The Oregon Coast is a landscape of mystery and surprise.
Every Oregon beach town has its own personality, shaped by the awe-inspiring Pacific Ocean. Here’s a look at some gems from north to south. Keep in mind there are many more treasures to be discovered.
At the mouth of the Columbia River is historic Astoria and one of the West Coast’s most extensive collections of nautical artifacts at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, with displays on shipwrecks, lighthouses, fishing and naval history. People can ride the Old 300 trolley along the waterfront where fishermen bring in the daily catch. Movies like “The Goonies” and “The Black Stallion” feature Astoria’s scenic locales.
Stroll and ride bikes on a 1.5-mile wooden boardwalk called the Seaside Promenade, aka “the Prom.” Feed sea lions and view other denizens of the deep at the 80-year-old Seaside Aquarium. The Seaside Carousel Mall features a working replica of a classic carousel. Other attractions include an arcade, and the Captain Kid Amusement Park with go-carts and mini-golf.
National Geographic Magazine named Cannon Beach one of “The World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places” in 2013. Dramatic stone formations like Haystack Rock are one reason. Hike through rainforests leading to panoramic ocean views at Ecola State Park, where Indian Beach is a stop for surfers. The town boasts art galleries, boutiques, brew pubs, wineries and the popular Cannon Beach Sand Castle contest June 17.
Retreat from the crowds in Pacific City, known for its great fishing. Fifty-pound chinook salmon have been found in the Nestucca River. Bob Straub State Park welcomes hikers and horseback riders. Explore tidal pools at the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area.
With its retail outlet stores, Lincoln City is known as a tourist hub. Big waves at Nelscott Reef draw surfers from around the world. A few miles inland, the 685-acre Devil’s Lake offers calmer, warmer water for kayakers, paddleboarders, jet skiers, windsurfers and kiteboarders. Siletz Bay is popular for crabbing and clam digging. Big draws are the Summer Kite Festival, June 24-25, and Finders Keepers where 3,000 handcrafted glass floats are dropped along a seven mile stretch of beach for people to find from mid-October through Memorial Day.
Away from the bustle, Depoe Bay is a serene retreat and a top spot for whale watching. A resident pod of gray whales swims in the bay from March to December. Charter boats are available for a closer look. Sea caves line the shore, and waves beneath lava beds create spouting geysers during stormy weather.
Here you’ll find the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium, the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge and Rogue Brewery. Newport is also home to hundreds of male sea lions. They bark, bellow and bask in the sun at the Sea Lion Docks at the downtown bayfront where one of the state’s largest commercial fishing fleets docks. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of Oregon’s tallest and oldest active lighthouses and opens for ranger-led tours July 1. The rest of the year you can visit the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area tidal pools and interpretive center.
One of the coast’s lesser- known gems, Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots) features rocky basalt beaches where powerful tides have carved dynamic formations like Thor’s Well and Devil’s Churn. The 804 Trail along the town’s western edge, used by American Indians for centuries, leads to three state parks. The wacky Yachats la de da Parade is a July 4 tradition for many.
Miles of coastal sand dunes distinguish Florence. People take full advantage of them at Sand Master Park, the nation’s first park devoted to sand boarding. Eleven miles away, the privately-owned Sea Lion Caves, billed as America’s largest sea cave, is the year-round home to hundreds of Steller sea lions.
Mesh bag for the beach – leave the sand behind
Water shoes – save your soles from a scalding
Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, sweater – temperatures vary widely on the coast
You might also consider …
Wetsuit – to protect skin in the sea
Surfboard, bodyboard or skimboard
A shovel (unless you’re an expert clam digger, you’ll want a clam gun, which can be purchased at many the same hardware store) and bucket – to dig for razor clams (obtain shellfish permits at a coastal hardware or sporting goods stores)