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Oregon’s Pacific coastline stretches for 363 magnificent miles/584 kilometers — and this world-class route traces it from border to border. A landmark state law ensures every inch of it is open to the public. Welcome to The People’s Coast!

Ahhh, the Coast: That single word encompasses a world of diverse delights in Oregon. Craggy headlands, crashing waves, sandy beaches and rocky tide pools invite exploring. Coastal communities brim with character, some geared toward visitors with galleries and resorts, others simple and sturdy fishing villages where residents still pull their living from the sea. Plentiful public lands offer easy access for outdoor pursuits. Whether you do the entire drive or explore just a segment, plan to take it slow. This route is a feast for the senses, and frequent stops are practically mandatory. It’s no wonder the Coast is one of Oregon’s 7 Wonders.

Astoria to Garibaldi

The byway begins in the northwest corner of Oregon in Astoria. Established as a fur-trading post in 1811, it’s the oldest immigrant settlement west of the Rockies. Yet with its vital location — where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific — Astoria’s heritage is even more intertwined with the sea. The terrific Columbia River Maritime Museum anchors a beguiling downtown of passing ships, Victorian captain’s homes, seafood restaurants and walking paths along the old cannery wharves.

Detour out to the Coast’s long, sandy beaches. At Fort Stevens State Park, witness the spectacle of the Columbia Bar, the often-wicked meeting of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Nearby, Fort Clatsop re-creates the winter camp of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Seaside attracts families with its 1920s-era promenade and boardwalk games. Cannon Beach is its artsy cousin, filled with galleries, boutiques and views of 235-foot Haystack Rock offshore. In between lies Ecola State Park, a delight of sandy coves, forested trails and the cliff-edged cape of Tillamook Head. The byway winds past more cliffs and coves, climbing to more than 700 feet above the Pacific, before descending around the rich estuary of Nehalem Bay.

Garibaldi to Newport

The byway arcs inland around Tillamook Bay at Garibaldi, a hub for fishing and kayaking. In Tillamook, take a self-guided tour and sample cheeses at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Head west on OR-131 for a detour along the Three Capes Scenic Loop to the Cape Meares Lighthouse, then backtrack south to Cape Lookout State Park. Further south is the massive sand dune of Cape Kiwanda in the little beach town of Pacific City. The route rejoins the byway north of Lincoln City, which draws kite flyers to its breezy beaches, skilled surfers to Nelscott Reef and hikers seeking solitude to the Cascade Head Preserve, with trails bending up through old growth forest.

The fishing village of Depoe Bay bills itself as the smallest navigable harbor in the world, where fishing boats and whale-watching excursions thread through a rocky channel to the Pacific. Gray whales tend to linger here, along with the many whales that migrate along the Coast.

Eye tiny critters in the “marine garden” of tide pools around Otter Rock. Nearby, the collapsed sea cave called Devils Punchbowl churns with swirling seawater. Explore more marine gardens and Oregon’s tallest lighthouse at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Newport to Coos Bay

Newport sits on Yaquina Bay, marked by the pretty 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Oregon’s last remaining wooden lighthouse. Visitors wander among the shops and restaurants of Nye Beach, and along the working bayfront, noisy with barking sea lions. Across the bay, the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center enlighten visitors about what goes on below the surface, with tanks and interactive displays. With more than 40,000 students coming through its doors every year, the aquarium is a key educational resource for the state. And the Hatfield Center, part of Oregon State University, focuses much of its research on marine ecology and climate change.

Near Yachats, waves boom and swirl against the furrowed base of 800-foot Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, and trails lead through old-growth forest above. Twelve miles/19.3 kilometers south, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is Oregon’s brightest beacon and no doubt one of its most photographed. Visitors can tour the tower and stay in the lightkeeper’s home, now a B&B. At the nearby Sea Lion Caves, an elevator descends 208 feet to an observation area in a huge natural cavern, where Steller sea lions and other wildlife gather. It’s one of the oldest private attractions along the Oregon Coast.

The byway briefly dips inland as it approaches Florence, where fishing boats and shop-filled historic buildings line up along the Siuslaw River. Across the pretty Siuslaw River Bridge, the rugged coast gives way to mile after mile of high dunes and sandy beaches, stretching all the way to Coos Bay. Near the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, businesses offer dune-buggy tours, sandboarding equipment and ATV rentals. The recreation area’s headquarters in Reedsport has information and interpretive displays.

Coos Bay to Brookings

The Oregon Coast’s largest city and the largest natural harbor between Seattle and San Francisco, Coos Bay is a busy port for commercial and recreational fishing, crabbing and clamming. Nearby, the Charleston to Bandon Tour Route hugs the coast, reuniting with US-101 in Bandon at the mouth of the Coquille River. Bandon is known for its worldclass golf and sandy beaches punctuated with dramatic sea stacks.

The byway next greets the coastline at Port Orford, an exceptionally scenic fishing harbor and the start of the newly designated Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway. Harbor seals and sea lions often frequent the rocky outcrops at Port Orford Heads State Park. The Sixes and Elk rivers draining down from the Coast Range offer great salmon and steelhead fishing. The Rogue River, a Wild and Scenic River famed for its rafting and fishing, meets the Pacific at Gold Beach. Jet-boat tours power upriver for a look at the scenic Lower Rogue.

The coastal scenery dazzles on its final stretch, as the byway skims along cliffs and rocky shores dotted with tide pools. Beyond Pistol River, a famous windsurfing spot, 12 miles/19.3 kilometers of coastline are designated as the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, with ample overlooks, hiking trails and beach access. The byway concludes south of Brookings, a region known for its temperate “banana belt” climate and the largest stand of coastal redwoods in the state.

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Drive safely.

Keep in mind many of the routes listed here travel through remote areas where gas stations are few and far between. And since road and weather conditions can be hazardous, even into summer, we urge you to call 800-977-6368 or check Trip Check before starting out.

Share your thoughts Comments

Have something to say? Your Comment

  1. Katie says…

    I have been to all of these places, I can tell you that all of this is completely true!!! Oregon coast is the last great place in America to live. SSSSHHH, tell anyone!

    Written on January 31st, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  2. Vicki says…

    I have driven from coast to coast across our great land, as well as via a southern route to all the highlights. The Oregon Coast stands out for so MANY reasons. I have been forever grateful for the many pullouts and waysides that make this such a grand trip. Over the years, I have made the coast trip so many times. If you have not done it yet, please put it on your bucket list!!!!

    Written on September 3rd, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  3. Tj says…

    Hi,

    This article is very informative and we want to do the Oregon coast to coast drive. Could you please help us decide which is the best place for us to fly to from Houston to do this road trip? And which would be a good airport to fly out at the end of the trip?

    Thank you,
    Tejas

    Written on October 11th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  4. Tom Howell says…

    We are planning on driving the coast northbound in our RV in mid December and would appreciate any comments on the expected weather patterns.

    Written on November 28th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
  5. Trisno Angka says…

    I am very lucky to get such interesting info, which will be very helpful for my trip in early June 2015. Can you suggest where we should overnight on the way from Tillamook to the border with California.
    We are from Toronto,Canada will start our voyage
    from Vancouver/BC to L.A along US 101

    Written on February 12th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  6. Anna says…

    Hi there! Please advise where the gas stations are along the coast where we can re-fuel. We’re planning to drive from Tillamook to Reedsport in mid-May 2015.
    Thank you.

    Written on February 24th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  7. Naz says…

    Thanks for sharing all the valuable info. We are planning to drive down to Oregon in late July this year, from Vancouver, British Columbia. Can you suggest the best coastal town/area north of Portland?

    Please share info on great hotels by the coast as well.

    Written on June 23rd, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  8. mojave says…

    Beautiful country and Beaches in the summertime you will find know better whether to go.do nothing at the beach.

    Written on October 19th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
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