The rugged beauty of the Oregon Coast is second to none, whether you’re looking for a quaint coastal town or some wild and secluded nature trails. A beach experience in Oregon is more likely to involve a raincoat than a swimsuit but don’t let that discourage you; sunnier days are more frequent than you think. And for anyone who appreciates the charm of a stormy coastal day, Oregon is where it’s at. Check out the best spots for an Oregon Coast vacation.
Best Beaches in Oregon
1. Cannon Beach
Chances are if you’ve ever googled “Oregon Coast” you’ve come across a picture of Cannon Beach and its iconic Haystack Rock. An easy hour’s drive from Portland, Cannon Beach is one of the most picturesque and popular towns along the coast. The main beach is easily accessible from town and offers miles of smooth sandy beach for walking. Brave swimmers not deterred by the cold Pacific can easily swim here (but be wary of wilder surf in the winter months.) After you’ve seen the rock of Goonies fame, there are plenty of other beaches nearby worth visiting, including stunning and secluded Ecola State Park. After a chilly walk on the beach, grab a coffee from Sleepy Monk Coffee Roasters or stay late for dinner when it transforms into The Irish Table.
Cannon Beach, like much of the coast, is especially busy during the warm and sunny summer months. If you want to beat the crowds, and don’t mind the unique beauty of a cloudy beach day, try visiting in spring or fall.
2. Lincoln City
This sprawling coastal town has a plethora of beaches to offer along one of the most ruggedly beautiful sections of the Oregon Coast. Take a walk along Road’s End State Park and hunt for agates or Siletz Bay Park and grab a hearty bowl of clam chowder at Mo’s. For the best swimming and surfing, head further south to Beverly Beach, where you’ll find a long stretch of smooth sandy beach perfect for swimming and one of the most legendary surfing beaches in the state. Bring your wetsuit, this isn’t Southern California surfing! Before you head down the (many) stairs to Beverly Beach, look down and watch the waves surge into the Devil’s Punchbowl, a unique open sea cave.
Lincoln City is busiest from June-September, especially during their annual kite flying festival in June.
You’ll find Astoria where the Columbia River meets the ocean. Head to Fort Stevens State Park for the best beach access, complete with old ruins and a shipwreck, and plenty of hiking trails. Sunset Beach offers miles of flat beach walking in addition to 6 miles of historic Lewis and Clark trail. Astoria has plenty to offer when it comes to food and entertainment. The expansive view from the top of the Astoria Column is worth the hike up the winding stairs and the fish and chips at Bowpicker (a converted old fishing boat) are worth the wait in line. Don’t miss the oceanfront views at Buoy Beer Company or the Portland-worthy food and atmosphere at Albatross.
Like most Oregon Coast towns, Astoria is busiest during the summer.
Along with a kitschy, family-friendly downtown, Seaside offers some of the best beaches for swimming and walking. Just steps from the center of town, you’ll find flat, welcoming beaches perfect for strolling, surfing, swimming, bonfires, and kite-flying. If you like the ocean but don’t want sand in your shoes, walk the 1.5-mile promenade instead. On a warm day, you can’t go wrong with Sea Star Gelato but a hearty bowl of spaghetti carbonara at Nonni’s Italian Restaurant is perfect after a cold beach day.
The busy season at Seaside lasts through the summer when the weather is sunny and warm. If you want to beat the crowds, visit earlier or later in the year.
5. Depoe Bay
You could pass through this tiny coastal town in the blink of an eye but you shouldn’t. You’ll love the old-fashioned boardwalk with classic salt water taffy and quintessential beach shops. But you really come to Depoe Bay for a unique beach experience: whale watching. Unofficially dubbed the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” plenty of excursions are available by boat or you can head to Cape Foulweather, where whale sightings are free (and plentiful, if you’re lucky!) For the best chance of spotting the marine giants, get to Depoe Bay during the height of the migration season, typically December-January and March-May
Depoe Bay is busiest during the warm summer months and the whale migration season.
One of the most popular spots along the coast, Newport has plenty of beautiful beaches as well as fun and unique oceanfront activities. Agate Beach State Park is vast, flat, and easily accessible. In addition to swimming and strolling, it’s especially popular for clam digging, thanks to the abundance of razor clams. Once you’ve tired of the beach, head to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where you can walk through a tunnel of sharks, or the nearby Rogue Brewery for a tour and a beer. Be sure to hit up the bustling Newport Waterfront, full of fresh seafood, quaint beach shops, and a pier frequented by a gaggle of noisy sea lions.
Newport is busiest during the warmer summer months.
If you want to escape the crowds, head south. Located on the Siuslaw River, Florence is quieter but no less beautiful and has some unique beaches. Known for its stunning expanse of sand dunes, Florence offers buggy tours and ATV rentals if you’re looking for a bit more speed. Or slow down at Heceta Beach, great for swimming and beachcombing as well as for viewing the nearby Heceta Head Lighthouse, built more than a century ago.
The most popular time for visiting Florence is in the summer.
8. Gold Beach
Gold Beach lies less than an hour from the California border where the Rogue River meets the Pacific. This is the spot to go if you’re craving outdoor adventure while avoiding the tourists. Rugged Gold Beach offers access to some of the most beautiful remote hiking as well as all the ocean fun you could want from fishing to swimming to windsurfing to tidepooling. For the easiest beach access head to South Beach or you can drive your car right onto nearby Bailey Beach (4-wheel drive recommended.) For the best seasonal whale watching and surfing, head a few miles north to Nesika Beach. No matter which beach you choose, they’ll be clean and crowd-free.
Gold Beach is busiest from June-September.
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This article was written by Kate Vaughan.