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There’s nowhere on earth quite like the Pacific Coast of North America – especially because we’re fortunate that there are coastal highways along pretty much every mile from the northwestern tip of Washington to the California-Mexico border.
Along that stretch, the Oregon Coast is considered one of the best stretches to drive due to the diversity of scenery and experiences you can have along the way – and the lack of crowds you might encounter further south on the Pacific Coast Highway or north on the Olympic Peninsula.
If you’ve been trying to research and plan your own Oregon Coast road trip and feeling overwhelmed, I see you. As I started planning my own trip in late 2023, I had many of the same questions you might: Which direction should you plan your road trip? Where should you stay overnight? How many stops should you make – wait, how many?! (Lots of resources suggest so many stops you might never get your car up to cruising speed!)
I’ll do my best to answer all of these questions and others too, while giving you a solid plan. You won’t be able to see every natural wonder, hike every trail, or stop in every town on the Oregon Coast with this guide, but you will have an amazing time – even if that classic Pacific Northwest coastal weather (aka rain and fog) decides to make an appearance.
Ready to get your Oregon Coast road trip planned perfectly? Grab your keys and let’s hit the road!
Oregon Coast Road Trip Basics: Maps & More
How Long is the Oregon Coast?
The Oregon Coast is 363 miles long from end to end, which is to say, from the Washington border (crossing the bridge in Astoria) in the north to the California border south of Brookings, in the south. Not too bad, right? You can handle that, even if you’re planning a solo Oregon Coast road trip and only have a few days (which is always how I’ve done my trips!).
Where Should I Start/End My Road Trip?
Here’s a tricky question at first glance: neither Astoria nor Brookings is a great start/end point if you want to rent a car to drive the Oregon Coast. Instead, you’ll need to plan for a few extra miles to begin and end in cities large enough to have airports/car rental facilities that make sense for this trip.
I recommend starting and ending your Oregon Coast road trip in Portland, Oregon, and Crescent City, California.
California?, you say, but I thought this was an Oregon Coast trip!? Right you are – but Crescent City is just across the border into California and has better options for flying in/out and for renting a car. (The cheapest car rental I saw in the coming months as of writing this in late 2023 was $211 for a 4-day trip – that’s a good price for a one-way rental!)
If you want to make this road trip into a loop to start/end in the same place, I recommend Portland; after reaching Brookings/Crescent City, you can turn inland, follow US-199 up to I-5 and drive north back to Portland.
How Many Days Do I Need to Drive It?
Speaking of days and prices and such, the next thing you might be trying to figure out is how long to plan this road trip. To be completely honest, you can drive the entire Oregon Coast in a single day – all 363 miles of it – but I wouldn’t recommend it! First of all, that would be a looooong day, and secondly, you wouldn’t get to enjoy any of it!
Instead, I recommend planning to spend 3-7 days on your Oregon Coast road trip, depending on your own availability and budget. Planning a shorter trip will obviously cost you less time – and less money, since you’ll have fewer overnight stays (which are the biggest expense of this trip, after renting a car, if you need to do that). A week-long Oregon Coast road trip will cost you more time and money, but will also give you ample time to stop and enjoy the views, trails, restaurants, and more along the entire route.
In the end, it’s really up to you; I’ve provided suggestions for a 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day Oregon Coast road trip itinerary below to help you.
Which Direction Should I Road Trip the Oregon Coast?
The Oregon Coast runs north-south along the Pacific Ocean, so your options are northbound or southbound. Personally, I recommend driving southbound “down” the Oregon Coast – this is also how I recommend driving the entire Pacific Coast Highway.
I think the views are better heading southbound (though they certainly aren’t bad heading northbound!) and I like being on the “outside” of the highway as it meanders along the dramatic cliffs and curves of the coast.
You can absolutely drive the Oregon Coast northbound though – you’ll just reverse the order of stops I recommend below.
Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary Options
Now I’m a completionist – and maybe you are too – so each of the itineraries I recommend below covers the entire Oregon Coast, that is, from Astoria to Brookings. If you start in Portland and end in Crescent City as I also recommend, this means that on Day 1 of all itineraries, you won’t be taking the most direct route; you’ll add on some extra miles to reach Astoria (but then you’ll have seen the whole Oregon Coast!).
Here’s how I recommend planning your road trip depending on how many days you have; each day mentions the start/end (overnight) points you’ll plan.
|Portland to Cannon Beach
(via Astoria) (4.5 hrs)
|Portland to Astoria
|Portland to Astoria
|Cannon Beach to Newport
|Astoria to Lincoln City
|Astoria to Cannon Beach
|Newport to Brookings
(Crescent City) (4.5 hrs)
|Lincoln City to Newport
|Cannon Beach to
Lincoln City (30 min)
|Newport to Gold Beach
|Lincoln City to Newport
|Gold Beach to Brookings
(Crescent City) (45 min)
|Newport to Florence
|Florence to Gold Beach
|Gold Beach to Brookings
(Crescent City) (45 min)
As you can see, even with fewer days and longer driving time, the distances between each day’s start and endpoint are really reasonable – some are downright short, giving you more time to explore along the way and in each community.
Now let’s dive into each of these spots, and what to do between them, to help you fill in all the details of your Oregon Coast road trip.
What About a 4-Day or 6-Day Itinerary? Or more than 7 days?
To try and answer a common question before you need to leave me a comment, here’s how I would adjust my suggested itineraries for you if you only have 4 days or 6 days to drive the Oregon Coast:
- If you want to do a 4-day Oregon Coast road trip, I would take the 5-day suggested itinerary and choose between spending a night in Lincoln City or Newport (instead of both).
- If you want to do a 6-day Oregon Coast road trip, I would take the 7-day suggested itinerary and (again) choose between spending a night in Lincoln City or Newport (instead of both).
I hope that helps you easily adjust everything in the rest of this post to fit the time constraint you have.
If you have more than 7 days for your road trip, you can just choose to stop in more of the towns I recommend – maybe overnight in Seaside and Brookings, too, or add on days in Portland and/or Crescent City!
Step-by-Step Oregon Coast Road Trip Directions
Okay, now that we’ve covered the overall structure of your road trip – no matter how long you have to do it – let’s dive into the details. Below, you’ll find info about each stop I recommend in those itineraries above, plus other stops worth making in between.
Note: My photos in this post vary as I’ve made different stops on different trips along the Oregon Coast. Additionally, I don’t have many of ME as I often do these as solo road trips. Please forgive older/lower-resolution/no V photos; I hope still illustrate the beauty of each stop!
Start: Portland, Oregon
Portland is the only city on this list that isn’t on the coast, but it definitely makes the most sense as a start (or end) point for your road trip since it’s the biggest city in Oregon and has all the amenities you need to get started on the right food, er, I mean, wheel.)
If you have time before hitting the road, it’s easy to spend a few days exploring Portland; here’s my Portland city guide to help you if you have the time. I have been to Portland repeatedly and there are so many experiences that can more than fill a day or two before you start your road trip.
If you don’t have the time, plan to fly in to Portland (PDX), rent your car, and hit the road straight away.
Road Trip Directions: From Portland, take I-5 north of town to US-30W, which will take you along the Columbia River to Astoria.
Stop 1: Astoria
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Astoria before turning south to drive to Cannon Beach for the night.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Astoria after driving from Portland.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Astoria after driving from Portland.
As you drive into Astoria, you might feel like you recognize parts of the town. Is it the iconic bridge spanning the Columbia River? Is it the buildings? Probably, it’s a little bit of both – if you’ve seen The Goonies, anyway!
Astoria is famous for this cult classic film which was filmed here in the mid-1980s. You can easily plan your own self-guided tour to some of the more iconic Goonies spots, or soak in the rest of what the city has to offer instead. My friend Marissa from Postcards to Seattle (who I typically travel with at least once per year!) has a great resource of (other) things to do in Astoria.
Accommodation Suggestions: The Cannery Pier Hotel is a bit of a splurge but it combines the best of Astoria’s fishing industry history with modern luxury. Rooms start from $299 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other Astoria hotels and vacation rentals too.
Meal Suggestions: Astoria Coffee House & Bistro has a lovely menu and is beloved by locals, while Pig ‘N Pancake is a great spot for homey American classics (especially breakfast if you’re spending the night).
Road Trip Directions: From Astoria, you’ll begin your journey down the Oregon Coast on US-101 South. It’s a 17-mile, 25-minute drive to Seaside.
Stop 2: Seaside
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Seaside on the way to Cannon Beach for the night.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Seaside on the way to Lincoln City for the night.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Seaside on the way to Cannon Beach for the night.
Seaside is a picturesque Pacific coastal town, a western interpretation of the East Coast summer destinations along the Atlantic. The huge sweeping beach is admittedly not warm enough for a swim – but it’s great for a stroll in the surf if you’re stopping briefly to stretch your legs.
Aside from the beach, Downtown Seaside is a series of taffy-colored storefronts filled with beach gear, kitschy coastal crafts, and the Funland Seaside Arcade, which harkens back to the heydays of coastal vacations.
Since none of my suggested itineraries have you spending a night in Seaside, I don’t have any hotels to recommend.
Meal Suggestions: Located in the Ocean View Resort, Ocean Bakery Cafe is a good spot for fueling up during the first half of your day. Mo’s Seaside is the go-to if you want a cup or bowl of life-changing chowder.
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. It’s a 9-mile, 13-minute drive to Cannon Beach.
Stop 3: Cannon Beach
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Cannon Beach.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Cannon Beach on the way to Lincoln City for the night.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Cannon Beach.
Just 13 minutes of driving separate Seaside and Cannon Beach, which is why I recommend staying in one or the other for an overnight – but my vote goes to Cannon Beach usually because there’s nowhere prettier to watch the sunset beyond the iconic Haystack Rock. But, Cannon Beach is perhaps less oriented toward tourists than Seaside, which is why I still recommend stopping in both.
Between the two towns, consider stopping at Ecola State Park to hike out to Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Viewpoint where you can see “Terrible Tilly,” a lighthouse that nevertheless didn’t prevent a number of maritime accidents in the area. Ecola Point Viewpoint is also good for for a nice easy hike. John Yeon State Natural Site is also worth a stop for a look at Bird Rocks, anothre set of seatsacks like Haystack Rock.
Speaking of Tillamook, be sure to plan a stop at the Tillamook Creamery once you head south out of Cannon Beach toward Newport. Everything on the menu is delicious!
Accommodation Suggestions: The Inn at Haystack Rock is adorable and very coastal chic; it’s also just one block from the beach, without the oceanfront markup. Rooms start from $109 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other hotels and vacation rentals in Cannon Beach.
Meal Suggestions: The Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge literally has a view of Haystack Rock out the main dining room windows, but the food is okay and the prices reflect that amenity… it’s kind of worth it though!
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. It’s a 84-mile, 2-hour drive to Lincoln City.
Stop 4: Lincoln City
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Lincoln City on the way to Newport for the night.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Lincoln City.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Lincoln City.
Can I be completely honest? You’ve made it this far so I feel like we’re on that level… Here goes: I did not stay overnight in Lincoln City on my most recent Oregon Coast road trip, though I wish I had – so when I’m recommending it for you 5-day and 7-day travelers, it’s with a bit of FOMO.
See, Lincoln City is really close to Newport (where I recommend everyone spend a night; more on that in a moment), but it has so much to offer that it’s worth the extra time in its own right (which is why those of you with more time should take advantage of it!).
While there’s tons of hikes in the area and a cute downtown core that you can easily spend some time strolling through, the real highlight in Lincoln City is its glassblowing industry. Yes, it sounds obscure, but there are special ways to experience it during your visit (even if it’s only a stop on a short road trip, like you 3-day people). First, several studios in town offer glassblowing classes; I made a beautiful votive holder at Lincoln City Glass Center, and best of all, they shipped it home to me so I didn’t have to worry about waiting for it to cool/cure or picking it up the next day (ideal if you stop here on a 3-day itinerary).
Additionally, the Finders Keepers program is a perfect way to get people outdoors when visiting the area. Every year, local artists hide some 3,000 glass floats along the beach throughout the year, and you can go beachcombing to try and find a beautiful souvenir – if you find it, it’s yours! (Hence the name of the program!) My friends Jacob and Esther from Local Adventurer were very lucky during their visit – I need to go back and try my luck on my next visit…
On your way to Newport (the next stop), be sure to take a quick detour to Devils Punchbowl, which is a beautiful natural formation – sort of the opposite of Haystack Rock, but you’ll see what I mean!
Accommodation Suggestions: The Anchor Inn Resort is quirky with wood panelling and lots of nautical design elements – but that’s why I love it. You are on the coast, after all! Rooms start from $89 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other Lincoln City hotels and vacation rentals.
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. (Are you sensing a theme?!) It’s a 25-mile, 35-minute drive to Newport.
Stop 5: Newport
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Newport.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Newport.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Newport.
Newport is the one town on the Oregon coast I recommend as an overnight stop no matter how long you have to make the drive. I most recently visited Newport in late 2023, and it’s got so much to offer that it’s worth the extra time. (Newport is not the biggest city on the coast, but I think it’s the best oriented toward visitors.)
The community of Newport sits on either side of Yaquina Bay, with the bay’s iconic and namesake bridge spanning the two. As such, Newport strikes a balance of working marine-industrial town and tourist destination: there’s lots to do for visitors, but you might just find yourself admiring the boats in the harbor and spotting sea lions resting on the docks.
In terms of things to do in Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a great option for families or curious travelers of all ages as it focuses specifically on the marine ecosystems of this part of the Pacific Coast. You can also head to the Newport Historic Bayfront which is lined with shops, restaurants, docks/boats, and fish processing plants. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is also a must-see.
Accommodation Suggestions: There are lots of delightful places to stay in Newport, but I spent my one night aboard the Newport Belle. This is an adults-only accommodation, but if that fits your travel group, you’re in for a real treat aboard this restored and converted sternwheeler in the harbor. Rooms start from $189 per night; book on Hotels.com. Browse other hotels in Newport and vacation rentals, too.
Meal Suggestions: For dinner, there are lots of choices in the Historic Bayfront; I went with dinner at Clearwater Restaurant as they have great views of the harbor and sea lions love to loaf up on the docks outside their windows. (As such, the patio might be tempting but can often be quite stinky, so I recommend sitting inside even if the weather is great!)
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. It’s a 49-mile, 70-minute drive to Florence.
Stop 6: Florence
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Florence on the way to Brookings to end your road trip.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Florence on the way to Gold Beach for the night.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Florence.
Florence is easy to miss, but even if you’re only stopping here (or in the area) for a short time, it’s worth it. (You 3-day and 5-day road trippers will just pass through; 7-day folks, stay tuned for accommodation suggestions too.)
Between Newport and Florence, there are some incredible stops worth making too – the Cape Perpetua area has several cool natural wonders including Devil’s Churn where the ocean is cutting into the coastline and Thor’s Well where a sinkhole seems to drain the ocean away. There’s also a great hike up to Cape Perpetua Overlook if you’re really looking to work your legs today.
A little further south, Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world – and the best view can be found at Sea Lion Cave, which is well worth the admission price for the chance to also step into the largest sea cave on the North American continent.
In Florence itself, you’ll have the dunes between you and the ocean, so this is a popular spot for adveture activities like sandboarding and dune buggying.
Accommodation Suggestions: As the name suggests, River Vista has beautiful river-view rooms and lots of homey touches (including fireplaces if the weather is quintessential Pacific Northwesterly during your road trip!). Rooms start from $85 per night; book on Booking.com. Browse other hotels and vacation rentals in Florence.
Meal Suggestions: There are a number of restaurants right on the river, Waterfront Depot Restaurant is the one that catches my eye; I love the influence of cajun ingredients and spices on the whole menu (ranging from the cajun fish burger to the jambalaya).
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. (The trend continues!) It’s a 128-mile, 2.5-hour drive to Gold Beach.
Stop 7: Gold Beach
If you’re planning a…
🚘 3-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll pass through Gold Beach on the way to Brookings to end your road trip.
🚘 5-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Gold Beach.
🚘 7-day Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll spend the night in Gold Beach.
I was trying to find a spot to recommend between Newport and Brookings (for you 5-day road trippers) and between Florence and Brookings (for you 7-day folks), and I settled on Gold Beach among the smattering of towns along the Southern Oregon Coast.
Located where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean, Gold Beach offers a bit more in the way of visitor services, support, and acitvities than some neighboring communities. While in Gold Beach, you can admire the rock formations of Otter Point State Recreation Site, take a jet boat tour on the Rogue River, and explore the beauty of Cape Sebastian State Park.
Accommodation Suggestions: While it’s relatively no frills, the Gold Beach Inn offers everything you need after a day on the road: comfortable rooms and standard amenities. Rooms start from $64 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other Gold Beach hotels and vacation rentals.
Meal Suggestions: While I didn’t have any beer stops on my 2023 trip due to the impending arrival of Baby V, Arch Rock Brewing Company is a great spot to drink local, followed by a bite at the Barnacle Bistro or Port Hole Cafe – can you tell this is a maritime town?
Road Trip Directions: Continue south on US-101. It’s a 28-mile, 35-minute drive to Brookings.
Stop 8: Brookings
If you’re planning…
🚘 ANY length of Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll “end” your road trip in Brookings before continuing to Crescent City to return your car and fly home.
Last but not least, your road trip along the Oregon Coast ends (or perhaps begins) in Brookings. Just six miles from the Oregon-California border, Brookings is a hidden gem, considering its distance from major cities.
During your time in this lovely little town, you can enjoy Harris Beach State Park and wander around the harbor. Nearby, the Oregon Redwoods Trail offers an easy hike to some old-growth Coastal Redwoods –great to visit if you already know you won’t have much time to explore Crescent City before the end of your trip.
Since none of my suggested itineraries have you spending a night in Brookings, I don’t have any hotels to recommend.
Meal Suggestions: Want one last meal of fresh Oregon seafood? There are several options in Brookings, but I like the no-frills style at Catalyst Seafood Restaurant & Lounge.
Road Trip Directions: One last time, continue south on US-101. It’s a 27-mile, 35-minute drive to Crescent City.
End: Crescent City, California
Here’s another honesty moment: I am totally biased in adding Crescent City to this itinerary.
Yes, it’s the most logical end-point (or starting point) for your Oregon Coast road trip if you’re flying in/out and renting a car (or if you need to cut inland to take I-5 back to Portland) – but it’s also my favorite town in California. And it’s so close that adding it onto this itinerary just makes sense.
Crescent City combines the best of the Golden State with the best of the Pacific Northwest: here you can find rugged shoreline, an iconic lighthouse (Battery Point Lighthouse), turbulent seas and weather and some of the most beautiful Coastal Redwood groves on the entire Northern California coast (in Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, part of Redwoods National Park). It’s long been one of my favorite stops on the Pacific Coast Highway, and I’ve visited Crescent City twice as a destination in its own right (when we lived in California).
If you’re looking for somewhere to spend a few extra days before or after your road trip, Crescent City gets my vote; I’ve got a guide for spending 3 days here which can help you fill whatever time you have. I hope you love it as much as I do!
Accommodation Suggestions: On one trip, Mr. V and I stayed at this gorgeous 3-bedroom oceanfront property on Pebble Beach Drive. It was huge and fully stocked, perfect for a family or for a couple who just want space to escape. From $295/night; book on VRBO. Browse other vacation rentals and hotels in Crescent City.
Meal Suggestions: My must-stop on every trip is Seaquake Brewing; I love their kombucha and their food menu is fantastic. Other places we’ve eaten on past trips include the Chart Room (great water views) and Port O’ Pints for some local color.
Road Trip Directions: Depending on your plans, you would either return your car at the Crescent City airport (CEC) and fly home via Oakland (OAK) on the once-daily Contour Air flight, or take US-199 inland toward the Oregon border, meeting I-5 North at Grant’s Pass (it’s a 5-hour, 40-minute drive back to Portland).
Renting a Car for the Oregon Coast
Before you hit the road, you’ve gotta figure out your car situation! Maybe you are planning to drive your own vehicle to the start of your Oregon Coast road trip and then driving home afterward – or maybe you don’t want to put that mileage on your vehicle. In that case, you’ll need to rent a car.
Every time I’ve driven all or even a portion of the Oregon Coast, I’ve typically rented a car to do so, and usually that has been a one-way rental, which is what I assumed you’re doing in my post above.
I’ve put together some tips on how to choose the right car for the Pacific Coast Highway (which the Oregon Coast is part of!); in short, I recommend an automatic car with a low center of gravity – but skip the upcharge for the convertible or SUV. Both of these vehicle types will either slow you down or you won’t get the use out of it for the extra cost. A standard sedan, coupe, or even crossover is a much better choice and investment for your travel budget.
And that’s it! Have any other questions about how to plan your road trip on the Oregon Coast? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help!