take in the natural spaces surrounding the area, many of which require short detours off the highway.
One of our favorite stops along the central coast is Neskowin, the beach famous for its ghosts! Not literal ghosts, of course, but the unique ghostlike remnants of an old forest along the shore.
About 100 stumps of Sitka spruce trees downed by a fairly recent landslide can be seen squatting in the sand during low tide, the collection of which locals have dubbed the “ghost forest”.
These stumps have been transformed by the tide over hundreds of years and are now covered in barnacles and marine plant life. While the ghost forest is a draw for many photographers (and curious visitors), the beach itself is beautiful.
Proposal Rock looms just off shore, and there is a headland jutting out from the south end of the beach. The bases of both of these structures reveal lush tide pools teeming with ocean life at low tides, so check the tide charts and time your visit appropriately, it’s a treat to see these tide pools in their full glory.
#9. Depoe Bay & Lincoln City
Moving along our Oregon coast road trip itinerary, we approach the small, well-loved cities of Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.
After you’ve spent part of your day frolicking on the sand at Neskowin, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Thankfully both Depoe Bay and Lincoln City have excellent restaurant options.
Enjoy some fish n’ chips or clam chowder on the deck overlooking the ocean at Mo’s in Lincoln City or Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depoe Bay.
We also like to stop for Thai food at Thai Bay in Depoe Bay when we’re there. Once your belly is full, get yourself to the shore for some whale watching!
Both of these cities are known for being the best places on the coast to catch sight of Gray whales as they migrate close to shore in spring and fall.
Depoe Bay even has a resident Gray whale population, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll be able to spot one any time of year!
Stop by Depoe Bay’s helpful Whale Watching Center to learn more about these wonderful whale friends and where and how to see them for yourself.
#10. Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area
As you continue your trip don’t hesitate to stop at any pullouts you see–whale sightings can happen virtually anywhere along the Oregon coast! As you pass Lincoln City you’ll soon see the turn off for Fogarty Creek.
This little stopover is great if you skipped eating in town and packed a lunch instead. Fogarty Creek offers a lovely creekside park setting with picnic tables tucked among thickets of salal and salmonberry bushes.
As such, no list of the best things to see on an Oregon coast road trip is complete without mentioning this gem.
A small creek runs through the area with a short trail following alongside it out to the beach. On the sand there are formidable rock formations and ample space to play, relax, or take a stroll to beachcomb for shells and agates.
Just a few minutes south on the highway will lead you to the unequivocal Beverly Beach, the largest state park in this area. This is a sure bet if you need a place to camp for the night at their large developed campground.
Small hiking trails weave through the park and access to the large beach is simple.
Bonus: the bluffs on the southern side of the beach house thousands of shell fossils! It doesn’t even take any real searching to find them–the fossils are literally exposed in large clusters along the cliff walls.
#11. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
One of our all-time favorite stops along the central Oregon coast is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
Not only will you be able to stand at the foot of the largest lighthouse in Oregon, but the views across the sparkling ocean from the top of this headland are gobsmacking.
Couple this with the incredibly interesting plant and wildlife in the area and you’ve got hours–or a full day!–spoken for. Cobble Beach trades its sandy surface for smooth rocks, a rather rare discovery on an otherwise sandy shoreline.
Our favorite thing about this particular beach is the sound the waves make when they creep up on the shore then recede…almost like a rain stick or wind chimes as the water trickles through hundreds of thousands of rocks on its way back out to sea.
Find a good rock or piece of driftwood to post up on for at least a minute or two, because we bet you’ll get the chance to see sea lions popping their heads above the water right up close in the shallow waves.
We’ve seen dozens here at once, playing with one another between hunting for fish and crabs. There are also numerous shore birds who perch on the nearby sea stacks, including oystercatchers and common murres.
You may enjoy reading: 11 Iconic Lighthouses at the Oregon Coast.
#12. Newport & Yachats
The next major stop on our Oregon road trip guide is the famous city of Newport. Newport is probably best known for its aquarium, and while that’s a fine detour if you’ve got the time, there are plenty of other things to see while you’re in the area.
Head a little further south to Yachats where you can stop at multiple waysides to comb the beach for agates, petrified wood, and many other coveted rock types.
Try to arrive in Yachats on an empty stomach, because Luna Sea Fish House offers some of the best fish and chips you’ll have on your Oregon coast road trip.
After lunch, burn off some calories while exploring tide pools or taking in the ocean views. Our favorite pullout for this is the Strawberry Hill Wayside where you can walk down some stone steps to the sand to admire the powerful waves crashing among the volcanic cliffs.
We know the road can be entrancing enough to lull you to sleep on long drives, but make sure you’re awake before the next stretch of our road trip.
#13. Thor’s Well & Cape Perpetua
After leaving Yachats you’ll start seeing signs for Cape Perpetua, which is another non-negotiable viewpoint in this Oregon road trip guide.
Cape Perpetua is one of the most breathtaking sights along the coast, and if you manage to catch it on a sunny day feel free to buy a lottery ticket on us (it’s clearly your lucky day).
You can choose to hike to the top (if you have something to prove) but we usually just drive to the top. Take some time soaking up the epic ocean views before making your way back down to Highway 101, bracing to pop into a nearby pullout to visit Thor’s Well.
If you’re a photographer, Thor’s Well probably needs no introduction. This is one of the most photographed spots on the coast.
This spot is most breathtaking at high tide when the waves kick it up a notch. The salty seawater streams in and out of the whole with such fervor your won’t be able to look away.
But word of caution — some visitors head down to the rock face to get a closer look, I’d caution against getting too close (and always wear sturdy closed-toe shoes).
Florence marks the area where the coastline gives way to tremendous dune formations–the largest in North America, in fact.
Massive swaths of sand pile into rolling hills, reaching up and over the highway into the coastal hills.
The dunes make for some uniquely stunning scenery; a stark juxtaposition to the craggy, upright basalt headlands we’ve seen plenty of already. Dunes are also incredibly important habitats for local wildlife.
Quick side trip idea: spare 20 minutes to see the extremely rare carnivorous plants growing in a bog at the Darlingtonia Natural Wayside just a quick turn off the highway.
You won’t find these on a random hike, so enjoy these nearly-extinct beauties while you’re here!
If you’re looking for another place to stay for the night, venture south 15 minutes to Dunes City for numerous camping options (and plenty more adventure, which we’ll cover in the next portion of our guide!).
Southern Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary
- Highway Mile Markers 187-321
- Travel Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Recommended Duration: 2-3 Days
Way down in the southernmost lands of southwest Oregon, the coast begins to take on an air of mystery. As we venture through a windswept landscape shrouded in fine-grained sand dunes and ethereal mist, the largely undeveloped landscape feels both foreign and intriguing.
This part of our Oregon coast road trip guide offers countless miles of hiking trails, large sandy beaches, and jaw-dropping cliffs frame the sparkling ocean we’ve been lucky enough to see so much of on our trip thus far.
Many people claim the southern coast has some of the most gob-smacking scenery on the entire coast. We’ll let you be the judge as you spend a couple of days immersed in this magical, and often overlooked, region of Oregon.
#15. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Dunes City opens up into the wild and wonderful world of, well, dunes! From here all the way 65 miles south to Bandon you’ll be greeted with 55 miles of dunes. That’s a lot of sand!
In fact, the dunes are the largest of any on America’s western coast and cover about 40,000 acres of land. Once you arrive in this segment of the coast you’ll have full access to all of these miles of beautiful dune habitat to explore, most of which lies within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
A seemingly endless span of shoreline rolling between dunes is open here, allowing visitors to enjoy hiking, beach-combing, riding OHV’s, fishing, and crabbing (and basically any other beachy pastime you can think of!).
If you plan to spend a day here there are numerous tent camping, hotel, and RV camp options in and around the Oregon Dunes Rec Area.
Back in the car we’re well on our way to the last few cities on our road trip, but rest assured: it ain’t over quite yet! Once we reach the small town of Bandon you’ll start to notice that the crowds are sparse.
With a slew of beach access points, state parks, and hiking trails further inland, this part of the Oregon coast road trip offers the highest chance of solitude.
Whether that means sitting quietly on the sand watching the waves ebb and flow or gazing up at the ancient canopies of thickly-growing spruce and pines along cliff-hugging hiking trails, peaceful moments with the natural world are ready and waiting.
While you’re in town, visit the Bandon Marsh for some bird-watching then hit up Tony’s Crab Shack for some deliciously fresh seafood.
There are tons of dining options here in Bandon’s Old Town which is worth taking some time to stroll through–the shops are charming!
It’s also a good idea to check out both Cape Arago State Park and Face Rock State Park to photograph the famous sea stacks that lurch up from the sea in sharp, abstract formation whittled over centuries by the elements.
Local’s Tip: (Coming Soon) See our full guide on Bandon for more of the best things to do while visiting.
#17. Gold Beach
Venture further along the highway south of Bandon toward Gold Beach. Along the way you’ll come across Blacklock Point in Floras Lake State Natural Area, known as one of the most remote areas of the southern Oregon Coast.
We’ve hiked this trail and it truly is quiet. Beginning at the tiny Cape Blanco airport, you’ll walk a couple of miles through scrubby woods, gain some elevation into fir and pine forest before ending up on an open cape peering over the sea.
From here you can find the trails going down to the black sand beach. This trek is probably best for older children and well-behaved dogs, as it’s more of a serene hike than an exciting “something to see at every turn” sort of adventure.
But we highly recommended it for something a little off the beaten track (especially if you need to stretch your legs!).
Puttering a few more highway miles, we finally reach the small town of Gold Beach. Here you’ll find a smattering of dining options including Hunter Creek Bar & Grill or Port Hole Cafe for classic American burgers & fries with a harborside view.
While in Gold Beach we like to head to Ariya’s Beach to kick off our shoes and stick our toes in the sand for a while–even better if the sun is setting. The town is also known for Kissing Rock, a sweet rock formation that resembles two faces kissing.
Whew–the scenery somehow gets more and more breathtaking as we continue. We bet by this point you’ll still be glued to the car window oogling the landscape despite already seeing a few hundred miles of it.
It’s just that beautiful, and it almost feels silly to say “but wait–there’s more!” Like trying to top all of the wondrous vistas behind us is utterly impossible.
But alas, this Oregon coast road trip itinerary covers the best of the coast, and so we much end on a high note.
#18. Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
Enter the prismatic grandeur of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. You’ll inevitably drive through this special span of highway on your way to the end of your journey, but pointing it out in our guide was a must.
This scenic corridor was lovingly preserved by a former state park officer who recognized the striking natural beauty of these hills, cliffs, and shorelines.
The corridor measures just under 20 miles and has numerous well-marked pullouts where roadtrippers can stop their cars to get a closer look at the scenery.
Step out of the car at any viewpoint or take some short hikes at a handful of viewpoints with beach access. Towering sea stacks, secret coves, and delicate footpaths weave through the emerald understory of this lush coastal forest.
It’ll probably be difficult to agree to get back into the car after taking in so much natural beauty–and by all means, let the corridor be your last stop on the Oregon coast road trip if you please!
However, if you’ve still got some energy left to tackle the last few miles of our epic Oregon coast road trip, we’re here to cheer you on.
The sleepy town of Brookings lies waiting with a warm welcome of serene beaches, quiet eateries, and plenty more panoramic vistas of the seascape to revel in.
Cruise to the Port of Brookings Harbor for restaurants, our favorite being Zola’s for some tasty pizza with lovely harbor views. You may consider camping at Harris Beach State Park or Loeb State Park before beginning your journey back home.
What a whirlwind trip! We hope this guide has inspired you to pack your bags and hit the road for some serious exploration of Oregon’s wondrously unique coastline.
#20. Hike the Redwood Nature Trailhead
My husband and I often joke that you don’t need to leave Oregon to experience like 10+ different national parks. And it’s true! Many folks don’t realize that southern Oregon has a healthy grove of Redwood trees.
Having spent a ton of time at Redwoods National Park, we were absolutely enthralled to discover this incredible hike while taking a road trip on the Oregon coast last summer.
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 1-mile trail meanders past a stunning grove of small to medium-growth redwoods peppered alongside Douglas-Fir. Definitely worth the small effort.
Further Reading: 3 Scenic Spots to Find Redwood Trees in Oregon
Oregon Coast Road Trip Tips
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a slap-dash packer. Waiting until the last minute to pack the bags then acting surprised when you realize you packed the left shoe but left the right one at home. Well, my friends, allow me to share my personal list of Oregon road trip packing essentials.
Oregon weather can be moody, so if you think all you need is a swim suit and some sandals (hey, at least you remembered both shoes!) think again.
Clothing: Layers, layers, layers! Layering is a must for spending time outdoors in Oregon. T-shirts, long sleeve shirts, a fleece jacket or vest, and a heavier puffy down-filled jacket (preferably waterproof) are important in winter.
In summer we like to bring along a thick jacket or sweater for chilly nights. And, not to sound too much like your mother here, but don’t forget clean socks and underwear!
Rain gear: Ha. Let’s get real, no proper Oregon coast road trip guide is complete without mention of a rainy day. Pack a good rain jacket, and maybe even some rain pants if you’re braving a road trip at the Oregon coast during the winter.
Sometimes a quality hat is all you need to keep the drizzle out of your eyes, but in the short-lived but sometimes heavy downpours the Oregon coast can surprise you with, a waterproof rain jacket is your best bet.
Shoes: While sandals may seem like the best and only choice for a coastal road trip, we mean business when we sternly say you’ll want some closed-toe shoes in your bag as well.
Hiking shoes or sturdy sneakers should be fine for most fair-weather activities, but we generally bring along our waterproof hiking boots as well just in case the hiking trails are extra muddy.
Sun protection. Yes, Oregon’s skies tend to be more cloudy than clear on any given day, but that doesn’t stop harmful UV rays from shining through them and onto your skin.
Protect yourself with a good SPF lotion, a hat, and some UV-blocking sunglasses. We also recently discovered sun-proof shirts, which have been awesome (because being covered in sunscreen all day can start to feel icky pretty quick).
Oregon Coast Road Trip Guide (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a list of the best spots to see at the Oregon Coast
- Cannon Beach
- Hug Point & Oswald West State Park
- Pacific City
- Depoe Bay & Lincoln City
- Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area
- Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
- Newport & Yachats
- Thor’s Well & Cape Perpetua
- Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
- Depoe Bay
- Gold Beach
- Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
- Redwood Nature Trailhead
Map of best things to see at the Oregon Coast | Guide for a Road Trip at the Oregon Coast
We can’t think of anything that instills quite the same sense of freedom and adventure as a good road trip, even if it’s only for a day or two.
Wandering the open highway, stopping wherever and whenever we feel like it, discovering new places full of exciting food and bright coastal scenery…now that’s the ideal way to vacation. Especially if it’s an incredible Oregon coast road trip.
Long car rides, hours to talk and laugh with your favorite road trip pals, and that ever-so-exciting thrill of being a little outside your comfort zone while still knowing that the road will lead you to places more wild and wonderful than you ever could have imagined.