The Perfect Way to Explore the Oregon Coast
[NOTE: On May 11, 2019 we updated this itinerary. The old itinerary is here. This itinerary contains everything from that, plus so much more. But we prpvide the link back the original just in case. ]
The Oregon Coast is scattered with fantastic restaurants and breweries, epic seascapes, charming campgrounds, and tiny towns with eclectic boardwalks. If you choose to explore the coast, you’ll have endless opportunities for adventures. We recommend taking a week for this trip along the Oregon Coast, which should give you enough time to check out every little thing your heart desires along the way. You’ll start by driving south on I-5, stopping in Portland, Oregon and Eugene, Oregon along the way to stock up on provisions. Then you’ll spend the rest of your week meandering slowly back up the coast, along Highway 101.
The following itinerary provides suggestions for campgrounds, restaurants, hikes, scenic viewpoints and more along the Oregon coast, from Florence, Oregon all the way up to Westport, Washington. All of the recommendations in this guide are based on our own experiences along this route, but you should feel free to customize this itinerary as much as you’d like. Please note that there are many Oregon State Parks along this coastal route that offer wonderful campgrounds, too; we've suggested a few here but all of them are great options worth considering. For a longer trip, you can continue this itinerary northward to make a loop around the Olympic Peninsula
Day 1: Seattle to Florence, OR (344 miles, 6 hours)
Day one of this trip really puts the “road” in road trip, especially because your Westy won’t love going more than 60 mph on the highway. Set off from Seattle (with a quick stop at Macrina Bakery Sodo for sandwiches or pastries on your way out, if you’re hungry). Then map yourself to Portland, Oregon and get ready for a long cruise south along I-5 corridor.
We love stopping in Portland for a few hours to break up this long day on the road: First, head to Pok Pok for award-winning Thai food. (Don’t miss the fish sauce wings!). If you’re looking for other food options, find your way over to Alder Street and wander amidst hundreds of food carts; there’s usually something for everyone. Next, grab a box of Blue Star Donuts, the self-proclaimed “local’s favorite” donut shop in Portland. Or if you’re feeling a bit more eccentric, wander over to Voodoo Donuts instead. Across the street from Voodoo, play a few rounds of PacMan at the old-school arcade, Ground Kontrol.
Wrap up your journey with a stop at Powell’s City of Books, where you can choose from over a million new and used books. We also endorse picking up a growler or six pack of good beer from Ecliptic Brewing, to get you through the next few evenings. In the mood for an ice cream treat? Salt and Straw is reliably delicious.
After fueling up in Portland, continue south on I-5 toward Eugene, Oregon, a college town best known for its liberal politics, friendly people, and microbrews. Consider stopping here for provisions, as this is your last major outpost before you start your journey up Highway 101. We usually stop at Brun’s Apple Market for groceries then pop across the street for dinner at Tacovore. The Kiva Grocery is another good option for stocking up on groceries from local Eugene businesses.
If you’re tired of driving, you can grab a campsite at Fall Creek State Recreation Area, right outside of Eugene. But if you still have it in you to drive another hour (it’s worth it!), head west on Route 126 from Eugene toward Florence, Oregon. Swing by Morning Glory Farm & Espresso (a local spot on the side of the highway in Walton, Oregon) for a caffeine pick-me-up and a jar of homemade jam. After about an hour you’ll reach your route for the rest of the trip: Highway 101!
One idea for your first night on the coast is the Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, where you can explore dozens of massive sand dunes surrounding a gorgeous lake. Honeyman offers showers, bathrooms, running water, kayak and sandboard rentals, and dozens of hiking trails; it’s also a popular option for ATV enthusiasts. If you can, book a campsite in Loop F for direct dune access. And if Honeyman is full, consider booking a night nearby at Alder Dune Campground (no showers, pit toilets), Harbor Vista Campground (coin-op showers and bathrooms), or Sutton Campground (no showers, flush toilets).
Day 2: Florence to Cape Perpetua (23 miles, .5 hours)
After yesterday’s long day of driving, you deserve a day of relaxation and slow rollin’-- and that’s what you’re going to get! Today’s itinerary starts with sand dunes and end with cliffs; you’ll have all day to go just 23 miles.
Need breakfast? River Roasters is much-loved by Florence locals, and downtown Florence also offers a few small grocery stores for picking up your own breakfast supplies. Then start your day by exploring the dunes; even if you didn’t camp at Honeyman State Park, it’s a great place for an adventure. You can rent a sandboard or a kayak at the lake, or wander one of the dozens of trails.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head over to Sand Master Park for some tobogganing on the Oregon Dunes. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, find nearby Torex ATV Rentals and pick up your ride for the day. If you’re more of a hiker, the John Dellenback Dunes Trail and Carter Dunes Trail offer tough but gratifying ways to see the unique landscape on foot. Finally, if you feel like seeing the dunes on horseback, check out C&M Stables.
After your sand dune adventures, pump the music and start your trip down Highway 101. Kids will love the Sea Lion Caves, where you can get up close and personal with hundreds of sea lions in an underground cave. Next up is Heceta Head State Park, where an iconic lighthouse awaits. If you’re not a hiker, park at the state park lot and stroll over to the lighthouse. If you do like to hike, park at the trailhead past the lighthouse signs, in a tiny lot off of mile 177. Then take a 3-mile round trip route over a hill to the lighthouse, where you’ll see sprawling views along the way and arrive above the iconic lighthouse.
On your way back, take a detour to Hobbit Beach, along a one-mile hike that brings you through the trees and onto a glorious, vacant private beach. Even if you’re not a hiker, the little trip to Hobbit Beach is well worth some extra walking! After your hike or lighthouse wander, eat a picnic lunch at one of the many beach viewpoints along 101; our favorite is the windy but almost always deserted Muriel Viewpoint, but there are dozens of turn offs to choose from within the two miles after the lighthouse.
Finally, head over to Cape Perpetua, where you’ll be camping for the night near the town of Yachats. Stop at Cook’s Chasm, which contains Thor’s Well (views of the ocean crashing in and out of a sinkhole) and Spouting Horn (where the water can climb dozens of feet into the air at high tide or during a storm). 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.
If you’re hungry, pop into Yachats for a scoop of ice cream at Toppers, or a coffee at the Green Salmon Coffee Company. Then hop back into the car for a quick 5-minute drive; tonight you’ll camp at the Cape Perpetua Campground!
The Cape Perpetua Campground doesn’t have showers but it does have super clean bathrooms with running water. The campground includes some walk-in sites and some drive-in sites, so you should make sure to book a drive-in site even if you don’t plan to use the hookups. (Pro tip: Sites 30, 24 and 38 are perfect for vanners.) If the Cape Perpetua Campground is full, consider the nearby Beachside State Park (showers available), Carl Washburne State Park (showers available) and Tillicum Beach State Park (running water and flush toilets only; no showers).
Day 3: Cape Perpetua to Newport (35 miles, 1 hour)
Your third day starts with a trip up to the Cape Perpetua Overlook. You can hike up from your campsite by following the St. Perpetua Trail, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views 800 feet above the ocean! The route is also driveable. If you’re looking for a hiking challenge, Amanda Trail leaves from the Cape Perpetua Overlook and offers seven miles of views.
Before you pack up the van, you’ll also want to check out the Giant Spruce Trail, which is located within the Cape Perpetua Campground. On this short hike, you’ll get to see a 550-year-old, 185 foot-tall Sitka Spruce tree! With a circumference of 40 feet, this is one tree your whole family will want to hug.
After all that activity, it’s time for some lunch! Don't miss Yachats Brewing and Farmstore, where you’ll find local beer and kombucha on tap, plus tasty food and a shop with books, garden supplies, and more.
The Green Salmon Coffee Company is another solid lunch option in Yachats, with its funky coffee drinks, inventive sandwiches, and a huge list of loose leaf tea options. It’s also worth taking time to wander the shops in Yachats, especially the somewhat famous gem shop, Planet Yachats. When you’ve satisfied your curiosities, motor north toward Newport, Oregon with a full belly, stopping at the Seal Rock Lookout and the Ocean Beaches Glass Blowing gallery.
While we usually recommend spending your evening cooking at camp, tonight we think you’ll be happiest heading into Newport, which is one of the largest towns you’ll encounter on your jaunt up the coast. Newport is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which has a great deep sea exhibit. If it’s raining or you have kids (or you just love marine life), this is an aquarium worth exploring for an afternoon.
In Newport, you’ll also find one of the best seafood joints on the whole coast: Local Ocean Seafood. They serve local oysters, crab, and fish. And while you’re there, shop their market for something to bring on the road. The Fish Peddler’s Market is also a good option for a casual dinner in Newport. If you’re a beer lover, check out Rogue Brewing; their taproom is right on the water.
Finally, after a full day of views, good food and adventures, check into your campsite at Beverly Beach State Park, which has hot showers and is located right past the city of Newport. If that’s booked up, try South Beach State Park. (They have hot showers, too!)
Day 4: Newport to Manzanita (95 miles, 2.5 hours)
Today you’ll head toward Manzanita-- but you should plan to take a slightly meandering route with some extra driving along the Three Capes Scenic Route. We promise, it’s worth the extra mileage. Start your day at the Yaquina Head Natural Area, home to the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. While you’re there, walk along the spit of land that juts into the ocean and get your hands wet exploring the tidepools.
Next, check out the Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock, another sinkhole with water rushing in and out; this rock formation is one of the best on the whole coast. If you’re feeling like a boardwalk stroll, stop in Depoe Bay next, which is a well-known whale watching spot. (If you’re looking to take a whale watching tour, this is the place!) Left Coast Coffee, the Horn Public House and Restaurant Beck all come highly recommended, although we personally recommend skipping a meal in Depoe Bay in favor of lunch in Cape Kiwanda, which is up next on the itinerary.
Follow signs off 101 to the Three Capes Scenic Route. Then, after about 40 minutes, you’ll arrive at the first cape: Cape Kiwanda, which is famous for its flat-bottomed Dory Fleet and its very own Haystack Rock. (Fun fact: There are actually three Haystack Rocks along the Oregon Coast.) You can even drive your van out onto the sand here! This cape is home to Pelican Brewing: Pacific City, which is an unbeatable lunch spot.
Next, following the scenic route to the second cape, Cape Lookout. If you’re feeling sleepy, consider camping here, surrounded by long stretches of mostly isolated beach decorated with sea glass. This area also offers a wicked awesome hike called Cape Lookout Hike, which is 5 miles long. The third cape, Cape Meares, is just 10 minutes down the road and it’s home to some epic lighthouse views.
As you make your way back toward Highway 101, stop 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 Jacobsen from letting you sample all of their infused salts. 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. Tillamook is also home to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which sees millions of visitors every year. (Pro tip: stock up on cheese ends!) If you’re not into the crowds (yeah, us either), 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!). Just past Tillamook you’ll also find Fish Peddler, a roadside joint that sells fresh oysters and seafood to go. Dinner, anyone? Finally, after another long day of exploring, find your way to Nehalem Bay State Park. Hot showers await!
This campground boasts sandy shores and seal watching. For bonus points, book a sunset horseback trail ride with Oregon Beach Rides, which operates right from the park during the summer months. If Nehalem Bay State Park is full, as it sometimes can be during the summer months, consider camping at the first-come, first-serve Nehalem Falls Campground (no showers).
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, which is a great place to park and stroll for a bit. Wake up and get pastries at Bread and Ocean, or grab sandwiches there for a picnic lunch. Stop at Manzanita Fresh Foods to replenish your supplies, if needed. You might also want to visit the candy shop in downtown Manzanita, or buy a kite at the general store.
Before you leave the area, consider taking a hike up Neah-kah-nie Mountain, a 5-mile hike with epic views that’s popular with the locals. You can also rent kayaks from Wheeler on the Bay, which is about 10 minutes south of Nehalem Bay State Park.
From Manzanita, swing by Short Sands Beach, aka Oswald West State Park, to watch the surfers, then stop at Hug Point. When the tide it out, you can walk out onto the beach and you’ll be greeted with sweeping views. Next, continue up the coast to Cannon Beach. In Cannon Beach, dip your toes in the ocean and check out Haystack Rock.
Next, grab crepes for lunch, or stop by Pelican Brewing’s second location for another dose of quality beer. Roll through Schwietert’s for some salt water taffy, and pick up a loaf of the famous Haystack Bread from Cannon Beach Bakery. (Pro tip: You’ll also want to nab a marionberry turnover for breakfast the next morning, and we promise you won’t be disappointed by their butter sugar cookies.) If you need coffee, we love the Sleepy Monk. Now it’s on to Ecola State Park, which is just five minutes away. As you drive, queue up the soundtrack to Goonies: this is where many of the outdoor shots were filmed!
In Ecola State Park, consider eating your lunch at Indian Beach, then hiking the Clatsop Loop Trail, which is about 3 miles round trip and winds through the forest and along the coast, with time to explore an old bunker and views of a far-out lighthouse. As you continue north, a special treat awaits: Seaside Helicopters offers tours of the coast for as low as $55 per person!
Once you’ve soaked up the coastal views, it’s time to 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. It’s also fully decked out, with flush toilets, hot showers and dozens of other amenities.
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. You might also consider waiting to unpack your van, as the observation tower at the end of Fort Stevens’ spit offers epic sunset views.
Day 6: Fort Stevens to Cape Disappointment (30 miles, 1 hour)
Start your morning with a walk down to the beach, where you can explore the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. Then take a quick detour into Fort Steve’s bunkers and defensive forts.
While we know you could spend all day at the ruins (us too!), it’s time to 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 or the Buoy Beer Company (which has a glass paneled floor, through which you can sometimes spot sleeping sea lions!). Don't miss Pilot House Distillery, either, 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 four-mile Astoria-Megler bridge to cross from Oregon into Washington!
Next, you have a choice: You’ll probably want to check out Cape Disappointment State Park, where you can hike or drive up to the North Head Lighthouse for an awesome guided tour about the rough waters where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. You can camp here for the night if you’d like, too; 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!
If you want to keep rolling, power through to the surf town of Westport, WA (about two hours away) and stay at our good friends Loge Campgrounds. On your way, stop at Goose Point Oysters, a special little spot where you can crack your oysters open on a deck right in front of the fishing boats. If you do decide to stay at Loge at the Sands, let them know that you’re from Peace Vans; they’ll hand you a special gift! They have a pretty sweet property that’s part campground, part lodge, part hostel, all awesome.
Day 7: Cape Disappointment to Seattle (170 miles, 3 hours)
If you decided to stay at Cape Disappointment, grab breakfast at the healthy roadside eatery Roots or lunch at a bright yellow truck called Streetside Taco. They have cheap (but delicious!) tacos, including a riff on Banh Mi.
If you chose to stay in Westport, catch breakfast at the bare bones but delicious local diner, Blue Buoy, then pick up a good cut of fish at Merino’s, to take home with you. Watch surfers in Half Moon Bay, then set your compass and make your way back to Seattle!