Best Beaches on the Oregon Coast

Oregon’s coastline stretches south from Astoria to the California border, and while it’s not a place you’d want to swim, the beaches here are among the most spectacular in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon has 300 mi of white-sand beaches, not a grain of which is privately owned. U.S. 101, called Highway 101 by most Oregonians, parallels the coast along the length of the state. It winds past sea-tortured rocks, brooding headlands, hidden beaches, historic lighthouses, and tiny ports, with the gleaming gunmetal-gray Pacific Ocean always in view. With its seaside hamlets, outstanding fresh seafood eateries, and small hotels and resorts, the Oregon Coast epitomizes the finest in Pacific Northwest living. Among the coastal highlights are the 40-some-mi-long Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area near Florence , which offers more thrills than an amusement park. The drive along U.S. 101 between Port Orford and Brookings is one of the most scenic on the West Coast. Popular Cannon Beach will charm you with intimate hotels, gourmet restaurants, and the best coffee.


The Oregon Coast Aquarium, а 4-асге complex in Newport, has re-creations of offshore and near-shore Pacific marine habitats, all teeming with life: playful sea otters, comical puffins, fragile jellyfish, and even a 60-pound octopus. There’s a hands-on interactive area for children and one of North America’s largest seabird aviaries. A trio of tanks hold sharks, wolf eels, halibut, and other sea life.


As a resort town Seaside has brushed off its former garish, arcade-filled reputation and now supports a bustling tourist trade, with hotels, condominiums, and restaurants surrounding a long beach. Just south of town, waves draw surfers to the Cove, a spot jealously guarded by locals. Eight miles south of Seaside, U.S. 101 passes the entrance to Ecola State Park, a playground of sea-sculpted rocks, sandy shoreline, green headlands, and panoramic views.


Cannon Beach is a mellow and trendy place to enjoy art, wine, and fine dining and take in the sea air. One of the most charming hamlets on the coast, the town has beachfront homes and hotels, and a weathered-cedar downtown shopping district. Towering over the broad, sandy beach is Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-high monolith that is one of the most-photographed natural wonders on the Oregon Coast.


Adventurous travelers will enjoy a sojourn at one of the best-kept secrets on the Pacific Coast, Oswald West State Park, at the base of Neahkahnie Mountain. An old-growth forest surrounds the 36 primitive campsites (reservations not accepted), and the spectacular beach contains caves and tidal pools.


Florence’s restored waterfront Old Town has restaurants, antiques stores, fish markets, and other diversions. But what really makes the town so appealing is its proximity to remarkable stretches of coastline. It is the gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a 41-mi-long swath of undulating camel-color dunes, formed by eroded sandstone pushed up from the sea floor millions of years ago that are covered by forests, rivers, and lakes.


The best beaches in the Coos Bay Area are actually closer to Charleston. A placid semicircular lagoon protected from the sea by overlapping fingers of rock and surrounded by reefs, Sunset Bay State Park is one of the few places along the Oregon Coast where you can swim without worrying about the currents and undertows. Only the hardiest souls will want to brave the chilly water, however.


Bandon is both a harbor town and a popular vacation spot. The town is famous for its cranberry products and its cheese factory, as well as its artists’ colony, complete with galleries and shops. From the highway the 2-mi drive to reach Bullards Beach State Park passes through the Bandon Marsh, a prime bird-watching and picnicking area.