Jagged coastal cliffs, sandy beaches, wildlife, dense forest, and spectacular scenery around every turn describe our Oregon coast road trip. We went the full length, from Astoria in the north to the California border in the south. It’s a 560 km (350 miles) journey easily driven in a day, but we recommend going slow and enjoying nature at its best.
Wind and rain made the adventure exciting, often providing dramatic ocean views and encouraging natural wonders to shoot high in the sky. But it was the fresh sea air and ever-changing coastal views that made us fall in love with the Oregon coast.
The only mistake we made was not allocating enough time. Six nights to get from Portland to San Francisco left us with only two full days on the coast. If we do it again, which I hope we do, we will allocate more time. At least an extra day for the coast, possibly a week. It’s that fabulous.
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The segments of our Oregon coast road trip
Although we completed our road trip in two days, it’s easiest to present in segments found in the table of contents:
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Oregon coast road trip segment 1: Astoria to Cannon Beach
Distance: Astoria to Cannon Beach – 41 km (26 miles)
Astoria is delightful, a classic American fishing village with plenty to do. We spent two nights exploring Astoria and started our Oregon coast road trip early on the third morning. By this point, we were already in love with the state.
Heading south, it doesn’t take long before nature shoots out of the sea in an impressive and iconic Oregon landmark. Haystack Rock is the dominant feature of Cannon Beach. This 72-metre (235ft) sea stack was made famous in the cult classic The Gooneys. Locals proudly proclaim Haystack Rock as the world’s third-tallest “intertidal” structure.
Alternative: Take a tour from Portland to Cannon Beach and beyond
If you are staying in Portland and want to get out and enjoy the coast, but don’t want to drive, you can take a tour.
Carefully checking out the reviews, we recommend this 7-hour tour as the perfect solution. Driving the scenic coast, the highlights include Cannon Beach, two state parks, and several key landmarks. The tour is a lovely combination of driving and short hikes, so remember to wear comfortable shoes. Best of all, it’s limited to 12 guests. It’s a small group tour travelling via luxury vehicle.
Check price and reviews
Oregon coast road trip segment 2: Cannon Beach to Three Capes (Tillamook)
Distance: Cannon Beach to Tillamook – 64 km (40 miles)
The scenic Oregon coast drive fascinated us, and it was often the unexpected that we enjoyed the most. During this segment, you will enjoy impressive views, especially those from the Neahkahnie Overlook, which you will come to just before (to the north of) Manzanita. Here you will be at Oregon coast’s highest drivable point.
Also, if you have extra time on your hands, stop at Smuggler’s Cove, a more secluded surfing beach that is located inside Oswald West State Park. Getting here requires about a half mile walk from parkinglot at the highway.
Tillamook Cheese factory
Once in Tillamook, we enjoyed a free, self-guided tour of the Tillamook Cheese factory. It may not be one of nature’s highlights, but it was a fun and tasty addition to our day. We recommend at least an hour here, more if it’s a meal stop too.
Oregon coast road trip segment 3: Three Capes to Newport and Yaquina
Distance: Tillamook to Newport – 110 km (68 miles)
Next, continue your Oregon coast road trip by visiting at least one of these three capes: Meares, Lookout, or Kiwanda.
Named for British explorer John Meares, Cape Meares offers extended coastline views on a nice day. Although less than 20 minutes off of the main road, we skipped it due to the overcast rainy weather.
The sharp rocky promontory that is Cape Lookout was our next Oregon coast itinerary stop. There are several hiking options through lush coastal forest, ranging from short trails to steeper excursions that require hikers to climb through and over tree roots.
We were told the highlight of a visit to Cape Kiwanda is watching the dory fishermen on their way out to sea in the very early morning (4 – 5 am) or when they return in the late afternoon.
Although our timing didn’t work out for the fisherman, we did make time to stop for a snack at Oregon’s only coastal brewery, The Pelican Pub. If you stop here, don’t miss their impressive wall of awards.
Oregon coast road trip segment 4: Newport to Yachats (Cape Perpetua)
Distance: Newport to Yachats – 39 km (24 miles)
We spent the night in Newport, home to Devil’s Punchbowl and the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Just inland from Newport is the town of Yaquina, home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the famous Yaquina Bay Bridge, the 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and a basalt rock beach.
Oregon coast road trip segment 5: Yachats (Cape Perpetua) to Florence
Distance: Yachats to Florence – 41 km (25 miles)
This is my favourite section of our Oregon coast road trip. At 245 metres (800 ft) above sea level, Cape Perpetua Headland is the Oregon coast’s highest viewpoint that can be accessed via car. On a clear day, one can see up to 60 km (37 miles) out to sea. The USDA Forest Services offers a free downloadable trail guide of the area.
Here, we found Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn in Cook’s Chasm, and Thor’s Well. This was the first place that the less than ideal wind and rain worked in our favour as the wild weather brought crashing waves, creating dramatic seaspray explosions.
As waves travel through this narrow inlet at Devils Churn, they can throw spray several hundred feet in the air. In addition, as an incoming wave collides with the retreating previous wave, the seawater appears to churn.
Named by explorer Captain James Cook, the Spouting Horn at Cook’s Chasm is a blowhole driven by the energy of the ocean tides. Spouting Horn and nearby Thor’s Well are best seen in the two-hour window surrounding the high tide.
Oregon coast road trip segment 6: Florence to Coos Bay
Distance: Florence to Cape Arago State Park – 79 km (49 miles)
There are two main highlights in this section of our road trip: Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sea Lion Cave, the largest sea cave in the USA. It is currently inhabited by wild sea lions. We recommend reading the reviews and choosing your visiting time carefully if you want to visit the sea lion cave.
Heceta Head lighthouse
Heceta Head lighthouse was built in 1894 and is still active. Importantly, Heceta Head lighthouse’s beam can be seen for 21 nautical miles, making it the strongest light on the Oregon coast. Open daily, it is now also a Bed and Breakfast. It is less than a kilometre walk from the car park to the lighthouse.
Oregon coast road trip segment 7: Coos Bay to the bottom of Oregon
Distance: Coos Bay to the state line – 182 km (113 miles)
Cape Arago State Park
Once again, there were impressive views, this time with clearing skies. This is the place to see seals and sea lions for free.
Look closely; in front of the large rock, those are sea lions. If you plan to visit, remember to bring your binoculars from the car before you walk to the lookout.
After the park, we continued heading south, stopping in Bandon’s old town for coffee and a snack. How could we resist a town monikered, “one of the coolest small towns in America.” From here, we continued south, crossing into California.
Where to stay on the Oregon coast
We spent our first two nights in Astoria at a charming Bed and Breakfast that we found on Booking.com (but it no longer seems to exist).
Next, we spent the night in Newport. Here, our top pick is the oceanfront Hallmark Resort. With ocean views from every room, a spa, a saltwater pool, a restaurant, a great location, and a “superb” rating, it is the place to relax and unwind after a day of driving.
Yachats is also a good choice for a central coast overnight stop as several of the sights here are dependant on tides. However, many of the Yachats accommodation options are more basic than those in Newport.
Importantly, next time we drive the Oregan coast we will go slower and spend more nights. I would like to stay in Cannon Beach, Newport, Yachats, and Bandon.
If you are into tent camping, check out these great west coast camping spots.
What you need to know when planning your Oregon coast road trip
- The Oregon roads we took were all well-paved and easy to navigate.
- Key sites are well signposted and if you are generally comfortable travelling on your own, you will find this Oregon road trip easy to navigate.
- Pack to dress in layers. The Oregon coastal weather is unpredictable and changeable. Download our free packing light checklist when you join our mailing list.
- Bring rain gear for yourself and your camera.
- Carry binoculars.
- Check tide tables before you go and be aware of the impact of changing tides. Places like Devil’s Punchbowl in Newport are best seen at high tide.
- Mo’s Restaurant is the ideal place to get seafood chowder in a bread bowl. There are several along the coast, but the original (and thought to be best) is in Newport. There are actually two in Newport, the original is across the street from the waterfront.
- If you love Oregon as much as we did, check out this coffee table book by travel blogger and photographer Greg Vaughn.
Where to next?
By driving south, we were on the coastal side of the road, however, this Oregon road trip can be enjoyed in either direction. It is one of many USA adventures we have experienced.
If heading south: cross into California
After passing through Brookings, you will leave Oregon, but you probably won’t be disappointed as you enter California. Consequently, you will rather quickly find yourself surrounded by the giant redwood forest that dominates the northwestern portion of the state. Continue south and there is plenty to see before you get to San Francisco.
When driving north, head inland after the Oregon coast road trip portion
Finally, if you drive the coastal road heading north, there is no reason to end in Astoria. From here, turn inland and enjoy Portland, making sure to allocate time to visit Multnomah Falls, only an hour beyond the city.
Above all, from Portland, there is plenty more to discover in Oregon, as the inland opportunities are reputed to parallel the beauty of the coast. For us, it will be a future adventure.
Travelling south, we actually started our adventure in Vancouver Canada, taking a bus to Seattle, and then Amtrak to Portland where we rented the car and drove to Astoria.
Save on your trip with these resources
We use these aggregator companies to save time and money. They do the work for us by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews for anywhere we are travelling worldwide. Plus, we have personally had positive customer service experiences with all of them:
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Hotels: we use Booking.com as they consistently return the best rates and their reviews are from actual guests. However, for self-contained lodging, use VRBO
- Cars: we use RentalCars to find the best deals and dealer ratings.
- Private guides: we often hire private guides from Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: we start at InsureMyTrip as they are the best option to compare plans and find the right coverage for you.
Before you book the rest of your trip: Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
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If ur making a trip down the Oregon coast u need to stop @ Tidal Raves in Depot Bay for seafood. It’s a local restaurant and has very good food. Do not go to Mo’s, it’s a chain restaurant for tourist and u will be disappointed. ✌️
The Oregon coast is my happy place!
Living in Vancouver Canada, Oregon is a pretty easy road trip destination for me. Yet I haven’t don’t it yet. I spent time in Portland and enjoyed it but would love to drive down the coast
Oregon is my favorite state! We have been to most of the places on your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary and also went inland to Bend and Willamette Valley too. Love your pictures too!
Wow! Who knew Oregon could be so beautiful! I am Canadian, so whenever we think of a west coast road trip it’s always California down to the death valley or something like that, you made me want to go to Oregon so badly! I really want to see those Multnomah Falls!
My mom has a home in Yachats that we visit each time we’re back – I love that section of the Oregon Coast. When we lived in Portland we would cruise down I5 and cut over to the coast at Corvallis to Newport and always stop to pick up Mo’s Chowder in the old town. There is a fabulous restaurant called Local Ocean seafoods on the harbour and you can even buy fresh Dungeness crab from the fisherman right there on the docks. Or go crabbing yourself! Great list! Cheers from this Oregon Girl living around the world!
What a fabulous series of captures. Thank you for sharing that part of the world – beautiful.
Your gorgeous photos reminded me that it’s time for another road trip down the Oregon coast! Thanks for all the travel tips, too.
I’ve only traveled the Oregon Coast once (when the kids were young). Many fond memories, including many of the stops you highlight here!
I want to see that iconic Haystack rock and that beautiful lighthouse! I would love to visit Oregon.
I’ve always wanted to take a huge road trip to the Oregon coast! Cannon Beach has been on my bucketlist for the longest time! Thanks for the details you shared in this post! Super helpful!
That is beautiful. I’ve always wanted to go along the west coast. I’m not a big beach goer down here since it is so hot but these beaches do not.
Beautiful images! This is a trip I would love to take!
Such beautiful photos – what a lovely trip you had!
I’m hoping to be headed there in a couple of weeks. I don’t believe I have ever had the weather “cooperate” while there but I always have a great time regardless. A few years ago my dog and I were in Lincoln City and the wind and rain pelted us but that did not keep my dog from chasing the waves along the shoreline 🙂
Lisa @ LTTL
I cannot wait to visit the west coast. Oregon is high on my list to visit. Your pictures are so pretty. It looks like you had a fantastic time.
Lisa @ Life Thru the Lens
so many memories on these beaches! My favorite!
Your Oregon Coast photos brought back so much sweet memories of my student days in Oregon State University where I met my husband. We enjoyed Oregon coast a lot and visited almost every weekend. Thanks for sharing.
I never been in Oregon Coast before, I guess it was located somewhere in the US. I think this was featured on Discovery channels if I’m not mistaken. wow, sometimes I asked myself “How God did these wonderful places?” Thanks for sharing. I hope will still preserve until the next and next generations.
LOL – Living outside the USA it is not like me to leave out this detail. Oregon is a state in the USA along the Pacific coast. It is north of California and south of Washington.
Looks like you had a great trip and I was more than happy to provide a few suggestions while you were planning.
Thanks for mentioning my book!
I love love LOVE driving down the Oregon coast – you took amazing shots of all my favorite spots! 🙂
Rhonda, beautiful, beautiful pacific coast line! I would love to visit the coast of Oregon. I was telling DH the other day how I’d like for us to do that someday. Your photos really make me want to do this all the more, but this isn’t a good time for us. Thank you for sharing and please feel free to join my #WW linky party. Have a fototastic weekend, my friend!
Breathtaking scenery, so fabulous photos!, I have many places to discover yet and this is one to add on my list
I love the Oregon Coast. My most memorable time there was camping with Sarah and Jason overnight at Sunset Bay State Park. I wish we’d had a week there — not just a night and morning. We were on one of our trips back home from the Seattle area.
I have yet to travel to Oregon, but I do plan on visiting one day, so I really enjoyed your photos and advice, Rhonda! My husband and I drove up the california coast fro San Diego to San Francisco and want to complete the trip from SF to the end of Washington state.
We started in Vancouver but took inland routes through much of it before Oregon, taking a bus from Vancouver to Seattle and a train from Seattle to Portland.
Thanks for this wonderful tour. From 2 blogs trekking the mountains to view Mt St Helens in Portland, now i am seeing the coast. So i have a glimpse now of what the mountains and coastlines of Oregon look like. I am so envious, but thanks for the awesome shots.
Oregon is amazing. I can’t believe I lived so close for so long and never made it there. Now, from half way around the world I have fallen in love with it.
Very beautiful photos. Lovely shots.
Beautiful photos! I’ve never been to Oregon – the scenery is spectacular!
L. Diane Wolfe
I miss my Oregon coastline. My best friend got married at the beach by Haystack Rock. (And I got to take her wedding pictures.)
I don’t eat seafood anymore, but Mo’s has the best clam chowder in the world.
Yes, I’ve driven the Oregon coast many times. It’s beautiful. There are so many favorite places.
Have a fabulous day. ☺
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
Oregon State …. one of the beautiful states in America.
This is a roadtrip I have been wanting to do for quite some time. The Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning. The only thing is that there is only a short time to visit when it is sunny.
Nice. I’ve been to Washington state and California, but never to Oregon.
You always have the greatest pictures of your travels….I enjoy them very much.