An Oregon Coast road trip is one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S and an absolutely unforgettable trip!
With so many places to hike, beachcomb, and be completely wowed by the rugged coastal scenery, it can be hard to plan your itinerary!
So, in this mega-Oregon Coast drive guide, you’ll find:
- my itinerary for driving the Oregon coast,
- a coastal map,
- planning tips,
- suggestions about where to stay along the route,
- additional itinerary ideas,
- driving tips, as well as,
- practical information about when to go and what to pack.
Ready to plan your drive down the Oregon Coast?
Oregon Coastal Road Trip Planning
As you start your Oregon trip planning, there are a few things you need to decide first.
- How many days do you have for the road trip?
- Which airport(s) are you flying in and out of?
- Do you have any activities, like a full-day hike that will use up a big chunk of time, on your to-do list?
A 1-week Oregon coast road trip is the sweet spot. This gives you a lot of flexibility. You can decide to spend the entire week on the Oregon Coast. There’s plenty to see and do. But you can also tweak it based on what makes sense for your travel plans.
If you’re flying into the Oregon area, the airports you fly in and out of will definitely shape your itinerary. Unless you’re focusing only on northern and central Oregon, flying in and out of a city like Portland will likely cost you time on the return. After all, the Oregon Coast is a north-to-south (or vice versa) route, not a loop like a Colorado road trip.
Instead, try to fly into 1 airport and out of another based on the beginning and ending points of your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary.
Oregon Coastal Map with Towns
The Oregon Coast Highway is Route 101. This road is also part of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway which continues north into Washington State and south into California.
Highway 101 in Oregon runs 363 miles along the coast, from Astoria to Brookings. If you were to drive this nonstop from start to finish, it would take roughly 7-8 hours.
The map of the Oregon coastline below shows some of the most popular towns along the route. If you zoom in, more Oregon coastal towns will fill in.
My Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary
First, I’ve shared this Oregon coast drive the way I did it. Down below, you’ll also find some more ideas about how you can customize this itinerary to fit your own travel plans.
You’ll notice that I began my Oregon road trip further north in Seattle. This is because of the flight deal I got to Seattle instead of Portland, and also because I liked the idea of doing a little Seattle sightseeing.
As an alternative, you could also fly into Portland, which is in Oregon already. In this case, you’d likely skip Seattle for logistical sense.
But you could also focus specifically on driving the Oregon Coast and spending more time on outdoor pursuits like hiking or boating or exploring in a place like Astoria or Brookings.
Are you ready to start planning your Oregon coast trip? Let’s go!
Days 1-2: Start in Seattle.
Seattle can be a logical and fun place to begin your Oregon coast road trip…even though the city is in Washington State!
It’s only a couple of hours’ drive from the Oregon coastline. Numerous flights arrive at Seattle’s international airport from around the country every day. American, Delta, United, Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines all operate flights to Seattle. And you can rent a car easily from the airport.
There are plenty of things to do in Seattle. But with just 1-2 days, depending on what time you arrive, you’ll want to prioritize visiting the top sights.
Pike Place Market
This market is an absolute must while in Seattle. Officially opened in 1907, it’s the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the U.S. Over the years, it’s grown from a place where farmers came to sell their goods out of the back of their wagons to an indoor/outdoor market and dining hub in a historic district of the city overlooking Puget Sound. Today, Pike’s Place Market is one of the most visited places in the world.
The Pike Place Fish Market draws a lot of attention as the fish are tossed around to prep them for sale. But, the best part of the market is the time spent nibbling. You’re in an absolute foodie paradise, complete with everything from baked goods to the freshest fish sandwich!
You can graze independently or go with a chef on a tasting adventure through the market. When you can’t take another bite(!), savor the one-of-a-kind crafts in the hundreds of artist stalls.
Seattle Underground Tour
This will be one of the coolest and most interesting tours you take anywhere. Seattle’s history includes a fire at the end of the 1800s and the need to rebuild. In Pioneer Square, what was once at street level was built over with raised streets and the eventual structures on top of them. Today, the tunnels and passageways beneath the modern-day streets lead straight into a fascinating story of early Seattle.
The Underground Walking Tour lasts for an hour so it’s easy to include other sights and activities on your day’s itinerary. For reference, the meeting point for the tour is about a 10-minute walk from Pikes Place Market and a couple of blocks off the Seattle waterfront.
Seattle’s iconic Space Needle is an unmissable landmark in the city’s skyline. It stands at 605 feet tall with 360° panoramic views over the city and Puget Sound. On clear days, it’s possible to see Mount Ranier and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in the not-too-far-off distance. The Space Needle even has a glass floor experience to see the view just below!
Chihuly Garden and Glass
You can’t help but be in awe over artist Dale Chihuly’s designs of glass! There are 8 galleries and a gorgeous, outdoor garden displaying the artist’s colorful glass pieces and sculptures. You can also watch glass-blowing demonstrations to see how the artist worked.
The exhibition is next to the Space Needle and from inside the signature glasshouse, you can capture the bright glass designs and Seattle’s instantly-recognizable landmark, the Space Needle, towering overhead. Entry to the art exhibit and garden is included with the bundled Seattle CityPASS.
Or you can book a combo ticket for the Space Needle and the Chihuly Gardens.
Enjoy the Pacific Northwest Outdoors
One of the biggest attractions of Seattle is its proximity to incredible natural landscapes and the outdoors lifestyle. Within 2 hours driving of Seattle, there are 3 National Parks and countless other outdoor areas where you can hike, walk, bike, and paddle.
For example, you could drive to Mount Rainier National Park or take a guided day trip there.
You could also get out onto Seattle’s harbor and Elliot Bay, which is part of Puget Sound. It’s a great way to combine Seattle history and sightseeing the beauty of the water and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains looming in the distance.
If you plan to spend 2 days in Seattle, you could plan one of these day trips. You can also enjoy a full day in Seattle and then head to the spectacular Oregon Coast.
1 Day Seattle to Cannon Beach
Make an early start and head south on I-5 from Seattle. The drive today is roughly 200 miles but nearly all of that is along this major interstate without sightseeing stops until Astoria, Oregon.
Astoria is just near the northern tip of the Oregon coast, making it a perfect spot to begin an Oregon Coast road trip. If the town of Astoria is ringing some bells in your memory, you’re probably familiar with the fan-favorite 80s movie, Goonies, which was mostly filmed in Astoria.
Along with familiar Goonie filming locations, this small historic city blends seaside and artsy vibes for a one-of-a-kind spot for local shops, restaurants, and breweries. It’s a fun spot to get out of the car, grab a bite, and stretch your legs.
Things to Do in Astoria, Oregon
The Astoria Column, situated on Coxcomb Hill, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built during the mid-1920s, the paintings on the outside tell the story of Astoria and Oregon’s history.
Loosen up those road trip legs while climbing the column’s 164 steps to the observation deck. From the top, you’ll be able to see the place where the mighty Columbia River empties into the ocean.
Take a moment to enjoy the views overlooking the city and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, a giant truss bridge that spans the Columbia River and connects Washington and Oregon.
The Astoria Column itself is free to climb. There is a small fee for parking.
ProTip: From the Astoria Column parking area, you can hike the trail up to Cathedral Tree. This Sitka Spruce is thought to be 300+ years old. The hike is an out-and-back trail that takes less than an hour to complete.
If you’d like to spend more time in Astoria, here are a few more things to do in the area. Keep in mind the rest of the day’s activities. If you spend more time in Astoria, for example, you may want to make Seaside a quicker stop.
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a great way to see popular sights along the waterfront and hop-on-hop-off along the 3-mile route. It’ll also give you close-up views of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
The Oregon Film Museum is the place to get your Goonies fix. This museum is housed in a historic landmark jail and is in honor of movies that have been filmed in Oregon. However, it’s primarily focused on the Goonies so it’s best for die-hard Goonie fans.
Fort Stevens State Park is a bit off-the-beaten-path but has no shortage of trails and sandy beaches to comb. History buffs will love knowing that Fort Stevens was a military outpost for over 80 years. There’s also the Iredale shipwreck to see, which ran aground in 1906.
Lastly, the Fort Clatsop National Memorial is the site of a replica Lewis & Clark Fort. In 1805, the pair spent the winter here as part of their historical westward trip. I highly recommend listening to one of the site’s historians tell about the site. They really know how to bring the location’s history to life!
Seaside, Oregon and Ecola State Park
When you’re ready, get back in the car and head south about 16 miles on US-101 to Seaside, Oregon and its seaside promenade. This 1.5-mile walk along a paved walkway is parallel to the Pacific Ocean.
“The Prom” for short is lined with a historic Seaside Aquarium, a Lewis and Clark statue at Turnaround Point where the 2 men completed their westward exploration, and gorgeous ocean views. It’s the kind of place just to stroll, take in the salty air, and let the ocean waves carry your worries out to sea.
If you haven’t eaten yet, there are plenty of choices along Highway-101 and in and around the streets near Broadway.
With the laid-back vibes of the Oregon Coast beginning to settle in, continue on about 8 miles south on Highway-101 to Ecola State Park. This is where you’ll get your first true look at the stunning rocks that jut out of the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon Coast.
The park’s entrance road is a vibrant green characteristic of the ocean forests that line the Oregon Coast. Picture tall spruce tree groves with low-lying shrubs along a winding road that rewards you with an open overlook to Cannon Beach and its iconic sea stacks that stand majestically among the ocean waves.
For the best views, follow the road to the Indian Beach parking area. Then, follow the short trail from the parking lot to the scenic point. This is also where you should park for access to Indian Beach where you can walk on the sand, explore the tide pools at low tide, and possibly even spot some wildlife like elk or whales!
If you’re up for a hike, don’t miss the park favorite, Clatsop Loop Trail! It’s a moderate loop hike about 2.8 miles round trip. The trailhead is accessed from the Indian Beach parking area. Depending on the time of year you visit, be prepared with hiking boots that have good traction in muddy terrain.
The ocean views along the trail’s westside are breathtaking (especially on sunny days!) and not visible from other points in the park.
At the end of the day, make your way from Ecola State Park a couple of miles south to Cannon Beach, Oregon. The small, coastal town is the perfect spot to land, with plenty of places to stay, eat, and refresh yourself after a fantastic first day on the Oregon Coast!
Where to stay in Cannon Beach, Oregon
The Ocean Lodge has ocean-front real estate, with views of Haystack Rock. Free breakfast is included in the nightly rate and each room comes with a fireplace. If you’re road-tripping with a furry family member, as I sometimes do, you’ll be glad to know The Ocean Lodge is pet-friendly.
The Inn at Cannon Beach is tucked away, surrounded by the greenery of the Oregon Coast. The hotel’s buildings look (and feel!) more like homes, with spacious pet-friendly rooms also equipped with fireplaces. After enjoying the free breakfast, you can access the beach with just a short walk from the property.
The Hallmark Resort and Spa sits along the beach, just steps from Haystack Rock. Choose from a range of room types that include fireplaces, kitchenettes, and jacuzzi tubs. Your fur-baby can enjoy the panoramic ocean views, not to mention beautiful ocean sunsets!
1 Day Cannon Beach to Newport
Ready for another beautiful day on the Oregon Coast? Today’s drive south on Highway-101 is half the drive from yesterday but still packed with some of the best Oregon Coast highlights!
Starting your day off in Cannon Beach, be sure to visit the beachfront in town. Haystack Rock is probably the MOST famous sea stack along the Oregon Coast. At low tide, Cannon Beach gives you the opportunity to get within steps of this 235-foot giant.
Cannon Beach has been named as one of the 100 most beautiful places on Earth by National Geographic. So, whether you arrived in town early enough yesterday to see the sunset or you spend time in the morning walking the beach to admire the sea stacks, Cannon Beach is a can’t miss spot for all Oregon Coast road trip itineraries.
Just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach, you’ll arrive at Hug Point State Recreation Site. There, you’ll find the beautiful and easy Hug Point Trail.
It’s a 1.2-mile out-and-back walk that gives you the chance to walk on a cove beach, explore caves and tide pools, and savor the ocean views. Haystack Rock will be visible to the north.
The safest and best time to visit is during low tide so be sure to check the tide tables. It is possible to get stuck while on your walk if the tide comes in so don’t risk it if you are cutting it close to high tide. Either way, plan 30-60 minutes to explore before continuing south on the Oregon Coast.
ProTip: The Neahkahnie Beach Viewpoint in between Hug Point and Tillamook is the epitome of amazing Oregon Coast scenery. Take a moment to enjoy the spectacular views from the overlook.
There’s nothing like the salty air for stirring up an appetite. So, if you’re feeling snacky, you’re in luck because you’re about to land in Tillamook, home to the famous Tillamook Creamery. Whether you’re in the mood for ice cream or a cheesy favorite like mac and cheese, you don’t want to miss any of this creamy goodness.
If the weather is not ideal for the outdoors, take a self-guided tour to learn more about dairy farming and watch as the workers process millions of pounds of milk every day to make blocks of cheddar, which are then aged to perfect deliciousness!
Three Capes Scenic Loop
From Tillamook, you’ll want to continue along the Three Capes Scenic Loop. It’s a 40-mile scenic drive along some of the prettiest sections of the Oregon Coast. The three capes scenic route include Cape Meares, Cape Kiawanda, and Cape Lookout.
Cape Meares State Park
From Route 131 in downtown Tillamook, you’ll actually head northwest onto Bayocean Road. The Tillamook Bay coastline will be on your right. Follow the signs for the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and Cape Meares Lighthouse.
From the parking area, there are short paths that lead to the historic lighthouse, scenic viewpoints, and the famous Octopus Tree.
The sweeping views from the Cape Meares pathways are breathtaking. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may even get lucky and spot a whale or a napping sea lion. Don’t forget the binoculars!
Cape Lookout State Park
Continue south in the direction of Cape Lookout State Park, the next cape on this scenic stretch of coastline. If you’re eager to get out of the car and explore on foot, Cape Lookout is the perfect place to do so today.
The Cape Trail is a 5-mile, moderate, round trip out and back hike that takes you into a classic Oregon Coast forest, with Sitka Spruce trees and lush, dewy ferns that blanket the forest floor.
On blue-sky days, the Cape Lookout viewpoint affords views up to 40 miles to the north and Tillamook Head to Cape Foulweather nearly 40 miles in the opposite direction. Allow about 2 hours to complete this hike.
Cape Lookout State Park also has 3 miles of easily accessed beach. So you’re in luck if you’ve been hoping to feel the sand between your toes!
Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Cape Kiwanda is the smallest of the 3 capes along this scenic route. There’s beach access (beware cars are no longer allowed on the beach) and scenic viewpoints.
The beach is marked with a single sea stack that juts from the ocean waves. The wind along this part of the coast brings with it fabulous waves and perfect kite-flying conditions.
Beware of any signage directing you to stay away from specific areas, like the cliffs. They can be dangerous if you get too close to the edge!
ProTip: You can also enjoy a local brew and take in the views of the sea stack at Cape Kiwanda from The Pelican Brewery and Tap Room. It is the only brewery on the Oregon Coast with beachfront seating.
Otter Crest Loop
On the way to your final spot for the day, Newport Oregon, there are a couple of scenic spots you won’t want to miss. Drive south from Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City on U.S. Highway 101 until just past Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint.
From this point, watch for signs for the Otter Crest Loop and continue south along this road. This road is closer to the coastline than U.S. Highway 101 and gives better access to a couple of scenic stops.
At Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint, you get a sweeping vista of ocean views and coastline from 500 feet up. The view is absolutely gorgeous and offers the best spot to glimpse Cape Foulweather.
Just 15 minutes before you arrive in Newport and at the end of the Otter Crest Loop road, stop to check out the Devil’s Punchbowl. There are sea caves, 2 of which are collapsed, leaving a giant opening in the roof. During high tide, you can watch the waves fill the open cave, swirling and churning within the rock’s opening.
If you are lucky to time your arrival at low tide, you can explore the cave itself and the tide pools left behind by the crashing waters.
Finish the day’s drive and adventures in Newport, Oregon.
This classic fishing community is complete with boats bobbing in the harbor, delicious seafood spots like Local Ocean Seafood and Georgie’s Beachside Grill, and resident sea lions who lounge on the docks. (If you stay close to where they lounge, they’ll even let you know when the morning’s first light is shining!)
Where to stay in Newport, Oregon
The Hallmark Resort is a beautiful oceanfront property offering spacious rooms that can accommodate couples, families, and four-legged fur babies. The balcony or patio from your room is the perfect spot to watch the fishing boats move in and out of the harbor and the breathtaking sunset views over the Pacific Ocean.
The Inn at Nye Beach has direct beach access and gorgeous ocean views. This boutique hotel offers spa services including in-room massage. There are a variety of room types, including family suites equipped with a kitchenette.
Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites sit overlooking the Oregon coast and the calming waves of the Pacific Ocean. Aside from the incredible views, the hotel offers free breakfast, rooms with fireplaces and balconies, and fresh-baked cookies in the evenings.
1 Day Newport to Florence (or Coos Bay)
Before continuing your Oregon Coast road trip, take some time to explore Newport and the surrounding area.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Natural Area is just 3 miles to the north of Newport. It’s the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast and, at low tide, the area has some of the best tide pools on the Oregon Coast.
Be sure to walk along Newport’s Historic Bayfront. It’s a working fishing port, where sea lions laze away the day and local fisherman haul in their latest catch. Among the sights and smells of the seaport, you’ll find art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops.
The Newport Aquarium has interactive exhibits, deep-sea tunnels, and outdoor exhibits, perfect for anyone with children who needs a morning break from the car and/or the hiking trail.
You could easily begin the day by visiting Yaquina Head. After that, circle back to Newport to explore the waterfront and enjoy a seafood sandwich before continuing south to Cape Perpetua.
The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, located in the Siuslaw National Forest, is the highest point on the Oregon coast and an absolute can’t-miss stop on your Oregon Coast drive!
Ascending 800 feet, Cape Perpetua affords panoramic ocean views with the ability to see for miles to the north or south, as well as an opportunity to spot whales swimming near the rocky coastline.
This coastal region is also home to a temperate rainforest with towering spruce trees and 26 miles of hiking trails. While it’s considered to be a moderate-difficult hike, the St. Perpetua Trail is worth your time and effort!
It’s a 2.7-mile out-and-back hike so distance isn’t what adds to the difficulty. It’s the elevation climb. There are switchbacks but by the end of the hike, you’ll have climbed 700 feet.
The wildflowers and Sitka Spruce are second only to the heart-pumping exhilaration of reaching the viewpoint over the Pacific Ocean! On a blue-sky day, the ocean and horizon are only separated by a couple of shades of blue.
Plan about 2 hours to take photos, finish the hike, and enjoy this gorgeous spot on the Oregon Coast.
ProTip: The return trip will be entirely downhill. Your knees will thank you for bringing along trekking poles or even a sturdy walking stick.
If the St. Perpetua trail isn’t for you, consider another of the area’s hikes. There’s also the Cape Perpetua Lookout close to the parking area and a perfect spot to capture some Christmas-card-worthy family photos.
The Cape Perpetua area also has a lot of scenic spots and pull-offs. If you continue south on U.S. Highway 101, a mile from Cape Perpetua, you’ll come to Thor’s Well.
It’s a popular spot to watch the salty waves crash and spill into what some have called “the drain of the Pacific.” Take extra care at high tide not to get too close.
Heceta Head Lighthouse & the Sea Lion Caves
As you drive south along the Oregon Coast towards the town of Florence, the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint and the Sea Lion Caves are fun, family-friendly stops.
Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most popular lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. Use the parking area within the State Park and take the 1/2 mile path from the parking area to the lighthouse and the viewpoint.
The Sea Lion Caves is a wildlife preserve that offers tours. Keep in mind the animals are wild and so free to come and go as they wish. The number of sea lions in the caves varies depending on the time of year.
Finish the day in Florence, Oregon. This cute coastal town has some of the better hotel accommodations than in other nearby places like Coos Bay. Florence also has plenty of delicious food choices as you settle in for a satisfying dinner and stroll through Old Town.
If you arrive in Florence before the end of the day or plan to stay in this area of the Oregon Coast for a longer time, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is only a half-hour away. Hike in the Recreation Area, get adventurous on the sand in an ATV, or plan a dune picnic!
Where to stay in Florence, Oregon
The Old Town Inn is near the Siuslaw River and has a fantastic location, just a few minutes walking to the shops and restaurants in Old Town. This Inn gets high praise for cleanliness. Rooms come with 1 or 2 beds, which works for both couples and families.
The River House Inn is also located along the Siuslaw River. Old Town is only a couple of minutes away on foot. The rooms have been recently remodeled and come with a refrigerator and microwave. The hotel offers free continental breakfast.
The Best Western Pier Point Inn is on the opposite side of the Siuslaw River from Florence. A walk across the bridge will bring you into Old Town Florence. This hotel comes with free breakfast and rooms can be standard or suites. As with the above hotels, beaches and the Dunes Recreation Area are within easy reach.
ProTip: If you’re looking for a more unique stay, you might consider finishing your day in Coos Bay instead of Florence. While Florence is a more charming town, Coos Bay is home to a great glamping option at Bay Point Landing. Choose to stay in a luxury cabin or an airstream suite in a secluded spot along a private beach area.
1 Day Florence to Brookings, Oregon/Crescent City, CA
Today’s drive explores some of the best places on the southern Oregon coastline, and if you follow my itinerary, takes you just over the border into northern California. Although you could also choose to stop in Brookings, Oregon, at the very southern end of the coast.
From Florence to Crescent City, California is roughly 3 1/2 hours of driving, which of course will be broken up with Oregon coast stops along the way. In fact, this stretch of coastlines has some of the prettiest spots yet!
Shore Acres State Park
Coming from Florence, Shore Acres State Park is 80 minutes south. (If you stayed in Coos Bay instead, you’re just 20 minutes from this state park.)
This park has beautiful botanical gardens that are particularly vibrant in spring and summer. There’s a pretty Japanese-style garden and rose gardens where you can walk to admire the flowers in bloom. To be honest, this was an unexpected and lovely sight along the Oregon coast and in total contrast to the beach-y, coastal scenery along the drive.
Not far from the gardens, though, trails lead away from the serenity and down to Simpson Beach and along the seaside cliffs.
I highly recommend walking along the cliffs! The waves crash along the rocky coastline in dramatic fashion! These were some of the biggest waves I’d seen along the road trip and their power was thrilling.
Face Rock State Scenic Area
As you make your way south for about 40 minutes, you’ll pass through the town of Bandon before reaching Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint.
As you go through Bandon, stop in town to pick up snacks and sandwiches for a picnic at one of the next few stops.
If you time it right (I didn’t), you might want to make a quick stop at the volunteer-run Washed Ashore Gallery. They feature sculptures that have been made using trash that’s washed up from the ocean in an effort to bring awareness to the pollution in the oceans.
Face Rock is famous for its sea stacks, which you can see from up above the beach. But you can also use the staircase to see them and enjoy the spectacular scenery at beach level.
Timing is everything here, too. If it’s low tide, be sure to check out the tidepools around the beach and at the base of the sea stacks for creature sightings. Also, this is where you might come upon a Circles in the Sand Labyrinth. The artists create a labyrinth piece of art in the sand on specific days and times depending on the tides.
Unfortunately, I missed this!
Otter Point State Recreation Site
There is a beautiful overlook where you can view the curve of the coastline and the beach below. Trails lead onto the beach if you’d like to get a closer look. This pretty spot is a bit of a hidden gem. If you drive the Oregon coast in summer, the beaches here are a great way to escape the crowds.
The town of Gold Beach is less than 10 minutes from Otter Point. You’ll cross the Rogue River Bridge as you enter town. If you didn’t pick up any food for a picnic, you could do that at the market here or stop at one of the restaurants here for a quick bite.
Kissing Rock is south of the Gold Beach Visitor Center. The rock formation sits on miles of wide beach that you might just have (almost) to yourself. There are short trails that lead you to this secluded section of beach in just a few minutes’ time.
ProTip: If you’re short on time, Otter Point and Gold Beach can be at most quick stops. You want to make sure you have enough time to visit the next stop, perhaps the most beautiful spot on the entire Oregon Coast!
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
If ever a road trip had a dramatic and memorable finish, this would have to be it!
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is an absolute must-visit on your Oregon coast road trip! Even if you have limited time and need to pick and choose your stops, this spectacular natural area should make the cut.
Situated between Gold Beach and Brookings, there are numerous scenic overlooks, pull-offs, and trails. I stopped nearly every mile with my camera in tow!
And if you wanted to make the other stops today as quick as can be so you’re able to spend as much time here as possible, no one could argue with that! There’s plenty to see, do, and savor.
Unless you’re planning to focus on a longer hike, you should stop at as many of the turnoffs as you can. Each one has its own views and trails to explore and ooh and ahh over! They also connect to an 18-mile swath of the Oregon Coast Trail.
Natural Bridge Viewpoint is the park’s most famous spot. The short trail from the parking lot brings you to the viewpoint. It’s possible to continue down the steep trail to get a closer look at the natural bridges but not necessary and can be dangerous especially if the ground is muddy.
From the Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint parking area, there’s a 1-mile grassy trail that circles around and back from the scenic overlook. Aside from the picturesque rocky coastline that spans from north to south, have your binoculars ready to look for whales! If you’re looking for a fantastic short hike, this is it!
ProTip: For a longer 4-mile hike, head north from the Cape Ferrelo area until you reach House Rock Viewpoint. Along the way, you may even discover some small beaches hidden by the old spruce trees around the path.
Hike the 3/4 mile trail to Secret Beach. Use the Thunder Rock Cove parking area to find the trailhead. You can see the cove from the viewpoint up above but trekking down leads you to a pretty tucked-away beach, best explored at low tide.
Follow the path at Arch Rock for views of a cluster of gorgeous sea stacks.
Where to stay in Crescent City, CA (or Brookings, OR)
Finish the day just over the Oregon border in Crescent City, California. You could also choose to finish your drive just before the border in Brookings, OR.
I stayed in Crescent City. There are 2 reasons for this.
First, and honestly, I didn’t like the hotel options available in Brookings for my dates. And while searching, many times I was directed to hotels 8, 10, and 20+ miles from Brookings and towards Crescent City. Here’s where I found more hotel options so that’s where I stayed.
I explain the 2nd reason in fuller detail below but Crescent City was also an ideal location for getting to the airport to return home.
The Best Western Plus Northwoods Inn is near the marina and the Crescent City waterfront. Room rates include a full free breakfast. Plus, you can earn Best Western points to redeem for a future stay or redeem previously earned points to book this as an award night.
However, I had also been looking at the Beachfront Inn in Brookings but there was no availability. This beachfront hotel is perfect if you want one last walk on the beach before returning home. It’s also ideally located to walk to nearby restaurants.
Additional Oregon Coast Itineraries
From my itinerary above, you can see that I drove the entire length of the coast. I also focused on shorter hikes and scenic overlooks, with only a few exceptions. Here are a few suggestions if you want to tweak the above itinerary.
To include more hikes and other activities, you could focus your trip solely on the Oregon coastal highway and skip Seattle. This means flying into Portland, instead.
As a result of doing this, you could potentially slow down in 2 places. Instead of going from Cannon Beach to Newport in a day, you could stop somewhere between Rockaway Beach and Pacific City. This will allow more time to hike in and explore the Cape Meares and Cape Kiawanda areas.
Another option for slowing down would be to give the area in between Bandon and Brookings its own day. The Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is definitely worth extra time if you have it.
Lastly, and for a total curveball, you could skip Seattle, keep my itinerary the same, and use a 1-2 days to explore a bit of northern California. The Redwood National and State Park area begins just a few minutes’ drive from Crescent City, CA.
Oregon Coast 3 Day Itinerary
Sometimes time is short and/or you’re combining driving the Oregon Coast with other areas of the Pacific Northwest. If this is the case for you, I still recommend driving the entire coast! It’s too pretty to only see a small section of it.
You’ll just make fewer stops and focus on the many scenic points. Go from Astoria to Newport, Newport to Bandon, and then Bandon to Brookings. You can use the above itinerary to pick which Oregon Coast things to do most sound right for you. I would recommend definitely stopping at:
- Cannon Beach
- Ecola State Park
- Cape Meares
- Cape Kiawanda
- Cape Perpetua Lookout
- Devil’s Punchbowl
- Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
More than 1 Week
If you have 10 days to drive the Oregon Coast, you could shorten your drives each day, as well as add multiple hikes and activities to suit your interests. Undoubtedly, you’ll soak up more of the local vibe and move at a more relaxed pace.
You could also spend 1 week driving the Oregon Coast, slowing down as I suggested above to allow more time in the central and southern areas of the coast. Then, I’d suggest using a couple of days to go just over the border into California to Redwoods National Park.
Admittedly, I’m a National Park lover and I can’t resist visiting if I’m so close. But seeing the mighty Redwoods is an unforgettable experience that would absolutely be the icing on the cake after the spectacular Oregon Coast.
Similarly, you could start in Seattle as I did, but use the extra days to explore any of the 3 National Parks not far from Seattle. They are Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks.
Oregon Coast Road Trip Airports
As mentioned earlier in this guide, the Seattle Airport makes the best starting point for this itinerary. Portland can be used as an alternative but only if you intend to skip Seattle altogether, as the airport is nearly 3 hours south of the city.
Rogue Valley International-Medford airport
At the end of your Oregon road trip, you could continue heading south down the west coast into Northern California.
But if time is short, you can circle back from Crescent City to Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in southern Oregon. It’s a 2-hour drive from Crescent City.
In case you’re wondering why head into California at all if your road trip is ending here, it’s because the road has to cut through Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to get to the airport in Medford.
Even if you choose to stop in Brookings, Oregon instead of Crescent City, CA, you’ll need to head south into northern California before heading northeast towards Medford Airport.
The airport in Medford has connections to major hubs in the area like Portland, Seattle, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Phoenix on the 3 domestic legacy carriers, American, United, and Delta. So, wherever home is for you, it’s possible to connect through one of these cities to reach your home airport.
As an alternative, you could also return to Eugene Airport in central Oregon. However, it means backtracking 4+ hours to Florence, before heading a bit inland to reach the airport. However, if you aren’t driving the entire Oregon coast, this airport might make a lot of logistical sense for your itinerary.
United, Delta, Southwest, American, Alaska, and Allegiant Airlines all fly domestic routes from here.
When to Do an Oregon Coast Scenic Drive
Summer is the busiest time to drive the Oregon Coast but that’s because summer brings more pleasant temperatures and dry(ish) days. If you have the flexibility to visit after Labor Day until mid-October, you’ll be rewarded with enjoyable weather and quieter roads.
What to Bring
The weather along the Oregon Coastline can be bright and sunny with blue skies but it can also be overcast, foggy, and wet. We visited at the very end of August and into September and most days had bright sunshine. However, the breeze coming off the water made it feel much cooler.
I often had a zipper hoodie ready to throw on at scenic overlooks and for walking on the beach. What to wear for hiking is different than if you’re simply enjoying the views from scenic overlooks. The Oregon State Parks along this route are well-maintained, however, you always want to be dressed right for a hike.
Oregon Coast packing essentials include:
- water-repellant or waterproof sneakers or hiking shoes
- trekking poles (if planning on a lot of hikes)
- paper map of Oregon
- battery pack
- sun protection (i.e. sunscreen, sunglasses, sun-protective clothes)
I’ve also gotten good use out of these hiking essentials for hikes on the Oregon Coast but also during many other outdoor travels.
Preparing for a road trip also includes making sure your car is ready and everyone in it is comfortable. I’ve done countless road trips in the U.S. and internationally and have made my fair share of road trip mistakes…so you don’t have to!
I’ve also put together a comprehensive road trip packing list based on things I’ve found useful in my travels.
If you’re renting a car, be sure there’s plenty of space for everyone to be comfortable, and perhaps try one of these rental car hacks to save some money. For the Oregon Coast from late spring to early fall, you won’t need anything over and above a typical vehicle.
Oregon Coast Road Tripping Tips
The great thing about road trips is you have total control over where to go, how long to stay, and what to do along the way. But there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your Oregon coast itinerary.
1. Book hotels as far in advance as possible.
This is especially the case if you’re visiting in summer. These seaside towns are small and only have so many places to stay. Once you’ve ironed out a route and know where you’ll be landing at the end of each day, book your hotel.
2. Respect the weather.
You’re likely to encounter a little bit of everything as you travel the Oregon Coast. Sun, wind, rain, fog, mist, and everything in between are all part of the experience.
To still make the most of your trip, drive carefully, be prepared with the right clothes and gear, and above all else, remember that Mother Nature always has the right of way.
3. Add the phrase “marine layer” to your vocabulary.
This is not exactly the same thing as fog. It’s more of an air mass that can trap parcels of different temperature air creating what appears to be an ultra-thick blanket of fog. This happens typically near large bodies of water.
Although a marine layer does typically burn off or at least dissipate as the day goes on, it can last for longer amounts of time. You’ll want to take extra care driving and being on beaches since visibility can drop to 0.
4. Be ready to turn into a viewpoint parking area.
The Oregon Coast Highway-101 is a winding road with hardly any places to make a U-turn. If you see a scenic overlook or a stop that looks unmissable, don’t hesitate. Turn into the area.
Better to investigate once you’re there and decide to continue rather than trying to turn around or missing the stop altogether.
5. Cell phones are great…when they have a signal.
I made this mistake on a Utah road trip. I relied on my Google Maps app for navigation which was fine until I was in a remote corner where there was no signal.
For this reason, I always advise anyone who’s planning a road trip to get a paper map. And although driving the Oregon Coast is just straight down the coast, you don’t want to find yourself stuck without a signal and not knowing how to get to your next stop.
6. Get the right park pass for your needs.
Whenever you’re visiting National Parks or State Parks, you typically have to pay an entry and/or parking fee. This is true for places along the Oregon Coast.
The Oregon States Park Pass costs $30 and includes entry to 26 Oregon State Parks, several of which are included in this itinerary.
The America the Beautiful Pass is typically associated with National Parks. However, it also covers entry to National Forests and National Monuments, some of which are along the coast of Oregon. The pass is good for a year and can be used an unlimited number of times at more than 2,000 National Park Service sites across the U.S.
7. Know the times for high and low tides.
The Pacific Ocean and its waves are to be respected. There are many beaches and places along the Oregon coast that can’t be accessed at high tide or, even worse, can cut off the way back along a beach trail.
Look at the tide timetable and pay attention to any posted signs and their warnings.
Unforgettable Oregon Coast Road Trip
Whether you have a few days or more than a week, visit the Oregon Coast’s beaches, hike its trails, and marvel over the incredible sea stacks.
This coastal slice of the Pacific Northwest will take your breath away. It’s an absolute must-do American road trip!
What are your questions about road-tripping along the Oregon Coast?
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