As one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, the Oregon Coast is packed with towering cliffs, sand dunes, sea stacks, mighty waves and evergreen trees. Not to mention, the coast is lined with a number of tiny towns, perfectly positioned to enjoy the Pacific Ocean and all the beauty and wonder it has to offer.
Embark on a road trip down the 101 to encounter each of these beach towns on the Oregon Coast, ranging from popular destinations like Cannon Beach and Seaside to lesser-known spots, like Bandon and Brookings to the south. Our coastal tour starts at the northernmost tip of the coast and heads south to reach the Oregon-California border, passing by all of the must-visit towns along the way.
Founded in 1811, this quaint fishing village is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies. Astoria is filled to the brim with history, scenic views, Victorian-era homes, adorable local shops and much more. Explore the Columbia River by kayak, learn about area history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum or the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, sit down for a delicious seafood meal, or take a hike up to Youngs River Falls, offering some of the best views in the area. Don’t miss the iconic Astoria Column, a 125-foot tower resting above town on Coxcomb Hill.
The bustling beach town of Seaside is home to a number of shops, restaurants and attractions, including the popular Seaside Aquarium. Spend an afternoon or an entire day exploring all that Seaside has to offer, alongside the thousands of tourists who visit each year. Thrillist put together an excellent itinerary for Seaside, from relaxing activities to outdoor adventures. Take a simple stroll along the Historic Seaside Promenade (known as the Prom), a 1.5-mile-long promenade stretching from Avenue U to the south and 12th Avenue to the north.
Cannon Beach is a popular vacation destination — and for good reason. This tiny beach town is home to the iconic Haystack Rock and a charming downtown area, lined with shops and boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, art galleries and much more. Book your stay at one of the many oceanfront hotels and vacation rentals in the area for a weekend getaway right on the beach. Cannon Beach is within 10 minutes of four state parks, which means there are plenty of hikes in the area, many of which offer breathtaking ocean vistas at every turn.
This charming coastal town is often overshadowed by its northern neighbor. However, Manzanita has the third-most photographed scenery in the state of Oregon. Plus, the quaint downtown area has a myriad of eateries, boutiques, coffee shops, bed and breakfasts, and other small town attractions. There are plenty of things to do and places to eat, shop, and stay in and around Manzanita. Stop for a cup of coffee at Manzanita Coffee Co. or Manzanita News & Espresso and grab a bite to eat at Big Wave Café, Bread and Ocean, A Mighty Thai, Marzano’s Pizza Pie, or Left Coast Siesta. And top off the day with a glass of wine at The Winery at Manzanita, one of our favorite wine bars in the area.
With a population of just over 1,000 people, Rockaway Beach is a charming beach town containing 7 miles of uninterrupted shoreline. This long stretch of ocean scenery is the main draw to this low-key town, yet there are a number of local restaurants, shops and other attractions in Rockaway Beach. Many stay at the Surfside Resort, a beachfront hotel just steps from the sand. Spend the day exploring the beach, where you can build a bonfire, have a picnic or dip your toes in the sand, and head to nearby Nehalem Bay State Park for more outdoor adventure.
Visitors flock to Pacific City for its exceptional views, restaurants and shops, and nearby outdoor recreation options. One of the most renowned attractions in Pacific City is the massive sand dune, which you can climb for one of the best viewpoints around. Another highlight of Pacific City is Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, an expansive state park along the water with hiking trails, a sea stack called Haystack Rock (not the one you’re thinking of!), and lots of wave action. Top off your Pacific City experience with a glass of beer at Pelican Brewing Company!
With an estimated population of just over 9,000, Lincoln City is a popular beach town, especially during the summer, when the population reaches over 30,000. The scenery alone is worth visiting for, but there’s so much to do here during your stay. Lincoln City is home to six historic districts, each offering a variety of shopping, dining and other attractions, including the Lincoln City Glass Center, Chinook Winds Casino Resort and Lincoln City Outlets. Take a stroll along the 7-mile walkable beach stretching from Roads End to the serene and scenic Siletz Bay.
The small-but-mighty Depoe Bay is known as the whale watching capital of the Oregon Coast, as it provides the perfect setting for whale watching in March and December and is home to the Whale Watching Center. The town is designed for both rainy and sunny days, which provide equally scenic and enchanting experiences for visitors. A massive sea wall runs along the length of the downtown area, which allows shoppers and diners to enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean. The upscale Whale Cove Inn is an excellent place to stay in Depoe Bay, as it provides stunning views of Whale Cove Habitat Refuge and all the wildlife within.
Newport is a must-visit for anyone making the legendary trek up or down the 101. This charming coastal town has plenty for marine enthusiasts to do and see — from the Hatfield Marine Science Center to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Plus, you can take in uninterrupted ocean views from just about anywhere along the coast in Newport. You can also sample some of the state’s best seafood here, particularly at Local Ocean Seafoods. Taking a hike along the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse Trailhead is the perfect way to take in bay views while breathing in fresh ocean air.
Pronounced “YAH-hots,” Yachats is a vibrant village tucked between lush temperate rainforest and the mighty Pacific surf. This central-coast town lives up to its name, “the gem of the Oregon Coast.” It has everything you expect from an Oregon Coast town: cozy coffee shops and restaurants, awe-inspiring ocean views, and nearby outdoor recreation options, including forested parks like the 804 Trail and Amanda’s Trail. One of the most popular destinations in Yachats is Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which provides one of the best south-facing views in the entire Oregon Coast.
Situated at the mouth of the Siuslaw River on the coast, Florence is a lively town with some of the area’s most popular outdoor destinations. Visitors travel far and wide to explore the Sea Lion Caves, a privately owned wildlife preserve frequented by sea lions. You can also rent a dune buggy to adventure through the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which features 40 miles of wind-sculpted sand dunes along the coast. Or simply admire the area’s stunning beauty with a visit to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, a 56-foot lighthouse built in 1894. Stroll through the vibrant Historic Old Town of Florence, nestled along the river, where you can pop in and out of art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and charming boutiques.
The attractions in Bandon are always in season, as residents and visitors enjoy year-round fishing, cycling, golf, hiking and beach going. Bandon provides an exceptional home base for exploring Oregon’s southern coast, whether you stay in Olde Town to eat seafood and go shopping, take a stroll up Bullards Beach to take in the views at the Coquille River Lighthouse, play a round of golf at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, or explore the sand labyrinths of Circles in the Sand.
Situated at the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Rogue River not far from the Oregon-California border, Gold Beach is known to have warmer weather than its neighboring towns to the north. Plus, you’ll find sand dunes, sea stacks, good food, and the largest bookstore on the coast (Gold Beach Books!). And between the ocean and the Rogue River, Gold Beach is a popular fishing town boasting plenty of salmon, cod, tuna and more. The Pacific Reef Hotel provides stunning ocean views and an attached restaurant specializing in seafood.
As the southernmost town on the Oregon Coast, Brookings also provides a bit warmer temperatures than others on this list. The town has a mysterious quality to it, as it is much lesser known than other coastal towns — and it’s quite far from most major cities in Oregon. But once you’re there, you’ll be thankful to know about this scenic tucked-away town. Outdoor recreation abounds in Brookings, which is home to Chetco Point Park, Harris Beach State Park and Chetco Bay, a popular spot for king salmon fishing.
What Oregon Coast town is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!