Editor’s note: As of Feb. 12, 2020, Ecola State Park is closed until further notice south of Indian Beach Day Use Area due to recent landslides that damaged the park entrance road. For more information, visit Oregon State Parks.
From a historic Victorian port city to the West’s most iconic sea stack, the considerable eye candy of Oregon’s North Coast has speckled the portfolios and Instagram feeds of professional photographers and hobbyists alike. But let’s be honest, you can’t quite capture that misty aura hovering over these beloved shores. We advise opting for a real-life visit to some of the most photogenic, thumb tap-worthy spots in Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside and Cannon Beach.
Before You Go: The Instagrammable vistas of the North Coast mean it’s popular, especially in the summer months. During peak season, plan to visit on a weekday, carpool when possible and consider alternative modes of transit. And whenever you go, aim to leave no trace.
On Coxcomb Hill in Astoria, step to the top of this iconic 125-foot-tall structure for a lovely Columbia River Bar panorama. The column features 14 murals, one depicting the Astor Expedition’s arrival on the Tonquin. Also on the hilltop is a replica of a canoe owned by Chief Comcomly, a Chinookan who assisted the Astor Expedition — John Jacob Astor’s quest to establish the first permanent U.S. settlement on the West Coast. Take part in a tradition by purchasing a small balsa-wood plane in the gift shop and launching it in the air from the top of the column.
The Wreck of the Peter Iredale
The dangerous Columbia River Bar, known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” has seen nearly 2,000 shipwrecks. In October 1906, sailing from Mexico to Portland, the four-mast steel barque sailing vessel — named the Peter Iredale — ran aground on Clatsop Spit in Fort Stevens State Park. Today, it is undoubtedly Oregon’s most iconic shipwreck. Of the 275-foot-long ship, only the steel hull remains. At low tide, you can walk right up to it.
Spanning the mouth of the Columbia River and binding Oregon with Washington, this mint-green 4.1-mile-long bridge was the last link in the U.S. highway system between Mexico and Canada when it was inaugurated in August 1966. Today, it remains the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. The most-photographed piece of it is the main elevated span, a 2,468-foot steel cantilever through-truss, flanked by five steel deck trusses. It’s even starred in a number of made-in-Oregon movies.
On the sandy beach at the west end of Broadway Street in Seaside, this elegant roundabout marks the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail, commemorating when the Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific here in 1805. At its center is a large bronze statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Seaman, Lewis’ faithful Newfoundland dog — all forever facing the ocean and enjoying the fine view of Tillamook Head in the distance. Tip: Broadway can get packed, especially in the summer, so consider parking out of the center and walking in; parking spots include the Seaside Visitors Center, the public garage at the WorldMark resort, the public lot adjacent to the Seaside Convention Center and the 12th Avenue lot.
The panorama from this double-peaked summit of basalt mesmerizes. From the 3,287-foot summit, you can see the Columbia River, miles of Pacific shoreline, swaths of clearcuts and the rugged eastern horizon, including views of Mt. Hood on a clear day. The trail is steep and challenging in some sections, a 1,615-foot climb in 2.5 miles. The trailhead is about a 30-minute drive from Seaside.
As if Seaside didn’t have enough fun, goofy things to do, this unique new attraction has a funky range of indoor and outdoor settings built upside-down. When you photograph you and your friends or family ($6 for unlimited shots), and the photos are cropped/rotated, everyone appears to be flying, falling, standing on the ceiling, balancing on hands or being blown away. When you leave, don’t be shocked if your belly aches from laughing.
For a great out-and-back view of the iconic lighthouse dubbed “Terrible Tilly,” start from the paved carpark at Indian Beach Trailhead ($5 parking fee) in Ecola State Park. From here, hike north on the gravel road for 1.5 miles to Hikers Camp, where there are three shelters (each with four wooden bunks; first-come/first-served). Pass a World War II bunker before being rewarded with wide views (clouds/fog pending) of the photogenic light. (You can also hike up to the lookout point from Seaside.) Bring binoculars or a camera to zoom in on the lighthouse, as it sits more than a mile offshore.
Listed as “One of the World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places” by National Geographic, this 4-mile-long beach ranks among the most famous beaches on the West Coast. And no wonder: It’s bejeweled with picturesque rock formations and sea stacks, and has plenty of public access points to allow walking, jogging, playing and admiring nature. One of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, Haystack Rock pokes up some 235 feet from the sea. Tip: To get a photo with few other beachgoers in the frame, consider visiting early in the morning as the sun rises. And for the best beachcombing, visit at low tide.
If you’re up for a nice and scenic low-tide (don’t try it at high) beach stroll, this is it. A wide variety of natural treasures await, from more photogenic sea stacks, forested headlands, secluded beaches, curious caves, shifting sands and seemingly secret waterfalls. The trail follows an old, famous road carved into the steep headland at Hug Point State Recreation Site.
Share Your Photos: Oregon’s North Coast recently launched their official Instagram account, where they’re sharing photos from travelers just like you. Follow along @northcoast.oregon.