Stretching 363 miles from the Columbia River in the north to the California state line in the south, overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the west and backed by the Oregon Coast Range to the east, the Oregon Coast is one of the most scenic regions of an extremely beautiful state. It’s also one of the most accessible coastlines in the United States, thanks to the landmark 1967 Oregon Beach Bill, a law that grants free, unrestricted access to all of the state’s beaches. That’s why the Oregon Coast is often called The People’s Coast.
Adding to the Oregon Coast’s easy accessibility is U.S. Highway 101, which parallels the entire coastline from Astoria to Brookings. This iconic highway delivers drivers to the many wonders of the Oregon Coast, including more than 80 state parks and recreations areas, hundreds of scenic overlooks, lighthouses, shipwrecks, beaches, forests, fishing harbors, artsy oceanfront villages, bayfront and riverfront communities and bustling tourist towns.
The coast’s diverse geography includes sea cliffs, giant rocks in the sea known as stacks, tidepools, vast stretches of dunes and areas of pristine sandy beaches. The iconic image of the Oregon Coast is Haystack Rock, a 235-foot monolith rising out of the sea at Cannon Beach on the North Coast. The North Coast, from Astoria to Pacific City, has long stretches of unbroken beaches, while the Central Coast, from Lincoln City to Florence, has fewer sandy beaches and more sea cliffs and terraces, bays and dunes. The Southern Coast, from Reedsport to Brookings, is more mountainous, rocky and rugged in nature, but it still has its share of sandy beaches.
The three regions are diverse in tourism as well, with the North Coast and Central Coast being more heavily visited due to their proximity to Portland and the Willamette Valley, and the Southern Coast, farther away from any major cities, feeling more remote and less crowded. Just a hop across the Columbia River from the North Coast is Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, another popular coastal getaway for Oregonians.
What to Do on the Oregon Coast
Thanks to its natural resources and many amenities for visitors, from a wide range of accommodations to shops, breweries, restaurants and attractions of all varieties, the Oregon Coast is one of the Pacific Northwest’s top travel destinations. People come for spectacular scenery and wildlife watching (especially whales), to explore history, to eat seafood and farm-to-fork fare, to sip local beers, wines and spirits and, above all, for outdoor recreation. Beachcombing, tidepooling, hiking, cycling, paddling, surfing, kiteboarding and windsurfing, fishing, clamming, crabbing, golfing, horseback riding, off-roading and sandboarding are just some of the favorite activities on the Oregon Coast. You can even walk the entire coast on the Oregon Coast Trail, which takes you along beaches, paved roads and trails and past all the main coastal attractions. On this website, you’ll find everything you need – and we mean everything – to enjoy your time on the Oregon Coast.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know which seafood is freshest when I’m visiting?
Seafood is one of the highlights of an Oregon Coast experience, and it definitely makes a difference when you choose freshly caught local selections rather than frozen or imported seafood. Here are the general Oregon Coast seafood guidelines according to Sea Grant Oregon. Keep in mind that these are general commercial harvest dates, not recreational seasons.
Chinook salmon: North Coast, May to mid-September; Central Coast, various weeks in May, June, July and August and the full months of September and October: Southern Coast, various weeks in May, June, July and August.
Coho salmon: July, August and most of September
Pacific halibut: late June to early August
Albacore tuna: June to October
Lingcod, blackcod, sole, rockfish and flounder: All year round
Dungeness crab: December through mid-August
Pink shrimp: April through October
What is the best time of year to visit the Oregon Coast?
Since it’s the warmest and driest season, summer is the most popular time of year on the Oregon Coast. The crowds can be pretty big at times on the North Coast and Central Coast, especially in Seaside, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Newport. The South Coast is less crowded in summer because of its distance from major metropolitan areas. Many people agree that fall is the best time to visit the coast because the weather is still warm, it’s much less busy and accommodations prices drop a little. Winter on the Oregon Coast is not for everyone, but plenty of people love it. Winter storm watching is a thing on the Oregon Coast, and the beachcombing for agates, fossils and shells is the best. November to January is rainiest season on the coast. Late spring is lovely on the coast, and it’s a great time to visit the coast before the crowds come. Whatever time of year you come, bring layers and prepare for the possibility of rain.
What do I need to know about tides on the Oregon Coast?
Tides affect the beaches, coastal rivers, estuaries and deltas as well as harbors, channels and bays on the coast. Every day brings two high tides and two low tides, with about six hours between each. On the beach, low tides are perfect for activities like clamming, tide pooling, beachcombing, sandcastle building, jogging and fat-tire biking, but you have to be careful. At high tide the beach narrows significantly, and rising water can narrow passageways that were once wide, leaving you stranded. Be sure to pick up a tide chart before exploring the beaches or waterways and always keep an eye on the ocean and water levels. In the rivers and bays, higher tide provides deeper water for boating and paddling, which is good so you won’t collide with submerged objects, sandbar and rocks.
How long does it take to drive from Oregon’s Northern Coast to the Long Beach Peninsula?
About 30 minutes. From Astoria on Highway 101, you cross the Columbia River via the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The bridge deposits you in Washington. Then it’s about a 20-minute drive to Ilwaco on the Peninsula.
How long does it take to drive to the coast from Portland?
Here are a few of the distances and travel times to popular Oregon Coast towns:
Portland to Astoria: 97 miles, about 2 hours
Portland to Seaside: 79 miles, about 1½ hours
Portland to Lincoln City: 98 miles, about 2 hours
Portland to Depoe Bay: 110 miles, about 2 hours and 20 minutes
Portland to Florence: 173 miles, about 3 hours
Portland to Coos Bay: 223 miles, about 4 hours
Portland to Bandon: 246 miles, about 4½ hours
Portland to Brookings: 344 miles, about 6 hours
How long does it take to drive from San Francisco to the Oregon Coast?
On U.S. Highway 101, a very scenic route, it’s 379 miles from San Francisco to Bandon, Oregon. That drive takes about 7 hours. An inland route on I-5 and CA Highway 299 takes about 8 hours.
What is the best family-oriented beach on the Oregon Coast?
All of the Oregon Coast is family-oriented. Kids can find fun things to do in any area, especially in the great outdoors. But Seaside on Oregon’s North Coast, about 20 miles south of Astoria, is the quintessential family destination. It has all the trappings of a tourist town – bumper cars, arcade, boardwalk, taffy shops, a carousel, a trolley and an aquarium – and kids and teens love it. Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is another kids’ favorite location, as is the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.
Can you swim in the ocean at the Oregon beaches?
Technically, yes, but you probably won’t want to. Very cold water, rough conditions and deadly rip currents make swimming here a questionable activity. The water never reaches more than 55 degrees, even on hot summer days. Rip currents are common, and submerged rocks and debris can make swimming hazardous. You’ll see surfers and bodyboards out there, but they are well-trained swimmers with a flotation device. Even if you’re not swimming, be cautious about the ocean. Sneaker waves can occur, sweeping you off your feet and into the ocean. Just don’t turn your back to the ocean and always keep a very close eye on kids.
What is the best time of year to hike the Oregon Coast Trail?
The trail is open year round, and you can hike small portions or thru-hike the 400-mile run. If you’re hiking the entire trail and camping along the way, summer is the best season because there is less rain. June through September are the top recommendation. May and October are not recommended due to potential for heavy rain. The Oregon Coast Trail encompassses 200 miles of beach and the rest is on trails or roadways. Water crossings via ferry and bridges are required.
Is camping allowed on the Oregon Coast beaches?
Camping on the beach is permitted in many places on the Oregon Coast. However, you are not allowed to camp adjacent to state parks or to many towns. Always check tide charts or ask local residents about tides before you set up camp on a beach you don’t know about.
Are dogs allowed on Oregon Coast beaches?
Most of Oregon’s beaches allow dogs. Some require dogs to be leashed or to be under the direct control of their owner. Occasionally, beaches will be closed to dogs to protect wildlife; be sure to check local signage. Be prepared to clean up after your dog.
Do I need a fishing license to fish on Oregon’s Southern Coast?
Yes. You need a license for freshwater and saltwater fishing as well as for collecting shellfish and hunting. Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers many different types of licenses, tags and validations. You can purchase these online, at ODFW office or through local tackle shops and retailers. All the information you need can be found here. https://myodfw.com/articles/ways-buy-license
What is the best time of year for whale watching on the Oregon Coast?
Whales can be see year round off the Oregon Coast. Gray whales pass the Oregon Coast in their migration south from Alaska to Baja California between mid-December and January. Then from late March to June they migrate north, back to Alaska. On each trip approximately 18,000 gray whales pass close to the Oregon Coast. About 200 resident gray whales remain off the Oregon Coast between June and November; many of these hang out between Lincoln City and Newport. You can spot whales from land (look for Whale Watching Spoken Here sites) or on boat or plane charters. When looking for whales, it’s best to look on calm days in the morning with the sun at your back. Look for whale spouts, then focus in more closely with binoculars.
How many lighthouses are on the Oregon Coast?
There are 11 lighthouses on the coast. North to south they are:
Tillamook Rock Light in Seaside
Cape Meares Light in Oceanside
Yaquina Bay Light in Newport
Yaquina Head Light in Newport
Cleft of the Rock Light at Cape Perpetua near Yachats
Heceta Head Light in Florence
Umpqua River Light in Winchester Bay
Cape Arago Light in Coos Bay
Coquille River Light in Bandon
Cape Blanco Light in Port Orford
Pelican Bay Light in Brookings