We had four days of vacation to explore the Oregon Coast back in 2015. Quickly our road trip down the Coast became one of our favorite holidays. There are tons of things to see, so make sure you are not rushed. Plan extra time so you can wander off the highway and make unplanned stops. All of Oregon’s beaches are open to the public. All the way down the coast there are lots of trails in the state parks that you can hike and explore. Oregon also has some great small beach towns with historical sites, fun shopping and great restaurants. If you are planning a road trip down the Oregon Coast, here are some of our favorite things that we saw driving south on Highway 101.
Day 1 – Portland to Seaside
We started our trip in Portland and drove down to Newport before we had to drive back to PDX to catch our flight. We left Portland early and stopped at Elsie at Camp 18.
Breakfast at Camp 18
On the way to Seaside we stopped in Elsie at the Camp 18, restaurant and logging museum. The restaurant is in a rustic log cabin style building with a fun little gift shop. We ate a tasty and filling breakfast of biscuits & gravy. Make sure you leave room for one of the famous cinnamon rolls. We had to take our to go! After breakfast we explored the logging museum outside with many great exhibits on the logging history of the Northwest.
Seaside is a popular destination spot on the coast. We checked into our hotel at the Shilo Inn Suites Hotel. The hotel has a great location and is right on the beach. Once checked in we made our way down the promenade to the historic Seaside Aquarium. We had fun feeding fish to the seals. We spent some time exploring the small shops in downtown including buying at least a pound of saltwater taffy and a beach blanket. After our retail therapy we took our new blanket, taffy and some snacks to the beach and watched seagulls and the surf. For dinner we ate at the Seaside Brewing Company. We tried a beer sampler and ate some amazing street tacos. After dinner we took stroll on the beach and then stopped in at the Boardwalk Lounge and tried some oyster shooters. We asked out bartender about the rules for a beach bonfire. We found out as long as you follow the rules, bonfires are legal on the public beaches.
Day 2 – Seaside to Cape Kiwanda
After making a list, we headed out to find a grocery store to pick up bonfire supplies. We stopped at RiteAid. We lucked out because they had everything from marshmallows to firewood. So after purchasing our items, we had a short drive to Ecola State Park.
Ethereal Ecola State Park
The entrance winds you though a forest of trees opening onto a plateau with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The vista is perfect for a picnic, and we split our cinnamon roll from Camp 18 and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery.
Captivating Cannon Beach
No stop on the coast is complete without stopping at the lovely town of Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is home to Haystack Rock, which is famous for being a location from the Goonies Movie. This monolith rock towers 235 feet and during low tide you can access the many tide pools. After exploring the beach and some of the fun shops we stopped at Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse. The restaurant is a busy place, the food there was great! (try the Blackberry Beauty Beer, you won’t regret it!)
Historical Hug Point
After lunch we continued on to Hug Point State Park. Before roads for automobiles were built, wagons used this part of the coast to travel. People traveling around the cliff in wagons had to ‘hug’ the rock even at low tide, hence the name, Hug Point. We were able to see the old wheel ruts that had been carved into the rock. Also on the beach were a few sea caves that we had fun exploring.
Outstanding Oswald West State Park
Back on the road we stopped at Oswald West State Park, which is about a half mile walk through the woods from the parking lot. At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with pretty ocean views and we watched some surfers trying their luck on the waves.
The first place we stopped at in Tillamook was the Country Smoker Outlet. It is a small outlet store attached to the factory smokehouse. Our stop was rewarded when we were able to purchase super long (2 ft!) pepperoni sticks. We also picked up more jerky and sticks to take to friends and family back home. The second stop was at the popular Tillamook Cheese Factory. The factory has a self guided tour, shop and a cafe to try a some of the tasty ice cream. We couldn’t leave withour trying a few flavors.
Perfect Time in Pacific City
We arrived in late afternoon at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda. Across the street was the Pelican Pub & Brewery, which we enjoyed dinner while the sun was setting. After dinner, we loaded up our firewood, and s’mores fixings and built a bonfire down by the beach. Coming from Kansas, we had a great time listening to surf, and our s’mores were pretty tasty too!
Day 3 – Pacific City to Nye Beach
We woke up before dawn to get some coffee and pastries from Stimulus Espresso, the coffee shop attached to the Inn. Coffee in hand we walked back down to the beach to take some photos and enjoy the morning. After trying to talk the desk clerk into hiring us for only room and board, we reluctantly got back into the car to continue our journey.
Nice views at Neskowin Beach
Looking on the map we decided to make a pit stop at Neskowin Beach, and rewarded with spectacular views. We were also only the only people on the beach which as really nice. It was very serene place. We could have hung out there all day.
Delightful Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay is the “World’s Smallest Natural Harbor.” We had wanted to stop at the Whale Watching Center, but it was closed on the day we drove though. Due to the weather, which was a bit chilly and windy we opted not to go out on a whale watching boat ride. When we visit again we hope to be able to go on the tour. Getting a bit hungry we walked to Gracie’s Sea Hag, a fun little restaurant on main street. Only in Oregon, will you have bartenders playing the spoons on bottles to the tune of Sweet Caroline.
Newport & Nye Beach
Once checking into our hotel, The Inn at Nye Beach; we drove out to the Yaquina Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse is Oregon’s tallest at 93 feet tall . After visiting the visitor center, we walked down a path to the beach. We were stopped by a park ranger because there was a baby harbor seal on the beach and due to Federal Law you have to be 100 feet away. We were able to talk to the ranger about the seals and take a few photos. Later that night we met up with Mike’s sister & brother-in-law at Rogue Ales Public House for dinner. It was great catching up with them! We took a walk around the harbor, heard the Sea Lions barking and said our goodbyes. It was too short of a visit!
Day 4 – Nye Beach to Portland
Our Last Day
After checking out of our cute hotel, we walked down to the shops on Nye Beach. It was fun browsing and we were able to purchase some Christmas presents at the little beach shops. We drove through Dutch Bro Coffee to get coffee and make a quick stop back at the harbor to view the Seal Lions in the day light. We had enough time to stop at the Roadhouse 101 in Lincoln City for lunch. If you stop there make sure to order one of their wood fired pizzas. From there we headed over Salem and got on Interstate 5 to the airport. We turned in our rental car, grabbed a snack and headed back to Kansas. It was a great trip! When we come back, we hope to have more time to road trip further down the coast. The Oregon Coast is spectacular, and I advise everyone to take time to drive down Highway 101. You won’t regret it!
Thanks for reading! If you have any tips on places we need to see for a future road trip in Oregon, please let me know! Happy Travels, Tava