There are many great attractions and scenic areas between Newport and Astoria. My must stops for any trip in the immediate Newport area would include the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and the historic bayfront. If you have at least a couple hours to devote, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is also a must. As you travel north, Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock and the Otter Crest viewpoint at Cape Foulweather make easy stops for great views. I always find the beach north of Devil’s Punchbowl interesting, but especially at low tide.
Whenever traveling this route, I try to take the Three Capes Scenic Route, turning off at Pacific City. If you have time to climb the dune-flanking Cape Kiwanda, the views from the top are inspiring and a great place to watch wave action. Cape Lookout State Park is great, especially if you have time to hike the cape or spend some time on the beach. Cape Meares is an easy stop with a short walk to views and lighthouse. As you return to US 101 N in Tillamook, many travelers include a visit to the Tillamook County Creamery, the visitor center for the home of Tillamook cheese, ice cream and fudge.
Continuing north, the drive is scenic as you skirt Tillamook Bay and pass through small towns. Just past Garibaldi, the Three Graces rock formation at the mouth of the bay entices many visitors to pull over. Past Manzanita, the roadside viewpoints as the highway climbs Neahkahnie Mountain offer panoramic view of miles of coastline where you just traveled. Hikers will want to spend to time in Oswald West State Park, but casual sightseers should consider Hug Point where, if it’s low tide, you can walk around the point to the north to a picturesque waterfall carved out of the sandstone. Highway-side viewpoints offer views of Haystack Rock as you approach the small beach community of Cannon Beach. You can walk to the rock at low tide and explore its tidepools by parking in the Midtown area of Cannon Beach by City Hall. The best views in town are had at Ecola State Park where easy walking paths offer views of the coastline, Haystack Rock and the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. There are also great hiking trails, but at minimum you should also drive the curvy, up-and-down, narrow road to Indian Beach within the park.
Seaside is a unique Oregon Coast experience and the state’s original beach resort town, still featuring family attractions in the crowded downtown including an arcade, indoor carousel, bumper cars and the now nearly 80-year-old Seaside Aquarium. The city is famous for its 1.5-mile oceanfront promenade and the automobile turnaround at the end of Broadway that offer a glimpse back to the early days of travel to Oregon’s Pacific Coast.
As you approach Astoria, history buffs are drawn to Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark’s encampment from 1806 and, to the west, Fort Stevens State Park where the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale are still visible on the beach. Astoria itself has more historical attractions, most notably the Columbia River Maritime Museum which is along the city’s riverwalk, a fun place to stroll and watch ships on the river.
My list would grow with increased time if you have it to explore this portion of the Oregon Coast, but this itinerary should keep you pretty busy!