An Epic Trip with Great Driving Roads and Lots of Water Views
The Perfect Way to Explore the Oregon Coast
Your trip to the coast begins with a cruise south on I-5, where you’ll have multiple opportunities to stock up on unique provisions in both Portland and Eugene. This initial drive provides ample time to settle into Van Life and think of the adventures that await during your week long journey back north. Allow your mind to wander the highlights of the trip - epic coastal scenery, bonfires on the beach, fresh seafood, and cute seaside towns.
The following itinerary provides suggestions for awesome activities along the Oregon coast (with a pinch of the Washington coast thrown in for good measure!). You may decide to stay in one place longer or to space out your time differently. There are many Oregon State Parks along this coastal route; we've suggested a few, but all of them are great options. For a longer trip, consider connecting this journey with a loop of the Olympic Peninsula.
Day 1: Seattle to Florence, OR (344 miles, 6 hours)
Today puts the ‘road’ in road trip - it’s all about cruising! Set off from Seattle and head south on I-5 toward Eugene. Stop for some fun in Portland - find Voodoo Donuts to stock up on eccentric treats for the road. Across the street, play a few rounds of PacMan at the old-school arcade Ground Kontrol. If you’re looking for lunch, find your way to Alder Street and wander amidst hundreds of food carts - there is sure to be something for everyone.
After fueling up in Portland, continue south on I-5. Eugene is a college town best known for it’s liberal politics, friendly people, and microbrews. Consider stopping here for a bite to eat or to stock up on provisions as this will be the last major outpost before the quaint seaside towns that lie ahead.
From Eugene, head west of Route 126 toward Florence and your first campsite. One idea for your first night at the coast is the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, where you can explore sand dunes and the lake.
Day 2: Florence to Cape Perpetua (23 miles, .5 hours)
Today will start with sand and end with cliffs. Relax and take it easy after yesterday’s grind down I-5 - today you’ll have all day to go 23 miles! Put on some good tunes and head north on highway 101 along the coast.
Detour! If you’re feeling adventurous, start off your day at Sand Master Park for some tobogganing on the Oregon Dunes. It’s hard to turn down the opportunity since It’s just a few miles from where you camped.
Next, check out the Sea Lion Caves, where you can get up close and personal with hundreds of sea lions in an underground cave. It’s a little spendy at $14 per adult - but it’s also a cool experience, especially if you have kids.
Meander north, navigating to Heceta Head State Park, where an iconic lighthouse awaits. Stroll through the picturesque woods up to the lighthouse, and postcard worthy views abound. If you’re interested in the history of the lighthouse, free tours are offered from 11am to 5pm daily. For an epic photo, don’t miss the opportunity to hike down to the beach and see the lighthouse from below!
Save some time for your final destination of the day, Cape Perpetua. You could easily spend a full day exploring all that Cape Perpetua has to offer, including everything from old-growth forests to tidepools to ocean cliffs. Be sure to drive your Westy all the way to the top viewpoint - you’ll find yourself 800 feet above the awe-inspiring Pacific Ocean below!
Tonight you’ll ovenight at the Cape Perpetua campground, and (depending on your time and ambition), jump right in and explore two additional park highlights - don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of time tomorrow if a cocktail is calling you to the campsite. Leaving from the visitor’s center, go for a hike on the Giant Spruce Trail. The name does not disappoint - there is a 600 year-old and 185 foot tall Sitka spruce waiting for you. With a circumference of 40 feet, this is one tree your whole family will want to hug. Also not to be missed at Cape Perpetua is Devil’s Churn, a narrow inlet back down on Highway 101. The force of Mother Nature will leave you mesmerized, with the waves crashing in, out, and up, all at the same time.
Day 3: Cape Perpetua to Newport (35 miles, 1 hour)
Take some extra time to soak in the awesomeness of Cape Perpetua. When you’re ready to hit the road, motor north on highway 101 toward Newport. Just a few miles north of Cape Perpetua, you’ll pass through the town of Yachats. This is a sleepy beachside town, but it can be fun to stroll around and look in the art galleries or enjoy an espresso. Don't miss Yachats Brewing and Farmstore, where you will find local beer and kombucha on tap, tasty food, and a shop with books, garden supplies, and all kinds of neat things.
Save your appetite for Newport though, where you’ll find one of the best seafood joints on the whole coast. Check out Local Ocean Seafood, where they serve local oysters, crab, and fish. And while you’re there, shop their market for something to bring on the road.
Detour! Newport is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which has a great deep sea exhibit. If it’s raining or you have kids (or just love marine life), this is an aquarium worth exploring.
From Newport, continue on to the Yaquina Head Natural Area, home to the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. While there, walk along the spit of land that juts into the ocean, and get your hands wet exploring the tidepools.
From Yaquina Head, serenity awaits - within a few miles you’ll arrive at Beverly Beach State Park, where you can rest your head under the forest trees, knowing that the ocean is just a few steps away.
Day 4: Newport to Manzanita (95 miles, 2.5 hours)
Depart Beverly Beach and settle in for an hour long drive to the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, where there are great views of Haystack rock. You can even drive your Westy right onto the beach - which is definitely in the running for the best picnic spot ever. If you have the energy, climb the dunes for expansive views to both the north and the south.
Right next door to Cape Kiwanda is the Pelican Pub Brewery - there’s nothing quite like sipping a beer in the salty air! As you make your way back toward Highway 101, make sure you stop off at the Jacobsen Salt Factory in Tillamook. This is a hole-in-the-wall of the best variety. You're likely to be the only visitors, but that won't stop the folks at Jaconsen from letting you sample all of their amazing infused salts.
Detour! Do you have an aviation buff in the family? While in Tillamook, you may also want to visit the Tillamook Air Museum. Located in a World War II Navy blimp hangar, their collection spans over 20 aircraft, along with exhibits.
From Cape Kiwanda, Route 101 will head inland a bit, toward Tillamook. Thousands of people visit the Tillamook cheese factory every year, and you may want to too (pro tip - stock up on cheese ends!), or better yet - skip the crowds at the Tillamook factory and instead visit Blue Heron, a French cheese company that offers samples of cheese and wine.
Need some ice cream to top off that cheese and wine? Head to Buttercup in Nehalem, where they have delicious and unique ice cream flavors (and chowder too!). Find your way to Nehalem Bay State Park and set up camp for the night. This campground boasts sandy shores and sealing watching. For bonus points, book a horseback trail ride with Oregon Beach Rides who operate right from the park.
Day 5: Manzanita to Fort Stevens (40 miles, 1 hour)
Next door to Nehalem Bay State Park is the laid back beach town of Manzanita. This is a great place to park and stroll for a bit. Visit the candy shop, buy a kite at the general store and fly it on the beach, or enjoy some gourmet food at the Blackbird Cafe. By the way, just because the food is fancy, doesn’t mean the attire needs to be - your finest pair of Birkenstocks will be just fine here, and they do accept reservations.
Are you feeling adventurous? Hike the 3.8 miles to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain before you leave Manzanita! The journey is its own reward - but the view from the top of Neahkahnie Mountain ain’t too shabby either.
From Manzanita, continue up the coast to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park. Haystack Rock is the third largest vertical rock formation in the world, and this is the place to view it from. Better yet, queue up the soundtrack to Goonies, because this is where many of the outdoor shots were filmed. Tour the boardwalk and soak in the views, or go for a longer hike - there are some great trails in the area.
Once you’ve soaked up the view of Haystack Rock, head north to Fort Stevens State Park. This is the biggest park west of the Mississippi, and, in addition to camping, it features forts and defensive walls that date back to the Civil War through WWII.
Hungry? Catch your dinner! Fort Stevens is an awesome spot for razor clamming. The nearby KOA campground rents all of the gear you will need, and the beach at Fort Stevens is one of the best clamming grounds on the coast.
Day 6: Fort Stevens to Cape Disappointment (30 miles, 1 hour)
To complete your Goonies adventure, leave Fort Stevens and head into Astoria - a sweet town with a rich maritime history. If you’re interested in learning more about the history, visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Otherwise, spend some time touring Goonies filming locations, including the jailhouse (get your mugshot taken!), the Astoria column, and Mikey’s house.
While you’re in Astoria, grab a burger and a brew at the Fort George Brewery. If it’s nice out, they have a spacious patio - don’t forget your sunglasses! Don't miss Pilot House Distillery, where you'll be welcomed like a local and given the opportunity to sample local spirits and shrubs.
When you’re ready to get back to the woods, head north on Route 101 across the 4+ mile Astoria-Megler bridge to cross from Oregon to Washington. This is sure to be a fun crossing in the Westy - those with a steady hand and a pure heart will make it safely to the other side. For the rest of us, blind luck will have to do!
One possible destination for the night is Cape Disappointment State Park. Many of the campsites are just steps from the beach. Stroll the 2-mile beach at sunset and maybe enjoy a beach bonfire for the evening. This is also a great place for stargazing!
A different option for the night is to power through to Westport, WA and stay at our good friends Loge Campgrounds. We love these guys and love what they are doing in the beautiful area around Westport, WA. They have created a pretty sweet, multi-use spot - part campground, part lodge, part hostel, all awesome. Check-in there for a night or two and they will have a special gift for you from us. They can almost always squeeze in a Peace Vans reservation, but it's still a great idea to rent.
Day 7: Cape Disappointment to Seattle (170 miles, 3 hours)
Before officially leaving Cape Disappointment, drive your Westy up to the North Head lighthouse. See this historic lighthouse up close, and pay for the tour - if only to get the view from the top. Tour or not - enjoy the majestic unobstructed view of the Pacific.
There’s an awesome taco truck just as you leave the area - head toward Seaview and look for a bright yellow truck called Streetside Taco. They have cheap (but delicious!) tacos, including a riff on Banh Mi.
Set your compass to the east and make your way back to Seattle, after an awesome journey on the coast! Or, if you have more time, this would be a great place to connect to the Olympic Peninsula loop.