The Oregon coast is often referred to as “The People’s Coast” because all 363 miles of the coastline’s beaches are open to the public and are not privatized. The coast is also very dog friendly, unlike some public beaches in other states.
When I first moved to Oregon five years ago from Vermont I had no idea how cold the ocean was here. Within the first month of living in Oregon my husband and I planned a day trip out to the coastal town of Lincoln city. We wore our bathing suits under our clothes so that we would be ready to run in the ocean as soon as we arrived. But little did we know that the pacific northwest coast does not warm up the way the east coast of Maine does.
In Oregon, the ocean temperatures are regulated from the currents that come down from Alaska. Unlike the New England coastline of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island which gets its warmth from currents that come up from the Caribbean waters. This is explained brilliantly in an excerpt from reporter Tom Skilling at The Chicago Tribune.
In other words if you want to swim in the waters of the pacific ocean in Oregon bring a wet suit!
The communities along the Oregon coastline provide a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life in Portland, OR. Below I will outline fun things to see, do and eat as I highlight several towns on the Oregon coast.
Astoria is located in the north western part of the Oregon coast where the mouth of the Columbia river meets the pacific ocean. It is the most populated town to the north before you cross over to Washington State.
Astoria has gained more and more popularity recently as more shops have popped up in the downtown area such as trendy small chain Growler Guys, which is not only a place to come in and fill your growler full of your beer of choice, but also a bar.
Astoria is also great for family atmosphere. Kids will love to watch the large fishing boats and even cruise ships exit the Columbia river to the pacific ocean.
If you decide to stay the night, I recommend Canary Pier Hotel & Spa. The location couldn’t be more perfect, as it is situated on the water and you can view ships and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
Seaside is the “Jersey shore” of the Oregon coast. It is the most playful and lively of the coastal towns. It’s best suited for families or groups of friends ready to enjoy summer time at it’s finest, because that’s when this small city really comes alive. Seaside is also the end of the famous Oregon Trail and has a statue of famous explores Lewis and Clark on the edge of the beach.
There are plenty of lodging options to choose from in Seaside which range from chain hotels to small rental homes and condos. I have stayed at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and was happy with my stay. Rooms were clean and you could walk to all the shops, restaurants that downtown has to offer as well as the beach of course!
There are plenty of activities to suit anyone’s needs.
Families will love the Seaside Aquarium and Quatat Park where you can rent a kayak or standup paddle board along the waterway river that runs through the middle of town as well as strolling through the Seaside Carousel Mall.
Cannon Beach, OR
Cannon Beach is one of my favorite Oregon coastal cities. I have written about my love of Cannon Beach before in my article Day Trips From Portland You Should Be Taking Now .
Cannon beach is an easy day trip from Portland as it is only an hour and a half car ride away.
The town is quaint and you will notice that all of the shops in town are independently owned and unique. You will not find a Starbucks here. The closest you will find is the café The Bald Eagle Coffee House which “proudly serves” Starbucks coffee. This shop is located on 1064 South Hemlock Road in downtown Cannon Beach.
In line with not having corporate chain restaurants you will also not find a chain hotel. Instead you will find a plethora of rental options. I have used VRBO in the past with booking rental homes in Cannon Beach. Last year shortly after Thanksgiving I stayed with my husband, father in law and dog at a two bedroom home. Check it out here.
Enjoy breakfast at the Oregon costal chain The Pig n’ Pancake and fill up on pancakes, eggs and bacon before you start a fun day of exploring.
Explore Ecola State Park by taking a hike and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean, Haystack Rock and a lighthouse.
Manzanita boarders Cannon Beach to the south. For those that think Cannon Beach is too touristy, will find a quiet retreat in Manzanita. This town is popular with artists and second home owners. The town does have some cute shops and restaurants but far less than neighboring Cannon Beach.
Start the day by getting your blood pumping on a hike on Neahkahnie Mountain. The views from the top of this mountain are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The hike is a gradual incline and not too difficult. Even my 4 month old puppy was able to do this hike!
After the hike head back into town and grab an ice cream cone at Schwieterts Cones and Candy and enjoy walking on beach with the sand in your toes.
Pacific City, OR
Pacific City is the surf capital of the Oregon coast. Stop at Moment Surf Company to purchase or rent surfing equipment and wetsuits as well as sign up for lessons! Drive about 45 minutes south on the 101 to Bay city and stop for lunch at Pacific Oyster for the freshest seafood on the coast. This place is a market and a casual sit down joint. You can get a variety of fresh locally caught oysters, crabs, clams and more!
Lincoln City, OR
This past May I stayed at Salishan Resort and Spa in Lincoln City and I highly recommend! If you are looking for a relaxing vacation look no further than Salishan. This resort offers an onsite golf course, spa, restaurants and a bar. The bar often has live music throughout the year, which was the case when I stayed and it made the night so fun.
The resort spa is located in a detached building from the rest of the resort and is situated directly on the ocean. You can show up two hours prior to your treatment and enjoy all of the spas amenities including the outdoor heated hot tub (which is so big it should be considered a small pool), the indoor sauna and hot tub.
I also recommend staying at The Coho Oceanfront Lodge. My husband and I stayed here for Christmas back in 2012 and had a blast.
The Coho Oceanfront Lodge was a fun place to stay. Even though it was dreary in December when we had stayed for Christmas, we found the coast to have a peaceful quietness that was so serene.
Lincoln City’s claim to fame is that it is so windy there that it is almost always ideal conditions for flying a kite. Lincoln city has annual kite flying festivals in the late summer and early fall. If you are not able to make it to the kite festival, go ahead and purchase a kite from one of the many shops in downtown Lincoln City.
If you tire of the beach, head over to the Lincoln City outlet mall for some shopping with stores such as Coach, Nike and Ann Taylor, just to name a few.
Depoe Bay, OR
Twelve miles south of Lincoln city, directly off the 101 lies Depoe Bay.
Depoe Bay’s claim to fame is that it is the worlds smallest harbor!
Stop off at the Chowder Bowl for a cup of clam chowder and then grab a bench and take in sights of fishing boats and whale watching ships going to and from the harbor.
One thing I didn’t realize about the Oregon coast the first time that I went was that all of the Oregon coast falls within the Tsunami warning zone. The first time I saw this sign it kinda freaked me out!
Newport’s Bay boulevard is the perfect place to spend your day.
Explore the walkway of Bay boulevard in downtown Newport and take in the beautiful sight of the fishing boats docked nearby and be sure to stop and check out the Sea Lions as they hang out on the docks.
Grab lunch at Rogue Brewery along Bay boulevard and enjoy whatever brew is in season. The food here is outstanding. Rogue has delicious burgers and fries! If you are interested in touring the Rogue brewery check out the location across the bay at 2320 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport.
My husband and I stayed across the street from brewery at the La Quinta Inn & Suites. It was very affordable, but the only downside was that you needed to get in your car to drive into the hub of downtown Newport. If you want to stay in a more centralized location I would recommend the Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites or the Hallmark Resorts. Both are near in the Nye Beach area of Newport which boasts bountiful choices of apparel shops, restaurants and souvenirs.
You don’t want to leave Newport without visiting the Yaquina Head Lighthouse located at the north end of town. The lighthouse was built in 1873 and it welcomes visitors to tour it but only if led by a Ranger. Here is some more information about how to arrange a lighthouse tour.