The Oregon coast is a great place for a road trip, with a combination of rocky and sandy beaches that offer plenty of fun and scenic activities.
There’s a popular saying about the Oregon coast: ‘Forgot your swimsuit? No problem, I’ll loan you a sweater.’ No doubt about it, the Oregon coast is windy, rocky, rugged, and one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the United States. It’s not the region for donning a bikini and frolicking in the water, but that doesn’t mean the 363 miles of coastline doesn’t have plenty to offer. The area is abundant with great places to hike, watch whales and marine life, and lounge with the sound of waves crashing against the shore in the background.
‘Along the coast, you can find everything from rugged rocks and jagged sea stacks to quiet sandy beaches and rolling sand dunes,’ says Jaime Eder, global communications coordinator for Travel Oregon. ‘There truly is something for everyone.’ If you’re traveling through Oregon, the route from northwest Oregon to the southern border offers everything from scenic views to cheese tours.
From Portland, it’s about a 90-minute drive west on Highway 26 to Seaside, a quintessential beach town. Browse specialty shops, art galleries and antique stores, and treat yourself to an ice cream cone if the day is warm. Seaside’s one-and-a-half-mile oceanfront promenade attracts joggers, walkers, and even some rollerbladers and skateboarders. The wide, sandy beach is a popular spot for volleyball, picnicking, and barefoot strolls. With its surf, sand, and endless activities, the town is considered by many to be the Coney Island of Oregon.
A few miles south of Seaside along Highway 101 lies Cannon Beach and the town of Tillamook, home to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Stop by for a tour and a sample of fresh cheddar cheese. On the edge of the region, the laid-back beach offers stunning vistas and views of Haystack Rock, the world’s third largest natural monolith.
After leaving Cannon Beach behind, continue on to Oswald West State Park, known to locals as Short Sands, where you can hike through dense forest and relax on the secluded Short Sands beach. ‘Short Sands is nestled in a cove, so it’s (usually) sheltered from wind,’ says Eder. ‘This makes it perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, and surfing.’
You hit the central coast when you reach Lincoln City. Continue 25 miles south to Newport, a fishing and shipping town that’s home to an active arts community and one of the state’s nine historic lighthouses. In Newport, stop by the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where you can see more than 15,000 fish and other marine life, including more than 100 sharks.
If you’re done driving for the day, grab a pint at Rogue House of Spirits, home of Oregon’s famed Rogue Ales as well as award-winning rum, gin, vodka, and whiskey. Mo’s is a lunch spot known for its chowder, or you can browse the bay front for seafood restaurants featuring specials caught that day.
Drive a little farther to Yachats, a small town surrounded by miles of natural beauty. At, Yachats State Recreation Area, the Yachats River meets the Pacific in a dramatic display. Stop to admire the wild waves and look for whale migrations. The rocky area is popular with anglers and salmon fishermen.
At Cape Perpetua Visitors Center, check out the tide pools, take a hike, or learn more about the area from the park rangers. The highest point on the Oregon coast, Cape Perpetua sits at 600 feet elevation and offers stunning vistas. Look for Devil’s Churn, where a narrow fissure sends geysers of seawater soaring into the air. If you’re hungry, try Yachats Brewing for craft beer and hearty pub fare.
About 49 miles south of Yachats, Florence is home to Oregon Dunes National Forest. This popular spot is ideal for dune buggies and other sand-loving sports.
If you drive farther down Highway 101, you run into Coos Bay, North Bend, and Charleston. They all offer more sand dunes to explore as well as excellent fishing, hiking, and bird-watching opportunities. The area’s eclectic art galleries, boutiques, and antique markets are all worth exploring along with the Coos Art Museum.
If you’re a golfer, you may want to continue down the coast and make time for a lengthier stay in Bandon, home to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Considered one of the finest golf resorts in the world, it features four 18-hole courses, a 13-hole par-3 course, and a two-acre putting course. The town of Bandon offers year-round beach access, golfing, hiking, fishing, and bicycling.
From Bandon, the trip to Eugene takes a little over two hours and requires some backtracking north on Highway 101 before taking Highway 38 east at Reedsport. Also known as Riverfront Way and Umpqua Highway, this scenic stretch of road follows the Umpqua River to Elkton and then travels northeast to Interstate 5 and Eugene.
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