I love exploring Washington State, but getting out to see more parts of Oregon has been on my list for so long. That’s why I made it my goal to do a few trips this year, and an Oregon coast road trip was one of my top priorities this summer. While I love being in the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, nothing makes me happier than the smell of saltwater and staring out at the ocean for hours (which I have done many times over the years).
I’ve taken many road trips from Seattle, such as a Seattle to Portland road trip, over the years, but I’d only been as far south as Cannon Beach by car. Last summer, I decided to combine a drive to Crater Lake National Park with a road trip on the Oregon Coast to explore new parts of the state. I took my family and had an absolute blast – we got out to check out tons of viewpoints along the way, tried amazing seafood (and ice cream!), and made new memories together.
This post is a bit long, but there’s a lot of information to share about driving the Oregon Coast, so I made sure to include all the tips I used as well as information on all the stops. This has all the research I did to prepare for my Oregon Coast trip, where the best stops are, and two different Oregon Coast itineraries to choose from based on how much time you have.
This post was first written in 2022 and last updated in August 2023.
Tips for an Oregon Coast Drive
This is a big trip, so you’ll want to prepare in advance! Here are a few common questions you might have.
How Long Does It Take to Drive the Oregon Coast?
If you were to drive from the south end to the north end in one day without stopping, it would take about eight hours. I know what you’re thinking – why can’t you drive it in one day then?
Keep in mind that you will have to stop to get gas, use the restroom, and get meals, not to mention actually spend time at all of these stops. That’s why I don’t recommend taking a Portland day trip here, even if it’s technically possible.
That’s why I recommend a few days at minimum to do this drive so you won’t be rushed and can even add extra stops to your itinerary if you want. You could do many more, and you’ll see signs on 101 telling you about them and where to get off, so a longer itinerary allows a chance to do this.
How Many Days Do You Need on the Oregon Coast?
At the minimum, I would allow 3 days to drive the Oregon Coast. This allows you to make plenty of stops along the way without having to rush your trip. That will also enable you to make plenty of side trips, especially if you make it a long Seattle weekend getaway, and if you have longer, even better.
What is the Best Month to Visit the Oregon Coast?
You’re always going to have the best weather in the summer when visiting Oregon, but of course, that means these stops will be a lot more crowded since everyone has the same idea. This can quickly be done in the rainier seasons, as some are short stops where you can take pictures and get back into your car.
That’s why I think the best time to drive the Oregon Coast is late spring in Oregon or early fall in Portland if possible, so you have a good chance of decent weather but don’t hit the summer crowds (summer in Portland is particularly crowded). However, if you want to spot whales on your Oregon Coast drive, the best months are late January through mid-May.
What to Pack for an Oregon Coast Drive
I have a post on road trip essentials, but these are the ones I found particularly helpful for my Oregon Coast road trip:
- Water bottle: Staying hydrated is always my main concern when I travel, so I fill up giant Hydro Flasks full of water. I specifically like this brand because your water still stays cool for much longer. There are plenty of places to use the restroom along the way, but not as many places to fill up your water bottles.
- Liquid IV: Lately, when I travel, I’ve been using Liquid IV once a day for an extra hydration boost. I can feel the difference, especially on busy days.
- Sunscreen: A common misconception I hear about Oregon is that it’s cold and rainy. Still, it gets pretty hot along the coast during the summer, particularly in the southern part near California. Many of these stops are entirely exposed, so lather up and have a good hat while you’re at it.
- Picnic blanket: I bought this washable blanket a year ago and brought it everywhere, both on the road and when I’m close to home. It’s ideal because you can make almost any stop a place to have a snack or lunch and stretch your legs; it easily washes off if you spill something, and then it folds neatly back up into a square. I actually have two because I’m so obsessed.
- Crocs: I was so against wearing Crocs until I realized how easy they are to put on and take off and allow you to explore the water or beach quickly. You’ll want a pair for the parts of your trip where you want to take off your tennis shoes and not worry about your shoes getting dirty.
Oregon Coast Road Trip Map
I know I need to see places when visually mapping out a road trip, so here’s a map of all the stops. For most of this trip, you’ll be following the Pacific Coast Highway, or U.S. Highway 101.
19 Places to Visit on an Oregon Coast Road Trip
I went on my road trip to the Oregon Coast starting from the south end of the state and working my way up toward Washington, so this will be in the same order. You can easily reverse this if you want to go on an Oregon Coast road trip from Seattle.
You can also choose to jump in at any point; you may not have enough time to go down to Brookings, so you will start the trip in Florence instead.
We will start our road trip to the Oregon Coast in Brookings, a scenic city in southern Oregon. There are many beaches to stop at, such as Harris Beach State Park. Depending on the time of year, you might see various wildlife here, including birds and whales. You can also camp here if you’re looking for accommodations for the night.
Feel like hiking? Check out the Oregon Redwoods Trail, which is about two miles of trail where you’ll find some small old-growth redwood trees.
2. Cape Blanco State Park
Address: 91814 Cape Blanco Rd, Port Orford, OR 97465
On your Oregon Coast road trip, you’ll encounter many lighthouses, but the one at Cape Blanco is exceptional. If you can, try to get here at sunset for stunning photos of the coast and surrounding area.
You can get a lighthouse tour if you’ve always wondered what it looks like inside (tours are available from April until the end of October). Tours are also available for the nearby Historic Hughes House. This is an ideal stop on a Portland to San Francisco road trip (that you can then go on a San Francisco to LA drive).
3. Coos Bay
Coos Bay is the perfect place to spend your first night, as there are plenty of things to do in the area. If you’re looking for adventure, you can go ATVing on the sand dunes or kayaking in the ocean.
If it’s raining, head indoors to the Egyptian Theater to catch a show or learn about trains at the Oregon Coast Historical Railway. When you’re looking for somewhere to eat, check out Abby’s Legendary Pizza or Little Italy Restaurant.
Where to Stay in Coos Bay:
- Edgewater Inn Coos Bay is in a central location with a hot tub and heated indoor pool to enjoy after a day of exploring. (rates start at $100 per night)
- Best Western Holiday Hotel is right by the Coos Bay Boardwalk and only five minutes away from the downtown area. (rates start at $150 per night)
4. Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area
Address: 855 Highway Ave, Reedsport, OR 97467
One of the most unique parts of going on an Oregon Coast road trip is that there are sand dunes along the southern part. With almost 50 miles of them, you have plenty of room to explore. I actually had no idea these even existed until I planned my trip, so I arrived early in the morning and had the place all to myself to make the most of it.
I stopped at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area south of Florence, which had a $5 day fee to park at. We loved running up and down the dunes and just relaxing. While I didn’t have the chance to do it, next time, I want to go sandboarding with one of the local companies, which sounds amazing! This is by far one of the more unexpected things to see on the Oregon Coast.
Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and find new places to add to my itinerary!
5. Old Town Florence
Florence is a town I randomly picked to stay in during my road trip on the Oregon coast, but I ended up loving it. This is also an ideal time to stock up on any supplies you need, as they have stores like Safeway and Walgreens.
I recommend spending a morning in Old Town Florence, which is right on the river. Grab breakfast at River Roasters, stroll down to the marina, and watch the boats leave for the day. We enjoyed talking to the locals over coffee before going out to explore.
Later in the day, you can visit the shops as they open, such as Wild Drift Gallery for souvenirs or B.J.’s Ice Cream Parlor, to choose from dozens of different ice cream flavors (this was a big hit with the kids!).
There are numerous places to eat dinner, including Beachcomber Pub for delicious pub food or Waterfront Depot for seafood with a view. I had some delicious fish tacos while I was here.
Where to Stay in Florence:
- Ocean Breeze Motel is where I stayed, and while it just had the basic amenities, it was perfect because we were barely in our room anyway, and it was right on the main highway as well as affordable. (rates start at $70 per night)
- Old Town Inn is within walking distance from the downtown area, so it’s easy to go to dinner or shop at a store when you need something. (rates start at $155 per night)
6. Heceta Beach
If you’ve ever wanted to fly a kite, Heceta Beach is the place to go. We had a strong wind when we were there, thanks to being right on the Pacific Ocean, and my toddler got a kick out of how wildly the kite was blowing everywhere.
I also saw some people with blankets and picnic baskets, which could be a fun idea when the wind is a bit milder. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend too much time here because the sand was flying everywhere, but it was a fun stop.
Love being by the ocean? You’ll want to plan a trip to drive around Vancouver Island in Canada.
7. Sea Lion Caves
Address: 91560 US-101, Florence, OR 97439
You may be on an Oregon Coast road trip, but a bunch of California sea lions inhabit the area. For a small admission fee, you can get access to and get closer to these sea lions by visiting the Sea Lion Caves. This is also the largest sea cave in America, so you don’t want to pass it up.
Once you come out of the gift shop, one path will take you to see the sea lions out in the ocean, and it is fun to see them swimming around. Going to the right on the path will take you to an elevator that will take you deep into a cave. You’ll be able to see the sea lions playing and sleeping on the rocks in the den while you learn more about the area.
To be honest, they do smell pretty bad, but the experience outweighs that part. Even my toddler said it didn’t smell good (which is saying a lot!), yet he was still intrigued enough to explore the caves. The gift store is fun to look through, with sea lion-themed everything.
8. Heceta Head Lighthouse
Address: 725 Summer St, Florence, OR 97439
On a road trip along the Oregon Coast, there are many lighthouses to visit, but I think Heceta Head is particularly beautiful. You’ll follow the signs on 101 to get off here, pay $5 for a day pass to the parking lot, and then hike about 1/2 mile up to the lighthouse.
While the trail is gravel, it is a bit steep, so you may want to bring walking poles if that could be an issue. A staff member was here when I visited, and she let us borrow a telescope so we could learn more about the wildlife she was spotting in the area.
9. Thor’s Well
I almost didn’t stop here on my Oregon Coast drive, but I’m glad I did because it’s now one of my favorite places to visit in the Pacific Northwest and an Oregon Coast must-see. You’ll follow signs for Cape Perpetua and pay a $5 day fee for the parking lot. From there, head to the visitor’s center and follow the signs for Thor’s Well (the name and arrows are on the path for you to follow).
This is mainly a concrete path and only about 1/2 mile down to the beach, but make sure you wear proper footwear. If you want to actually get off the path and down on the rocks to see the tidepools and get closer to Thor’s Well (and you will), you’ll need solid shoes like tennis shoes that won’t slip. I saw many people wearing flip-flops, which are dangerous on wet rocks.
Thor’s Well is a stunning natural formation that fills up with water as the tide comes in, explodes, and empties again. It’s hard to explain in words, but it’s much more mesmerizing in person.
You’ll also find some amazing landmarks on a road trip around the Olympic Peninsula.
10. Devil’s Churn
Address: 815 US-101, Yachats, OR 97498
If you already stopped at Thor’s Well, you might as well head over to Devil’s Churn. It’s only a mile north and another beautiful natural landmark. There’s a small parking lot off Highway 101 where you can park and then walk down the short trail to see this in person.
11. Oregon Coast Aquarium
Address: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR 97365
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a fun place to stop when you need a break from exploring the outdoors, whether you have kids or are alone. There are plenty of different exhibits inside where you’ll learn about some of the native sea life in the area. I loved seeing the sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, birds, sharks, and more.
This is one of the biggest aquariums I’ve been to, and you can walk around outside to explore even more. I thought we’d be here for a quick hour, but the boys wanted to visit every single exhibit and loved every minute of it.
Just a tip – if you have AAA, you can receive 10% off (a pleasant surprise I found when I bought my tickets). This is a relaxing part of your Oregon Coast road trip, so enjoy it.
12. Newport Historic Bayfront
Newport is another big town you’ll want to spend at least a day exploring, and it’s also a popular Portland weekend getaway. There are many shops to stop in, such as Kindred Hearts and Childish Tendencies.
You also have a vast selection of restaurants to stop at, whether you want something quick or a nicer meal. I was thrilled to see one of my favorite breweries, Rogue Bayfront Public House, in town, where I grabbed lunch and some beer to go from their store. They were also very kid-friendly and accommodated my boys, who were hungry and not in the mood to sit down nicely.
Where to Stay in Newport
- Shilos Inns Newport Oceanfront is right on the coast, has an indoor pool, and is close to historic Newport and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. (rates start at $160 per night)
- Inn at Nye Beach has an ocean view and a fireplace in every room, so it’s guaranteed to be a very cozy stay. (rates start at $210 per night)
13. Devil’s Punchbowl
Address: Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area, 122 1st St, Otter Rock, OR 97369
Yet another quick stop, Devil’s Punchbowl is a fun place to visit on an Oregon coast drive. This structure was created when the roofs of two sea caves collapsed, and it’s intriguing to see the foam that fills this area up. You can also see whales from here if you visit during the right time of the year.
Looking for another scenic. road trip? You’ll love the Seattle to Glacier drive.
14. Otter Rock
While you’re at Devil’s Punchbowl, explore the town of Otter Rock. This reminded me of a little surfing town with a casual feel to it. I loved getting mint chocolate chip ice cream at Cliffside Coffee & Sweets and browsing the surfing gear at Pura Vida Surf Shop.
There is also a giant beach where you can lay out or watch surfers show off their skills. While I’ve only surfed once when visiting Huntington Beach, it was amazing to see how experienced some of the locals were.
15. Cape Kiwanda
Cape Kiwanda is a beautiful area for photography (sensing a theme yet on this Oregon coast road trip?), so you’ll want to bring your camera here. If you can, get here at sunset so you can see the sun dip down behind the ocean.
You can walk around this area, but be aware that there are safety fences in place for a reason, and you should never go past them to get a closer view. The sand in this area can crumble at any time, and people have gotten hurt doing this in the past. Just stick to the dunes that are within the boundaries, as there’s plenty to explore already.
16. Tillamook Creamery
Address: 4165 N Hwy 101, Tillamook, OR 97141
Tillamook is most famous for the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and even though I tend to stay away from tourist attractions, I recommend stopping at this one. I buy Tillamook cheese all the time back home, so it was fun to see where it comes from.
You can peer into the factory, see the different cheese-making sections, and read signs next to them to learn more about it. There are also several interactive areas that kids will love, where they can pretend to milk a cow and feed a baby calf.
Afterward, head downstairs to visit the giant store, where you can bring home all kinds of Tillamook cheese, cream cheese, and plenty of other gifts. The kids loved picking out a little Tillamook dairy truck and toy cheese block, and I’m now the proud owner of a bright orange Tillamook coffee cup.
You’ll also want to stop next door to order lunch or get a scoop of the famous ice cream. The grilled cheese sandwiches are amazing, and based on the huge line for the ice cream, those are as well.
17. Cannon Beach
This area is a popular place to stop on a road trip around the Pacific Northwest due to the iconic Haystack Rock, which you can see from various places throughout the town. You can also explore Ecola State Park and Arcadia Beach if you want more sand adventures.
There are a ton of shops to venture to as well, such as Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, Cannon Beach Surf and Mercantile, and Four Paws on the Beach. This is one reason I love visiting during the winter: there’s still plenty to do.
Hungry? You have plenty of options, including Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House, Kiki’s Tacos and Margarita Bar, and Pelican Brewing Co.
Places to Stay in Cannon Beach
- Schooner’s Cove Inn is an affordable hotel to stay at on the beach with a view of the ocean and a kitchenette to cook in. (rates start at $150 per night)
- Surfsand Resort is the place to stay when you want to treat yourself, as you’ll have views of Haystack Rock, you can get a room with a private balcony or soaking tub, and there’s even a kids’ club for family trips. (rates start at $240 per night)
18. Fort Stevens State Park
Address: 1675 Peter Iredale Rd, Hammond, OR 97121
This area is one of the largest public campgrounds in the country, and you have over 4,000 acres to explore when you visit. It’s a historic military site that offers tours on select days and times. You can also drive your car on certain parts of the beach if you want a bit of adventure.
One of my favorite places to visit on the Oregon Coast in this area is the Wreck of Peter Iredale, which is the remains of a ship coming from Mexico to Portland in 1906. It ran ashore and has been on the beach ever since, so you can get up close and personal with a piece of history. I’ve been here multiple times because I find it fascinating that the ship is still hanging out in the sand.
Astoria isn’t technically on the Oregon coast, but it’s only 15 minutes from Warrenton, so I had to include it. It’s one of my favorite cities that I visit over and over, and there are so many things to do in Astoria.
You can walk around the various shops, including Cargo of Astoria, Finn Ware, and Godfather’s Books and Espresso. I also recommend checking out the historic Flavel House Museum to see the home of Captain George Flavel.
You can also stop at the Oregon Film Museum to see artifacts used in real movies and shows filmed in the area. I was surprised at how many films were filmed right there in Astoria, such as The Goonies.
When you’re ready to fuel up, you can’t go wrong with Fort George Brewery + Public House, Bridgewater Bistro, or South Bay Wild Fish House.
Places to Stay in Astoria
- The Lloyd Hotel Astoria Bayfront is close to the water and includes a pool and hot tub. (rates start at $205 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Hotel Elliott has a rooftop deck and is close to numerous restaurants and shops. (rates start at $149 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Visiting during the winter in Portland? You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do!
Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary: 3 Days
While you can do the whole coast in one day, I don’t recommend it because you’ll be speeding through some of these fantastic stops. It’s best broken up into three or five days, so here is an Oregon Coast 3-day itinerary you can follow (if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can go on this drive from Seattle to San Diego).
Day 1: Brookings to Florence
Travel Distance: 4 hours and 40 minutes (168 miles)
This road trip starts on the southern Oregon Coast in Brookings, where you’ll enjoy the scenic beauty of the southernmost coast of Oregon before driving an hour (33 miles) to the historic Cape Blanco. This cape, home to Oregon’s oldest lighthouse, has even more panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Your next stop is Coos Bay after a drive of about 1 hour and 20 minutes (50 miles). Coos Bay, the largest city on the Oregon coast, is my recommended spot for lunch and to stretch your legs.
After that, head to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to see miles and miles of dunes, some reaching up to 500 feet in height. I highly recommend renting an ATV or going on a dune buggy ride for a fun mid-day adventure.
Your last part of the day is an hour and 50-minute drive (61 miles) up to Florence. Once in Florence, settle in and head to the historic Old Town area for dinner.
Stay overnight in Florence.
Where to Stay: River Vista is right on the river and has a spacious balcony to enjoy the views from. (rates start at $150 per night)
Day 2: Florence to Newport
Travel Distance: About 3 hours (83 miles)
Start your morning by visiting Heceta Beach and flying kites if it’s windy enough. From there, a quick 15-minute drive (11 miles) takes you to the fascinating Sea Lion Caves, a massive cavern full of sea lion activity.
Just 5 minutes north (2 miles) stands the iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse, which you’ll want to visit. Then, a short 20-minute drive (14 miles) takes you to Thor’s Well and Devil’s Churn, which are must-sees on an Oregon Coast trip.
Continue for 40 minutes (35 miles) to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, which is the ideal way to see Pacific Northwest marine life without getting wet!
Stay overnight in Newport.
Where to Stay: OYO Waves Hotel Newport OR – NYE Beach is right next to the Pacific Ocean, so you can’t find a better location than that. (rates start at $158 per night)
Day 3: Newport to Astoria
Travel Distance: About 3 hours and 45 minutes (140 miles)
Start off your day with the intriguing Devil’s Punchbowl, just a 20-minute ride (12 miles) from Newport. This natural wonder will captivate you with its unique rock formations.
Next up, just a stone’s throw away (5 minutes, 2 miles), is the serene Otter Rock. Take a moment to breathe in the salty air and listen to the waves crash. A 40-minute drive (28 miles) northward takes you to the stunning Cape Kiwanda. With its dramatic cliffs and dunes, it’s a must-see spot for any Oregon Coast traveler.
Feeling hungry? A 30-minute journey (22 miles) will land you at the Tillamook Creamery, one of the more popular Oregon Coast destinations. Here, indulge in some of the finest cheese and ice cream the state has to offer.
Recharged (and full), set course for Cannon Beach, about an hour’s drive (48 miles) away. Marvel at the iconic Haystack Rock and let the sandy shores massage your feet.
From there, Fort Stevens beckons after a 40-minute ride (28 miles). Explore its rich history and witness the Wreck of the Peter Iredale. After that, head into Astoria to explore the shops, restaurants, and breweries.
Stay overnight in Astoria.
Where to Stay: Astoria Riverwalk Inn is right on the Columbia River and has private balconies to enjoy the view from. (rates start at $158 per night)
5 Day Oregon Coast Road Trip
Have even more time? Here’s how I recommend dividing up your Oregon Coast trip itinerary to take a leisurely drive up the coast:
- Day 1: Brookings, Cape Blanco, Coos Bay, Oregon Dunes, Florence (stay overnight in Florence)
- Day 2: Heceta Beach, Sea Lion Caves, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Thor’s Well, Devil’s Churn, Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport (stay overnight in Newport)
- Day 3: Devil’s Punchbowl, Otter Rock, Cape Kiwanda, Tillamook Creamery (stay overnight in Tillamook)
- Day 4: Cannon Beach (stay overnight in Cannon Beach)
- Day 5: Fort Stevens, Astoria (stay overnight in Astoria)
I’d love to hear what other places you’d add to an Oregon Coast road trip if you’ve been before!