When visiting the Oregon Coast, I never ask the question, “What should I do while I am here?” Instead, I ask, “What things should I not miss out on while I am here?”
Why? Because there is SO MUCH TO DO on the Oregon Coast!
The Oregon Coast offers a plethora of activities, adventures, and sights. I know that it is impossible to explore every stunning view, intriguing historical location, and exhilarating adventure in one short trip. In fact, the question I always ask at the end of my Oregon Coast trip is, “Do I have to leave right now?”
That will be you. I don’t know of a single person who visits the Oregon Coast and begs to leave. The natural wonders fully encapsulate the desires of every visitor and leave them yearning for more.
Here are 10 unforgettable spots to visit on your trip to the Oregon Coast. I assure you that these spots are perfect for fulfilling your “fear of missing out”. It doesn’t matter how many times I revisit these locations, I can never get enough of the unchanging beauty, mesmerizing sights, enriching history, and exciting adventures.
1. Astoria Column
Start your adventure from the top of the infamous Astoria Column that overlooks the Columbia River.
The beautiful, tall Astoria Column stands atop Coxcomb Hill and overlooks the mouth of the large Columbia River. With a height of 125 feet, you can take the spiral staircase to the top and soak in the views from the observation deck. While viewing the entire area from those heights, your eyes are given insight into the past. Astoria was once a major hub for all travelers passing through. Not only were ships and ferries sailing up and down the Columbia River, but the Great Northern Railway was busy moving passengers, cargo, and supplies.
The Astoria Column was dedicated to the Great Northern Railway in 1926 and commemorates those hardworking people to this day. It’s a fabulous place to begin your Oregon Coast journey as it was so often the beginning of many others’ journey from the past.
Full of magnificent artwork, peaceful walking trails, and impeccable sights, Astoria Column is a great place to start your journey and your day. I enjoy grabbing a bagel and hot cup of coffee and eating breakfast from one of the many picnic areas. The views are especially colorful during the early morning hours and late evening hours.
2. Peter Iredale Shipwreck
Check out the rusted remains of the 1906 Peter Iredale Shipwreck on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.
If you enjoy the mystery of shipwrecks, then look no further than Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, Oregon. Only a few miles from Astoria, you can visit the ghostly, rusted remains of the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. The ship’s iron skeleton is still stuck in the beach’s deep sands from the night of its ill-fate in October of 1906.
Grab your camera and a good pair of walking shoes! People from all over the world visit this northern Oregon Coast landmark and capture many great photos. Thankfully, no one was killed in the fateful shipwreck that night in late October of 1906. The ship’s crew had traveled a long month up the Pacific Coast from Mexico and were merely a handful of miles from their destination: the Columbia River.
Believe it or not, this area used to be very prone to numerous shipwrecks. This often pertains to the persistent rainfall, fog, mist, and windy conditions during the winter months and the lack of technology to counteract the lack of visibility.
It’s a super cool place to capture some classic Oregon Coast photos and to satisfy the interest in old shipwrecks.
3. Haystack Rock
Visit one of the most popular photography destinations on the Oregon Coast: Haystack Rock.
Perhaps the most popular place in all of Oregon is Haystack Rock. This classic landmark is located in rural Cannon Beach and boasts of everything considered awesome and adventurous. Standing tall at 235 feet, Haystack Rock sits just offshore in the shallow waters of the Pacific. You can usually walk up to it when the tide rolls out. (However, the natural landmark is protected meaning that no one is allowed to get too close to it.)
Its looming, oval shape has fascinated filmmakers for years! It has appeared in many popular movies such as Twilight and The Goonies. This makes it one of the most photographed landmarks in all of Oregon. Many photographers enjoy packing a picnic lunch on the beach and snapping photos from their lunch quilt.
In addition to the breathtaking sight, it’s also a great place to wade the tide pools and observe marine life. You can’t explore the Oregon Coast and not check out the infamous Haystack Rock.
4. Three Capes Scenic Loop
Stretches between Tillamook and Pacific City
If you love taking scenic road trips, Three Capes Scenic Loop is 40 miles of seaside views that will tempt you to never leave its side. The journey stretches between Tillamook and Pacific City with plenty of natural wonder sights and fun stops along the way.
From Tillamook to Oceanside, the breathtaking, seaside views are seemingly endless as you cruise along the highway. Imagine the drive with your windows down, the music turned up, and the great Pacific Ocean keeping you company on the ride. You can even stop to take a break at the picturesque Cape Lookout. From this position, the Tillamook coastline is entirely visible and perfect for the best photos! Another great thing about this area is the beachside forest loaded with shady walking trails. I really enjoy strolling through the green, shaded trails while simultaneously listening to the ocean’s rhythmic waves. It is a great place to clear your mind and find solitude or to enjoy with your favorite person (or people).
In addition to the fabulous sights and views on the Three Capes Scenic Loop, you will discover many historical sites and parks along the way. A particularly interesting stop on this infamous roadway is the old “Atlantic City of the West”. Located near Bay Ocean Park, this is an old community that became a ghost town during the Great Depression era when buildings were destroyed by erosion. It’s a great place for photo opportunities as well! The remnants of the old buildings offer a mysterious stage for any eager photographer.
Once you reach Pacific City, a visit to Bob Straub State Park is a MUST. I, personally, enjoy strolling on the beach and hunting for unique seashells and sand dollars. Be sure to carry a bucket to hold your collection! And while you are strolling the beach for your seashell hunt, enjoy the view of Haystack Rock as it stands proudly in the distance.
5. Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
Check out the amazing sand dunes or grab a pint at the pub!
Even though Cape Kiwanda is the smallest of the three capes, it does not disappoint. Located in Pacific City, it has an impeccable, natural beauty that everyone enjoys from ages young to old. One thing that really stands out for Cape Kiwanda from the other capes is the tall sand dunes. No, I am not referring to tiny piles of sand in which a person can tower over. I am referring to sand dunes as high as nearly 200 feet! If you are yearning for a spectacular view, then stretch your legs because the hike up one of the sand dunes can be a real workout. After all, climbing sand is not easy. (Honestly, it will feel like leg day at the gym.) However, once you climb to the top of a sand dune, you can rest your weary legs while soaking up the incredible ocean view. And don’t worry about the heat of the sand. The sand on the Oregon Coast does not become scorching hot like the sand on Florida beaches! I have had a few people ask about the heat of the summer sand, and it is usually comfortable unless Oregon is experiencing an unusual heat wave and encounters temperatures in the 90s. This is rare for the Oregon Coast.
After you have climbed the sand dune and given your legs a massive workout, you should head over to the pub and grab a pint! It’s the perfect place to cool off after a long day adventuring outdoors. Pelican Brewing is one of the best pubs in Pacific City to grab a pint and take a load off your feet. Literally.
Cape Kiwanda also has great walking trails, horseback riding on the beach, and incredible rock cliff views. My favorite part? The sound of the ocean waves colliding with the rock formations. Not much can beat the satisfaction that brings.
6. Yaquina Head Light House
Located inside the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a must-see attraction.
The infamous Yaquina Head Lighthouse is located in the city of Newport. This beautiful, classic lighthouse is more than just a pretty sight to the eyes; it is a must-see. It stands boldly and beautifully on top of Yaquina Head and looks over the Pacific Ocean. With a height of 93 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse in the state of Oregon. This fact alone fascinates people and lures them from all over the country to visit the tall, historical landmark. Since the lighthouse is located in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, it is a protected natural sight that has plenty of walking trails for the whole family. In fact, there is quite the steep hike up the incline to the Yaquina Lighthouse!
Yaquina Head Lighthouse is popular for more than its beauty and history. It is also frequently filmed in Hollywood movies and television shows! If you are a spook movie junkie, then you should recognize the Yaquina Head Lighthouse from the movie, The Ring. In the movie, the lighthouse is called the Moesko Island Lighthouse. Does that sound familiar? I’m sure you are probably going to watch the movie now! The lighthouse was also featured in an episode of the classic television show, The Nancy Drew Mysteries. The episode is titled, The Mystery of Pirate’s Cove. I know of some people who enjoy watching the movies or television shows that feature the lighthouse immediately prior to visiting it in person. It’s just another way to enjoy the landmark and soak in your appreciation for it.
Obviously, if Hollywood filmmakers have pulled their cameras out for the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, then so should you! It’s a great place to take selfies, professional photos, and so much more. Most importantly, it’s a great place to make long-lasting memories.
If you prefer visiting when the crowds are least in size, I suggest visiting the sight in the early morning or late afternoon. Lunchtime on a weekend in the summer tend to be the busiest moments to visit Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Parking is sometimes difficult to find during this time as well.
7. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Be sure to check out the Spouting Horn and Thors Well!
Located about two miles south Yachats, Oregon in Lincoln County is the picturesque Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This neat place juts out in the Pacific Ocean and has a unique beauty that lures people from all over the world. It boasts of 2,700 acres of forest life such as Douglas fir trees, spruce trees, and western hemlock trees. Let’s not forget the ocean views as well! However, Cape Perpetua has something that many other areas along the Oregon coastline do not have: Spouting Horn and Thors Well.
You may be asking, “What is that?”
No, it isn’t anything from a children’s movie; although, upon visiting it, you may very well think it could be! After all, so much of the Oregon Coast has been featured in Hollywood films for years.
Spouting Horn is actually an ocean geyser similar to what you would find in Yellowstone National Park. It’s a neat scene where ocean water is sucked down into a rocky hole, the pressure builds and builds until it spits out the water like a bursting fountain. Its name is derived from whales since the geyser spouts out water as a whale does. The scene is spectacular to watch unfold and the kids will get super excited about it!
Thors Well is sometimes called the “Gate to Hell”. Don’t worry! It’s nickname comes from a place of curiosity and not fireballs or anything of that nature. It is, however, similar to Spouting Horn. There is a deep hole in the ocean rocks that suck in the seawater and then as the pressure builds and builds, it spits out the water as high as 20 feet! The water shoots out so unexpectedly that it alarms people like a slice of bread popping up from the toaster.
The best time to view Spouting Horn and Thors Well are during thunderstorms or when the tide is high. The more water that can fill the deep hole, the more water that will shoot out! Be sure to have your camera as you will want to capture photos and videos of the geysers in action!
After you have enjoyed your viewing of Spouting Horn and Thors Well, visit any seafood restaurant in Newport and try out their Dungeness crab! Newport is known as the Dungeness Crab Capital of the World and no place serves that dish better than them.
8. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
This is a great place for ATV and Exploration.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches from the Coos River to the Siuslaw River for approximately 40 miles. This means there are 40 miles of total fun and exploration to be had! One of the most exciting and exhilarating things to do in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is to rent an ATV and drive up and down the sand dunes and along the beach. If you are an experienced ATV driver, then you will especially love “popping wheelies” over the sand dunes and catching some air. The ATVs don’t have the best shocks, so it can be a bumpy, but fun ride! In my opinion, it is the next best thing to a rollercoaster: only in Oregon Coast style.
While you have your ATV, it is a fun ride for exploring the area. You can ride through many tall sand dunes, grassy beach areas, and wooded areas near the shoreline. Overall, it is a fantastic adventure that will definitely give you a good night’s sleep.
While you have your ATV, it is a fun ride for exploring the area. You can ride through many tall sand dunes, grassy beach areas, and wooded areas near the shoreline. Basically, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a beautiful collision of beaches, forests, and deserts. That fact alone mesmerizes most people because it is such an odd sight! Overall, it is a fantastic adventure that will definitely give you a good night’s sleep.
9. Coquille Point
Tucked away on the southern coast of Oregon near the town of Bandon is the gorgeous natural getaway of Coquille Point. No, it’s not a resort. It is a getaway from the hustle and bustle of life in the middle of Mother Nature. Coquille River flows through Coos County and empties out into the Pacific Ocean near Coquille Point.
As a part of the Oregon Islands Refuge, Coquille Point offers an otherworldly view. The large rocks, small islands, and reefs are breathtakingly beautiful. In addition to the picturesque setting, Coquille Point is home to many native wildlife and marine animals. (The area is protected by the Oregon Islands Refuge.) Observing from a distance, you will see sea lions, seals, seabirds, and gray whales.
The most common seabirds at Coquille Point are tufted puffins, common murres, brown pelicans, Canadian geese, and pigeon guillemots. If you are a bird-watcher enthusiast, be sure to carry a pair of binoculars with you!
If you plan to visit the Oregon Coast during the summer, you may be interested in checking out Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. They offer visitors literature about the various wildlife at Coquille Point and even provide folks with spotting scopes for exceptional viewing. (You should never walk up to any wildlife animal nor attempt to get close to any rocks, islands, or reefs. Coquille Point is a heavily protected environment for wildlife to roam freely as if human interaction were nowhere to be found.)
And while you are in Bandon, be sure to participate in storm-watching! Tourists travel to Bandon from all over just to view their spectacular seaside storms. These storms are especially beautiful to view from Coquille Point.
Bandon takes great pride in the fact that their attractions “never close”. Because their main attractions are nature and wildlife, people visit their corner of the world to soak up the ocean vistas, nature trails, tidepools, and wildlife observations.
10. Scenic Natural Bridges
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor (Whew! That’s a long-winded name.) is located along the Oregon Coast near the town of Brookings. For 12 miles, this stretch of Highway 101 takes you on an adventure full of exhilarating trails, ocean views, rugged bluffs, vacant beaches, and incredible coastal rock formations.
Along the 12 miles, this scenic corridor has one stopping point after the other with access to parking, trails, views, and picnic areas. (Some access points have restrooms but not all of them.) Depending on your preferences, you can make a day out of exploring the corridor or you can simply swing by your place of interest for some quick photos and sightseeing.
However, I forewarn you. Cell phone service is very sketchy in the area. While you can easily take photos with your phone, you won’t likely be able to post them to social media right away. And if you plan on hiking some of their advanced trails, prepare ahead of time for any potential emergency situations. Some of the trails can be quite dangerous with ragged edges and high cliffs. This can pose a problem if you have no cell phone service. Plan ahead.
The corridor has several popular highlights such as: Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint, Whaleshead Beach, Natural Bridges, Arch Rock, and House Rock Viewpoint.
Natural Bridges offers the best viewpoint in the entire 12-mile stretch of the scenic corridor. The Natural Bridges includes seven arch rocks that are naturally arranged to look like, you guessed it, natural bridges. The shallow ocean water surrounds the base of the bridges creating a jaw-dropping scene that will leave you in awe.
The best times to take excellent photos of the Natural Bridges is either at sunrise or sunset when the lighting is not too harsh. The hiking trail to the Natural Bridges is not terribly long, but it can be dangerous if you are not careful. Be sure to wear hiking boots! Flip-flops just won’t cut it for this tiny adventure.
And also keep in mind that the weather at Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor can be unpredictable and all over the place. So, in addition to hiking boots, be sure to have handy these items: waterbottle, jacket, raincoat, sunscreen, and bug spray. If you visit the corridor during the winter months, be prepared for a lot of rain and slick trails. The average temperature during the warm months hovers around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you get chilly easily, still take a jacket with you!
Time to Explore!
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of the things to do while on the Oregon Coast. I could go on and on and on about many other exciting adventures to be had on Oregon’s famous coastline. However, if you wanted to spend a few days driving from the northern Oregon Coast down the the southern Oregon Coast, this list will help get you started on the main highlights the ride has to offer. With Astoria from the extreme northern part of the coast to Brookings, the extreme southern portion of the coast, you will find incredible ocean views, spectacular sea rock formations, cliff views, beautiful wildlife, rusted shipwrecks, green, forested hiking trails, massive sand dunes, fascinating history, tasty seafood, and thirst-quenching beer. The temperatures are perfect and mild year-round, and the sights are unforgettable. Why wouldn’t you want to explore the Oregon Coast?
And if you want to know where I had the most fun from the things on this list? It was driving the ATV on the sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. I have been driving ATVs since I was a kid. This ATV experience was unlike any other I have ever encountered. I had a blast on those sand dune trails, and I know that you will, too.
Be bold. Be adventurous. Explore the Oregon Coast.