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Best Stops While Driving the Oregon Coast
With its rugged cliffs, roiling turquoise waters, and cozy hidden beaches, the Oregon Coast offers one of America’s best road trips.
The Oregon Coast offers a stunning 363-mile stretch of rugged beaches, quaint towns, Instagram-worthy vistas, and otherworldly state parks. If you’re planning on driving along the Oregon Coast, then check out this guide to creating the ideal itinerary, chowing down at the can’t-miss restaurants, and finding the best stops along the way.
Understand: Things to know to plan the road trip
When you’re trying to figure out the best time to visit the Oregon Coast, remember that the weather can be quite unreliable, with summers being moderate – highs usually top out in the 60s – and the days occasionally shrouded in the legendary Pacific mist. It’s an atmospheric time to hit the road if you don’t mind the occasional downpour, but perhaps not as pleasant as September through October, when the weather is usually on its best behavior, if still a bit temperamental. Summer is the busiest time, as weekend crowds flock to the beaches and rivers, while the best hotel deals can usually be found between late fall and early spring.
If you’ve already figured out when to drive the Oregon Coast, but are wondering how long a road trip might take, the Coast’s main attractions can be explored in 3 days, but 5 to 7 days is the ideal time frame for a visit. And when you’re considering what to take on a road trip, make sure to pack an umbrella, some binoculars for whale watching, and some protective gear for your camera, but the most important thing to bring is a sense of wonder and adventure. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for what to see, the best stops, and the best food on the Oregon Coast.
Even if you’ve never been to Astoria, you’ve probably laid eyes on it. Astoria is one of the country’s most photographed cities – it’s been called “Hollywood North” – and punches far above its weight when it comes to movie magic. Stop by to visit the Oregon Film Museum, head to the Hammond Marina to see where Free Willy found liberation, check out the Astoria Column from Kindergarten Cop, and pop by Number Five’s house from Short Circuit. Best of all, the town even has its own annual Goonies Day, so drop by on June 7th to celebrate the beloved film and visit its most iconic locations.
Foodies, meanwhile, will find plenty to enjoy in Astoria’s laid-back dining scene, including artisanal breads at the Blue Scorcher Café, Bosnian comfort food at Drina Daisy, French custard-style ice cream at Frite & Scoop, and delectable crab cakes at Clemente’s Café & Public House. If you’re looking for accommodations in the middle of the action, check out the Commodore Hotel, a local landmark within walking distance of the Astoria Riverfront Trolley, or book a stay at the Astoria Riverwalk Inn, a breezy property with a marina and free loaner bikes.
Astoria’s quaint, blue-collar vibe and picturesque location on the Columbia River make it a great spot for starting a road trip on the Oregon Coast.
Just 25 miles south of Astoria, Ecola State Park is one of the Coast’s premier hiking spots, as well as a great place to pack a picnic, take some snapshots of the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, and hop on a surfboard at Indian Beach. The park’s also a huge draw for wildlife lovers, as the winter months find visitors flocking to view nearly 20,000 gray whales make their annual migration to Mexico, and the park hosts whale watching weeks in December and March. Bird watchers, meanwhile, can find Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and owls.
Less than 2 miles from Ecola State Park you’ll find Cannon Beach, a cozy town bursting with charming clapboard houses, old-timey shops, and miles of beaches, making it the perfect place for a pit stop when driving the Oregon Coast. Grab a room at the Inn at Cannon Beach or the Surfsand Resort, and then head out for some smoked salmon jerky and clam chowder at the Ecola Seafood Restaurant and Market.
It’s easy to fall into the gentle pace of town life – think beachside yoga, laid-back cafes, salt-water taffy shops, and the soothing sounds of seabirds – but Cannon Beach also offers plenty of activities. Check out the seasonal art workshops and concerts, as well as annual events such as the North Coast Culinary Fest, the Cannon Beach Fat Bike Festival, and the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest.
After soaking up Cannon Beach’s artsy, intimate atmosphere, jump back in the car and head 150 miles south to Florence, a lively small city on the banks of the Siuslaw River. Florence is renowned for its historic Old Town, where visitors can peruse the craft shops, pick up a beach read at Old Town Books & Country Gifts, watch the boats bob in the harbor, and pull up to the Waterfront Depot for some of the best food on the Oregon Coast.
Sports enthusiasts will get a kick out of kayaking the Siuslaw Water Trail and shredding the sandy slopes at Sand Master Park, the world’s first sandboarding park, while families can get up close and personal with the wildlife at Sea Lion Caves, America’s largest sea cave. If you’re looking for accommodation right on the beach, one of the best stops is the Driftwood Shores Resort and Conference Center, an oceanfront property with a kids’ pool and family-sized quarters.
No matter how many miles you’ve travelled, you’ve probably never seen anything like Florence’s Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, North America’s largest expanse of coastal sand dunes. The epic, wind-sculpted landscape inspired Frank Herbert’s Dune, and not only provides a great backdrop for some one-of-a-kind vacation photos, but offers horseback riding, camping, and hiking. Rent an OHV (off-highway vehicle) to explore the vast expanses via motorcycles, quads, dune buggies, or 4x4s, and then hit the lakes and ponds to cool off with a bit of scuba diving and canoeing.
If your journey has stoked your love for the Coast and you want to explore further, then hop on the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor, one of the nation’s most picturesque routes, and head to Brookings to explore the food trail, play a few rounds on the golf courses, and join in on the Saturday Artwalks and the annual Oktoberfest.
The area’s packed with so many unforgettable sights, welcoming towns, and unique activities, that when people ask you what’s the best thing to see on the Oregon Coast, you can answer ‘everything’. Plan your Oregon Coast road trip and book your accommodations through Expedia today!
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