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Ultimate Highway 101 Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Looking for the best things to do on the coast of Oregon including the cities of Astoria, Cannon Beach, Florence, Newport, and more? Use our Oregon Coast Road Trip itinerary to plan an epic drive along the coast and its many natural attractions. Find recommendations on the best hiking trails and viewpoints, where to stay, what to eat, and more in this detailed guide. You may also like our post on 33 Best Places to Visit in America.

This post first appeared on PCH1 Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway & Travel Guide and has been republished here with permission.

Welcome to our Oregon Pacific Coast Highway 101 road trip planner!

Oregon has one of the most stunning stretches of the Pacific Coast, USA. Here you will find stunning natural attractions including sea stacks and sea arches, a rocky coastline often covered in fog, sand dunes that rise high into the air, pretty coastal towns, and historic lighthouses.

The coast is divided into three parts: northern Oregon coast, central Oregon, and southern Oregon. The drive the total length of the coastline from Astoria to Brookings along the Highway 101 takes 8 hours without stopping. Add in the many attractions and scenic spots, and we recommend devoting 5 to 7 days for this road trip.   

Also Read: Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary

Fun fact: it’s time to hit the Oregon coast! Did you know that Oregon has nearly 362 miles of coastline? 

Or you can also split this road trip into small trips and see a section of the coast over a long weekend. It is really hard to pick the best area of the Oregon Coast, rest assured, whichever part you visit you are certain to fall in love with the amazing scenery here. 

If you plan to visit other Oregon attractions including Crater Lake, Columbia River Gorge area, Mount Hood, and the Cascades, then read our Best of Oregon Road Trip Planner which takes you through central and southern Oregon.

To explore all the attractions in the Beaver State, read Best Places to Visit in Oregon. 

Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101
Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101

Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Oregon Coast means endless adventure. Whether you want to go sea kayaking or horseback riding on the beach or ATV riding up and down the sand dunes, Oregon Coast has it all. From fishing to crabbing and clamming and from hiking to birding and biking, there are plenty of fun things to do along the Oregon Coast. 

Here are our favorite spots along the coast of Oregon that you must visit on the ultimate Highway 101 road trip. 

Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view
Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view

Northern Oregon Coast Attractions

The North Coast of Oregon is considered to extend from Astoria to Neskowin. Here you will find lots of history and architecture. It is also the most popular part of the coast, easily accessible from Portland and its suburbs. 

Portland

While Portland is not located on the coast, it is a great starting point for your Coastal Oregon road trip since it is easy to fly to Portland and rent a car. 

Portland is also an amazing city to visit. It is famous for its hipster vibe and millennial population. The city has everything from museums, parks and gardens, eclectic shopping, vibrant neighborhoods, and a legendary culinary scene. If you do happen to fly into Portland, we recommend spending at least a day or two here to experience its unique culture. 

Related: Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon

Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon
Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon

Astoria

Astoria was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. It is also the oldest city in the state of Oregon and has plenty of historical attractions. Astoria is also popular among the movie buffs. The town was the main setting for the 1985’s cult classic, The Goonies. 

Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, this port city provides ample opportunities for fishing, sailing, kayaking, and more. Make sure to climb up the Astoria Column for a panoramic view encompassing the city, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, and several Cascade Mountain peaks. Drive through the 4-mile Megler Bridge, North America’s longest truss bridge. 

A great way to explore the town is to hop on Astoria’s Riverfront Trolley tour. This 3-mile heritage streetcar line runs all along the waterfront full of restaurants, docks, and piers. The trolley operates every day between March and September and costs $1 for a round-trip, or $2 for all-day on/off. 

After a day of exploration and water activities, enjoy fresh seafood at the cannery boatyard on the Astoria riverfront, Bridgewater Bistro. 

Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon
Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

Live an adventure in history as you navigate through the pine forests and coastal vistas at Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. The historic park was established to commemorate the completion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

On the expedition, the explorers were tasked with exploring and surveying the land that the United States had recently acquired through Louisiana Purchase. The park encompasses a total of 12 sites along 40 miles of the Pacific coast.

At the park, visitors can follow in the footsteps of the voyagers. Commence your journey at Fort Clatsop, a replica of the fort where the Corps of Discovery found shelter in the winter of 1805-1806. Continue by hiking the 6.5-mile one-way Fort to Sea Trail, and visit the Salt Works, the site where the Lewis and Clark expedition set up a camp to obtain salt for use at Fort Clatsop. 

During the peak season, summer, you may be lucky enough to witness some costumed demonstrations such as muzzleloading and shooting, hide tanning and candle making. Good news for those traveling with children – the park organizes various activities to keep the little ones engaged.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park is a 4,300-acre park along the Oregon Coast. Originally a historic military defense installation on the shores of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens, is the main highlight of the park. 

Fort Stevens was in use for 84 years, from the Civil War Era to World War II. While Fort Stevens is what makes this park unique, it is not the only attraction to see.

Visit the Peter Iredale shipwreck, the little that remains of a 275-foot-long sailing vessel that ran ashore in 1906. The shipwreck can be accessed via hiking the 0.4 miles moderately trafficked Peter Iredale Trail. Or swim in Coffenbury Lake, which can be accessed through 2.5 miles Coffenbury Lake Loop Hike. 

The other smaller lakes in the park are popular for canoeing and fishing. In total, the park has 6 paved trails suitable for biking and 6 unpaved trails for hiking. There are camping and picnic areas available throughout the park.

Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria, Oregon
Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria, Oregon

Seaside

Located on the Oregon Coast, Seaside is about one and a half-hour drive away from Portland. The resort town is highly popular among families and has multiple shops, art galleries, surf shops, and fine dining establishments for a relaxing urban beach getaway. 

Spend a day on the sandy beach or relive childhood memories by playing vintage arcade games at Funland Seaside Arcade. The entertainment center has been part of Seaside’s history since 1929 and is a favorite with locals.

Seaside’s 1.5-mile oceanfront promenade, popularly called the Prom, is a must-visit for those visiting the town for the first time. This historic promenade was built in the 1920s and is a great way to enjoy the coast. Take a romantic walk along the promenade at night. 

In the summer season, it’s common to find weekly farmer’s market, art gallery walks, seasonal holiday celebrations and fireworks on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, vintage car shows, and sandcastle competitions happening in Seaside.

Tillamook Head Trail & Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

At the south end of Seaside, at the end of Sunset Boulevard, visitors will find the Tillamook Head Trailhead. The hike is about 6-miles long through beautiful muddy forests with some ocean views along the way. 

Wear comfortable boots and take your time exploring and admiring the coast on the trail. You can even see the WWII era bunkers in the area while hiking. Stop for lunch in one of the picnic areas to admire the scenery and recharge by spending time in nature. 

On approaching the Hikers Camp at the end of this trail, visitors are greeted with an epic view of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The light was called ‘Terrible Tilly’ by locals due to extreme weather conditions near the light and the dangerous path traversed by the lighthouse keepers to reach it. 

The light sits on top of a sea stack of basalt called the Tillamook Rock. It rises nearly 100 feet from the sea. The lighthouse was operational from 1881 to 1957 and was deactivated due to damage and erosion during severe storms.

Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach
Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is one of the most romantic destinations in the country. This popular tourist resort is located on the Pacific Northwest Coast of Oregon. Cannon Beach is 80 miles west of Portland and 25 miles south of Astoria. 

It is home to 4 miles of pristine beach and the famous Haystack Rock, as well as beautiful parks, including the Ecola State Park. Everything in Cannon Beach is pretty close, given the small size of the town. Therefore, the downtown and surrounding area are perfect to explore on foot. 

Also Read: Amazing Hiking Trails near Cannon Beach, Oregon

Enjoy a quality cup of coffee accompanied by a pastry at Sleepy Monk Roasters. Visit the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum for an educational afternoon and see the cannon that gave this sleepy coastal town its name. 

Spend a romantic evening on the beach as you watch a glorious Pacific Northwest sunset. On weekends, there are live glass blowing demonstrations taking place at the Icefire Glassworks using the well-known technique invented during the 1st century BC.

Cannon beach, Oregon
Cannon beach, Oregon

Hug Point State Recreation Site

Your next stop on the Oregon Coast Road Trip is located just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach. Here travelers can find another wonderful beach hugging the cape and the coast. Visitors often think that this beautiful setting earns the area its name, Hug Point. 

However, there is a far more interesting story behind the name. Before the Pacific Coast Highway – Oregon Highway 101 was built – the stagecoach was the only way to travel via the coast. The pioneers had to travel on the beach in their stagecoaches and hug the point sticking out on the coast to get around it safely. Hence, the name. 

There are many hikes in the recreation area and visitors can even see the historic stagecoach ruts in the park. At low tide, you can get behind the point to a small waterfall as well as explore sea caves. Another popular low tide activity is tide-pooling. To find the times of high and low tides, check here.

Oswald West State Park

Over overshadowed by the more popular Ecola State Park and the scenic Three Capes area, Oswald West State Park is a spectacular 2,484-acre park along the Oregon Coast. The park comprises 4 miles of coastline as well as a temperate rainforest. 

Its highlight is the secluded Short Sand Beach, popularly called Shorty. The trail is just half a mile long and takes visitors through a rainforest, under Highway 101, along stunning coastal views to the beach. 

The state park also has several other trails including the Oregon Coast Trail which stretches through the entire park. This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. Families prefer to spend a day at Shorty. This cove is picture-perfect for surfing, picnics, relaxation, and tide-pooling for the little sea creatures.

For those with more energy and time, points of interest include Cape Falcon and the Devil’s Cauldron. Beware that the short trail to Devil’s Cauldron gets rocky, uneven, very steep, and often muddy, though the views are totally worth it.

Oswald West State Park view at sunset
Oswald West State Park view at sunset

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

While this is a primarily road trip itinerary along the Oregon Coast, we aren’t ones to shy away from a scenic railroad ride when one beckons!

Visitors can embark on the heritage steam railroad and relive Oregon’s history while on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The primary mission of the railroad excursions along the coast is to revive the legacy of steam railroads and teach visitors about their importance in the development of Tillamook County. 

During summer, there are regular trips between Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi. This relaxing trip winds through Tillamook Bay and the Oregon Coast. The track winds up through thick forests along the Nehalem River and offers amazing views of the Pacific Coast. The beautiful views from the train are enjoyed by adults and children alike.

The prices are $22 for adults and $15 for children (3-12 years old) for a round trip. Feel free to explore Garibaldi once you get off the train – just ensure you don’t miss the last train back to Rockaway Beach. The railroad also offers occasional special event trains throughout the year.

The attraction is most enjoyable when it is warm and sunny outside, although there is a choice of an enclosed car to ride in too. In summer the tickets sell out fast, so we recommend booking online well in advance of your trip.

Garibaldi, Oregon, United States
For editorial purposes only – Garibaldi, Oregon, United States

Rockaway Beach

The city of Rockaway Beach is a great place to check out on the Oregon Coast. The namesake Rockaway Beach is the most famous area attraction. This long sandy beach between the Coast Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean is as close as travelers can get to Twin Rocks without stepping off the land. Bring a camera to capture these unique and massive geological wonders. 

The Twin Rocks are one of the most well-known Oregon Coast rock outcroppings after Haystack Rock. The rocks are over 100 feet high and look spectacular at sunset. While it is hard to imagine now, the two rocks were formed 20 to 30 million years ago as one huge ridge structure. 

Over time, erosion separated the two rocks and also created the 35 feet arch in the leftmost rock. The rocks are incredibly romantic at sunset certainly and you can often see couples walking hand in hand and lovers professing their love as they gaze at the horizon.

There are many options for accommodations, restaurants, and shopping along the 7-mile shoreline of Rockaway Beach. Rockaway Beach City also hosts many events and festivals, including the annual July 4th celebration, the Pirate Festival early in the summer, and Kite and Art Festival in August. 

Garibaldi

Another cozy town sitting at the northern end of Tillamook Bay, Garibaldi, is home to 760-feet-long Pier’s End. This is the longest pier in Oregon and a beautiful dock to enjoy the Oregon Coast. 

Garibaldi treats its visitors with a relaxed beachy vibe and beautiful views. And don’t forget the fresh seafood! You can either dine out at a restaurant – try the famous ‘Fish Peddler @ Pacific Oyster’ in nearby Bay City or SOURCE Oyster and Wine Bar in garibaldi. Or visit the local seafood market, the Garibaldi Cannery, located in the port to buy fresh seafood to cook for yourself.

While many visitors are drawn to this town for fishing, crabbing, and clamming, Garibaldi is also home to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad depot and the Garibaldi Maritime Museum, where you can learn the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest. 

There is a little motel and RV park right on the port of Garibaldi, Harborview Inn & RV Park. An overnight stay here is a good opportunity to unwind and relax before continuing the journey.

Port of Garibaldi on the Pacific Ocean in Northwest Oregon
For editorial purposes only – Port of Garibaldi on the Pacific Ocean in Northwest Oregon

Tillamook Creamery

It would be a crime to not pass by the Tillamook Creamery once you’re in the Tillamook area. The Tillamook Creamery is an essential Coastal Oregon road trip stop for foodies! This coop dairy is one of the largest in the country and the famous Tillamook Cheese is a household name. Apart from cheese, the dairy also produces yogurt, butter, and ice-creams. 

This dairy lovers’ paradise offers an opportunity for self-guided interactive tours with educational videos and multiple kiosks. Best part? The tours are free! There are viewing windows from where visitors can directly observe the art of cheese making.

On a visit to the creamery, you can sample the world-famous cheese. There is also a café selling creamy Tillamook ice cream and other snacks such as grilled cheese sandwich, mac n cheese, artisan pizzas, salads, as well as Northwest brews and wine. 

Have long been waiting to spoil yourself with a wine and cheese session? This is a perfect chance!

Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon
For editorial purposes only – Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon

Three Capes Scenic Loop

Oregon’s Three Capes Scenic Loop is one of the reasons you go on this road trip, one of the reasons you take a detour from the famous Highway 101. Located on the Tillamook Coast of Central Oregon, the scenic drive is all about slow travel, about savoring the views.

From downtown Tillamook, visitors can follow an epic 40-mile route northwest along the shoreline. You can enjoy many highlights and hidden attractions along the way as you drive around the 3 capes: Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda.

Cape Meares Lighthouse and State Scenic Viewpoint

Your first stop, the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, rests over 200 feet above the ocean. From here, visitors can enjoy great views of the largest colony of nesting common murres. Bring along a pair of binoculars to see them up close. You might also spot other seabirds and even bald eagles. 

The Cape Meares area also has several hiking trails. The trails will take you along vertical sea cliffs, perched high above the ocean, and through forests of giant Sitka spruce and hemlock trees.

Drive over to the 38 feet tall Cape Meares Lighthouse. Built-in 1889 on the steep cliff, the short light is charming and open to visitors for a free tour from April to October. Next to the parking lot, you will find the famous Octopus tree with its tentacle-like branches. The tree is over 200 years old, 50 feet wide, and a historic landmark. Cape Meares is also home to the National Wildlife Refuge, definitely worth visiting if time permits.

Cape Meares Lighthouse at daytime over the Pacific Ocean, Oregon state, USA
Cape Meares Lighthouse at daytime over the Pacific Ocean, Oregon state, USA

Cape Lookout State Park

Cape Lookout State Park, a nearly two-mile oceanfront promontory that juts out into the Pacific, is your next stop. At the park, you will find spectacular geological formations, Oregon Coast native flora and fauna, and impressive views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Spend a day at the beach or hike to a waterfall. Fish along the Wilson River or walk on the sandspit in Netarts Bay. Camp in the state park or rent one of the yurts. Go beachcombing for glass floats or hike through old-growth forests. The opportunities at Cape Lookout State Park are too many to count. 

Also Read: Best Beaches to Camp in the USA

Hike the easy 2.5-mile Cape Lookout Trail. This trail is popular with visitors – it winds through the Sitka spruce forest and takes you to the Cape Lookout headland. From here you can spot whales, see sunsets, and enjoy views of Neahkahnie Mountain. You can also spot Cape Kiwanda in the distance.

Twilight on the Ocean Coast at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon
Twilight on the Ocean Coast at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area 

The southernmost of the three capes and also the smallest, Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area doesn’t have many hiking trails. Most visitors hike the 2.2 miles Cape Kiwanda Loop for a walk along the coast. However, it does have a huge sand dune, which makes it no less unique than the other two capes. 

With a little bit of effort, visitors can climb up the 250 feet high Cape Kiwanda dune to observe miles of the ocean and even Cape Lookout in the north. Make sure to stay within fenced areas as it can be really dangerous.

Cape Kiwanda is also famous for its huge crashing waves that pound the sandstone escarpment. From the cape, you can spot Oregon’s second Haystack Rock, located close to Pacific City. It is said that the rock has protected the cape from erosion by the waves and helped retain its shape. 

We also recommend spending time at the beach in Cape Kiwanda. You can watch the unique dory boats being launched into the ocean. 

Pacific City

Pacific City is a sleepy beachfront town that is perfect for outdoor adventures. The shore near Pacific City in Tillamook County is lined by capes, sandy spits, and rivers flowing into protected bays. The Oregon Coast here has a wild feel. Even the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway 101 curves inland here.From the beach, you have great views of Oregon’s second haystack rock.

Visitors can enjoy exploring tide pools, hiking along the coast, whaling, and birding at the Bob Straub State Park. For a unique experience, go horse riding on the beach or ATV riding at Sand Lake Recreation Area. The Nestucca Bay Refuge, located just off Highway 101, is another popular destination to spot wildlife. 

Even if you don’t like spending much time outdoors, Pacific City makes a great road trip stop. This is the perfect family beach vacation destination. You can go shopping, dining, check out the local Pelican Brewery, and other bars and grills.

Winding Coast Road in Oregon
Winding Coast Road in Oregon

Central Oregon Coast Attractions

The area of Oregon Coast from Lincoln City to Florence is considered as the Central Coast. Here the coastline turns quite rocky and wild compared to the north coast. This area is known for its stunning natural rock formations and natural phenomenon such as Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn. Because of its rocky shape, this area also has some of the most historic and powerful lighthouses along the coast. 

God’s Thumb

Located near Lincoln City, God’s Thumb is a unique shoreline formation. The coast here is shaped like a giant thumbs up sign. This is still one of Oregon’s coastal secrets and not known by many people. Hiking to the basalt peak for sweeping views of Lincoln City, Cascade Head, and the Pacific Ocean is popular with the locals.

There are two routes up God’s Thumb: both start at Road’s End State Recreation Area and are unmarked. On both you will encounter dramatic views, rocky cliffs, beaches, and wildflowers. The more popular and scenic option is the 4.4-mile Knoll loop. It takes visitors over forested lands and grassy meadows before suddenly following the ridgeline to the peak. 

The shorter alternative is the 3.4 miles out-and-back trail. This trail is less challenging, has gradual inclines and is good for families with kids. The best time to hike to God’s Thumb is from March through September.

Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area

Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area has an intriguing geology. The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a large hollow rock formation that was probably created from the collapse of roofs of two sea caves due to wave action. Here you can watch waves from the Pacific Ocean waves swirl and froth as it bellows inside the punchbowl.

There are many things to do in the natural area. Visitors come to spot the wave action, birdwatch, whale watch, tidepool, and even surf. Many picnic tables are located here with a beautiful view of the shore.

To reach the punchbowl, hike the 1.8-mile trail from the parking lot. It is not safe to go inside the punchbowl except at low tide and generally, we recommend viewing the wave action from a safe distance. 

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

A must stop for bird watching and tide pooling, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast. The rocky basalt beaches like Cobble Beach are perfect to spot sea stars, crabs, sea urchins, sea anemones, and other colorful intertidal life at low tide.

A highlight of the natural area is the 92-feet tall Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest in Oregon. The charming lighthouse was built in 1873 and is still operational. Visitors can climb up the 114 steps to the top on a self-guided tour. 

At the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center, you can learn about the cultural history and marine life along this part of Oregon. There are several informative displays at the center. Other attractions include hiking, spotting nesting colonies of seabirds, and watching the gray whales migrating to Alaska.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Newport

Your next stop south on your Oregon coast road trip should be Newport. This charming coastal city has everything from museums, the Yaquina lighthouses, aquariums, eclectic shopping, and eateries serving delicious seafood. Newport is home to numerous attractions and outdoor activities.

Begin your visit at the Newport Historic Bayfront. While it is smelly and loud, it does have stunning views of the Yaquina Bay. Another must is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Here kids can see sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, and other marine life of the Pacific Northwest.

See the weird museums in town including Ripley’s Believe It or Not or the Wax Works museum. Seafood lovers must visit Chowder Bowl located at Nye Beach. This eatery is famous for its award-winning chowder and local cuisine.

The Hatfield Marine Science Centre is a favorite of ocean enthusiasts. To enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and kayaking, visit South Beach State Park. The Newport Farmer’s Market that takes place on Saturdays is a great place to shop local produce and artisan goods.

Newport, Oregon, USA
Newport, Oregon, USA

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Located within Siuslaw National Forest, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area protects a large part of Oregon Coast. Here you will find abundant marine life, a rainforest, miles of hiking trails, pretty beaches, sea caves, rock formations, and tide pools.

Stop at the Visitor Centre deck to enjoy postcard perfect views of the surrounding rainforest, rocky coastline, and turbulent waves of the Pacific Ocean. Drive up to the Cape Perpetua Lookout and enjoy the vistas. 

Cape Perpetua is also home to the famous Thor’s Well. This is a sinkhole on the coast which appears to engulf waves. It looks most spectacular at high tide when the waves disappear down the formation. Another interesting geological formation is the Spouting Horn at Cook’s Chasm. This looks eerily like a whale spouting water at high tide. 

To make the most of your trip to Cape Perpetua, visit at low tide since most formations and trails are dangerous and often inaccessible at high tide. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint

A half mile trail to the top of Heceta Head leads visitors to the iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most beautiful lighthouse in Oregon. It also bears the distinction of being the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon.

Visitors can tour the lighthouse including the ground floor with a park ranger. While visitors are not allowed on upper levels, a hiking trail near the lighthouse leads you to a good viewpoint of the lens. For a romantic option, experience the life of a lightkeeper by booking a night stay at the Light Keeper’s House. This has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the beach.

Wildlife watching is one of the highlights of Heceta Head. Here you can not only spot migrating whales and sea lions but also land birds, nesting seabirds, and the magnificent Roosevelt Elk. You can also take the mile long trail to Hobbit Beach, a nice sheltered beach with pretty views. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse

Florence

Located just off Pacific Coast Highway 101, Florence is a must visit on a Coastal Oregon road trip. The city is located at the mouth of Siuslaw River and has a plethora of natural attractions including lakes, coastal bluffs, beaches, and sand dunes.

The Oregon Coast Military Museum is located in Florence. Here visitors can learn about American contributions to WWI, WWII, and also know more about the Vietnam War, Korea War, and the work of the Coast Guards. You can see actual war items donated by Oregon veterans including guns, swords, documents, photographs, and more. 

Take a photo of the historical Siuslaw River Bridge located right on Oregon Highway 101. The bridge has beautiful Art Deco style architecture and Gothic arches. It is one of the iconic bridges on the Oregon Coast. 

After checking out the bridge, venture into Historic Old Town Florence. Visit the art galleries and unique shops. Don’t forget to watch the sea lions lounging around at the Sea Lion Cave, the largest sea cave in America.

Oregon wooden sign
Oregon wooden sign

Southern Oregon Coast Attractions

The southern coast of Oregon extends all the way from the Oregon dunes to Brookings in the south. Here the water looks turquoise more frequently than in other parts and teh landscapes are just striking and dramatic. All the way south near the California border, you will also find the largest stands of coastal redwoods in Oregon. 

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, located in the Siuslaw Forest, is one of the best places to visit in Oregon. The sand dunes are sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and a temperate forest. They look magical and enchanting as they easily tower about 500 feet above sea level. 

The sand dunes were formed by the blowing winds and continue to be sculpted every year. The dunes stretch for a very long part of the coast and the most popular areas for road trippers include the South Jetty Area or Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.  

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a paradise for outdoor lovers. Popular activities here ATV riding, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, sand boarding, and camping. There are enough activities to keep visitors of all ages happy.

Popular hiking trails include the Lagoon Loop Trail and the Oregon Dunes Overlook Trail. Along with ATVs, you can also rent dirt bikes, sand buggies, or go horse riding to explore the majestic sand dunes. 

Oregon Sand Dunes
Oregon Sand Dunes

Coos Bay

As you head south from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Your next stop should be Coos Bay. Coos Bay is one of our favorite destinations on the Oregon Coast road trip primarily because of the beautiful sunsets and scenic beauty that it offers. 

This outdoor paradise is close to the southern entrance to the dunes but is also adorned by beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, and a stunning wilderness. From the coast of Coos Bay, you can see views of the Capo Arago Lighthouse. Coos Bay is also the perfect place to explore 3 state parks along the Cape Arago Highway.

Coos Bay is also the largest city on the Oregon Coast and offers plenty of city attractions. Enjoy the interpretative displays, fish market, the Koos #2 tugboat, and many seafood restaurants along the Coos Bay Boardwalk. The views of the bay are beautiful from here.

Art lovers can visit the Coos Art Museum and admire its collection of Northwestern and contemporary art. The gallery exhibit dedicated to the runner Steve Prefontaine, who is a Coos Bay native, is loved by tourists and locals alike. Other attractions worth seeing include the Egyptian Theatre, Coos Bay Maritime Center, etc.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

The Cape Arago Lighthouse, located in Charleston, stands at Gregory Point on the detached Chief’s Island near the coast off Coos Bay. The lighthouse, while decommissioned and closed to the public, is popular with photographers. 

The lonely lighthouse perched on the rocky island looks romantic and mysterious. It was built in 1866 to aid ships carrying lumber to Coos Bay. The best views of the lighthouse can be seen along the Cape Arago Beach Loop. Try the pretty views from the Sunset Bay State Park or hike to Lighthouse Beach. 

Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast
Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Cape Arago Beach Highway

The detour to Cape Arago Beach Loop is a must on a Pacific Coast Highway 101 road trip in Oregon. Along the highway you can spot sea lions and seals, seabirds, and migrating whales. You will also find exceptional views along the coastline.

Cape Arago Highway runs parallel to Pacific Coast Highway 101 and provides access to 3 state parks in Oregon. From north to south you will find Shore Acres State Park, Sunset Bay State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. 

Shore Acres has a formal rose garden and Japanese lily pond and is great to visit. All three state parks have beach access, amazing scenery, and miles of hiking trails. Visit the Bastendorff Beach to enjoy flying kites, surfing the waves, or beachcombing for shells and even fossils. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit in southern Oregon. You can also go hiking along the 1.2 mile long Cape Arago Loop Trail. 

Bandon Beach Loop Drive

Just off Highway 101, further south, is the Bandon Beach Loop Drive. This 5 mile long scenic drive provides access to one of southern Oregon’s most dramatic stretches. Along the loop, you will find secluded beaches and stunning viewpoints. Visitors can tide pool and bird watch while they enjoy the coastal scenery. 

The drive begins in the city at the Bandon Historical Society Museum. Here you can understand the town’s history. Past the city, the loop turns west towards the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. 

Here you will find the first famous viewpoint, Coquille Point. The view here is magical: foaming waves, sea stack, offshore rock islands, and seabirds nesting colonies look stunning at sunrise or sunset. The views of Elephant Rock are pretty clear. 

The drive south to the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. The interpretive trail here does a great job of explaining the Ntaive American legend behind the face on the rock. The last stop is Bandon State Natural Area. Devil’s Kitchen, next along the loop, provides easy access to a pretty beach area. You will find plenty of interesting rock formations here.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The last stop on your Coastal Oregon road trip! Located between Brookings and Gold Beach parallel to Highway 101, the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a must visit. The byway stretches for 12 miles and provides access to coastal bluffs, secluded beaches, offshore rock formations, and hiking trails.

At the northern end you will find the Arch Rock Viewpoint. Arch Rock is a famous sea arch in southern Oregon. This area also has picnic tables and is perfect to enjoy an outdoors lunch. Then drive down to the Natural Bridges Viewpoint. It is a famous point to spot two arched rocks and blowholes. 

Visit the dunes at Indian Sands or enjoy the quiet China Beach. Last but not the least, hike the stunning trail to Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint. The mile long trail has breathtaking views of the coastline, marine life, and gorgeous evening sky at sunset.

360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
Winding Coast Road in Oregon
Best of Oregon Road Trip Itinerary: An Unforgettable Adventure!
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