If there’s one thing I know, it’s this: people love exploring along the Pacific Coast. In Washington, people love to road trip the Olympic Peninsula; California draws scores of avid road warriors to traverse part or all of CA-1 and the Pacific Coast Highway. California and Washington may get more attention, but Oregon’s Pacific Coast can’t be overlooked. A string of towns punctuate the rugged rocky coastline – and it’s the region to explore if you love sea stacks, blowholes, and other fascinating geologic formations where the land meets the sea.
I’ve driven several stretches of Oregon’s coastal roadway, US-101 (also called the PCH). Oregon’s coastal landscape feels very different than the rain-lashed north or sun-drenched south: here you’ll drive long stretches with nothing but open land and open sea as your companions. The Oregon coast is remote – but it’s not empty.
If the Oregon coast is calling out to you, you might wonder where to visit. These towns are most easily visited from Portland or while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway or on an Oregon Coast road trip; you can certainly plan a longer trip if one (or more) calls out to you. Here are 23 of the best coastal towns in Oregon, from Astoria in the north at the Washington border to Brookings down south near the California state line.
Astoria holds the special title of being the oldest city in Oregon. In other words, if you’re a history buff, this little gem is undoubtedly the best coastal town in Oregon for you. You can hop aboard a historic trolley, stroll past Victorian homes, and even pay a visit to the old Fort Astoria.
But if the historical side of Astoria doesn’t pique your interest, there are other things to do in this beautiful coastal town. You can take a tour of The Goonies’ filming locations, admire the intricately carved Astoria Column, and take a lovely stroll on the Astoria Riverwalk.
Seaside’s name is particularly appropriate. Not only is it one of the best coastal towns in Oregon, but all of its most popular things to do revolve around the sea – or, more accurately, the Pacific Ocean.
During your time in Seaside, you can walk along the oceanfront promenade, surf the waves at the “Cove” at the south end of Seaside Beach, feed the friendly sea lions at the Seaside aquarium, and savor a fabulous seafood dinner at one of the local restaurants.
3. Cannon Beach
Just fifteen minutes away from the town of Seaside lies Cannon Beach. As a matter of fact, many people combine these two neighboring coastal towns in Oregon into one trip. By far, the most popular thing to do in Cannon Beach is visit the beach of the same name. Cannon Beach, the beach, is a fabulous spot for tide pooling. You can find everything from hermit crabs to sea urchins to sea anemones. And that’s not all! Cannon Beach is also home to the picture-perfect Haystack Rock.
But there’s more to Cannon Beach than its sandy shoreline. While in town, you can also check out the cascading waterfall at Hug Point, pop into the many lovely art galleries, and hike a few trails at Ecola State Park.
Many of the best coastal towns in Oregon have become quite popular in recent years. But somehow, the 600-person town of Manzanita has managed to stay under the radar.
Like many small towns, the most rewarding way to experience Manzanita is by taking everything slow. You can wake up late, leisurely sip a cup of coffee from a local cafe, and limit yourself to just a couple of activities per day. Take a relaxing walk on Manzanita Beach, get pampered at Spa Manzanita, browse the town’s adorable shops, or hike Neahkahnie Mountain.
5. Rockaway Beach
While at Rockaway Beach, you’ll want to spend most of your time at, well, the beach. And since Rockaway Beach only has 1,300 residents and very few tourists, you’ll likely have a slice of shoreline all to yourself.
There are two main beaches in Rockaway Beach, Manhattan Beach State Recreation Site and Rockaway Beach. At both of these beaches, you can suntan, tide pool, shell, clam, fish, kayak, and whale watch.
But if you’re looking for an attraction that makes Rockaway Beach stand out, you’ll want to take a ride aboard the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. While aboard, you’ll get to enjoy stunning views of the beachy coastline before ending up in the town of Garibaldi.
6.-7. Bay City/Tillamook
Bay City and Tillamook are technically two different cities that are just ten minutes apart, but they can easily be wrapped up into one vacation destination.
Both Bay City and Tillamook are dream destinations for foodies. You can grab a two-foot-long pepperoni stick from Tillamook Country Smoker, savor a scoop of ice cream from Tillamook Creamery, and stop by the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. And don’t forget to dine on Oregon’s delicious seafood at restaurants like The Pacific Oyster Company, Pacific Restaurant, and Pelican Brewing Company.
8. Pacific City
The main highlight of Pacific City is Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, simply known as Cape Kiwanda.
During an ideal day at Cape Kiwanda, you’ll wake up early to catch some amazing waves. Once you’re worn out you can snap a few pictures of Haystack Rock (which is a different – and larger – Haystack Rock than the one at Cannon Beach) and enjoy a picnic on the beach. And after lunch, you can peruse the tide pools, hike the 240-foot sand dune, and eventually watch the pastel-colored sunset.
And while you might think the sunset is the end of your day at the beach, your time at Cape Kiwanda isn’t over yet! After breaking for dinner at Pelican Brewing Company, you can head back for a magical beach bonfire.
Just a few miles south of Pacific City is Neskowin. Since most of the land in Neskowin is filled by the Neskowin Beach Golf Course, this Oregon coastal town is a golf lover’s paradise! This nine-hole golf course not only offers some fun golfing challenges, but it also has breathtaking beach views and tasty on-site restaurants.
But if you’re not much of a golfer, don’t worry! You can head to Neskowin Beach instead, where you can suntan on the sand or search for sand dollars. And don’t forget to climb to the top of Proposal Rock – and maybe even propose to that special someone!
10. Lincoln City
The attraction that makes Lincoln City one of the best coastal towns in Oregon is an event called Finders Keepers. Each year between October and May, local glass artists create hand-blown glass “floats,” which are sort of like oversized marbles. The artists then give these floats to the Float Fairies, who hide these glass gems somewhere along the seven-mile stretch of beach. And once you find a float it’s yours to keep!
If you’re in Lincoln City when Finders Keeper isn’t in action, you can hike Cascade Head or shop at Lincoln City Outlets instead.
11. Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay’s claim to fame is its extraordinary whale watching conditions. As a matter of fact, this coastal town is often called the whale watching capital of Oregon. From March to December, you can see gray whales from anywhere in Depoe Bay, although Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint and Otter Crest Viewpoint are a couple of locally loved lookouts.
And if the whales aren’t in town when you are, you can admire the views from Cape Foulweather, drive along Otter Crest Loop, and dine in downtown Depoe Bay.
Newport is definitely one of the best coastal towns in Oregon, thanks to its uniquely funky vibe. And you should fully embrace the weirdness during your time in town.
While in Newport, you can feel hypnotized by the swirling water of the Devil’s Punch Bowl, visit Oregon’s tallest lighthouse at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, and pay a visit to the friendly giant Pacific octopus at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. And then, at the end of the day, you can rest up in your J.K. Rowling-, Dr. Seuss-, or Shakespeare-themed room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
Bayshore and Waldport are two of the best coastal towns in Oregon. The only thing separating these two towns is the Alsea River, which is why they’re listed together. As a matter of fact, the most famous attraction in the area is Alsea Bay Bridge, which connects Bayshore and Waldport.
While visiting Bayshore and Waldport, you’ll likely spend all of your time at Alsea Bay. You can crab and clam, look out for seals and otters, or kayak and fish. And then at the end of your ocean-filled day, you can delight in some fresh seafood at a local restaurant.
Yachats, pronounced YAH-hots, is a nature lover’s paradise – which is saying something considering how naturally beautiful the other best coastal towns in Oregon are.
First, Yachats is home to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which is part of the lovely Siuslaw National Forest. While at Cape Perpetua, you can hike miles of trails, check out the Spouting Horn, and watch the marvel known as Thor’s Well. As an alternative, there’s Smelt Sands Recreation Site, where you can tidepool, wildlife watch, and fish to your heart’s content.
There are two main attractions that make Florence one of the best coastal towns in Oregon: Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sea Lion Caves!
First, there’s the picture-perfect Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon. But the coolest thing to do in Florence, Oregon is visit the Sea Lion Caves. This privately owned wildlife preserve is a massive cave system that is filled with hundreds of barking sea lions!
The little coastal town of Reedsport has something for everyone. Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you can hike, ATV, or sandboard. History buffs will love learning about coastal Native American tribes at the Umpqua Discovery Center. And animal fans will want to spend hours at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area.
Reedsport is also home to the Annual Oregon Divisional Chainsaw Sculpting Championships. During this unique festival, competitors pull out their chainsaws and creative awe-inspiring sculptures out of ten-foot tree trunks!
18.-19. North Bend/Coos Bay
North Bend and Coos Bay are two neighboring towns in Oregon situated on the waterway also known as Coos Bay. These two towns are often lumped together and called Coos Bay-North Bend or Oregon’s Bay Area.
Coos Bay-North Bend is packed to the brim with natural beauty. You can hike through Shores Acres State Park, enjoy the beach at Cape Arago State Park, and catch the sunset at Sunset Bay State Park – and that’s all if you head towards the ocean.
If you head inland, you can enjoy the quiet at Millicoma Myrtle Grove State Park and check out the majestic Gold and Silver Falls.
Bandon has quite a wide variety of things to do. If you’re a golf lover, you can play a few rounds at the lauded Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll be able to spend hours watching the herons and falcons at the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
Or if you’d prefer to spend all your time on the beach, you can hop from Bandon Beach to Bullards Beach to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the meditative labyrinths of Circles in the Sand for you to wander through.
21. Port Orford
Port Orford is a fishing town with a creative side. If you’re more interested in the fishing and ocean aspect of the city, there are loads of things to do. You can visit the Port of Port Orford, surf at Battle Rock Park, and admire the stunning ocean views from Port Orford Heads State Park.
But if you’re more intrigued by the artsy side, you can wander through the art galleries lining the Oregon Coast Highway, find the beautiful ocean view mosaic on 5th street, and even follow the Port Orford to Bandon Art Trail.
22. Gold Beach
Located where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean, Gold Beach is definitely one of the best coastal towns in Oregon.
While in Gold Beach, you can admire the Rock Formations of Otter Point State Recreation Site, take a thrilling jet boat tour on the Rogue River, and explore the beauty of Cape Sebastian State Park. And if you’re looking for a couple of indoor activities, you can wander around the massive Gold Beach Books or sample a few beers at Arch Rock Brewing Company.
Just six miles from the Oregon-California border, Brookings is the southernmost destination on this list of the best coastal towns in Oregon. This means two things: 1) it’s warmer than any of the other towns on this list and 2) it is a hidden gem, considering it’s distance from major cities.
During your time in this lovely little town, you can enjoy Harris Beach State Park and wander around the Port of Brookings-Harbour. And you certainly can’t forget to enjoy the fun festivals, like February’s Winter Art & Chocolate Festival, May’s Azalea Festival, and August’s Pirates of the Pacific Festival.
While you can’t drive off into the setting sun along the Oregon Coast (since, you know, the sun sets over the Pacific…), it’s pretty clear now that there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy that sunset. The only question is: which of these towns do you want to visit? Or are you sold on planning that Oregon Coast road trip and visiting them all?
Have any questions or feedback about these coastal towns in Oregon? Let me know in the comments!