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18 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do on the Oregon Coast

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Sep 16, 2022

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The Oregon Coast beckons for memorable travel experiences. Highway 101, also known as the Oregon Coast Highway, spans the entire coastline. This paved route connects scenic landscapes with one charming community after another. Roadside attractions are always within a short drive, with the nearby Pacific Ocean lapping against the shore.

From Cannon Beach to the rugged and wild shoreline of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, the Oregon coast delivers on many unique things to see and do. Fishing, cape climbing, tide pool exploring, and simply staring in awe at the setting sun are some of the most popular activities.

For those not interested in driving a vehicle, a pedestrian option is cycling the Oregon Coast Bike Route, mainly following the shoulder of the 101. Intrepid explorers can also backpack the Oregon Coast Trail and travel for more than 370 miles on foot for a true Oregon Coast odyssey.

Whatever means of transportation you choose, be ready for the Oregon Coast to leave a lasting impression. Make the most of your traveling time with our list of the top things to do on the Oregon Coast.

1. Cannon Beach & Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Adjacent to the city and sand of Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is perhaps one of the most iconic images of the Oregon coast. Many factors contribute to Haystack Rock's popularity, including the sheer presence of this 235-foot testament to the region's volcanic past.

One of Oregon's seven designated Marine Gardens is here, and low tide at Haystack Rock reveals a colorful world of sea anemones, urchins, and sea stars. Several species of seabirds also call Haystack Rock home, including the tufted puffin, whose bright orange beaks are seen on the north side of the rock throughout the summer.

The city of Cannon Beach itself is a very tourist-friendly community and only a two-hour drive from Portland. The downtown district of Cannon Beach epitomizes family vacations with arcade parlors, themed restaurants, and a constant lineup of events throughout the summer.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach

2. Columbia River Maritime Museum

A ship docked outside the Columbia River Maritime Museum
A ship docked outside the Columbia River Maritime Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the shores of the Columbia River and accessible from the scenic Astoria Riverwalk. The museum highlights the human and natural history of the nearby waterway.

Exhibits at the museum range from a decommissioned floating lighthouse open for tours to interactive displays detailing the perilous journey crossing the Columbia River Bar. The facility also houses several artifacts relating to the military history found along the coast.

An IMAX theater at the museum screens different 20-minute educational movies throughout the day. A few of the many educational programs and events at the museum include pygmy kayak building classes and family-friendly Friday Summer Plaza programs.

Address: 1792 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon

Official site: http://www.crmm.org

3. Fort Stevens State Park

The Peter Iredale Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park
The Peter Iredale Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Fort Stevens State Park is another one of the top attractions of Astoria. This state park occupies the northwesternmost tip of Oregon where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Fort Stevens State Park is a massive natural space with a long military history. In conjunction with two forts across the river in Washington, Fort Stevens was a key military defense unit for more than 80 years until the 1940s. Today, Fort Stevens is an exemplary state park on the Oregon coast with accessible hiking trails and a sprawling campground.

Numerous military remnants of Fort Stevens are at the Historic Military Site within the state park, including a command station, guardhouse, and multiple batteries. More than 30 stops line the Military Site's self-guided walking tour. More interpretive information and a scale-model replica of the fort are available at the park's visitor center.

The Fort Stevens campground is the largest on the coast, featuring more than 300 sites accommodating everything from RVs to hikers on the Oregon Coast Trail. Two freshwater lakes are within the confines of Fort Stevens, providing even more fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities. The park is also home to the Peter Iredale – a century-old shipwreck that makes a fun photo opportunity.

Address: 100 Peter Iredale Road, Hammond, Oregon

4. Seaside Promenade

Seaside Aquarium on the Seaside Promenade
Seaside Aquarium on the Seaside Promenade | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Next to the northern coastal Seaside Beach, the historic Promenade, better known as the Prom, has been a valued pedestrian path for more than a century. This seaside path is a great place to stroll with a great view of the ocean and the nearby Tillamook Head. And its family-friendly nature often makes it a capstone visiting experience.

At 1.5 miles long, the Prom provides an accessible concrete pathway to enjoy the ocean environment and surrounding grassy dunes. The Prom also connects many of the top sights of Seaside, including the nearly-as-old Seaside Aquarium.

A Lewis and Clark Memorial is at the center of the famous Seaside Turnaround, where the Prom meets the central street of Seaside's downtown district (Broadway Street). This historic plaque commemorates the time spent by the Corps of Discovery in the area.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Seaside

5. Ecola State Park

Entrance to Tillamook Head in Ecola State Park
Entrance to Tillamook Head in Ecola State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Ecola State Park encompasses the forested headland of Tillamook Head, between Cannon Beach and Seaside. It offers a wide array of opportunities to enjoy the scenic landscape. Entering the park from the north end of Cannon Beach, tourists start their experience at either Crescent Beach or Indian Beach, both defined by soft, white sand and stunning rock formations.

The real excitement and scenery of Ecola State Park begins with the ascent of Tillamook Head into the densely forested headland. Nearly 10 miles of trails cross over Tillamook Head and Ecola State Park, including the Oregon Coast Trail and the Clatsop Trail Loop - the same route Lewis and Clark took in search of a beached whale and winter supplies.

Along the way, amazing ocean views are spotted through the thick coastal foliage, including a distant view of Haystack Rock on clear days. One of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast is at the top of Tillamook Head, complete with complimentary Adirondack shelters (hike-in only). A short path from the campground leads to a cliffside view of the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.

Address: 84318 Ecola Park Road, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Oregon

6. Three Capes Scenic Route

Cape Kiwanda within the Three Capes Region
Cape Kiwanda within the Three Capes Region | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Dramatic capes and headlands define much of the beauty of the Oregon coast. The best collection of these often forested and always fun to explore promontories is on the northern coast along the Three Capes Scenic Route.

Beginning from the city of Tillamook, the route deviates from the 101 to travel closer to the ocean before heading 40 miles south, taking visitors to the three capes and through a dense region of history, elevation, and natural splendor.

From Tillamook, the first cape encountered is the scenic Cape Meares, followed by the campground-dotted Cape Lookout. The third cape, Cape Kiwanda, is a unique landmark as one of the only sandstone capes on the coast.

Besides elevated views of the ocean environment, each cape along this 40-mile route contains rich natural treasures, including adventurous hiking trails, tide pools teeming with life, and remote beaches. The lively community of Pacific City, next to Cape Kiwanda, is a great vacation area for those that want to ditch the worst of the crowds.

7. Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint

A visitor enjoying the view at Boiler Bay
A visitor enjoying the view at Boiler Bay | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Boiler Bay is on the northern edge of Depoe Bay, also known as the "Whale Watching Capital of Oregon," and one of the best small towns on the Oregon Coast. Boiler Bay, itself, provides an easy pull-off from the 101 and a good chance of spotting the resident wildlife.

Boiler Bay provides an expansive view at the edge of the continent. It's also a day-use area perfect for an afternoon packed lunch or a stretch of the legs. Whales, seabirds, and tourists from around the world comprise the fauna often found at Boiler Bay.

It's easy to spend an extended time at Boiler Bay. The neighboring city of Depoe Bay is also worth some attention. Here, alongside a similar edge-of-the-world view, Depoe Bay offers more things to do, like guided whale tours and chartered fishing adventures.

8. Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area

Devils Punchbowl
Devils Punchbowl | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This unique geological feature was created by the collapse of two sea caves close to the shore. Today, it's a prominent tourist attraction north of Newport, and easily accessible with less than a mile drive from the 101.

A good time to visit is during high tide, when the incoming water rips and roars through the punch bowl to highlight the ocean's powerful force.

Low tide is also a fun time to visit as the receding water reveals rich tide pools brimming with aquatic life. Just north of the punch bowl, Otter Rock provides a popular surf break for nearly all levels of riders. Among all the other excitement, Devils Punchbowl is also a great place to see whales during the migratory season (March through June).

Location: Otter Rock, Oregon

9. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Yaquina Lighthouse on Yaquina Head
Yaquina Lighthouse on Yaquina Head | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Yaquina Head is a designated Outstanding Natural Area, located just over 10 miles south of Depoe Bay and easily accessible from the 101. While the center of attention is the historic 1872 lighthouse at the tip of the basalt head, framed by colorful wildflowers in the early spring and summer, there is much to explore on this scenic promontory.

Other fun reasons to visit include an extensive tide pool habitat, various wildlife spotted from the shore, and an interpretive center to learn more about the long history tied to the lighthouse. Tours of the lighthouse, including climbing a challenging set of stairs, are available every day in July and August. Reservations are recommended.

Address: 750 Northwest Lighthouse Drive Newport, Oregon

Official site: https://www.blm.gov/learn/interpretive-centers/yaquina

10. Oregon Coast Aquarium

Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Tufted Puffin at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

This non-profit organization is situated on 39 acres overlooking Yaquina Bay in Newport. It educates the public about the wonders of the Oregon coast and beyond. The aquarium features numerous indoor, outdoor, and underwater exhibits and provides a fun and interactive space for the whole family to enjoy,

Some of the most popular exhibits include the Secret of Shipwrecks, a Giant Pacific Octopus Cave, and a 1.3-million-gallon Passages of the Deep Aquarium. Just a few of the aquarium's resident animals include sharks, harbor seals, and tufted puffins.

Be sure to check out the daily feeding schedule before your visit. Other special events and programs at the aquarium include the chance to SCUBA dive in the water or spend the night in the underwater tunnels.

Address: 2820 Southeast Ferry Slip Road, Newport, Oregon

Official site: http://aquarium.org

11. Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Cape Perpetua viewpoint
Cape Perpetua viewpoint | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Cape Perpetua is part of Siuslaw National Forest nearing the north-central region of the coast, and it provides the tallest and arguably best view accessible by vehicle. Visitors can pay to park at the top of the cape, leaving only a few short footsteps from the spectacular view.

Alternatively, several hiking trails start from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center and head up through dense coastal vegetation to explore the rewarding environment. Other highlights along the trail network include giant spruce trees and a dynamic part of the ocean known as the Devils Churn.

Good home bases for exploring Cape Perpetua include Yachats and Florence to the north and south. The cape is an extremely popular place to visit on sunny weekends. Balmier days provide more seclusion, and the lush coastal forest is fun to explore in rainy conditions.

12. Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Heceta Head Lighthouse is south of Cape Perpetua and north of Florence and has played a prominent role for coastal visitors and seaward ships for more than a century. This illuminated landmark stands on the west side of the 1,000-foot Heceta Head, and its rotating beacon of light still guides ships today.

The aesthetically pleasing lighthouse and the surrounding coastal environment tends to draw some attention from land, too. Trails run north and south from the lighthouse, affording distant views of the shoreline and ocean horizon.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse day-use area is accessible by vehicles and a short walk from the parking area. The property includes the historic lighthouse keeper's home, which is now a renovated bed-and-breakfast known for a signature seven-course breakfast.

Address: 725 Summer Street, Florence, Oregon

13. Old Town Florence

Old Town Florence
Old Town Florence | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Old Town Florence sits next to the Suislaw River on the Central Oregon Coast. This historic part of an already vibrant ocean town offers many ways to spend the day and enjoy the atmosphere. And with several seafood restaurants, it's an excellent place to visit for foodies and those with an appetite.

Ocean-inspired shopping also lines the streets of this historic district. From fashion to gift shops and farmers markets, it's fun window shopping and sightseeing in this part of town. A free public parking lot for Old Town is on the other side of the Siuslaw River Bridge, on the same side of the river.

When visiting Old Town, take some time to visit the Siuslaw Interpretive Center. This is a popular thing to do in Florence and includes a walkway, viewing platform, and interpretive information about the Siuslaw River Bridge. It also provides perhaps the best view of the Siuslaw River Bridge itself.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Florence

14. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

An OHV rider enjoying the sand at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
An OHV rider enjoying the sand at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area comprises one of the largest collections of coastal sand dunes in the world. It's part of the Siuslaw National Forest on Oregon's central coast. Riding off-highway vehicles (OHVs) is a popular recreational activity throughout this soft-sanded, hilly, and always-changing landscape,

Hiking, camping, and sand sledding down the dunes is also prevalent. Different areas within the dunes, which stretch for nearly 40 miles between North Bend and Florence, cater to specific interests.

Towards the north, including areas like the Siuslaw South Jetty, OHV motors are seen and heard scaling the dunes. Places like Tahkenitch Creek or the John Dellenback Trail, farther south, allow hikers to explore the quiet environment on their own.

15. Cape Arago Highway

Shore Acres State Park, Cape Arago Highway
Shore Acres State Park, Cape Arago Highway

The Cape Arago Highway offers a slight diversion from the 101 near Coos Bay on the Southern Oregon Coast. It's a worthy side adventure on a road trip, or a place to plan an entire vacation, with several state parks and beaches spanning its last five miles coming from Charleston.

The three state parks at the end of the Cape Arago Highway are Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. All three offer their own unique history and reasons to visit, and all contribute to the many things to do in Coos Bay throughout the year.

Bastendorff Beach is also worth a pitstop when traveling the Cape Arago Highway. It's located just north of Sunset Bay State Park and a five-minute drive from Charleston. This quiet beach offers a scenic view of Yoakam Point to the south, and plenty of room to enjoy the sand in peace.

16. Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint

Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint panorama
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint panorama | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The southern coast of Oregon is well defined by eye-catching sea stacks onshore and offshore. And few other places exemplify this dramatic landscape better than the stretch of beach encompassing and surrounding Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, adjacent to the city of Bandon.

The best place to start exploring the beach surrounding Face Rock is to access the sand farther north at Coquille Point and Kroneberg County Park. The view from the high vantage point of Kroneberg County Park is known to take tourists' breath away, as do the long set of stairs leading down to the beach.

Heading south from Kroneberg County Park and Coquille point, every massive and minute rock within view is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge - a vital habitat for nesting seabirds. The views continue to astound, including the closer view of Face Rock - a massive sea stack that some say looks back at you.

Location: Bandon, Oregon

17. Gold Beach Books

Gold Beach Books & Art Gallery
Gold Beach Books & Art Gallery | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Gold Beach is home to a massive repository of new and used books on the Southern Oregon Coast. Gold Beach Books & Art Gallery is a longstanding institution in this charming coastal town and one of many fun things to do in Gold Beach.

The second floor of Gold Beach Books is where to find the largest paper and hardback selection. A general fiction category categorized alphabetically literally wraps around the entire second floor on high shelves. The rest of the interior collection includes biographies, first editions, religious texts, and the world of science fiction, among others.

The first floor of Gold Beach Books is where the coffee aroma comes from. And next to the café, the Art Gallery currently displays the largest collection of bronze sculptures on the coast. Peruse the selection here, perhaps with a cappuccino in hand, and plan on leaving with a new book to read at the beach.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gold Beach

18. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Named after the first Oregon State Parks superintendent, this 12-mile linear park on the southern coast presents one postcard view after another. The state scenic corridor comprises many of the best beaches in Oregon. The Oregon Coast Highway runs right through the park, providing pull-offs and parking spots to access numerous beaches and viewpoints.

The downright dazzling views of this iconic stretch of coast make it one of the most popular, though the beaches' and sea cliffs' rugged nature still allows a sense of solitude with each visit. The best way to avoid crowds is by venturing down the steep hiking trails that parallel the highway.

Among other places of interest, Secret Beach and China Beach are two popular spots for the whole family to explore. Other places to point a camera include House Rock, Cape Ferrelo, and the beach at Lone Ranch Picnic Area.

Location: Brookings, Oregon

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