Of the state’s 363 miles of public shoreline, the Central Oregon Coast stretches from around Cascade Head Marine Reserve north of Lincoln City to the town of Florence, a distance of about 80 miles. In between is an amazingly scenic mix of sea cliffs and terraces, sand beaches and coastal bays backed by the dense forests and the mountains of the Oregon Coast Range, making for incredible sights no matter which direction you look. Lined along U.S. Highway 101, which parallels the shoreline, are the urban areas of Lincoln City, Newport, Oregon, and Florence and the small towns of Depoe Bay, Seal Rock, Waldport, Yachats.
Newport, home to Oregon Coast Aquarium, Hatfield Marine Science Center, two lighthouses and Yaquina Bay State Park, is the largest town on the Central Coast. With more than 1,500 hotel rooms and around 80 restaurants, it’s a good home base for exploring the Central Coast of Oregon. Lincoln City, Oregon, and Florence, Oregon, are also some of the larger, busier towns on this stretch of coast. Use this site to find everything you need in Newport, Lincoln City, Florence and the surrounding small towns and villages.
Things to See and Do on the Central Oregon Coast
Like elsewhere on the Oregon Coast, nature and outdoor activities are the top draw here. Yes, there are shops, restaurants, motels and indoor attractions, even a couple of casinos, but the beach, tide pools, rocky cliffs, bays, dunes and forest are what beckon visitors the most. Depoe Bay, Oregon, offers the coast’s best whale watching, and Otter Rock is home to the picturesque Devil’s Punch Bowl tide pool. Near Yachats, Oregon, is gorgeous Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, the highest point on the Oregon Coast. Waldport, Oregon, offers easy access to the bay, the ocean and the vast Siuslaw National Forest. It’s also known for successful crabbing ventures. Seal Rock Recreation Site is a great place to explore tidepools around the massive Castle, Tourist and Elephant rocks as well as to view seals, sea lions and birds. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, near Florence is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America, and dune buggy tours are a popular activity.
Whale Watching on the Central Oregon Coast
Depoe Bay is considered the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast. A pod of gray whales makes its home off Depoe Bay from March through December, with peaks in late March and late December. Watchers can best see the whales from Oregon State Parks’ Whale Watch Center, from The Lookout at Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint or on a charter boat out of Depoe Bay harbor. The boat trip from the harbor to whale viewing takes only a matter of minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best month to visit the Central Oregon Coast?
July, August and September are the warmest months on the central Oregon Coast. But the biggest crowds come in June, July and August, so most locals will tell you that the best time to visit the coast is September, running into mid-October, when the weather is still nice and the crowds have thinned a little. Late October through May brings less optimal weather, but the prices are much less expensive.
Where can I dine directly on the oceanfront on Central Oregon Coast?
Depoe Bay has a huge sea wall running the length of the downtown area. This allows for dining and shopping with an ocean view. Because of this wall, Depoe Bay is also a great place to experience a stormy day firsthand. Standing along the seawall with the waves crashing against the rocks below, you are sure to get splashed with sea water.
Are there any casinos on Central Oregon Coast?
The state of Oregon allows Native American tribes to run gambling operations, and a few of the state’s 11 casinos are on the coast. In the Central Oregon Coast area, you’ll find Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City and Three Rivers Casino in Florence.
Where can I see seals and sea lions on Central Oregon Coast?
There are several places to view Harbor seals and Stellar and California sea lions in natural settings or developed harbor areas. Harbor seals are year-round residents and are commonly seen on rocky haul outs, at the mouth of sandy bays and at coastal marinas. Good places on the Central Oregon Coast are Salishan Spit in Lincoln City and Alsea Bay in Waldport.
Stellar sea lions, also year-round residents, prefer more isolated locations. The Sea Lion Caves north of Florence are your best bet for finding them. There, you can take an elevator down to America’s largest sea cave to view the sea lions or look around the haul outs and viewpoints in the area.
California sea lions are seasonal visitors but spend much of their year on the Oregon Coast. Look for them near Newport’s Port Dock One. Remember: It is illegal to feed or harass marine mammals! Watch them from a distance, but don’t interact with them directly.