With spring around the corner there’s no better time than ever to drive up the Oregon coast. Highway 101 has seemingly endless places worth stopping for: sandy beaches, scenic viewpoints, state parks and charming seaside villages. And during the spring when the weather is just right, and the wildflowers are starting to bloom, the trip becomes an even more wonderful experience.
We went ahead and mapped out some of the key stops you won’t want to miss – which you can get the directions here, and of course adjust to include any other places you’d like to see. Remember to bring a camera, because this trip could not get any more gorgeous!
First stop: Port Orford
An artsy fishing village, Port Orford is nestled in a serene location where forest meets the Pacific Ocean. Stop in and walk the quiet sandy beach, wander the town’s art galleries or grab a bite to eat from one of the many local restaurants (we recommend trying the fish & chips at The Crazy Norwegian’s).
Like heaven on earth, the wind-sculpted Oregon Dunes have soft sand that’s perfect for digging your toes into and watching the ocean waves roll in. Rain or shine, you can usually find other visitors here riding across on dune buggies. Lay out a blanket for a picnic, or walk around and just take in a deep breath of fresh ocean air.
Midway between Newport and Coos Bay (which are both excellent stops as well), Florence is a quaint paradise for nature lovers. The community sits at the mouth of the Siuslaw River with outdoor activities galore. Get pics of the beautifully designed bridge that spans the river, and continue north to check out the Sea Lion Caves and Heceta Head Light.
Ahh, Cape Perpetua. This enchanting area’s home to some of the most unique features on the coast, including Thor’s Well – a natural sinkhole off-shore – and The Sprouting Horn, which is basically an ocean geyser. The headland sits above the ocean with great camping, picnicking, whale watching, and miles of hiking trails, some which lead down to gorgeous tide pools.
Depoe Bay is a small, lovely town with a wide range of comfy lodging options and local restaurants. When you get hungry try the fresh Northwest seafood at Tidal Raves, and if you have a sweet tooth like me, stop over at Depoe Baykery for some melt-in-your-mouth baked goods. If you’re looking to stay the night, Whale Cove Inn provides cozy lodging on an oceanside bluff, with luxurious suites and warm Jacuzzi tubs to relax in.
Near Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda blends a variety of scenery: brilliant sandstone, tide pools, sand dunes, coves and a huge off-shore monolith. The coastal park does get some pretty strong winds, but that just makes for excellent hang gliding, surfing, kite flying, and the chance to see ocean waves crashing in.
Tillamook is proudly home to one of the best cheese and ice cream companies around. Even for those who don’t like dairy the small coastal town has plenty to do: with art & history museums, miles of hiking trails and mom & pop restaurants that serve delicious local fare. For more great eats, check out Blue Heron French Cheese Company (and their deli) as well as Old Oregon Smokehouse.
Continuing north on the coast, Manzanita is a peaceful village just off the 101 not far from Portland. Nestled between Neahkahnie Mountain and Nehalem Bay, the town has postcard-worthy scenery in all directions, and a fine variety of local cuisine – from upscale dining to pubs and small town bakeries. Check out Nehalem Bay State Park nearby, where there’s a nice campground and sandy beach to stroll on.
Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s most popular beach towns. It’s best known for the long sandy shores and iconic Haystack Rock, but there’s so much more to see and do, including some fantastic local dining options. Take a look at our top picks here on where to go and where to eat when you’re in the area.
Final stop: Ecola State Park
Sitting north of Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park is a Pacific Northwest paradise. With nine miles of coastline, the park wraps around the thousand-foot cliff Tillamook Head, with lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Activities here don’t just include hiking trails, but also picnicking, tidepooling, surfing, world-class photography, and viewing the occasional wildlife.
I don’t know about you but I’m ready to hit the road. Where else do you recommend stopping on a trip up the beautiful Oregon coast?