The entire Oregon Coast is so stunning it’s easy to see why over a million tourists visit the 363 mile stretch each year. Stretching from Astoria in the Northwestern corner of the state, all the way down south to the Brookings-Harbor area, there is so much diversity in between it’s hard to pick a favorite stop. When visiting, any of the coastal towns can easily satisfy those looking for some rest and relaxation. But, where is the best place to actually make your home on the coast? The state of Oregon is quickly becoming one of the most popular states in the United States for people looking to relocate – and for good reason. Below we discuss the best towns to reside in along the Oregon Coast and why.
Oregon Coast Regional Overview
North Oregon Coast
The northern Oregon Coast is our top pick for which region you should move to along the coast range. Not only does it have the best economy and job market on the coast, but it’s got everything we love about the coast range within a two to three-hour drive from wherever you are. The northern region is undoubtedly the most expensive to relocate to, and you may have a hard time finding a house (if you can afford to buy one) but the charm and ambiance make it all worthwhile.
Central Oregon Coast
Coming in a close second to the Northern coast, the central coast isn’t too shabby either. Dubbed as the more.. “depressing” area of the coast, it still has some hidden gems scattered throughout. The central coast is still a popular tourist destination, but the northern region of the coast has it beat. It has a decent economy and an OK job market, but still holds the charm that the Oregon Coast is famous for.
Southern Oregon Coast
We may be biased, but the Southern coast is probably the least desirable place to live unless you’re independently wealthy and looking to reside in seclusion on some cheap land. After stock market crashes in the 90s and mid-2000s, the Southern Oregon Coast never quite recovered and doesn’t have the economy, or job market to support new tenants. This is probably the cheapest region to relocate to along the Oregon Coast but isn’t ideal for those looking for career work, or those that enjoy socialization.
Where To Live On The Oregon Coast
Northern Oregon Coast
- This gritty fishing and art town is the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains and has some of the richest histories in the state. A booming craft beverage and food scene are just one of the many perks of this cute river town. It lies along the mighty Columbia River which you can cross via the Megler Bridge (the longest continuous truss bridge in Northern America!) and end in Washington State. The Columbia bar dubbed the “Graveyard of The Pacific”, grants access to the Pacific Ocean and is visible from Astoria on clear days. While rain falls about 190 days out of the year on average, there is plenty to keep you busy during those somewhat depressing downpours. Dubbed the 2nd drunkest city in the state, Astoria boasts an impressive number of craft beverage facilities and dive bars for its small size. Take a stroll down Commercial St. (the main road that runs through downtown) and you’ll find over a dozen different restaurants to choose from. Be wary though, in the winter it can be hard to find anything that isn’t a bar open past 8 pm. If you hear incessant barking in the distance, don’t fret. It’s just the hoards of Sea Lions singing their song while they sunbathe on the docks on the east end of town
- I like to refer to Gearhart as the “Hamptons” of Oregon. This is where wealth and family lineage runs deep. If your great-great-grandfather didn’t build your family home with his bare hands 100 years ago, it can be hard to establish yourselves amongst the stuffy locals. With that being said, Gearhart is a picturesque little oceanside town. “Downtown” is made up of a couple of coffee shops, an ice cream shop/store, and one restaurant, but it’s perfect for someone looking for peace and quiet. There are only about 1,000 full-time residents, but the population inflates as much as 80% in the summertime when second-time homeowners and vacationers alike flock to Gearhart. You’ll likely get to know everyone and their dog on a first name basis within a year of living here which is part of what makes it so appealing. Ready to settle down for the last part of your life? This is one of the top spots to retire in the state.
- Undoubtedly the most popular beach cities in Oregon, Seaside is reminiscent of Coney Island minus the carnival-style rides. When the roads and town aren’t bombarded with tourists in the summer, Seaside is actually a pretty quiet, slow-moving town. A two-mile paved walking path called “The Prom” lines the beach and is a popular spot for walking, running, biking, and skating throughout the year. Housing is scarce and prices are high, but it’s not *entirely* impossible to find something that suits you or your family. It doesn’t have the best food and beverage scene on the coast, but it’s also not the worst. Ranked the 5th drunkest city in the state, Seaside doesn’t have many breweries but plenty of tap houses, dive bars, and wine bars. It’s just about 5 minutes away from Gearhart, and 15 away from Cannon Beach. Its total area is just over 4 sq. miles, so it’s easy to walk or bike anywhere you need to go. Highway 101 cuts through town allowing easy access to other spots nearby making this a good place to live. Be wary though, the past few years have been tough on the highway. Not designed to support the amount of traffic that comes through here during the summer months, travel times can become disgustingly long if you hit the road at the wrong time. Check out seasideoregon.com for your Seaside travel guide and day trip info.
- Just about 9 miles down the road from Seaside, Cannon Beach is pretty much a world of its own. Similar to Gearhart, it is full of weathered shingled houses and encourages you to slow down and enjoy your surroundings. One of the most popular spots to visit along the Oregon Coast, Cannon Beaches population hovers right around 1,600 people with the number of annual visitors sitting around 500,000 per year. It might not sound like much, but that’s quite the influx for a town that’s total area is only about 1.5 sq miles. Bordered by Ecola State Park and Oswald West State Park, there is no shortage of scenic views for miles. Haystack Rock, the cities most prominent feature, is a 235-foot basalt rock that came as a result of ancient lava flows around 16 million years ago. While this is the most common “Haystack Rock” there is a similar sea stack with the same name in the coastal town of Pacific City. Cannon Beach is a crazy popular tourist destination but tends to stay quiet when its not full of tourists during the summer months.
Central Oregon Coast
- Lincoln City’s seven-mile stretch of beach makes for some awesome sand dollar and beach treasure hunting. If you’re looking to get away from the sand and experience some greenery, Lincoln City is surrounded by moderate day hikes and gorgeous beach views. Keep in mind foliage collecting, hunting, camping, bicycles, and dogs are NOT allowed as a way to protect this wildlife sanctuary. Just east of Lincoln City lies Devils Lake – 685-acres of serene, calm waters to hang out on the shores of. The food scene could be classified as up-and-coming, but the options they do have are so diverse you can try anything from sushi, tacos, or seafood all the way to German schnitzel. The Chinook Winds Casino is one of the biggest reasons this is a popular stop for tourists exploring the Oregon Coast. Check out their ocean-view steak house, gamble your money away, or catch one of the many performances they host year-round. Lincoln City is centrally located near other quaint beach towns like Pacific City and Newport so you can easily explore the surrounding areas if you ever find yourself short on things to do.
- Newport is probably one of our favorite spots along the Central Coast. While most attractions here are geared towards tourists, they are fun for year-round residents too. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of the most popular aquariums in the state. Hosting unique, interactive exhibits this place is usually packed with families and visitors alike. Newport is also home to two of Oregon’s most prominent historical lighthouses, and the Rogue Brewery. If you find yourself bored on a rainy day consider checking out OMSI’s new Coastal Discovery Center or Ripleys Believe It Or Not museum and wax figure display. Newport has one of the larger populations along the coast, coming in at around 10,500 this place stays relatively busy year-round, unlike other, quieter and slower-paced coastal towns. Complete with over 80 restaurants in its 11 sq miles of land, they have a pretty diverse culinary and beverage scene. The primary industries here are fishing, logging, and tourism-based.
- Named the “Best Place To Stay On The Oregon Coast” by The Oregonian in 2016, Yachats is often referred to as “The Gem of The Oregon Coast” – and for good reason. Like every other town on this list, Yachats has an extensive stretch of beach lying just west of town. The difference here is the beaches are mostly made up of black Basalt rock as a result of ancient lava flows some 50 million years ago. Here, you can also walk or bike down the “804 Trail.” Previously Country Road 804, this popular path walks you along rocky shores and three scenic state parks. While you’re there, step off the beaten path and check out one of the many tide pools in the area to view some starfish and sea anemones amongst other marine life. Yachats has a great local art and food scene and, like most other coastal towns, a couple of breweries scattered throughout.
- Florence has long been dubbed the Oregon Coasts Playground. Miles and miles of uncrowded beaches make this a popular destination for horseback riding, sandboarding, camping, and more. Thanks to the rolling hills of sand dunes, this is the ATV and dune buggy lovers paradise. Bring your own, or rent one from the local shop and take off into an ocean of soft, powdery sand. If you find yourself longing for something other than sand and ocean views, check out one of their many ancient hiking trails or one of the dozen-plus lakes in the area. The Old Town District is home to art galleries, quaint shops and boutiques, a marina and an impressive food and drink scene. Florence’s population sits at around 8,000 year-round residents living within its 5.58 sq. miles of land. Logging, fishing, agriculture, and tourism are the main industries in the area so, like many other coastal towns, it isn’t an ideal place for those looking to advance their careers. It is about 3 hours away from Portland but is only about an hour out of Eugene so commuting is an option.
Southern Oregon Coast
- The largest community on the entire Oregon Coast, Coos Bay has been dubbed the commercial center of Oregon’s southern coast. “The Bay” is home to over 16,000 full-time residents within its 15.9 sq. miles of land. If you’re looking to work in a career-type field, or simply want to reside where there’s some action going on outside of the summer months, Coos Bay is the spot on the southern Oregon coast for you. Offering a wide range of shopping, entertainment choices, and dining, this is the more “happening” of towns down south. Surrounded by rivers, lakes, and dunes, there’s never a shortage of outdoor adventures either. The main industries are manufacturing, healthcare, and social assistance, and the retail trade – much more variety compared to other coastal towns.
- “Where the Pacific Meets the Rogue” what this town lacks in amenities it makes up for in scenery. A huge perk to this small spot is it stays considerably warmer than other towns along the coastline. When you tire of the beach you can make your way up into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and enjoy a day of hiking, biking, or water activities. Other than great views, and a few staple restaurants and bars, there’s not a whole lot going down in this small town. If you’re looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy some amazing views, Gold Beach is the place for you.
- Similar to Gold Beach, there’s not a whole lot going down in Brookings aside from some good recreational opportunities and amazing views. The mild climate makes this a desirable place to call home if you’re not fond of the torrential downpours that plague the rest of the Oregon Coast. One of their biggest claims to fame? They are the only city in Oregon designated an Azalea City by the Azalea Society of America. So if you like large bushes of pink flowers, you’ll find an abundance in Brookings. Agriculture and manufacturing are the two main industries in the area and the average income of a single resident here hovers around $26,000 a year.