: Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint by Kenji Sugahara

Epic RV Trip Along the Oregon Coast

June 25, 2020

Editor’s note: Call businesses before you visit to make sure they’re open. Stay posted on what Oregon’s phased reopening means for you, and follow these steps for social distancing outdoors. Here’s what to know about Oregon’s outdoors right now.

It’s one of the most iconic RV road trips not just in Oregon but in the United States: the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, stretching 363 miles from Astoria in the north to Brookings in the south. My family and I have been RVing along the Oregon Coast for more than 20 years and have driven every glorious mile — and plenty of miles off US-101, too — in search of stunning scenery, succulent seafood and secret spots shared by friendly locals. I’ve combined all those family favorites in one weeklong RV adventure for you. While this itinerary is detailed from north to south, you can easily reverse the direction. So grab your sunscreen, your raincoat and your hiking boots (yes, Oregon Coast weather can be unpredictable!), and let’s hit the open road.

Note that the byway corresponds with the Oregon Coast Bike Route, a heavily used and world-renowned bike tour route. Be aware of cyclists and drive with caution — and only pass when it’s safe.

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Sun shines through the wreckage of a 1906 ship.
The 1906 shipwreck of Peter Iredale is the centerpiece of Fort Stevens State Park. (Photo by Dylan Van Weelden)

Day 1: Sea Lions and Shipwrecks

Start your road trip in Astoria, where the mighty Columbia River spills into the Pacific Ocean. Watch the magnificent ships and look for sea lions as you stroll the historic boardwalk. Stop into Fort George Brewery or Buoy Beer Company for some of the finest craft beer and pub fare in Oregon. Then take a self-guided tour of the many classic Astoria movie spots around town, including “Free Willy,” “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Goonies” — part of the Oregon Film Trail

Stay at Fort Stevens State Park in neighboring Hammond. Tour the Civil War-era fort, swim in a freshwater lake, bike to the beach and see the 1906 shipwrecked Peter Iredale in its rusted glory. The campground has 174 sites with full hookups and 302 sites with electricity and water.

A surfer catches a wave in front of Haystack Rock in Pacific City.
Pacific City has its own Haystack Rock, located 60+ miles from the one in Cannon Beach.

Day 2: Kayaking and Sunset Views

Break camp early, drive 30 minutes south and take the first Cannon Beach exit. Grab breakfast at Crepe Neptune (weekends only) or The Lazy Susan Cafe; you’ll find RV parking at East Second Street and North Spruce Street, if you arrive early. After breakfast, head south on Hemlock Street, grab a latte at Sleepy Monk and then park in the large lot at Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. Spend time on the beach near Haystack Rock, and remember to never turn your back on the sea.

Hungry? Find dozens of options along the North Coast Food Trail, including the Tillamook Creamery, where you can lunch on grilled cheese and fried oysters at the airy food hall, then learn the story behind the 111-year-old dairy through its state-of-the-art visitor center. 

For the afternoon, set off exploring some of the less-crowded sites along the Tillamook Bay Heritage Route, such as Kilchis Point Reserve, with a lovely 2-mile trail (check in with the nearby Pioneer Museum at 503-842-4553 to help find parking if it is limited). This important historical site — once home of one of the largest permanent Native American villages on the northern Oregon Coast — includes a native plant garden and a bird-watching station, so bring your binoculars. Nearby, treat yourself to a guided kayaking trip with Kayak Tillamook. Some tours even combine paddling with digging for clams.

Make your way to Cape Kiwanda RV Resort in Pacific City. The campground offers full hookups, a pool, a playground, and a killer location just across the street from the beach and Pelican Brewing Company, where you can lounge on the patio with your toes in the sand and your eyes on the setting sun.

A glassblower adds heat to their creation.
Lincoln City is known for its glass floats — and the Finders Keepers program that hides the floats along the beach.

Day 3: Glass Art and Wildlife

Head 30 minutes south to Lincoln City and get ready to fly a kite (if you don’t have one, visit any of the numerous kite shops in town). Devils Lake State Recreation Area is a superb spot to spend a lazy afternoon, depending on whether you prefer the surf or the lakeside, where you can lounge on a tube or raft or set out for a paddle — check out Safari Town Surf for gear rentals and friendly advice. In town, watch behind plexiglass as local artists make beautiful handblown glass pieces at the Lincoln City Glass Center in town, or book an appointment to make your own. Years later, my kids still cherish these special self-made souvenirs. 

Enjoy the variety of great outdoor dining options. Soak up the sunshine on the spacious deck and patio at the new Beachcrest Brewing Company in Gleneden Beach or grab takeout from one of Lincoln City’s new Thai restaurantsBest Thai or Ramsong Thai Kitchen — and check in at Premier RV Resort on the south end of town. My family likes this full-hookup park because of the easy access via an underground tunnel to the beach on the other side of Highway 101.

Four fat bikers pedal on the beach.
Newport is home to several fat-bike routes, with rentals available in town. (Photo by Dylan VanWeelden)

Day 4: Tide Pools and Bike Rides

This morning, drive south to Depoe Bay, whale-watching capital of Oregon and home of the world’s smallest harbor. While March and December are the most popular whale-watching months, it’s possible to see whales feeding offshore during the summer. Just 6 miles south, stop at the Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area, site of a hollow rock formation where the sea churns and swirls. Don’t forget to explore the tide pools on the north side of the punchbowl, if the tide is out. Arrive early, as parking can be limited.

As you approach Newport, consider renting bikes at Bike Newport if you didn’t bring your own. Make camp at nearby South Beach State Park, just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, and stretch out to relax. The park offers plenty of recreation: beachcombing, hiking, crabbing, disc golf, horseshoe pits and a playground. Hop on your bikes and explore the South Jetty Trail, a paved ADA-accessible path that is a 1-mile link between the park and the South Jetty recreation area. The Old Jetty Trail parallels the paved trail through a shore-pine forest and dune habitats of the park. The park’s 227 RV sites have electricity and water. 

Four-wheeling in the Oregon Dunes is a popular activity for locals and visitors alike.
Explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on an exciting dune-buggy tour. (Photo by Tatum Shaw)

Day 5: Crabbing and Dune Buggies

Head south toward the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area this morning; you’ll find ample RV parking at the visitor center. Grab a map and then hike to Cook’s Chasm, Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn — delightful natural features along the coastline full of pocket beaches, tide pools, blowholes, creeks, old-growth Sitka spruce and wildflower meadows. Pay close attention to the tide tables and stay on trails and off the rocks.

Worth a slight detour, Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is 11 miles south, just off Highway 101. It’s just one of many stunning photo-worthy spots along this section of coastline, so photo buffs, have your cameras handy and always make sure to be sensitive to fragile ecosystems when finding your perfect angle. 

You’ve likely worked up an appetite, so drive into the charming Old Town Florence district for lunch, and try your hand at crabbing for Dungeness in the Siuslaw River. Outside of Florence, you’ll find the impressive Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, one the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world. Head to Sandland Adventures for a white-knuckle dune-buggy tour, then race a go-kart and challenge the family to a round of mini golf. 

Recover from your jam-packed day at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, the second-largest state park in Oregon with 47 full-hookup sites and 121 electric sites with water. You have access to two freshwater lakes here for swimming and canoeing.

A person walks by the Howling Dog rock in Bandon.
Wander around the awe-inspiring rock formations on Bandon beach. (Photo by Susan Dimock Photography)

Day 6: Golf and Sand Art

If you’re a golfer, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to play one of the five championship courses at world-renowned Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which just opened its Sheep Ranch golf course, with a mile of panoramic oceanfront views. However, there’s more to the town of Bandon than just golf.

Check out Circles in the Sand, an elaborate low-tide labyrinth created by local sand artists Denny Dyke and Christine Moehring below Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. Check their summer schedule here. Saddle up for a beachfront horseback ride with Bandon Beach Riding Stables. Or settle into a different kind of saddle on a fat-tire bike from South Coast Bicycles

For fresh-caught fish ’n chips and more local seafood, head to Bandon Fish Market on the waterfront for lunch. Then stroll Old Town, stopping to see the ocean debris turned sculptures at Washed Ashore Gallery. If you happen to be visiting in September or October, catch a harvest tour at Bowman Bogs cranberry farm. Don’t forget to buy a bottle of Grandpa Jack’s cranberry syrup for the road.

Leave time to explore Bullards Beach State Park, a star in the state park system with 103 full-hookup sites and 82 electric sites with water. Paved bike paths lead to the uniquely shaped Coquille River Lighthouse and a wide-open beach.

A view of Arch Rock from land.
Enjoy the view of Arch Rock in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Day 7: Jet Boats and a Secret Beach

An hour south of Bandon, board a jet boat at Jerry’s Rogue Jets in Gold Beach and take a whitewater ride up the Wild and Scenic Rogue River. Afterward, print this map and head to what, in my opinion, is the most stunning section of your entire RV road trip: the 12-mile Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Stop at the first parking area to have a picnic in view of Arch Rock, a significant landmark for the Tolowa tribe. As you continue the drive, stop and do a few short hikes: Thunder Rock Cove to Secret Beach, Natural Bridges and Whaleshead Viewpoint; note the road to Whaleshead Beach is too rough for RVs. You’ll continually ask yourself how it is that you’d never heard of this incredible stretch of natural beauty.

Your epic RV adventure ends in the town of Brookings near the California border. Full-hookup sites are available at Harris Beach State Park, AtRivers Edge RV Resort and Beachfront RV Park.

About The
Author

Shellie Bailey-Shah
Shellie Bailey-Shah is travel writer who has the distinction of having visited all seven continents, but she favors her home state of Oregon. She lives with her husband and sons in Portland and has logged thousands of miles behind the wheel of the family's RV.

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