The Oregon Coast’s natural beauty blends expansive and sandy beaches, rugged and rocky cliffs, and towering sand dunes. With over 300 miles of coastline, Oregon offers a variety of beaches to explore. Many of the beaches are public and free to access. Plenty of campgrounds and RV parks are located along the coast, making it easy to spend a few days exploring the area.
Over the last 25+ years, I’ve gone to the Oregon Coast on lighthouse pilgrimages, family vacations, photography workshops, and helping to maintain the beach as a Coast Watcher. I keep going back for more.
How To Get To The Best Beaches In Oregon
Beginning your journey at the top of the state, near the Washington border, the Columbia River flows out to the Pacific Ocean in Astoria. Embark on an incredible road trip along the coast on Highway 101, where you can visit quaint seaside towns, indulge in sumptuous seafood, dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean, and witness spectacular sunsets. However, depending on the time of year, you may be fogged in and unable to see anything.
If you start from the south in California, take Highway 101 from Crescent City, California, to Brookings, Oregon, and be sure to visit the Redwood National and State Parks.
Traveling inland on Interstate 5, five major towns in Oregon have roads where you can drive west to the coast. From north to south, they are:
1. Tillamook Bay
Tillamook Bay beaches include Cape Meares State Park, Rockaway Beach, and Bayocean Spit. Cape Meares State Park offers sandy beaches, hiking trails, and panoramic views.
Rockaway Beach is a 7-mile stretch of sandy beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. Bayocean Spit is a secluded beach great for birdwatching, fishing, and exploring the nearby tide pools.
2. Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is known for its towering rock formations, the iconic Haystack Rock, and vast expanses of sand. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, kite flying, tide pooling, and beachcombing.
It has been very windy every time I’ve been to Cannon Beach. The town has a charming atmosphere with many places to duck out of the wind. Art galleries, boutique shops, and delicious seafood restaurants line the main street.
3. North Chapman Beach
North Chapman Beach is a scenic stretch of sand on the north side of Cannon Beach. The wide and deep beach is spectacular, with sea stacks near the shore. We did some beachcombing with our granddaughter and hiked as far as we could go north on the sand before the tide came in. The beach has ample parking and restroom facilities.
4. Ecola State Beach
Ecola State Beach is a secluded beach on the north side of North Chapman Beach. Hike down to the beach through trails in the nearby forest, which can be challenging, especially on the way back up. A popular spot for surfing, Ecola State Beach is also suitable for fishing and hiking. Be sure to explore Ecola State Park on the cliffs above the beach.
The main beach in Seaside stretches for miles and is perfect for long walks, beachcombing, and building sandcastles. Several beachfront parks, picnic areas, and a family-friendly promenade dot the coastline. Nearby Cove Beach is a favorite spot for surfing and other water activities.
The most well-known beach is the Astoria Riverwalk, which offers incomparable views of the Columbia River. Another popular option is the Sunset Beach State Recreation Site, which is situated on a peninsula and offers camping, hiking, and birdwatching.
7. Lincoln City
Lincoln City has 7 miles of sandy beaches, including popular spots like Roads End State Recreation Site and Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area. Outdoor activities include beachcombing, kite flying, sandcastle building, surfing, and kayaking for the more adventurous. The beaches are also great for birdwatching and whale watching during the seasons.
The most popular beach in Yachats (pronounced “ya-hots”) is Yachats State Recreation Area, which features sandy beaches and stunning Pacific Ocean views. Other nearby beaches include the secluded and rocky Strawberry Hill State Park, the picturesque Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, and the sandy shores of Neptune State Park. Outdoor activities at these beaches include hiking, beachcombing, tide pooling, and whale watching.
Some notable beaches in Florence include Heceta Beach, Baker Beach, and South Jetty Beach. Heceta Beach is a popular destination for beachcombing and wildlife watching, while Baker Beach is known for its scenic views and picnic areas. South Jetty Beach is a favorite among surfers and a great fishing spot.
I was fortunate to stay at the Heceta Head Lighthouse in the Keeper’s Quarters for two nights. We heard tales of ghosts but didn’t experience any supernatural events. I did walk out to the lighthouse after dark; it was a little eerie.
Newport has several beautiful beaches. Nye Beach, located in the heart of Newport, is a familiar spot for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Agate Beach, located just north of Newport, is known for its stunning views and is an excellent spot for beachcombing and searching for agates.
South Beach State Park is another popular destination with miles of sandy beach and plenty of camping, hiking, and fishing.
Other beaches include Beverly Beach and Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site. Yaquina Head Lighthouse is my favorite of all lighthouses.
Popular beaches in the Umpqua area include Winchester Bay, Horsfall Beach, and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. You can beach comb, fish, hike, and sandboard here.
The Oregon Dunes is a unique attraction with towering dunes reaching 500 feet tall. You can rent dune buggies or ATVs to explore the dunes or set out on foot. My husband and I hiked on the slippery sand until our shoes filled and it was time for some liquid refreshments.
The beaches in Umpqua are also great for watching wildlife, such as seals, sea lions, and migratory birds.
12. Coos Bay
Some of the most popular beaches in Coos Bay include Bastendorff Beach, Sunset Bay State Park, and Shore Acres State Park.
Bastendorff Beach is known for its stunning ocean views, the Coos Bay Bridge, and fishing and crabbing. Sunset Bay State Park offers a sandy beach, picnic areas, hiking trails, and a campground. Shore Acres State Park is famous for its beautiful gardens, rugged coastline, and whale watching.
Brookings is home to Harris Beach State Park, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and Sporthaven Beach. Harris Beach is known for its striking rock formations and tide pools, while Samuel H. Boardman offers secluded coves. Sporthaven Beach is a popular spot for beachcombing and watching the sunset.
14. Gold Beach
Some popular beaches in Gold Beach include Nesika Beach, Bailey Beach, and Cape Sebastian State Park. These beaches boast soft sand and serene ocean waters. Nesika Beach is popular for its long stretch of sandy beach, while Bailey Beach is known for its secluded location and perfect surfing conditions. Cape Sebastian State Park is great for hiking, beachcombing, and whale watching.
Bandon is known for year-round fishing, cycling, golfing, hiking, and some of the most spectacular sea stacks on the Oregon Coast. Bandon is famous as the Cranberry Capital of Oregon and for the film, The Rental, a horror movie filmed on location. When I first visited Bandon and learned about cranberry bogs, I wanted to be one of those people in commercials wearing hip waders and standing in a flooded cranberry bog.
Some of the most popular beaches in Bandon include Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Coquille Point, and Bullards Beach State Park. Face Rock boasts stunning rock formations and tide pools, while Coquille Point offers a chance to see seals and sea lions. Bullards Beach State Park has over 4 miles of sandy beach to explore. All of these beaches offer beachcombing, hiking, and enjoying the ocean.
How Much Time Should I Allow
At a minimum, allow 3 days to enjoy the Oregon Coast. But to get the most out of each stop and give yourself time in case of bad weather, it is best to allow 4 or 5 days. Road-tripping is sublime when you “slow” travel on the Oregon Coast.
Weather Conditions Along The Oregon Coast
On the Oregon Coast, the weather is unpredictable, with frequent rain, fog, and wind. Summer is the most likely season for fog because of warm air currents from the Pacific Ocean. I’ve driven the coast when it’s foggy; use caution because it is treacherous in those conditions.
The best month on the Oregon Coast is usually September, with good weather often holding on into October. The coastline is best from July through September as the water is too cold for swimming during other times of the year. If it’s windy, just visiting the beach can be unpleasant.
The water at Oregon beaches can be chilly, even in the summer months, so come prepared with wetsuits if you plan on swimming or surfing.
Never turn your back on the ocean. A sneaker wave, more common on the southern Washington and Oregon Coast, usually occurs in winter. Sneaker waves, and powerful ocean bursts, rush the shore by surprise. These potentially lethal waves can overwhelm the unprepared. Beachgoers can be swept into the ocean.