I must admit, despite living in Oregon all my life, it took me entirely too long to do a proper Oregon coast road trip — popping off at each of the quaint Oregon coast towns along the way.
Shame on me, right?
Luckily for me, this is a story of redemption because last spring I finally made the effort to partake in this “rite of passage” and it truly turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.
My husband and I popped off at each of the coastal towns that line the salty sea and thought it’d be fun to rank the best of the best, from a local’s perspective.
Read on for everything you need to know about the best Oregon coast towns this lovely state has to offer — I hope you enjoy!
Quick Tip: Make sure to pack sunscreen! Here’s the sunscreen I’ve used for the past 6+ years, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it!
Who am I and why can you trust me?
Fair question. I’m a lifelong Oregonian. I’ve been exploring Oregon my entire life. My childhood is freckled with memories of weekends spent at various Oregon coast towns. My mom was in love with the area and would drag us out most weekends in summer.
Admittedly when I was younger the voyage to the coast was anything but exciting. Two hours in the car with my fanatical siblings? I don’t know how she did it. But the effort was worthwhile because now that I’m older I find myself missing the Oregon Coast if I stay away too long.
Now as an adult, I visit the coast at least ten times a year and have discovered a plethora of charming Oregon coast towns worth a visit.
P.S. In addition to this list of the best towns at the Oregon coast, I’ve also drafted a list of the best hikes at the Oregon Coast (if you’re interested).
Where to stay at the Oregon coast: Several readers have reached out and asked about where to stay at the Oregon coast. I typically pop around, but if helpful, this is (by far) my favorite area to stay in while visiting the Oregon Coast.
#16. Tillamook Bay
I’m going to start this list with one of my favorite Oregon coast towns. Anyone that has ever visited the Oregon coast probably knows why someone who spent their childhood in Oregon would love this place and it boils down two things: ice cream and cheese.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory is one of my favorite places in Oregon for nostalgia’s sake alone.
My parents used to bribe us with Tillamook ice cream to keep us calm during the 1.5 drive from Portland. “The first person to see the ocean gets the first ice cream cone” my mother would plead desperately.
It worked like a charm, we couldn’t see her cracking under the pressure of spending almost two hours in the car with 5 kids (don’t look at me, I’m just lucky enough to snatch the #2 spot).
One of my favorite things to do in Tillamook Bay is to rent a boat and go crabbing with good friends. We’ve done this a handful of times and I still can’t imagine a better way to spend a day at the Oregon coast.
If you’d like to stretch your legs, hike the epic Cape Lookout Trail.
Cape Lookout is arguably the most famous cape at the coast, so it’s only fitting that its home to one of the best hikes at the Oregon Coast as well. Cape Lookout juts an impressive 1.5 miles into the Pacific Ocean so you better believe the views from the lookout are some of the best on the entire coast!
If helpful, here’s a roundup of the best hotels in Tillamook Bay
#15. Coos Bay
Coos Bay is one of the coolest towns at the Oregon Coast. It’s perfectly charming, has plenty of restaurants and the locals are friendly. With more than 16,000 residents, Coos Bay is considered the largest city on the Oregon Coast.
The rich history of this shipbuilding town is evident, but its biggest draw is the natural beauty and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s a very interesting area to explore because this is where the Coos River meets the Pacific Ocean and you definitely don’t get to see something like that every day.
The location of this charming Oregon coast town makes it a perfect gateway to the rugged and adventurous southern cost, which is ripe for exploration.
You won’t find a shortage of adventurous things to do in Coos Bay and will find everything from dunes, trails and state parks.
Roundup of the best hotels in Coos Bay
Best thing to do in Coos Bay
Cape Arago Lighthouse
The first two version of this lighthouse were built in in 1866 and 1908 but fell victim to erosion and bad weather. So the third version of this Oregon lighthouse is one of the newest kids on the block.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 2006 since its services were deemed unnecessary and soon after, the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians requested ownership of the lighthouse because the land belonged to them before European settlers claimed it for themselves.
Today this Oregon Coast lighthouse is not open to the public but it can be viewed from a distance. The best viewpoints, in my opinion, are found at Sunset Bay State Park.
Hike the John Dellenback Trial
Few know that the Oregon coast is home to the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the country (and one of the largest in the world).
As such, no list of the best things to do at the Oregon coast is complete without mentioning the epic John Dellenback Dunes Trail.
Explore this natural wonder for yourself by lacing up your favorite pair of hiking boots. Most of the accessible areas in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are constantly full of sand buggies but the Dellenback Dunes trail is an exception. It’s reserved exclusively for hikers.
This Oregon coast trail offers such a unique hiking experience because it takes you from the woods to soft sand dunes, through a forest and finally the ocean.
If you’re into jaw-dropping views of never-ending sand dunes along a pristine coastline overlooking the sea, then this is the perfect hike on the Oregon Coast for you. What’s more, solitude is possible to come by because this trail isn’t heavily trafficked.
#14. Rockaway Beach
If your ideal day at the Oregon coast doesn’t entail hordes of people peppered along the beach, may I suggest Rockaway Beach?
The best way to describe this gem is “a little Oregon Coast town with a big beach.” Because at the end of the day, you come here for the beach. Heck, the town is home to less than 1,500 residents, so amenities are limited but the plus side is the lack of crowds.
Quieter than its famous neighbor (looking at you, Cannon Beach) this is the place to go for a relaxing weekend catching up with old friends. Make sure to swing by Manhattan Beach State Recreation Site while you’re in the area.
If you’re into tide pools, clamming or simply sunbathing you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more peaceful Oregon coast town.
Roundup of the best hotels in Rockaway Beach
Brookings is a sleepy yet charming Oregon Coast town found a mere six miles from the California border. This is the southern-most coastal town in Oregon and it doesn’t get too many visitors. We’ve seldom run into crowds here, which is surprising because the natural bridges viewpoint is downright jaw-dropping.
With long stretches of sandy beaches and warmer weather than most other Oregon Coast towns, this is a great place to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Oregon Coast and stretch your legs by hiking the various trails. Harris Beach State Park is a great starting point!
When you’ve had your fill of nature, head towards town where cute pubs and breweries await you.
There’s a surprising amount of amenities for a town this size, but there’s two grocery stores and 10+ restaurants offering good food options.I recommend swinging by Zola’s on the Water for a quick bite before, if you’re hungry.
Roundup of best hotels in Brookings
Hiking the Natural Bridges Viewpoint Trail
If you find yourself at the south end of the Oregon Coast (right near the California-Oregon border), you would be mistaken to skip this easy Oregon hike that is great for all skill levels — assuming you stop at the viewpoint pictured above and don’t go down to the actual natural bridge.
In terms of beauty, the Natural Bridge Viewpoint Trail has to top the list of best hikes at the coast because of the jaw-dropping views. The best part? The hike is short (around half a mile).
From this viewpoint you will see the best of Oregon’s iconic coast — the exemplary rocky coastline and miles of old-growth forests. It’s downright breathtaking!
This Oregon Coast hike has grown in popularity thanks to Instagram. A lot of hikers choose to hike on top of the natural bridge pictured above but in my opinion the social trail is steep and dangerous and not worth the risk.
The quaint town of Neskowin has been able to skirt the commercialization taking most of the other Oregon Coast towns by storm. As such, both Neskowin Beach and town feel less crowded than other areas along the coast.
The beach itself is a sight to behold. Both Proposal Rock and the Ghost Forest. The Ghost Forest is comprised of 2000-year-old stumps from ancient Sitka spruce that spanned impressive heights of 200-feet. Meandering past the stumps makes for a memorable beach experience you won’t soon forget.
If you’re in an adventurous mood, strap on your hiking boots and take in the splendor of the vast Pacific Ocean from the Cascades Head trail, one of the BEST hikes at the Oregon Coast. If you’re looking for a shorter (heart-pumping) hike, climb Proposal Rock. Find the rope hanging down the side of the rock and make your way up for a unique vantage point.
If you’re an avid golfer then you’ve probably heard about the breathtaking 9-hole Neskowin Beach Golf Course, which offers striking views of the coast.
#11. Yachats | Central Oregon Coast Town
If you’re a sucker for natural wonders (me too!), Yachats is one of the best Oregon coast towns you can visit.
The glorious Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is hauntingly beautiful and the town itself has a small-town feel with friendly locals adamant about enjoying a slower pace of life.
While exploring this lovely coastal town, make sure you don’t miss lunch (or dinner) at Luna Sea — considered the BEST fish and chips on the Oregon Coast. After trying them first hand, I can confirm.
In fact, Will and I were tempted to drive out one random weekend for another meal at this restaurant — it’s that good.
If you’re a big fan of baked goods, Bread & Roses is a great spot for coffee and pastries, try not to miss that either.
Roundup of best hotels in Yachats
#10. Manzanita | Northern Oregon Coast Town
Manzanita is smaller than the other Oregon Coast towns mentioned in this post, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.
Lesser known that the more famous coastal beaches and towns, Manzanita is known for having less crowds and pleasant temperate weather most of the year.
Don’t leave this cute town without visiting Oswald West State Park, one of my favorite state parks in Oregon. The views of Nehalem Bay are downright breathtaking which is why Manzanita is home to some of my favorite hikes on the Oregon Coast.
Hike the Cape Falcon Trail
Sitting pretty in Oswald West State Park is the Cape Falcon Loop Trail is a breathtaking Oregon coast hike that passes through impressive vistas and takes you through a striking coastal forest before ultimately spitting you out at Cape Falcon which offers expansive breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
If you choose to detour to Short Sand Beach keep your eyes out for surfers! Adrenaline-fueled surfers flock to this beach for waves.
Best hotels in Manzanita, Oregon
#9. Bandon | Southern Oregon Coast Town
Bandon, Oregon is filled to the brim with creative locals that have turned this little coastal town into an alluring place for visitors and locals alike.
There’s so much to do (and learn), you can easily spend an entire weekend in Bandon and leave wanting more. The beach is marked by intriguing rock formations and jagged cliffs.
I suggest starting your day in Old Town Bandon, where fun little shops line the main street. If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, make time to explore the old town marketplace where local artisans are eager to share their talents and crafts.
You can’t visit Bandon without taking the Beach Loop Drive and exploring Circles in the Sand. Both are bound to entertain you for hours. And if you love birding make a beeline for the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge where you can watch venerable falcons grace the sky.
Make sure to check out Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint as well, that’s another great spot for birding at the Oregon Coast.
Tip: Face Rock Creamery is a great option for lunch and ice cream. They make great sandwiches and a mean panini. Plus, the cheese is so good! But heads up — the ice cream portions are huge, I suggest splitting a single scoop between two people.
Roundup of the best hotels in Bandon, Oregon
#8. Florence | Central Oregon Coast Town
During our road trip through the Oregon Coast, Florence surprised us more than any other coastal town.
We couldn’t believe how quaint it felt — from the charming main street, called Bay Street, to the great dining options — we ended up staying an extra day because we found the town so alluring.
Oh, but don’t let me forget — the natural wonders in this area are something else! Make sure to swing by the Sea Lion Caves — the largest sea cave in America inhabited by sea lions (spring and winter are the best seasons to visit).
And make an effort to explore Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area — the largest expanse of coastal dunes in the country, and one of the largest temperate coastal sand dunes in the entire world.
Finally, make sure you swing by Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon (for good reason).
Roundup of the best hotels in Florence, Oregon
#7. Lincoln City | Central Oregon Coast Town
Lincoln City never ceases to amaze, this stunning coastal town in Oregon has it all — phenomenal hiking, delicious restaurants, and plenty of outdoor adventure. It’s no wonder this popular Oregon coast town attracts crowds during the warm summer months.
The striking coastline is the biggest draw, make no mistake, but both Devil’s Lake is not to be missed. Especially if you love paddle boarding.
Visit Siletz Bay and you’ll know instantly why this is considered one of the most striking bays at the Oregon coast. A lot of locals love kayaking in the area so why not join in on the fun?
If you’re in the shopping mood, swing by the Lincoln City Outlets — you’re bound to find a deal or two.
Local’s Tip: The most beloved event at this great Oregon coast town is an annual event called Finders Keepers. Glass balls are hidden along the beach from October to May, awaiting to be discovered by lucky beach-goers. If you find it, you keep it.
Here’s the best hotels in Lincoln City, Oregon
Hike God’s Thumb
If you’re in the hiking mood, don’t miss the God’s Thumb hike. It’s arguably the best hike this close to the Pacific Ocean.
The steep cliff that juts out towards the sea is shaped like a giant thumb, earning the colorful moniker “God’s Thumb.” Note: None of the trail signs read “God’s Thumb” because this hike is officially known as “The Knoll.” Follow signs that lead toward The Knoll.
Knowing where to park your car is the most confusing part about this entire hike! Here’s coordinates to the closest parking lot. If that lot is full, your best bet — to avoid getting cited or towed — is to park at Road’s End State Recreation Site and walk along the road until you reach the trailhead.
The trail meanders through a dense spruce forest known for being extremely muddy after rainfall. Continue down the trail until you reach the God’s Thumb viewpoint and soak in the views before beginning the sharp ascent to the summit.
From the top, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled breathtaking views of Oregon’s vast coastline and large stretches of Lincoln City. It’s an incredible experience, which is why this is easily one of the best hikes in Oregon!
Note: Good hiking boots are a must on this hike because the trail is steep and gets slippery even during dry days.
#6. Seaside | Northern Oregon Coast Town
Seaside may feel like a tourist trap to some, but as someone that grew up playing at Funland Seaside Arcade and enjoying one too many ice cream cones from Zingers Ice Cream, I think it’s a great spot to visit during a trip to the Oregon Coast.
This is also a great place for kids because there’s tons of family-friendly attractions to choose from, such as the Seaside Aquarium (where you can feed the seals) and the carousel at Seaside Carousel Mall.
History buff? The turnaround at Seaside is designated as the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail — reason alone to visit. You’re stepping foot in history!
If you’re a beach bum, there’s plenty of space to branch out in the sand — you’re bound to see folks playing volleyball and kids coming down from a sugar high (the elephant ears from We’re All Ears cannot be missed!).
Roundup of the best hotels in Seaside
#5. Astoria | Northern Oregon Coast Town
Perhaps best known as the filming location for The Goonies, Astoria is not technically an Oregon coast beach town because it sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, but try telling that to a local.
Regardless of the technicality, nothing stops this gem from being one the most beloved and historic Oregon Coast beach towns. It’s also the oldest city in Oregon!
The town is chock-full of maritime history, so swing by the Columbia River Maritime Museum to get a better appreciation of the importance of the land.
While exploring Astoria, I suggest visiting Fort Clatsop, a replica of the winter encampment used during the Lewis & Clark expedition. The encampment was recreated using notes from the expedition journals, how cool is that?
After that, head over to Fort Stevens State Park (one of the prettiest state parks in Oregon) and swing by Buoy brewery before checking out the most iconic shipwreck on the Oregon coast — the wreck of Peter Iredale!
Interesting fact about Astoria: Astoria is where the Columbia River dumps into the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the most dangerous river bar crossings on the planet where waves can exceed a colossal forty feet in height. Can you imagine?
Roundup of the best hotels in Astoria
#4. Depoe Bay | Central Oregon Coast Town
Depoe Bay harbor is known as the smallest natural navigable harbor in the world. Often referred to as the whale watching capital of the Oregon coast, this lovely coastal town draws whales like clockwork from March through December.
Humpback whales, grey whales, orcas, and more can be viewed here along with a bevy of other sea life.
Whale sightings are all but guaranteed during the migrating season and there’s plenty of viewpoints to chose from! Check out the Whale Watch Center, hop on a charter boat or keep a distance from an observation deck.
Depoe Bay is also home to some beautiful waterfront hotels like the Channel House where one of our friends generously gifted us a stay and we absolutely LOVED it — can’t recommend it enough!
Roundup of the best hotels in Depoe Bay, Oregon
#3. Pacific City | Northern Oregon Coast Town
Of all the Oregon coast towns I’ve grown to love, Pacific City feels like the most peaceful beach town. But don’t get me wrong, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, especially if you enjoy surfing.
Visit Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, one of the most beautiful places to watch a sunset and most popular areas to visit on the entire Oregon coast.
Pelican Brewery is great spot for a delicious brews and breathtaking views of the sea after a day exploring.
Best hotels in Pacific City, Oregon
#2. Newport | Central Oregon Coast Town
I spent many childhood weekends exploring the historic Bayfront in Newport.
The sea lions on the dock are always a hoot and there’s a plethora of fun shop to explore and new restaurants to discover.
If you’re into a little recreational crabbing there are several great docks to try your luck for some delicious Dungeness crabs.
Newport has become a rather desirable destination on the Oregon Coast, even featuring a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, so you can almost always expect lively streets chock-full of chatty people.
In terms of restaurants, our favorite spot is Local Ocean Seafoods, located a bit further down from the bridge off of Bay Blvd.Check out Yaquina Head Lighthouse and pop off for a brew at Rogue Ales afterwards.
Roundup of the best hotels in Newport, Oregon
#1. Cannon Beach | Northern Oregon Coast Town
You better believe I’m saving the best for last — who wouldn’t want to visit Oregon’s most famous coastal town?
Cannon Beach is a mere 1.5-hour drive from Portland, which means it’s quite popular with both locals and tourists alike. Due to this Oregon coast town’s popularity, there’s plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from.
But hard to blame anyone for flocking to this area– the iconic 235′ Haystack Rock has an appeal few can resist. Explore Haystack Rock at low tide for colorful starfish, abundant anemones, hermit crabs and tidepools.
If you’re into birding — you’ll see Tufted Puffins (so cool), pelicans, too many seagulls and a handful of Bald Eagles.
My favorite areas to explore near Cannon Beach are Ecola State Park and Hug Point State Park.
Not sure where to stay at Cannon Beach? Here’s the best hotels!
Things to do at the Oregon Coast
- Go crabbing: Pick up a $10 permit, a crab net, a few chicken legs and spend a day crabbing at the Oregon coast!
- Go whale watching: Whale watching is a year-round activity at the Oregon coast, but your best chance of success occurs from March thru December.
- Explore ALL the lighthouses: There’s 11 lighthouses that pepper the Oregon coast — try to visit all of them! Here’s a complete list of all the lighthouses along the coast.
The Best Oregon Coast Towns (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick overview of the best Oregon coast towns, based on firsthand experience.
- Lincoln City
- Depoe Bay
- Pacific City
- Cannon Beach
- Rockaway Beach
- Coos Bay
- Tillamook Bay
Best Oregon Coast Towns Map
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Until next time,