Best Places Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is a local point of pride. Its long, moody beaches are open to everyone, so no private landowner can hoard the savage beauty of the Pacific.Every town dotting the waterfront along U.S. 101, which traces Oregon’s coastline from its border with Washington to its border with California, holds its own distinct charm. In historical Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, barges still inch up the waterway. Seaside is the carnival town with the beachside promenade, whereas Cannon Beach is a laid-back sandcastle-on-the-beach area. Manzanita is cute and quirky, and Tillamook is the inland town with the great cheese tradition. Pacific City is an out-of-the-way hamlet with an oversized brewery, and Lincoln City has hotels and the world’s shortest river. Tiny Depoe Bay is so close to the ocean it almost falls in. That’s one reason it sees the most whales. Newport is a big town with big lighthouses, a working waterfront, and a renowned aquarium. Yachats is an unassuming bend in the road, while Florence is a genteel little town near the rolling coastal dunes. Further south there’s calm Coos Bay and charming Bandon By the Sea, as it’s known.
Of course, there are constants along The Oregon Coast —you’ll find saltwater taffy and clam chowder almost everywhere, and wildlife pops up in tide pools and along sandstone cliffs. Lighthouses out here are hardy and necessary—shipwrecks still dot the coastline. You’ll want to stay inside for storm-watching in the windy winter months, but that’s why they made fireplaces, hot tubs, and chowder. Come summer, kites come out and sandcastles emerge.
U.S. 101 stretches along Oregon’s coast, only rarely wandering a few miles inland, and serves as the major artery of the region. While Cannon Beach or Astoria can be day trips from Portland, to see and experience more of this stretch of rugged coast you’ll need at least two days.
It’s best to travel the coast in a single direction, north or south. Most attractions are within a mile of the highway. Traffic can clog U.S. 101 during the summer, so it’s best to not be in a hurry, or to pop east to the Willamette wine country if the roads get too choked for travel. Sunshine is never reliable out here, but snow is almost nonexistent, and winter squalls make for good indoor storm-watching. Ocean views are most plentiful in summer, when the coast is least likely to get socked in. Take care while on bluffs over the beach and climbing rocks along the coast, as surfaces can be slippery and unstable.