The Best Places to Experience the Magic of the Oregon Coast
You could spend weeks exploring the gorgeous Oregon Coast. Don't have that long? Check out these can't-miss spots.
Strike out in a westward direction from virtually any place in Oregon and where land meets ocean, you’ll be rewarded with unspoiled nature, outdoor adventures, and culinary treasures. From quaint fishing villages to artist colonies, from microbreweries to miles of sandy beaches, the perfect mix of indoor and outdoor fun awaits. Whether you’re visiting for a few hours or planning a longer stay (which is highly recommended as there's SO much to explore), here are four can't-miss stops along the Oregon Coast.
Though the name "Tillamook" brings to mind the supermarket dairy case, there's much more to Tillamook County than cheese and ice cream. This quick weekend getaway — it's just 90 minutes from Portland — includes breathtaking scenery and experiences that are unique to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Tillamook County is a paradise for hikers, with forested trails in the Pacific Coast Range, high mountains looking out over the Pacific Ocean, and wide, sandy beaches. But even those who prefer to stay off the trails will find lots to love. The town of Garibaldi is a dining destination for lovers of fresh Pacific seafood, where “boat-to-table” dining means that a crab can go from a fishing boat to a diner’s plate in less than an hour. Families flock to Tillamook County beaches for “rockhounding,” or hunting for agates on the shore. Among the most treasured varieties of agates are red carnelian; moonstone; and red, green, and yellow jasper.
The wild beauty of Lincoln City is the perfect setting for a romantic getaway, but this coastal hamlet has lots of attractions for little ones, as well. The Drift Creek Falls suspension bridge in the Siuslaw National Forest is a 240-foot-long pedestrian bridge with an awe-inspiring view of a 75-foot waterfall. The Lincoln City area is also one of the best places along the coast to get up close and personal with sea life including starfish, crabs, and urchins at low tide. The shallow tide pools offer a fascinating microcosm of sea life for kids and adults alike.
Treasures of the non-marine variety can be found here, too. Each year from mid-October to Memorial Day, a group of residents who call themselves the Float Ferries hide 3,000 glass floats made by local glass blowers along the seven miles of public beach. If you find one, it’s yours to keep.
When you think of the Oregon Coast, you're probably thinking of Cannon Beach. With its iconic landscape featuring the 235-foot Haystack Rock and its wide, sandy beach, it’s no wonder the town has captured the imagination of Hollywood location scouts, being featured in "Twilight," "Point Break" and "The Goonies" among other movies. Away from the shore, Cannon Beach has a bustling small town vibe, with a lively arts scene represented by around a dozen galleries, and restaurants, shops and cafes suited to the tastes of Portland day trippers.
Visitors to Florence, situated an hour west of Eugene, can sail from the Siuslaw River to the Pacific Ocean, stroll along the beach to the historic Heceta Head Lighthouse, ride an elevator down 200 feet to visit the sea lions who occupy North America’s largest sea cave, and rent an ATV to explore Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – all in the same day. The dunes reach up to 500 feet above sea level, and they’re a popular place to try out sandboarding – a local pastime similar to snowboarding, but (as the name would suggest) on sand. You can rent a waxed sandboard at local shops for as little as five dollars. As of the 2010 census, Florence had 8,466 inhabitants. While the town’s economy was historically driven by logging, fishing and agriculture, tourism is becoming increasingly important.