The Oregon Coast is one of those places that somehow gets prettier with every visit. From incredible lighthouses and shipwrecks to hidden coves, stunning beaches, and impossibly gorgeous panoramas, the Oregon Coast captivates and inspires, placing it as one of America’s best areas for outdoor exploration. For 363 miles, US Highway 101 runs along the Oregon Coast, providing endless opportunities for camping, hiking, beach-combing, and sunsets. While there are hundreds of places to stop, these ten will serve as a perfect introduction to the unspoiled beauty of the Oregon Coast. See them all on one epic road trip or see them as they change through the seasons. Either way, you will fall in love with this rugged and accessible stretch of coastline.
1. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Few places along the wild Pacific Coast are more incredible than this scenic corridor. Whether you hike along 27 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail, look in awe at the 300 year old sitka spruce trees, or explore the breathtaking region through areas like Arch Rock and Natural Bridge, you’ll immediately fall in love with this stretch of coast. Make sure you check out Secret Beach at Thunder Rock Cove for an iconic slice of solitude and coastal beauty. Stretching 18 miles long the Pacific Coast, no trip to the beaches of Oregon is complete without a stop at the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
2. Ecola State Park
For nine miles of breathtaking coastline, Ecola State Park is one of the iconic stops along the Oregon Coast. Located between the tourist destinations of Seaside and Cannon Beach, this state park is one of the best in the country, giving seemingly endless recreation opportunities to all who visit. With a network of trails that include a gorgeous eight mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail, as well as a 2.5 mile historical interpretive route following the steps of Lewis and Clark called the Clatsop Loop Trail, you are never far from a memorable adventure. If you are searching for a bit of seclusion, hit up Indian Beach where tide pools and scenic wonders await.
3. Devil’s Punchbowl
Between Depoe Bay and Newport sits one of the geological wonders of Oregon. Known as Devils Punchbowl, the iconic rock formation is thought to have been created when two caves carved by the ocean collapsed. Today, the region offers low tide exploration and incredible whale-watching opportunities in late March and April. Full of wildlife, family-friendly adventures, and the ever-present power of the churning Pacific, Devil’s Punchbowl should not be skipped.
4. Cape Kiwanda
Located along the Three Capes Scenic Route on the Oregon Coast, Cape Kiwanda is one of the best places to enjoy sandy shores, awesome sea stacks, and the eroding power of the Pacific. Composed of sandstone, the bluffs and beaches are best seen along the 2.2 mile Cape Kiwanda Trail, which gives you some of the best highlights of the region. From numerous vantage points, enjoy the views of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, home to thousands of birds and a temporary resting spot for countless migratory species. Along the hike, explore a giant sand dune, take in endless vistas, and catch a sunset from one of the more underrated stretches of the Oregon Coast.
5. Peter Iredale and Fort Stevens State Park
Up near the mouth of the Columbia River near the town of Astoria, Fort Stevens State Park holds fantastic coastal adventures and an awesome surprise: While the state park, which offers nine miles of biking and six miles of hiking trails, is absolutely gorgeous, the main reason people come to the beach along this park is for the Peter Iredale—a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran ashore October 25, 1906 and that is still visible today. The remains of this ship, now beached for over a century are a popular destination, with the rusted bow and masts still visible, jutting out of the sand, perfectly posing for your sunset photograph.
6. Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor
Said by geologists to have once been located as far south as Los Angeles eons ago, Cape Sebastian is today a gorgeous rocky outcropping near the Oregon/California border. Offering fantastic hiking, sweeping views, and bit of solitude compared to the more popular beaches in central and northern Oregon, Cape Sebastian is truly stunning. Up on the bluffs, you can see nearly fifty miles in either direction, giving a perfect window to the power of the Pacific. In March and April, this is an excellent place to see the migration of over 20,000 gray whales.
7. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Stretching over 40 miles, the Oregon Dunes are sandwiched between sea stacks and rugged coastline. Offering hiking, paddling, camping, wildlife viewing, and stunning sunsets, the region is best known for the fantastic OHV riding and rentals. Shaped by the wind, the Oregon Dunes are a unique gem along the coast, letting you explore 500 foot tall sand dunes and the small island forests that are dispersed around the region. The dunes are also close to numerous other coastal wonders, letting you enjoy the sandy hills as a basecamp for a weekend adventure. This is unlike anywhere else on the coast of the Pacific Northwest and is seriously worth a visit.
8. Hart’s Cove
Near Neskowin, Hart’s Cove is one of the more secretive and stunning places to explore along the Oregon Coast. Home to endangered butterflies and offering access to waterfalls and a cove full of barking sea lions, few places along the Oregon Coast are as wild and untamed as this area. While the region is closed annually from January 1-July 15 to protect sensitive resources, when the area is open, there is nowhere better. To get to the cove, travel the 5.3 mile Hart’s Cove Trail, working your way down 900 feet of elevation. The cove is ideal for storm watching, sunsets, and a day of coastal exploration, capped off with an open meadow that fills with wildflowers in the summer months. In the nearby area, be sure to also check out Proposal Rock, named after a local legend of a sea captain taking his beloved there to propose to her.
9. Yaquina Head
Near Newport, exploring the Yaquina Head is one of the must-stop destinations for tourists and locals alike. Most will visit the breathtaking lighthouse, the tallest on the coast, perched upon the rocky bluffs; but one of the true gems of the area is found by following the paved trail down the south side of the lighthouse. Here, you will find yourself walking on the rocky beach, surrounded by the sounds of the crashing waves rolling and smoothing the stones. As seals swim offshore and eagles circle and swoop overhead, this stretch of beach is the perfect place to connect to the spirit of the Oregon Coast.
10. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Near the town of Yachats, this might be the best stretch of coast in Oregon, if not the entire Pacific Ocean. Highlighted by stunning views, hidden gems, and some of the most photogenic wonders in Oregon, Cape Perpetua is sure to impress. Most will first enjoy the stunning scene at Thor’s Well, where waves fill up a hole in the rock, shooting up foamy seawater straight into the air. Nearby is Devils Churn, where waves come crashing inland, funneling up a deep and picturesque box canyon. The noises here are amazing, giving you yet another way to experience the Oregon Coast. Finally, when visiting Cape Perpetua, make sure you stop at the Cape Perpetua Day Use area, 800 feet above the crashing waves. This is the highest viewpoint by car on the Oregon Coast and gives incredible panorama views along the coast. If the view here doesn’t make you fall in love with the Oregon Coast, nothing will.
Written by Douglas Scott for RootsRated.
Featured image provided by Basheer Tome