16 Reasons Why the Oregon Coast Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

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If you’ve ever visited the Oregon Coast, then you know that you don’t really need a reason to come back for another vacation, but if you’re one of the people thinking about making their first visit to this incredible place, then it’s time to start planning.

The Oregon Coast has a little bit of everything for everyone. With charming towns scattered along the 362 miles of coastline, there are plenty of places to stay, eat, and discover. Each of these towns has its own unique charms, natural sights, and activities to keep your days busy.

Whether you’re looking for a high-end lodge where you can spend the day getting a massage and relaxing or want to spend your days exploring the coast’s beaches and looking for sea life or Oregon agates, the coast has you covered.

Here are some of the best reasons to plan a visit to the Oregon coast this summer.

Stunning Scenic Views

Beautiful view of the Pacific Coast in Bandon, Oregon, in sunset
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The Oregon Coast Highway runs, for a majority of its length, right along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. With high bluffs, long sandy beaches, and towering rock formations, you’ll find yourself stopping at way more pullouts than you’d ever expect to snap photos, gaze out over the lighthouses that stand watch over the Pacific waters, and take in the stunning scenery in this amazing place.

If you’re looking for views away from the road system, there are a few places, like Ecola State Park, Cascade Head, or Cape Lookout, where the highways jut inland, leaving the coastal headlands a serene and quiet place away from the road noise.

Iconic Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach sunrise, Oregon Coast, U.S.A.
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Did you know that Oregon is actually home to two Haystack Rocks? The more famous of the two is located in Cannon Beach and stands watch over this popular tourist town that sits only an hour outside of Portland. The second is in the small town of Pacific City and sits a bit further off shore!

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a must-visit, though, especially during very low tides. You can walk all the way out to the rock to check out the sea life that clings to its base and the massive colonies of birds that call the rock home.

Historic Lighthouses

The Pacific Ocean surrounds the lonely, deactivated Tillamook Rock Lighthouse off the scenic Oregon coast. The isolated, historic lighthouse was originally built in 1880.
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The Oregon Coast is home to 15 lighthouses that range from small buildings that watch bay entrances to picturesque towers situated high on the bluffs overlooking the oceans. Some of these lighthouses are still fully operational navigational aides, while others serve merely as exhibits to the days of old when these were the only human structures seen for miles by early mariners.

Some of the most popular lighthouses along the coast include the Yaquina Head Lighthouse just outside of Newport, Cape Meares Lighthouse by Tillamook, and Terrible Tilly, a lighthouse situated on an isolated rock a mile offshore from Ecola State Park.

Outdoor Adventures

Crab fishing at Pacific Northwest, Oregon, USA
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The Oregon Coast is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, kayaking, and paddleboarding opportunities, protected bays, and unlimited fishing and crabbing opportunities. Ecola State Park offers a full-on wilderness experience with trails leading up the bluff to a backpacking camp complete with shelters and an outhouse.

If you’re looking to get out on the water to try your hand at catching some dinner, try hopping on a fishing trip with Dockside Charters out of Depoe Bay.

Unique Wildlife

Gray Whale Spouting in the Sunlight off the Oregon Coast
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We’ll save the Oregon Coast’s most famous marine mammal for a later section, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to talk about. During our recent stay in Depoe Bay, we watched as seals rested on the rocks and swam through the channel separating the bay from the ocean, otters made their way across the bay to their home, seagulls watched over the water for an easy meal, and sea lions hauled out on the rocks.

The coast is also home to plenty of land mammals as well like elk, deer, and bears.


agates found on oregon beach
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The Oregon Coast is famous for its rocky beaches filled with colorful agates. These translucent semiprecious minerals are formed in volcanic rocks across Oregon and swept downstream in the rivers that feed into the Pacific Ocean. From there, they have been strewn across beaches up and down the coast and are just waiting to be found by patient beachcombers.

Popular agate-hunting beaches include Tunnel Beach near Oceanside, Nelscott Beach near Lincoln City, and among the many beachside pullouts just south of Yachats. Use common sense when searching the beach by watching out for waves and never turning your back to the ocean.

Charming Coastal Towns

Fishing boats in the harbor at Garibaldi, Oregon.
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Whether you’re looking for a touristy town full of souvenir shops or a town that is a local hangout, there are plenty of options. Cannon Beach, on the north end of the coast, is a very popular tourist spot because of its close proximity to Portland. It is full of lively restaurants, ice cream shops, and every manner of beach town trinket and art shop you can imagine.

One of our favorite sleepy towns along the coast is Yachats. Here, you’ll see more locals than tourists, and the local souvenir shops double as the town’s hardware and home goods store (you can even pick up a loaf of fresh-baked sourdough bread!).

No matter where you choose to go we know you’ll fall in love with one of the many Oregon coastal towns.

Seafood Delicacies

A freshly caught crab on the yaquina pier
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In an area rich with fishing history, it is no surprise that so many restaurants feature these local delicacies on their menus. Local Ocean, located in downtown Newport, is a favorite amongst many on the coast for its fresh and innovative seafood offerings. The restaurant features a fish market on the lower level where you can see what was brought in from the ocean just that morning, as well as restaurant seating on both the lower and upper levels. We recommend grabbing a seat upstairs for the views of the harbor and trying whatever specials they are offering up that day.

Tide Pooling

Sea stars and anemone at low tide on the Oregon coast with water drops leaving imprints on the sand
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The tides along the coast ebb and flow both day-to-day and seasonally. During one low tide, you may barely find any beaches exposed, while the next, you’ll find a whole new world spread out before you where you can walk amongst tide pools that rarely see the light of day. Here you can find sea economies, sea stars, crabs, octopus, fish, seaweed, and all other manners of marine critters.

One of our favorite spots to go tide pooling is around Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. During very low tides, you can walk all the way out to the rock and inspect the sea life that grows on sections that remain underwater for most of the year.

Historical Sites and Museums

Russel Battery, once a military stronghold, sits empty - now just a landmark of Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon
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Oregon, and specifically the Oregon Coast, is filled with history that is still on full display today. Astoria is one of the best areas for this as in town, you can visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where you can learn about the shipwrecks that litter the coastline and, specifically, the treacherous Columbia River Bar.

From there, it’s only a short drive over to Fort Stevens State Park, where you can walk amongst the skeletal remains of the Peter Iredale shipwreck that has sat stranded on the beach for over 100 years. After that, it is only a couple-minute drive up to the army installations that once stood guard over this stretch of coastline. Here, you can walk through the now derelict buildings, see replicas of the long guns mounted on turrets, and see what life was like for soldiers during WWII.


An inflatable blue whale kite being flown at a kite festival at Lincoln City, Oregon.
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The Oregon Coast is humming with activity year-round, including festivals for enthusiasts of kite flying, rock hounding, mushroom hunting, and sandcastles. If you’re in the mood to see some amazing art instead, then head to the famous Stormy Weather Art Festival in Cannon Beach. Here, you can see the work of many of Oregon’s best artists on display during what is often a very stormy week in November.

State Parks and Natural Reserves

View of Cannon Beach in Oregon with Haystack Rock in the background
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It is hard to drive more than a few miles along the Oregon Coast without coming across a state park or natural reserve. One of Oregon’s greatest achievements was ensuring that its beaches and coastal lands would be open for all to enjoy, and that is on full display today. Here, you can find campgrounds, beach access, hiking trails, wilderness experiences, and wonderful spots to just get away and relax in this jaw-dropping region.


Man walking out of the cold waters of the Oregon coast with his surf board as the sun adds an orange glow across the horizon
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Surfing the waves of the Pacific Ocean isn’t reserved for folks living in warm-weather locations like California or Hawaii. All it takes is a wetsuit, preferably of the warmer variety, and a sense of adventure, and you, too, can join the hardy souls that head out into the waves outside of popular surfing towns like Cannon Beach and Pacific City. Strong winter storms across the Pacific kick up huge swells that eventually slam into the shores of the Oregon Coast which creates excellent surfing conditions that few outside of the state even know about.

Shipwrecks and Ghost Forests

Wreck of the Peter Iredale Oregon Coast Astoria
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If you’re looking for a spooky experience, then head to Fort Stevens or Neskowin on a cold, foggy morning. Here, you can walk through otherworldly sights like the skeleton of a century-old shipwreck in conditions that mimic those when this ship ran aground all those years ago.

In Neskowin, you’ll find the remains of an ancient forest that sunk into the surf after an earthquake. The seawater has prevented the stumps from the trees from rotting away, leaving behind these ghostly shapes more than two centuries later.

Camping and RV Parks

Aerial view of Winchester Bay Oregon with the Residential District, Harbor, Marina a large RV park and fishing boats heading out in the calm water at sunrise.
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Many of the coast’s state parks include campgrounds that are the perfect getaway for families and travelers looking for a back-to-nature experience on the coast. Although if you’re not looking for too much of a back-to-nature experience, these campgrounds, along with the many private campgrounds that are also available, also have plenty of RV spots as well!

The campgrounds along the coast range from the rustic variety, where you’re more likely to see a backpacker than an RV’er, to campgrounds with all the amenities like full hookups, laundry, and showers.

Whale Watching

Whale Dives Down for Food as its tail breaks the water surface
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Whale watching on the Oregon coast is a rite of passage for many residents. Each winter and spring, thousands of gray whales migrate to and from their seasonal grounds in Mexico and Alaska and, in doing so, swim right along the Oregon coast. This makes them easy to spot from many of the coast’s bluffs and headlands so long as you’re willing to endure the elements that often come along with this time of year on the coast.

One of the most popular places for whale watching is Depoe Bay, which is home to the Oregon Whale Watching Center. Here, volunteers will help you spot whales, and you can learn more about these magnificent creatures.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest