With a backdrop of rugged coastline and crashing waves, endless hiking trails and beautiful beach towns, there are lots of amazing things to do on the Oregon Coast. From shipwrecks to sand dunes and hidden beaches to nature’s very own cauldron, an Oregon Coast road trip is brimming with adventure and beauty.
We were mesmerized by our journey along the coast and have put together this list of our favorite things to do on the Oregon Coast to help you plan your own trip.
17 Best Things to do on the Oregon Coast
From beaches to hikes and shipwrecks to whale and sea lion spotting there are so many awesome things to do on the Oregon Coast.
Things to do on the Oregon Coast: if you need some help planning how to fit all these stops into an Oregon Coast roadtrip then checkout out our Oregon Coast Road Trip itinerary – we’ve outlined our recommended itinerary including how long to spend, where to stay and all of our favorite stops along the coast.
1 | Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach
Rising majestically out of the sand, Haystack Rock is the star attraction of Cannon Beach, a beautiful stretch of the Oregon Coast. The 235 feet tall rock is one of the most popular sights on the Oregon Coast and is designated as a National Wildlife Refuge. At low tide, colorful tidepools showcase a world of starfish, crabs and urchins while the birdlife on the rock itself includes Tufted Puffins, Brown Pelicans and Bald Eagles. Movie fans will recognize the beach from scenes in The Goonies and Point Break.
For more on Cannon Beach, check out our guide to the best things to do in Cannon Beach.
2 | Goonies Filming Locations
If you’re a fan of the 1980’s classic the Goonies, then you are in for a treat on the Oregon Coast! Scenes from the Goonies were filmed in Astoria, Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park and most of the locations are still instantly recognizable over 30 years later! The Oregon Coast town of Astoria is home to most of the Goonies filming locations and you can relive scenes from the movie at the County Jail House, the Goonies House and the Lower Colombia Bowl. Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park were also backdrops for Goonies scenes. Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park are also home to filming locations for Point Break, Kindergarten Cop and Twilight.
You can check out our full guide to the Goonies Filming locations here!
3 | Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor
The Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor, named in honor of the first Oregon Parks superintendent, is a State Park located on a 12 mile stretch of coastline between Brookings and Gold Beach in southwest Oregon.
The Samuel H Boardman boasts some of the best stops on the Oregon Coast. A series of 7 arch rocks and blowholes, known as the Natural Bridges, is one of the highlights as is Secret Beach, a hidden beach less than a mile off the highway. Arch Rock, Indian Sands Trail, Whaleshead Beach and Viewpoint, House Rock Viewpoint, Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint, and the beachfront Lone Ranch Beach picnic area are among the other amazing sights on the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Highway.
4 | Peter Irdale Shipwreck, Fort Stevens State Park
The shipwreck of the Peter Irdale, a boat that ran ashore in 1906 amid strong winds, sits along Clatsop Beach in the Fort Stevens State Park. All the crew were brought to safety and the Captain toasted the ship with the words ‘May God bless you and may your bones bleach in the sands’. The skeleton of the boat remains on the beach 104 years later.
Fort Stevens State Park also has 6 miles of hiking trails, 9 miles of paved bicycles trails, kayaking, freshwater lake swimming, and historic military ruins – it was an active military reservation servicing the Civil War through World War II and it’s possible to explore one of the batteries, Battery Russell.
5 | Indulge in amazing Oregon Coast seafood
The Oregon Coast is renowned for its delicious seafood and there are plenty of spots along the coast to sample it. Our favorites are the South Beach Fish Market in Newport, the Old Oregon Smokehouse in Rockaway Beach, Sharkbites in Coos Bay, Bowpicker Fish and Chips in Astoria, and Buoy’s Best Restaurant in Seaside – and, yes, we’ve sampled all of these!
6 | Thor’s Well, Cape Perpetua
If you want to witness the relentless force of the Pacific Ocean then make sure to stop at Thor’s Well in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. The gaping hole on the edge of the ocean appears to swallow the ocean and powerfully shoots it back out over the surrounding rocks. Known as the ‘Drainpipe of the Pacific’, Thor’s Well was formed when the thrashing ocean eroded a sea cave causing it to collapse and left a natural hole, around 20 feet deep, in the rock.
Things to do on the Oregon Coast tip: There is lots to see in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area along with Thor’s Well. Make sure to stop at Devil’s Churn, a narrow inlet with crashing waves, and Sprouting Horn, a natural ocean blowhole, both of which are located close to Thor’s Well. Take a short detour to the Cape Perputa Lookout, the highest viewpoint on the Oregon Coast that is accessible by car and the Giant Spruce Trail, a 2 miles loop from the Visitor Center which leads to a 500 year-old Sitka spruce tree
7 | Seaside
If you are in search of some old-school beach town vibes on the Oregon Coast then make sure to include Seaside in your Oregon Coast itinerary. Although small, there are a ton of fun things to do in Seaside: take a walk along the Prom, Seaside’s oceanfront promenade, stop by the retro arcade, eat some delicious seafood at Buoy’s Best Restaurant, visit the thrift store and ride the carousel. We also love a sunset stroll on the beach to catch one of the Oregon Coast’s magnificent sunsets.
8 | Devil’s Cauldron, Oswald State Park
Devil’s Cauldron is a small cliffside cove where the Pacific Ocean waves crash into the cliff walls showcasing the powerful effects of nature along the Oregon Coast. The viewpoint is accessed via a short 0.1km trail in Oswald State Park.
Oswald State Park also has a lovely half-mile trail through the woods to Short Sand beach, great views of Elk Flats, Devil’s Cauldron and Neahkahnie Mountain.
9 | Sea Lion Caves
The Oregon Coast is home to America’s largest sea lion cave where the Stellar Sea Lion resides. Visitors descend by elevator down through the cave to sea (the journey is equivalent to the height of a 12 story building) and the cave opens up to a natural amphitheater where the sea lions linger during the winter months. In Spring and Summer, when the sea lions breed, they tend to move to the rocks in front of the cave.
10 | Oregon Coast Sand Dunes
The Oregon Coast Recreation Park stretches for over 40 miles between Florence and Coos Bay and the towering sand dunes are a stunning sight along the coast. One of the best spots to admire the dunes is from the Oregon Dunes Overlook – there is a half-mile trail with viewing platforms which are a fantastic vantage point from which to appreciate the surrounding dunes and ocean.
11 | Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park is perched atop Tillamook Head and boasts stunning Oregon Coast views, beautiful beaches, and a mix of hiking trails. Its highlights include Ecola Point, where the views stretch south to Cannon Beach and north to Tillamook Head and Lighthouse, and the beautiful Indian Beach.
There are lots of hiking trails in Ecola State Park, with the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) running down through the length of the park. Popular trails in the park include the relatively easy short hikes from Ecola Point to an overlook of Indian Beach or the Tillamook Lighthouse Trail. For the more adventurous check out the Clatsop Loop Trail which begins at the Indian Beach parking lot and offers stunning views of the Oregon Coast.
12 | Three Capes Scenic Route
The Three Capes Scenic Route is a 40-mile stretch that takes in a trio of Capes: Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. The journey showcases beautiful viewpoints, scenic hikes, a historic lighthouse, our favorite Oregon beer stop, and even an Octopus Tree.
Things to do on Oregon Coast tip: although the route is 40 miles it is actually closer to 75 miles in reality as you will actually need to backtrack in parts due to a long term road closure.
One of the most interesting stops is the massive Sitka spruce tree at Cape Meares: the 300-year-old tree has sprawling trunks which are similar to octopuses tentacles, hence the name Octopus Tree! The shape of the tree has been attributed to either natural elements or through its origins as a sacred tree belonging to the Native Americans who inhabited the area at the time.
Other highlights include a 10.5 mile out-and-back beach walk at Netarts Spit at Cape Lookout and the rather challenging climb to the top of Cape Kiwanda: it’s located next to Pelican Brewing so there is a reward of clam chowder and cold beers on the beach to look forward!
13 | Heceta Head Lighthouse
The beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse, perched at 1000 feet atop Heceta Head, is located just north of Florence and is accessible via a half-mile trail at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. Its beacon can be seen for over 20 miles.
The lighthouse can also be accessed from the nearby Hobbit Trail Trailhead which connects Heceta Head Lighthouse with Hobbit Beach. It’s a lovely hike through lush forest to Hobbit Beach and, after exploring the beach, you can hike up the hill to the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
14 | Visit a trio of State Parks in 3 miles
Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park are located adjacent to each other along a 3 mile stretch of the Cape Arago Highway just south of Coos Bay – they are connected by hiking trails making for a beautiful walk between the three parks.
The unique mix of rugged coastline and botanical gardens at Shore Acres makes it a fantastic park to visit while the sheltered beach at Sunset Bay State Park and the rugged coastline at Cape Arago are all equally as beautiful. If you are fortunate, you might spot some whales in the sea below the jutting headland at Cape Arago.
15 | Whale Watching
With 20,000 whales passing by its shores during the migrations, the Oregon Coast is renowned for its whale watching opportunities. The state even hosts an annual Whale Watching Week with whale watchers stationed at 20 viewpoints along the coast ready to assist visitors with their whale spotting.
The annual migrations during Winter and Spring are the best times for whale watching. June to September is also popular when the 200 resident gray whales known as the Pacific Coast Feeding Group return to the Oregon shores.
16 | Roam with the Dinosaurs at the Prehistoric Gardens
If you’re traveling with young kids then the Prehistoric Gardens, with 23 life-size dinosaur replicas, is a really fun stop along the Oregon Coast. Set in a 300-year-old temperate rainforest, a short trail loops through the arboretum where the species range from prehistoric algae to the Redwoods with giant dinosaurs lining the path.
17 | Explore Astoria
Located at the mouth of the Columbia River and surrounded by nature and history, Astoria is an awesome Oregon Coast town to explore. Astoria highlights include the 125 foot tall Astoria Column which towers over the city (and its exterior illustrates significant events from the history of Oregon), Downtown Astoria with its mix of historic buildings, independent stores, and local breweries, and the magnificent Astoria-Megler Bridge which connects Oregon and Washington.
For more on Astoria, check out our guide to the best things to do in Astoria.