12 Top-Rated Beaches on the Oregon Coast

Written by Brad Lane
Nov 17, 2020

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Like access to the ocean and stunning sunsets, all beaches on the Oregon Coast share similar characteristics. But make no mistake, no two beaches are the same. From popular tourist spots like Cannon Beach up north to the massive sea stacks that define sandy spots like Arizona Beach farther south, each stretch of beach on the Oregon coast offers its own unique attractions and a slice of paradise to explore.

Surfing, tide pooling, swimming, fishing, and sandcastle building are all experienced on Oregon's beaches, as well as wildlife spotting, picnics, cape climbing, dog walking, and simply spreading a towel down to enjoy the ocean breeze.

Connected to many of the best small towns on the Oregon coast, Oregon's beaches offer many unique things to do away from the surf. Pack a lunch and don't forget the sunscreen. Perhaps bring a kite if the wind is up. And don't hesitate to bring the whole family because the entire Oregon coast, also known as the People's Coast, is open to the public and welcoming for all ages.

Beach maps can be picked up at any visitor center and most state parks. While it can seem overwhelming to choose which beach to visit, they all meet visitors' expectations. Explore the best places to visit by the sea with our list of the top-rated beaches on the Oregon Coast.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

If you only have time in your life to experience the Oregon coast once, Cannon Beach delivers on nearly everything that makes this scenic side of the world so special.

Both the name of the popular coastal city and the miles of sandy beach accessed from its backdoor, Cannon Beach's star feature is the towering Haystack Rock. One of the top attractions on the coast, Haystack Rock was created by ancient lava flow and eons of tectonic plate movement. Simply standing in the presence of this 235-foot basalt sea stack makes for a unique beach experience.

The city of Cannon Beach is a popular spot for first-time tourists and long-term visitors alike. An array of art galleries, restaurants, and community events line the streets, which cater to all vacation tastes. Expect to meet an abundance of beachgoers any sunny day throughout the summer. But with a wide expanse of sandy beach, there's plenty of room for everyone to spread out their things.

Upscale places like the Surfsand Resort and The Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach offer an unbeatable overnight experience. Other oceanfront hotels like the Tolovana Inn and Land's End at Cannon Beach offer more value and great views.

2. Cape Kiwanda State Scenic Area

Whale spout in front of Haystack Rock at the Cape Kiwanda State Scenic Area

Whale spout in front of Haystack Rock at the Cape Kiwanda State Scenic Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The southernmost cape to visit on the Three Capes Scenic Route, Cape Kiwanda, is the only major headland on the Oregon coast comprised of sandstone. This gives the promontory a different complexion compared to the rest of the capes along the coast and provides a unique range of things to do.

Climbing the sandstone cape is a must-do experience on the coast. Most hikers make their way back down via the massive sand dune on the southern side, while some intrepid explorers choose to paraglide from the top. The cape offers a dramatic view of the ocean, as well as ample tide pooling opportunity at its base.

The beach area on the southern cove of Cape Kiwanda, adjacent to Pacific City, is nothing short of a spectacular place to see and visit. It's accessible via a gentle path from a parking area. Perhaps most notable about this stunning beach is that it is the only place on the Oregon coast where flat-bottomed dory boats can access the water from the shore.

The wide beach is also popular for tide pooling, surfing, whale watching, and admiring Pacific City's own offshore Haystack Rock. Sunsets are undeniably a popular time at Cape Kiwanda, and oceanside restaurants in Pacific City provide a great place to sit and enjoy the show.

Location: Pacific City, Oregon

3. Nye Beach

Nye Beach shoreline, Newport

Nye Beach shoreline, Newport | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Easily accessed from Newport, Nye Beach has been enticing tourists for more than a century. What has attracted visitors throughout that time is still on display today with stunning ocean views and an artistic community.

Beach access is easy at Historic Nye Beach, as are all the sand-and-surf activities associated with it. After combing the sand and enjoying the sun, the 12-block long mixed business district adjoining Nye Beach appeals to all members of the family. Shopping, dining, and especially art galleries can be found with an easy stroll along the sand-strewn sidewalks.

Top resorts in the area like the Agate Beach Motel and Hallmark Resort make it easy and affordable to extend a vacation.

4. Secret Beach

Secret Beach

Secret Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

While the clandestine nature of Secret Beach is debatable, this pocket beach's awe-inspiring surroundings are undeniably stunning. The beach is within the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor on the southern coast.

Secret Beach can be accessed via a small gravel parking lot off the 101 (just south of mile marker 345) and a somewhat steep three-quarter-mile trail. Immediately upon making it down to the beach, visitors are greeted by the terminus of Miller Creek as it cascades into a waterfall before hitting the ocean.

After crossing Miller Creek onto the sand, the view-obstructing sea stacks and vertical sea walls add to a sense of mystery that lends credence to its name. It's recommended to check out Secret Beach at low tide when visitors can cross an intertidal area to access their own personal cove and perhaps the true secret beach.

5. Seaside Beach

Sand soccer at Seaside Beach

Sand soccer at Seaside Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the far northern coast, Seaside and its corresponding beach have a long history as a coastal destination. The big ocean views and proximity to Portland draw visitors throughout the year. And key cultural attractions like the Seaside Promenade and the Seaside Aquarium have kept families coming back for generations.

Popular activities on the beach include surfing, suntanning, and spectating (or participating) in the largest annual sand volleyball tournament on the coast. The beach here can accommodate thousands, leaving plenty of room to spread out some towels.

Other activities and attractions surrounding the sand include headland hiking trails, scenic golf courses, and a bountiful collection of seafood restaurants and local shops.

One of the highest-rated hotels in the area, Lanai at the Cove, is a great place to enjoy an extended escape on the Oregon coast.

6. Arizona Beach

Arizona Beach

Arizona Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Despite its close location to the 101 on the southern coast, exploring Arizona Beach allows visitors to take a big step back from civilization. The first half of this .66-mile beach gradually enters a landscape defined by onshore and offshore sea stacks, some the size of small apartment complexes.

It's almost disorientating surrounded by so much rock and water, but upon heading further south, the remote feeling of this beach settles in nicely. At the far southern end of the beach, only accessible at low tide, the up-close view of three monolithic "sister" rock formations are worth getting the tide right.

7. Hobbit Beach

The trail leading to Hobbit Beach

The trail leading to Hobbit Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Hobbit Beach is a small pocket beach found on the northern edge of Heceta Head on the northern coast. A part of what makes Hobbit Beach popular and fun to explore is the trail leading down from the 101 to the sand.

Throughout the moderate-to-easy half-mile trail, little "hobbit holes" are dispersed throughout the thick salal shrubbery that lines the path. Closer to the beach, what can best be described as seashell decor welcomes your arrival to the shore.

Another part of the popularity of this stretch of coast is the remote feel of the beach, as well as the trailhead it shares with the Heceta Head Lighthouse trail. Both routes are part of the state-spanning Oregon Coast Trail.

8. Lone Ranch Beach

Lone Ranch Beach

Lone Ranch Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Four miles north of Brookings and marking the southern end of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, Lone Ranch Beach is an easily accessible shoreline with a variety of natural features to explore.

A short and gently graded asphalt trail leads down to the beach and picnic area, passing by four picnic tables overlooking the entire ocean scene. Come low tide, the crescent-shaped beach reveals a variety of easily accessible tide pools that are fun for the whole family to explore.

To the north of the beach and visibly present on clear days, the grassy Cape Ferrelo beckons in the coastal breeze. Visitors can take a short walk to the top of the prominent headland from the picnic area.

9. Short Sand Beach

Short Sand Beach

Short Sand Beach

Situated between Arch Cape and Neahkahnie Mountain within Oswald West State Park, Short Sand Beach is a great tucked-away getaway with fewer crowds. The beach is day-use only and accessed via a half-mile walk from the parking area off the 101.

Short Sand Beach is popular with surfers, photographers, sunbathers, and families looking to use the elevated picnic space that overlooks the ocean. Surrounded by two prominent headlands, Short Sand Beach and the extending Smugglers Cove feel wild and remote, even with potable water and restrooms nearby.

For extra recreational options, hiking trails head north and south from Short Sand Beach up and over the challenging headlands. The encompassing state park also features several hiking trails that navigate an inland temperate coastal rainforest.

Location: Oswald West State Park, Arch Cape, Oregon

10. Arcadia Beach State Recreation Area

Waterfall at Arcadia Beach

Waterfall at Arcadia Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Stretching for a mile between two rocky outcroppings on the northern Oregon coast, Arcadia Beach is a less-busy alternative to the nearby Cannon Beach. This is a great spot for family exploring. A few of Arcadia's defining features include a fanned waterfall and beach cave, as well as tide pools at either of the two rocky points.

For a full day of ocean activity, visitors can walk to Humbug Point from Cannon Beach, an approximately six-mile round trip. The entire route can be done on the beach, but hikers will need to time the tide right to round Humbug Point. South of Arcadia Beach, Oswald West State Park is also within day-hiking distance.

Location: Arch Cape, Oregon

11. Rockaway Beach

Driftwood fort on Rockaway Beach

Driftwood fort on Rockaway Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Rockaway Beach offers plenty of space to explore on your own with more than seven miles of sandy shore and nearly 20 different public access points. Perhaps that's why this low-key destination on the coast is popular for those looking to avoid a crowded beach.

Ambitious walkers can head north on the beach to meet the South Jetty of Nehalem Bay. And southbound walkers aren't too far from Barview and the rest of Tillamook Bay. For those looking to stay put, the beach is also popular for sun tanning, kite flying, and building driftwood log forts.

A great place to stay to maximize your beach time at Rockaway Beach is the Surfside Resort right on the ocean's edge. Alongside great views and easy beach access, the Surfside Resort provides upscale accommodations at a reasonable price.

12. Gleneden Beach

Gleneden Beach

Gleneden Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Split between the welcoming communities of Lincoln City to the north and Depoe Bay to the south, Gleneden Beach is a state recreation area known for seal sightings and high ocean bluffs. While this beach is in a well-visited part of the Oregon coast, the state recreation area is minimally developed, with only a path leading to the beach and a small picnic area with restrooms.

This minimal beach development makes Gleneden a great space to get away. This is a popular spot to enjoy an uncrowded beach (unless you count the numerous seabirds that also like the sand.) A great extension to a Gleneden Beach experience is a stay at the nearby Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, with an 18-hole course, ocean views, and rooms that encourage guests to stay awhile.

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