15 Top-Rated Small Towns on the Oregon Coast
The small towns and coastal cities along the Oregon coast offer a unique appeal inspired by their saltwater surroundings. Many of these localities are near several estuaries feeding into the Pacific Ocean. And while each offers its own list of reasons to visit, a common attraction tying all these Oregon beach towns together is universal public access and a sunset at the end of the day.
Some small towns on the Oregon coast are blink-and-you-will-miss-them while driving by. Other small towns that make the list, like Coos Bay and Astoria, are some of the larger cities lining the Oregon coast. But with populations of less than approximately 10,000 residents, there's no doubting their small-town feel.
Sticking to one place for multiple days is a fun approach for discovering the nuances of one small town. Alternatively, another recommended travel method is choosing multiple places to visit and enjoying a little taste of everything each community has to offer. The road-trip-worthy Oregon Coast Highway 1 makes for a great route to follow along the coast.
Explore your sightseeing options with our list of the best small towns along the Oregon Coast.
1. Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is less than two hours from Portland by vehicle and is one of the most popular small cities on the coast. Its popularity doesn't just have to do with its proximity to Portland though, as the area's stunning scenery does well to attract tourists from across the world.
The centerpiece attraction of Cannon Beach is the staggering Haystack Rock, found just offshore. Surrounding Haystack Rock to the north and south, a white-sand beach invites sunbathing, sandcastle building, and often good conditions to fly a kite.
Ecola State Park extends from the beach to the north and Oswald West State Park spans to the south. Both stunning headlands encourage extra exploration while visiting.
For in-town attractions, Cannon Beach delivers a variety of lodging, camping, eateries, and places to shop. Reservations for a night's stay in Cannon Beach should be booked ahead of time, particularly if planning to visit any weekend during the summer.
Some places worth checking out ahead of time include The Ocean Lodge or the family-friendly Surfsand Resort, both located beachside with views of Haystack Rock.
Newport is a popular city on the central coast with a long history of attracting families, tourists, and beachgoers throughout the year (particularly in the summer). And many fun things to do line this city of approximately 10,000 residents.
The world-renowned Oregon Coast Aquarium, one of the best attractions on the Oregon Coast, sits near South Beach State Park in Newport. This world-renowned institute features a large mix of indoor, outdoor, and underwater exhibits.
Nye Beach is another excellent place to visit in Newport. This beachfront community features an eclectic collection of galleries, shops, and restaurants. Nye Beach also provides walk-up access to the rolling waves of the ocean alongside its diverse storefronts,
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is also in view when visiting Newport, including the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
For a city of 10,000 residents, Newport offers several hotels near the ocean. Near the architecturally impressive Yaquina Bay Bridge, the Hallmark Resort offers rooms and suites within easy driving distance to area attractions.
3. Pacific City
Sitting at the southern end of the Three Capes Scenic Route, Pacific City offers everything and more you'd want from a coastal town getaway. With restaurants overlooking the water; whales spotted from the shore; and a very accessible beach, several fun things to do define Pacific City, catering to all types of travelers.
An absolute must-see and must-do experience is exploring the sandstone Cape Kiwanda which defines the city's northern border. Other popular avenues of enjoyment include exploring tidepools, surfing in the cove, and enjoying a bonfire on the beach.
Pacific City is primarily a fishing village and uniquely facilitates passage into the ocean from flat-bottomed dory boats right from the beach. But plenty of tourists also gather by the shore, or at the nearby patio-clad restaurants.
Bandon has a wide array of cultural and recreational attractions throughout the year, providing a great home base on Oregon's southern coast. From stunning sea-stack beaches to a lively collection of shops and restaurants in Olde Towne, Bandon meets the whole family's needs with fun things to do.
The scenic Coquille Point and Kronenberg County Park on the ocean's edge of Bandon provide one of those views that can't get any better, until hiking south on the beach and laying eyes on Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. This popular place for beach wandering is also a National Wildlife Refuge teeming with wildlife, especially seabirds.
In the northwest corner of Oregon, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and Young's Bay, Astoria is an enchanting city with a long history tied to the region. The town was founded more than 200 years ago and built by fur trappers, logging operations, and the fishing industry.
Today, this city of approximately 10,000 residents thrives on the cultural capital found throughout the streets. With an abundance of restaurants, museums, and local shops backdropped by the impressive Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria provides many reasons to visit and stay awhile.
Popular things to do in Astoria include the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and the Captain George Flavel Home Museum. The Astoria Column is also well worth a visit, including the 360-degree view from the top.
6. Gold Beach
Gold Beach is between the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the wild shores of the Rogue River on the southern coast. It's also a landscape of mountains meeting the sea with the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains plunging into the saltwater.
Gold Beach is primarily a fishing town with opportunities to land salmon, cod, and tuna. But the oceanic and estuary surroundings also offer many fun things to do around Gold Beach, and local charter companies are always happy to help get visitors on the water.
Upon entering Gold Beach from the north, be sure to check out the Mary D. Hume shipwreck in the Port of Gold Beach, including the adjacent interpretive information.
The long stretch of beach adjoining the city is also a great place to spend the day beachcombing, tide pooling, or simply soaking up the sun. Gold Beach also offers several cultural attractions, including the acclaimed Gold Beach Books. This treasured used-book store is perfect for finding something to read at the beach.
Head far enough south on the beach, and visitors will run into Cape Sebastian Scenic Corridor and its network of trails. A fun place to stay within Gold Beach is the Pacific Reef Hotel, which features rocking chairs and a stunning view, as well as an attached restaurant serving up fresh seafood dishes daily.
7. Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay, on the central Oregon coast, is well regarded as the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon coast. A beautiful cliffside that's perfect for spotting whale spouts defines the town's western edge. Alongside this great migratory vantage point, whale sightings are common thanks to a resident pod of grey whales that call Depoe Bay home from March through December.
The state-run Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay offers a great place to spend the day whale watching and learning more about these magnificent ocean mammals. Restaurants, shops, and galleries line this same small downtown section of Depoe Bay, which make for a great break between whale watching pursuits.
For more active things to do in Depoe Bay, the world's smallest harbor hosts charters for whale-watching and fishing expeditions. And surrounding Depoe Bay to the north and south, places like Boiler Bay, Fogarty Creek, and Devil's Punchbowl offer other high vantage points.
For one of the best resorts on the Oregon coast, the Whale Cove Inn overlooks Whale Cove from its sprawling back porch on the south side of town. Daily views of whales, sea lions, and a variety of birds are included with the nightly rate.
Florence itself doesn't lie directly on the coast. Rather it's a bit upriver on the banks of the Siuslaw River before it meets the ocean.
For any visit, especially one that involves shopping or dining, the city's Old Town district should be the first place to check out. Many of the dining establishments in Old Town lay claim to the best seafood specialty dishes on the coast.
Florence makes a great base with places like Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to the south and Heceta Head Lighthouse to the north.
Exploring the city of Florence on foot is fun, and some of the best in-town views include the southern Siuslaw River Bridge in the background.
Places like Ocean Breeze Motel in Florence offer a coastal charm with affordable rates.
9. Rockaway Beach
On Oregon's northern coast, south of Cannon Beach, Rockaway Beach is a small city with more than seven miles of uninterrupted shoreline.
It's this long patch of stunning oceanside scenery that draws tourists to this city of just over 1,000 people – and it's the friendly community that makes for a comfortable stay.
Local restaurants, unique shops, and community events line the sidewalks and streets of Rockaway Beach. Activities like tide-pool searching, beachcombing, and fishing are popular near the water.
The Surfside Resort is a favorite beachside hotel to spend the night, and surrounding attractions like Nehalem Bay State Park to the south encourage a longer stay.
Read More: Things to Do in Rockaway Beach
Yachats is a small coastal city that lives up to its moniker as the "Gem of the Oregon Coast." Awe-inspiring and unique ocean scenery surrounds this small slice of paradise. It's this dramatic coastline that attracts visitors to this coastal community of fewer than 1,000 residents.
Yachats is extremely pedestrian and cyclist friendly. Different trails, like the 804 Trail and Amanda's Trail, head north and south from the city to highlight the dramatic nature of the basalt shoreline and relentless ocean waves.
Farther south, Yachats is also a gateway city to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, where visitors can find one of the best south-facing views on the Oregon coast.
For rooms with a view, both the Adobe Resort and Fireside Motel are located next to a rocky shoreline that always puts on a unique tidal show.
Read More: Things to Do in Yachats
Twenty miles south of Astoria on the northern coast, Seaside holds the esteemed reputation of being one of the first resort destinations of the region. Much of what has attracted visitors and tourists to Seaside over the last century still stands today, including the 1920s Seaside Promenade and historic Seaside Aquarium.
The sand and surf of Seaside is the main draw, and on sunny summer weekends, expect crowds of people enjoying the wide and accommodating stretch of shoreline. Alongside hundreds of individuals, the beach also accommodates major summer events, like the world's largest amateur beach volleyball tournament.
This space and sunny weather easily earn this sandy locale its place as one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast.
For a fun overnight experience and hotel stay in Seaside, places like Lanai at the Cove and Inn at the Shore are near all the ocean action.
For a great coastal getaway without the crowds, Manzanita encourages visitors to enjoy the beach however they like. Manzanita is a bit more sleepy than other towns on the coast, and this adds to the appeal if you are looking for a place to rest and relax.
Despite a relatively low population (less than 1,000 people), Manzanita provides plenty of cultural appeals, including live music, which is often heard flowing through the streets. Manzanita also provides a well-stocked market and plenty of places to spend the night, including the welcoming The Inn at Manzanita.
If you happen to be visiting Manzanita in September, especially if you are a dog owner, be sure to check out the annual Muttzanita Dog and Beach Festival.
Neskowin is a gem of a coastal village, located less than 10 miles north of Lincoln City. Like many beautiful small towns on the coast, a stunning beach defines much of the appeal. A noticeable lack of crowds also accompanies the village, with a base population of less than 100.
The Neskowin coastline spans for over three miles until connecting with Kiwanda Beach and Pacific City to the north. The imposing Cascade Head juts into the water south of Neskowin. A few key beach features to check out include the massive Proposal Rock and the unique Neskowin Ghost Forest – if the tide timing is right.
Neskowin is accessible with a slight turnoff and drive from the 101. This one-minute detour from the 101 is perhaps what helps keep the crowds at bay. And despite such a small population, the village has a quaint and quality selection of hotels to spend the night.
Brookings is one of the southernmost towns on the Oregon Coast. It has a population of over 6,000 residents and a few streetlights along the 101 as it makes its way through town. Here, a moderate collection of restaurants and hotels line the sidewalks.
Brooking's biggest natural appeal comes from Harris Beach State Park within the city limits. This stunning coastal campground and day-use area are within walking distance of the downtown district. Visitors here have a wide range of aquatic habitats to explore, including several massive sea stacks in the surf.
Brookings makes an excellent basecamp for exploring the nearby Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This famous linear park is just a few miles north, and Brookings is the best bet for gas and groceries when exploring this part of the coast.
Warrenton is on the other side of Young's Bay from Astoria in far northwest Oregon. This city of under 6,000 residents encompasses the absolute northwest tip of the state and is almost entirely surrounded by water. Both the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River add to the aquatic landscape of this laid-back town.
Fort Stevens State Park is within Warrenton city limits and is one of the most popular coastal playgrounds in the state. This ex-military fort encompasses over 4,000 acres, including miles of shoreline. Popular activities at the park include touring historic batteries, visiting shipwrecks on the shore, and camping within the park's massive campground.
But there's more to Warrenton than just Fort Stevens. The town offers a very quiet and easy space to enjoy a stress-free vacation. And though the majority of hotel options are across New Young's Bay Bridge in Astoria, Warrenton has a few cozy places to stay.
Map of Small Towns on the Oregon Coast
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Places to Stay on the Oregon Coast: It's almost impossible to experience a fraction of all the fun in a single day. Luckily, lining the coast from north to south are many great places to spend the night. For outdoor enthusiasts, the many campgrounds on the Oregon coast cater to all types of camping styles.
For a little more pampering during your visit, the best beach resorts on the Oregon coast can melt stress away like seawater dripping from sea stacks.
City Attractions: Once you decide which small town to visit, it helps to have an idea of how you want to spend your time. Our Top Attractions in Astoria article gives a great overview of all the fun to be had when visiting this northwestern city.
Same goes for our Seaside article, which covers some of the fan favorites and other off-the-beaten-path attractions. For inland adventures, the cities of Portland, Salem, and Eugene offer land-based activities well worth visiting.
Other Adventures in Oregon: Whether you are looking for some of the best hiking trails or campgrounds, or perhaps some of the best weekend trips, our articles can have you heading in the right direction. Add to the mix some of the best waterfalls and hot springs in Oregon, and you can fill more than a few summers with fun things to do.