An Oregon coastal road trip is the best way to experience the Pacific Coast in northwestern United States. Characterized by dramatic cliffs and long stretches of sand, the Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning. Epic lighthouses, beautiful nature trails and incredible viewpoints are top Highway 101 Oregon attractions – and we include them all (and more!) in our Oregon road trip itinerary.
Plan a Road Trip: Oregon Coast
There are hundreds of things to do along the Oregon Coast – which makes it extremely overwhelming to plan an Oregon Coast trip. Because we have driven the coast on numerous occasions in various amounts of time, we have devised the ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip that includes the best places to stop and top attractions to see along the way.
However, because road trippers may have various timeframes or different interests than we have featured in our Oregon Coast driving itinerary, we also share tips for alternate stops on the same route. Furthermore, we understand that there is a lot more to planning the best Oregon road trip than just deciding which things to see along the Oregon Coast. Therefore, in our Oregon Coast trip planner, you will also find our recommended accommodations, packing tips, an Oregon coast road trip map and more useful Highway 101 Oregon road trip tips!
Oregon Coast Highway 101 Road Trip Itinerary FAQs
Before we jump into the details of what to see along the Oregon Coast, let’s review a few of the frequently asked questions.
How Long is the Oregon Coast Trip from Portland?
Our Oregon road trip is designed in a loop that begins and ends in Portland. We created a 3-night, 4-day Oregon road trip – but it can easily be modified for more (or less!) time with just a few adjustments, which we notate throughout the itinerary.
In fact, this route could even be completed as an Oregon Coast day trip from Portland (although it would be a very long day with limited stops) or extended into a 1-week US West Coast road trip adventure. You will need to decide how long to drive the Oregon Coast based on your interests and allotted timeframe.
What Vehicle To Use on a Road Trip to Oregon Coast?
We assume that you will use a rental car for your Oregon Coast Hwy 101 road trip, which is why we circle back to Portland in order to avoid incurring additional rental car drop off fees. When renting a car, we use Expedia to search for the best rates. That said, travelers planning an Oregon Coast RV trip can still use our route for their road trip on the Oregon Coast, but we do not have any insight on overnight RV parking.
Where are the Overnight Oregon Road Trip Stops?
The route includes numerous stops along the way – and overnight stays in Cannon Beach, Pacific City and Florence. Additionally, we recommend staying in hotels along our route (we provide specific recommendations in the itinerary), but it is possible to plan an Oregon West Coast camping road trip using our trip plan as well.
When is the Best Time to Travel to Oregon Coast?
We think the best time of year to take a Pacific Northwest Coast road trip is in the summer or autumn. Oregon Coast weather is typically cool throughout the summer – and gets cooler in the autumn – but it tends to be dry and, overall, very pleasant. Longer summer days are perfect for enjoying the outdoors and attractions along the route.
On the other hand, winters are rainy and windy, making an Oregon winter road trip unfavorable. Furthermore, the Oregon Coast sunset time during the winter is before 5:00pm – and the shorter days allow for less exploration. The springtime can be fairly wet as well, so we would recommend avoiding the coast then.
Which Direction is Best on an Oregon Coastal Road Trip?
Our 4-Day Oregon Coast road trip is planned from north to south. Although the route could easily be done in the opposite direction, we prefer driving south because that way we have a full view of the coast (rather than looking across traffic) and easy right-hand access to the numerous scenic roadside overlooks.
Oregon Coastal Road Trip: Day-by-Day
Our Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary is packed with detailed information so that you can easily plan your trip. Organized to be completed over 4 days, our Oregon Coast road trip planner includes the best attractions, short hikes and viewpoints.
This Oregon Coast trip itinerary includes everything you need to know. Save, Bookmark or Pin our blog post so that you can easily access it while planning (and during!) your trip!
Day 1: Portland, Oregon Road Trip to Cannon Beach
Embark on your Oregon Coast road trip from Portland early in the day. The drive from Portland to the Oregon Coast leaves the city behind, weaves into forests and crosses over the Coast Mountains.
A good mid-way stopping point to stretch your legs (or hop on a bicycle if you have one!) is near Buxton on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. The paved path was formerly railroad tracks that connected the cities of Banks and Vernonia and was used to haul timber. The trail extends 21 miles, has multiple trailheads and can be used by hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
For lunch, stop at Camp 18 Restaurant. The log cabin eatery, which is decorated in classic mountain motif, offers hearty home cooked meals, huge cinnamon rolls and an on-site museum that details the logging history of the region.
Cannon Beach: An Oregon Coast Must-See
Named for a cannon that floated onto the shore in the mid-1800s, Cannon Beach is a top Oregon Coast destination. The small beach town is highlighted by locally owned shops and restaurants. Haystack Rock, a sea stack monolith that rises 235-feet-high, sits at the south end of the flat, wide beach.
Nearby sites include Ecola State Park (hiking trails and viewpoints), Seaside (a cute town with tourist attractions) and Neahkahnie Mountain (a challenging summit trail with amazing views south of Cannon Beach).
Fun Fact: Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock have been featured in numerous movies, including The Goonies, Twilight and Point Break.
Where To Stay in Cannon Beach, Oregon
As a top tourist destination, there are many places to stay in Cannon Beach. However, we think the best place to stay is at Hallmark Resort, which faces the ocean and offers impeccable views of Haystack Rock. In addition to the multiple pools, the resort also has an on-site spa and fitness center, free DVD rentals and popcorn and cookies in the lobby. Check rates and availability!
Alternate Oregon Road Trip Ideas for Day 1
While Hwy 26 is our preferred method of driving from Portland to the coast, it is not the only route. In fact, there are two other popular ways to reach the coastline.
Also called the Columbia River Highway, Hwy 30 leaves Portland to the north and follows the Columbia River around to Astoria, where it meets up with Highway 101. The distance to Cannon Beach using Hwy 30 is 120 miles and takes about 2.5 hours.
Another route to the coast from Portland is to take Hwy 26 to Hwy 6. This route meets the coast south of Cannon Beach at Tillamook. Drivers taking a day trip to Oregon Coast from Portland could use this route for a quick day trip – or just visit the short section of coast from Cannon Beach to Tillamook and use Hwy 26 and 6 to complete your loop.
Day 2: Northern Oregon Coast
After a leisurely breakfast, depart Cannon Beach and travel south on Hwy 101. If you are up for a big hike (and didn’t do it the day before), stop at Neahkahnie Mountain to hike the trail to the summit. Otherwise, make your way leisurely down the coast through the towns of Manzanita and Rockaway Beach to Tillamook Bay.
For lunch, stop at Tillamook Creamery – which is a cheese factory, museum and restaurant all in one! Take a self-guided tour of the facility, then tuck into a cheesy lunch…but definitely save room for ice cream dessert!
Three Capes Scenic Drive
Just south of the Tillamook Creamery, detour off the 101 onto the Three Capes Scenic Route, which includes Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda.
Stop at the Cape Meares Lighthouse, which was built in the 1890s and join one of the free lighthouse tours. Other attractions at the lighthouse include ocean viewpoints (look for whales and seals!), walking trails and the “Octopus Tree.”
Wrap around Cape Meares to the Netarts Bay Shellfish Preserve along Whiskey Creek Road to Cape Lookout State Park. Make a stop here to hike the length of the Cape Lookout Trail, which features a lush forest lining the top of the Oregon Coast cliffs. The often-muddy trail leads to spectacular viewpoints – and, in our opinion, is an Oregon Coast road trip must-see!
After your hike, continue your Oregon coastline road trip on the Three Capes Scenic Route to Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.
Pacific City: An Oregon Road Trip Destination
A laid-back beach town, Pacific City is a perfect place to escape the crowds for a relaxing night on the coast. Highlights of the town are the gigantic haystack (named Chief Kiawanda Rock), a 240-foot sand dune on Cape Kiwanda and a local beachfront brewery.
After getting settled into your accommodations, head straight for the beach – you can either walk or drive right onto it! Fly a kite, sink your feet in the sand or start a beach bonfire and just enjoy the view and the sound of the waves.
When you have worked up a thirst and appetite, head into the Pelican Brewing Company oceanfront taproom for refreshing craft beers and satisfying eats. Or, if wine is more your style, walk into town and unwind with a glass locally produced wine at Twist Wine Company.
Where To Stay in Pacific City
When we visited Pacific City, we stayed at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda – and would stay there again in a heartbeat! The ocean view boutique hotel is just across the street from the Pacific City Beach and Pelican Brewery – and mere steps from the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The large, clean rooms have comfortable beds and the hotel offers amenities, like in-room fireplaces, on-site bike rentals, and a spa.
Alternate Oregon Coastal Road Trip Itineraries for Day 2
The Three Capes Scenic Route is one of the best spots on the Oregon Coast – so we do not recommend skipping it! In fact, we like it there so much that if you are planning a longer Oregon Coast 101 Road Trip, we would recommend spending an additional night in the area, perhaps spending two nights in Pacific City or one night in Cape Meares and one night in Pacific City.
On the other hand, if you really need to shorten your trip to an Oregon Coast 3-Day Itinerary, you can eliminate the overnight stay in Pacific City and continue driving south to Florence. You should still have time to take in the sights along the Three Capes Scenic Loop if you get an early start from Cannon Beach.
Day 3: Central Oregon Coast
In the morning, make the tough climb up the sand dune for a solid morning workout, and reward yourself with delicious baked goods from the Grateful Dead-themed Grateful Bread Bakery. Then, start driving south on the 101.
The road winds through forests slightly inland until Devils Lake, where it meets back up with coastline. Simply take in the scenery for this stretch of road until you get to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Ranking as the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet, Yaquina Lighthouse has been in operation since 1873 and still utilizes the original lens – and it is open for tours.
Make the short drive south to Newport, where there are a handful of sights – including the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the funky shops at Aquarium Village. For lunch, dine at the Rogue Brewer’s On the Bay on the south side of the arched Yaquina Bay Bridge. Patrons can sign up for a brewery tour, sample one of the 40 Rogue beers on tap and feast from a full menu of pub grub.
After lunch, continue south past Yachats to Cape Perpetua. The cape itself offers stunning shoreline views and trails, but the nearby attractions are worth stopping by as well. Top area sights are Devil’s Churn (an inlet that sprays water when waves crash into the narrow waterway), Thor’s Well (a unique rock formation that appears to be draining the ocean at high tide), and Sprouting Horn (an ocean geyser that launches misty water into the air).
The final stop before arriving in Florence is the Heceta Head Lighthouse. One of the most beautiful lighthouses on the Oregon Coast, Heceta Head cannot be missed on a road trip down the Oregon Coast. Visitors park at Cape Cove (spend some time exploring the tidal pools if it is low tide!) and take a short hike to the lighthouse. Beyond the lighthouse a trail crosses over the Heceta headland through a mossy forest and leads to a secret beach.
Top Tip: We share the complete details of this hike in our blog post: Hikes Near Near Florence, OR.
From Heceta Head, continue south about 20 miles to Florence. There are a few stops you might want to make along this stretch of road. Shortly after leaving the lighthouse, there is a scenic overlook offering the best view of the lighthouse – and sea lions often hang out on the rocks below. Just beyond that is the Sea Lions Cave, which is an interesting (yet smelly and noisy) attraction. Finally, as the road bends inland, there is another phenomenal viewpoint that looks directly south over Heceta Beach. Then, complete the day’s drive to Florence.
Florence: A Gem on Your Road Trip Along Oregon Coast
Old Town Florence, Oregon is nestled along the Siuslaw River – and easy to miss if you don’t follow the signs to the Old Town before crossing over the Siuslaw Bridge. The charming town has a long history as a fishing village but is now more of a quaint tourist destination. The main street, Bay Street, runs parallel to the river and features souvenir shops, seafood restaurants and fun bars.
After three long days on the best Oregon Coast road trip, spend your time in Florence strolling along Bay Street and popping into shops. For dinner, eat at the delightful Waterfront Depot (consider making reservations) – and order their signature dish, Crab-Encrusted Halibut (believe us, it’s divine!).
Where To Stay in Florence, OR
While there are numerous motels along Highway 101, we think the best place to stay in Florence is right in the heart of the Old Town. The River House Inn has a prime location on the river and is right on Bay Street. However, if a beach stay is more your style, check out Driftwood Shores Resort, which is a bit of a drive from the Old Town, but offers incredible beach views and direct access to the sand.
Alternate Oregon Coast Road Trip Ideas for Day 3
We include a lot of Oregon Coast road trip stops in Day 3 of our itinerary. If you have time to plan a 5-Day Oregon Coast road trip, we recommend stopping and spending the night in Newport, rather than continuing all the way to Florence. This will break up the two days of sightseeing for a more leisurely pace.
Day 4: Oregon Coast to Portland
Route: Florence to Portland; Highway 126 east to Mapleton (where you need to turn right to stay on 126), then use 569 to skirt around Eugene, and hop on Interstate 5 north to Portland. Distance: 162 miles. Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes. Map (Map with Stops).
When you are ready to leave Florence, take Highway 126 east to Mapleton. After making the righthand turn to stay on 126, consider detouring to the Sweet Creek Falls trail (which is outlined here). If you did not eat lunch already, stop by the Gingerbread Village Restaurant for tasty home-cooked meals and super friendly service.
After lunch, continue driving east over the mountain pass toward Eugene. If you are interested in seeing Eugene, it is a fun university city with a few worthy museums, lots of bars and a youthful vibe. Otherwise, veer north onto I-5 and make the relatively flat and boring drive back to Portland.
Alternate Plans for Day 4 of Your Oregon Coast Driving Trip
If the fast-yet-dull route back to Portland is not enticing and you have the time, consider backtracking and doing the complete Oregon Highway 101 road trip in reverse! Without stops (and using Highway 6 from Tillamook, rather than going all the way north to Cannon Beach) the drive north should take about 4 hours, which would leave time to make any stops that you missed on the way down!
For all of our tips on what to see and where to stay in Portland, use our Portland Itinerary!
Oregon Road Trip Planner Map
The Oregon Coast Map is marked by the recommended stops on our Highway 101 Oregon Road Trip. Zoom into the map for a better look at each destination. Click on the icons for more information.
More Oregon Coast Road Trips
We have designed the ultimate Oregon Coast road trip from Portland. That said, there are an endless number of routes that explore the West Coast, which can be combined into our detailed trip plan.
Southern Oregon Coast Road Trip
Very different from the Northern Oregon Coast, interested visitors can continue driving south on the Hwy 101 on a Southern Oregon Road Trip. Featuring more rugged nature, secluded beaches and fewer crowds, top destinations are Coos Bay, Bandon, Cape Blanco Lighthouse and Gold Beach.
Oregon to California Road Trip
An ideal two-week West Coast road trip, visitors can make their way from Portland to San Francisco. On an Oregon to San Francisco road trip, highlights include Redwoods State Park, Avenue of the Giants, Fort Bragg and wine country. For tips on what to see and where to stay in SF, use our San Francisco Itinerary.
Oregon to Washington Coast Road Trip
Highway 101 crosses the Columbia River (and state border) at Astoria, making a Washington-Oregon road trip fairly easy to plan. Again, we recommend driving south, so a good route would be a Seattle to Oregon Coast Road Trip. On an Oregon Coast Road trip from Seattle, drivers start at Olympic National Park, wind around North Bay and Willapa Bay to the Columbia River and cross into Oregon – then continue to our first stop, Cannon Beach. Use our Seattle Itinerary for tips on the best things to do in Seattle, WA!
Oregon Coast Tours
While road trips allow for freedom to explore, they also require an attentive and careful driver. Visitors who would rather leave the driving to someone else can join an organized, small-group, day tour from Portland. The Oregon Coast day trip itinerary includes stops at Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park and Oswald West State Park. Reserve your seat here!
Oregon Coast Vacation Packages
Personalized trip packages can also be organized with a professional tour guide on a private trip. Find out more here!
What You Will Need for an Oregon Coast Road Trip
Before setting off on your Oregon coast trip, we have a few final tips!
Oregon Road Trip Map
Although we have shared our online map for an Oregon coastal road trip, we strongly recommend purchasing a road map for your trip – like this National Geographic Map. We also recommend checking current Oregon Coast road conditions online before beginning your drive.
Weather Appropriate Apparel
Oregon Coast weather can be unpredictable – and the coastal air is often cooler than anticipated. Therefore, we recommend packing clothing that can be layered. It is also a good idea to bring a packable raincoat, as well as a wide-brimmed travel hat for sunny days! For more of our packing tips, go to our Packing List page.
Most of the Oregon Coast trails we recommend in our itinerary are easy to moderate hikes. Even so, it is best to hit the trails with proper footwear. We like Merrell shoes – like the Trail Glove for men. Trekkers may also be more comfortable on the trails with hiking poles.
The amazing viewpoints are one of the best things about the Oregon Coast! To get a better look, we suggest carrying a good pair of binoculars. They are great for spotting whales and other wildlife.
Camera with Zoom Lens
While more and more people are relying on their cell phone cameras to take pictures, to capture amazing photographs of the coastline, a good camera with a zoom lens is necessary. We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens, which is perfect for the Oregon Coast. Best of all, the camera comes bundled with a complete accessory kit – which is great for beginner photographers!
We Want To Know: Have you taken an Oregon coastal road trip? What were the highlights of your Oregon road trip? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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