The Oregon Coast is undisputedly dramatic and beautiful. With incredible rock formations, soft sandy beaches and that wicked PNW wind coming in handy for kite flying to boogie boarding – if you’re brave! – which towns should you stop at along the 101 Highway that hugs the Oregon Coast?
It all depends on how much time you have in your itinerary. Do you want to be on the beach, or just near to the beach? Will you be looking to cover as many scenic sites and tourist stops as possible, or do you prefer to set up camp and explore just your local neighborhood?
With 360-miles of coast to choose from, it’s no wonder the choice is hard. Whatever type of family vacation in Oregon you are after, there’s an Oregon coastal town just for you! We’re going to cover them all from North to South so you can perfectly plot out your Oregon coast vacation itinerary.
This post is part of our Pacific North West series
Top Tips for visiting the Oregon Coast
Before we dive in to the best coastal towns in Oregon, there are a few important planning tips your should note:
Reservations in advance are strongly recommended for the summer. Be it hotels or holiday rental accommodation in Oregon, through to campgrounds and RV resorts, the best places get snapped up early. We have include some reservation links below each town to help you with booking in advance.
Let’s be frank, it’s always a little cool on the Oregon Coast! Even in the peak of summer pack a sweater and dress in layers, largely to deal with the wind. The temperature rarely climbs over 68°F but days can be crisp and sunny.
Bring a wetsuit if you want to hit the water! Even in the summer, water temperature won’t creep about 60°F. Lows drop to around 50°F in winter.
On the bright side, the middle of winter on the Oregon Coast is not below freezing – expect daytime highs of around 39°F! We certainly wouldn’t recommend swimming, even with a wetsuit, but the Oregon Coast is an ideal place for a winter hike (do expect to get wet!) then snuggle up by a warm fire.
Wear your sunscreen! Don’t let the ever-present fog deceive, you can still get sunburn on the Oregon Coast. Always bring hats and sunscreen – as well as your raincoats, whatever time of year. This is, after all, the Pacific North West!
Never turn your back on the kids! Should go without saying, but remember the winds can be brutal and pathways can be steep and often unstable under foot. It truly is a magnificent coastline to explore, but exercise extra care and attention, especially with very little ones.
Take it easy on the road! Driving the 101 is not a race and, particular in summer, you’ll find long stretches with no passing lanes and no doubt a string of cars stuck behind RV’s. Plan your days with plenty of stops and patience and enjoy the view!
Map of Oregon Coast Towns
Heading along Highway 101, here are our favorite coastal towns, campsites and the key attractions along the Oregon Coast you’ll want to base your journey around:
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Astoria
We simply have to start with Astoria! Whilst, true, it’s not directly facing the Pacific Ocean, it’s where all great journey’s along the Oregon Coast commence! Astoria is packed full of lovely Victorian-era homes located in the hills that overlook the mouth of the Columbia River.
Of course, Astoria is also Oregon’s oldest town – dating back to the early 18th century. It has one of Oregon’s best museums, Fort Clatsop National Memorial which details Lewis and Clark’s expedition to Oregon over 200 years ago.
While in Astoria don’t miss the Columbia River Maritime Museum or perhaps ride an antique carousel. Astoria is Oregon at its best!
Where to Stay: In the heart of town try Comfort Suites Colombia River, RVers will love Astoria Warrenton Seaside KOA Campground or see more about Fort Stevens State Park below!
Fort Stevens State Park
Not a town per se, but worth mentioning alongside Astoria is Fort Stevens State Park. In addition to plenty of places to camp, the park offers stunning ocean views and plenty of beach access – perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing, and beachcombing.
The most famous and iconic stopping point in Fort Stevens State Park, even if you won’t be staying the night, is the Wreck of the Peter Iredale. Don’t be surprised by just how tiny it is in real life! And if you come in summer, do expect it to be crawling in other tourists too.
The park is also home to a variety of interesting historical landmarks, including the remains of the Civil War-era Fort Stevens. Kids will love exploring the fort’s many tunnels and gun emplacements, the perfect spot for outdoor adventures.
Although there are plentiful camping sites, summer reservations in advance are essential.
(This is a State Park and covered by the Oregon Pacific Coast Passport).
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Seaside
Irresistible Seaside – one of the most popular beachfront towns on the northern Oregon Coast. Admittedly, it has lost a bit of it’s small town charm and is now one of the largest coastal stops; dominated by ice cream shops, video game arcades and throngs of tourists it remains a must-see for your Oregon family vacation.
Strolling the 1.5-mile long Seaside promenade is a must, as is the Seaside Aquarium if you’re traveling with kids. You certainly won’t run short of things to do staying in Seaside, but just be aware its more like a larger coastal city then a quaint little town. It can make a great town for basing yourself in and taking day trips to the easy-to-reach towns, parks and attractions nearby.
Where to Stay: Modern family digs in the centre of town try Inn at Seaside or for a longer stay look at one of these fabulous seaside cottages in Seaside perfect for families.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Cannon Beach
Most famous for being home to Haystack Rock, there’s plenty more to Cannon Beach not to be missed and making it worthy of more than just a photo stop (besides you may find you’re waiting around for the perfect tide time for a while!) Part of the Oregon Island National Wildlife Refuge, this beach town is a nature-lovers delight!
At low tide it is easily to stroll all the way out to this impressive rock formations. In addition, kids will love searching out marine life from sea stars and crabs to anemones and spotting puffins perched on the rocks. Check out several of the nearby beaches
Although many families prefer the amenities of Seaside and all the entertainment on offer, we felt Cannon Beach had a more laid back feel and was the best place for getting to nearby state parks for exploring on foot.
Where to Stay: The Waves is a magnificent beach front property with 2 bedroom apartment options, or try these Cannon Beach vacation rentals for longer stays. Campers look for Cannon Beach RV Resort.
TOP TIP: Watch your tides! Some of the best waterside caves can be found along the coast here, our favorite spot is Hug Point just south of Cannon Beach, but you can get trapped if the tide comes in!
(Ecola State Park can be accessed on the Oregon Pacific Coast Passport)
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Manzanita
As you pop out from the drive through the lush forests of Ecola State Park and Oswald West State Park, prepare to be blown away! A dazzling coastline of uninterrupted beaches awaits at the end of this rocky outcrop.
Make sure to pull over at one of the coastal viewing points as this truly is one of the most beautiful places in the state, before descending to Manzanita and Nehalem Bay. Manzanita offers 7 gorgeous miles of pristine sandy white beach.
If its tranquil waterside beauty you are then Manzanita is a peaceful coastal dream in Oregon. Accommodation within this quaint little town is limited, but its a hugely popular spot with campers taking advantage of Nehalem Bay State Park, with offers 4-miles of uninterrupted sandy beach along the pacific coast, as well as access to the calm waters of Nehalm Bay and extensive bike trails.
Where to stay: Plenty of beautiful vacation rental cottages can be found here on the doorstep to the beach, or outdoor lovers reserve well in advance for a summer site at Nehalem Bay State Park.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Rockaway Beach
Next up along the coast we come to Rockaway Beach, another popular destination for families and one of the closest and most accessible beaches to Portland, only 85-miles away. A simple and unassuming beach, this long sandy stretch is perfect for kite flying and simply unwinding on the water front.
Rockaway beach is popular in whale watching season and also plays host to several summer festivals. The Pirate Festival, a pirate-themed function, and the Rockaway Beach Festival that showcases fireworks, among other fun family engaging activities.
You can’t miss the Twin Rocks in the ocean and several RV parks can be found along this stretch of the Oregon coast. Take the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad down to Garibaldi for a quick visit.
Where to stay: There are lots of condominiums and townhouses for rent immediately on the beachfront in Rockaway Beach, as well as resort complexes such as Surfside Resort.
Stop in at Tillamook
Another one not entirely on the coast but the next town you’ll come to is Tillamook, famous for the Tillamook Creamery! Best to tackle this popular roadside attraction early in the day.
Yes, the ice cream IS as good as everyone goes on about, and the free tour is good if it isn’t crowded; we’d suggest if the cars are already in the overflow car park, drive on. (You can get yummy Tillamook ice cream everywhere along the coast!)
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Oceanside
Heading onwards, you’re going to make a little detour off the 101 to the tiny town of Oceanside. If its serene beach you want then you’ll be in for a treat with caves, secret tunnels, and agates, making it one of the best hidden gem Oregon tourist destinations.
Oceanside has flat sandy beaches and a small stream kids can splash in, which is easily accessible. The tunnels located in the cliffside are rough and dark; however, it’s a short distance that leads you to another rock and pebble-filled beach.
Where to stay: You’ll find RV parks and campsite sites in this area but limited chain hotels. This is a favorite place for hiring a secluded ocean view cottage and simply enjoying the crashing ocean waves
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Pacific City
Visiting the Cape Kiwanda and Pacific City beach is one of the great things to do on the coast of Oregon. The beach is popular because it has some of the best waves – grab that boogie board!
Situated north of Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda has one of the best panoramic views of the coast and the Oceans in Oregon. Whether you want to climb the dunes, hike on the accessible trails nearby, explore the tide pools, and, when lucky, get to witness the whales spouting from afar, we highly recommend a visit to this fantastic destination.
Where to stay: Try something unique and stay at the Hart’s Camp Airstream Hotel & RV Park
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Neskowin Beach
Neskowin Beach is another popular family destination looking for a small village setting. Often overshadowed by the larger towns to either side, Neskowin Beach is one of a kind as it consists of 2000-year-old ghost forest tree stumps that rise out of the water at low tide.
This small coastal inlet has warm water compared to ocean water which is perfect for children to enjoy. If you proceed a bit further north, you’ll find Nestucca Bay, an undeveloped sanctuary that is ideal for kayaking and canoeing.
Where to stay: A small town but still plenty of tourist accommodation options, try the Neskowin Beach RV Resort, or Neskowin offers a great range of ocean view vacation rental houses.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Lincoln City
Lincoln City in Oregon is a great coastal town due to its location – nestled right on the Pacific Coast and surrounded by lush forests and inland waterways. The town is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Oregon, as well as a variety of fun activities and attractions.
Devils Lake State Recreation Area is hugely popular with water enthusiasts. You can try your hand at surfing, fishing, boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding.
As with much of the Oregon Coast, tide pooling is popular – many rate Olivia Beach as one of the best spots. Alternatively, if you don’t want to get your feet wet, strolling along the shoreline or gathering around a bonfire as you watch the lovely sunset is an experience like no other.
The city holds two kite festivals every year as well as 4 July celebrations and several indoor arcade style amusements can be found for those rainy days. If you love your taffy you’ll find plenty of candy stores here too!
Where to stay: Being a larger coastal town, there’s a good range of choice here if you are after hotel/motel accommodation near the beach, or vacation rentals right on the waterfront. Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area is a top choice for camper that love to be near to town.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Depoe Bay
A tiny fishing town with a big reputation! It’s two claims to fame – “the world’s smallest navigable harbor” and “the whale watching capital of the Oregon Coast” – so you can guess why this town is so popular with visitors!
Even outside of whale watching season there’s an undeniable charm to Depoe Bay. Close to natural wonders like Devils Punchbowl and Otter Crest Loop scenic road nearby, it’s an ideal spot to base your family for a secluded seaside stay.
Where to stay: This is the perfect spot to grab yourself a vacation rental overlooking the ocean
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Newport
Newport is one of the largest and best beach towns in Oregon. We highly recommend this as a top stopping point for a few days when traveling the Oregon Coast with kids.
If you’re a seafood fan, the Historic Bayfront is the place to be. While you dine, you also witness the sea lions bark on the docks, a truly memorable experience while overlooking the picturesque Yaquina Bay Bridge. Yes, there are quite a few “touristy” shops along the Bayfront, and parking can be challenging, but the kids won’t be able to resist the selection of candy stores, too!
The Oregon Coast Aquarium located on Yaquina Bay is also another great place to visit in Newport. You can go on underwater walks, see the marine life or seabird aviary while at the Aquarium. Hatfield Marine Science Center is another excellent educational choice.
Spare plenty of time for active outdoor activities too. A visit to Yaquina Head Lighthouse (if kids aren’t lighthoused-out yet!) is a must; try the hike to Drift Creek Falls and spare some time for a stop at the giant Newport Coast Park playground.
And of course, the beach! Just north of town is Agate Beach, one of the most popular for sandcastle building and kite flying, or miles and miles of soft white sand can be enjoyed in South Beach State Park.
Where to stay: South Beach State Park is home to one of the best family campgrounds on the Oregon Coast, packed with amenities and only a bike ride to town. There’s a lot of choice in vacation rentals and hotels/motels in Newport and surrounds, try Hallmark Resort right on the beach.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Yachats
Yachats (pronounced Yah-hots as we found out!) is one of the best coastal towns in Oregon for a peaceful retreat. Although a small town, it has a big reputation for having all a tourist needs, hence why it’s named “the gem of the Oregon coast.”
The town itself is close the the beach and boasts some great galleries, gift shops, breweries and restaurants – Luna Sea Fish House comes highly rated for seafood lovers.
Make sure to check out the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, with its wrap around observation deck it offers one of the best views of Cape Perpetua. Summer months there are guided tours on offer.
Immediately south you’ll find the infamous Thor’s Well. This natural wonder is a great road side viewing stop, as to is Heceta Head lighthouse, one of the most photographed in the state!
Where to stay: Some quality campsites worth consideration Cape Perpetua Campground and Tillicum Beach Campground or for a touch of luxury on the Oregon Coast they highly acclaimed Overleaf Lodge & Spa.
TOP TIP: There may not be much of a distance between Newport, Yachats and Florence but as you can see, this section of the Oregon coast is packed with the most site seeing, so do allow a full day for this short drive even if it doesn’t look too far on the map.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Florence
This coastal destination with rolling dunes is among the best family beaches in Oregon. A trip to Florence beach is family-friendly and worthwhile as there are numerous recreational activities you and your loved ones can engage in.
Rent a dune buggy or go horseback riding to navigate through the dunes while exploring the shoreline. Kayakers are in for a treat as the Siltcoos cascading river provides all the thrill you need.
During late summer, the Siltcoos Lake is a great salmon spot ideal for angling. Adventures can hike on the easily accessible Hobbit trail, which has a breathtaking ocean view. Some of the notable amenities nearby include antique shops, boutiques, and riverfront hotels that serve great food.
A huge drawcard to this central section of the Oregon coast is the the Sea Lion Caves, 11-miles north of Florence. Note although part of the Oregon/Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve, this attraction is privately owned and entrance charges are applied for the upkeep of the are. They occupy the caves in winter and head out to the rookery area from Spring and through summer. They are wild animals so no guarantee of a showing but appearances are almost certain!
Where to stay: Try Best Western Pier Point Inn, or the best regarded campground nearby is Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park offering RV hook up sites as well as yurts Book 6 months in advance)
(Honeyman State Park is covered on the Oregon Pacific Coast Passport)
Other stops to consider on the Southern Oregon Coast
Not quite making it to our “top” list but a few other stops south of Florence worth mentioning depending on your families interest.
Once you hit this southern point in Oregon, some branch off to head east and into the Rogue Valley. From Reedsport, take State Route 38 along the Umpqua River for a stunningly picturesque route inland.
A hugely popular coastal stop worth a mention, though there’s no town around, is the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. The lighthouse, of course, is the drawcard, as is the camping ground, one of the smallest but most highly regarded forest camping spots on the southern Oregon Coast, .
One of the lesser known but lovely long stretches of sand white beach, quite and secluded is Horsfall Beach in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Camping is possible here, but be aware that the area is popular with OHV Riders overnight.
You’ll also pass through North Bend and Coos Bay, not quite on the beach but again pleasant little towns. This can be a popular spot to stop for lunch or stay the night if you want to explore deeper into the Oregon dunes.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Bandon
Keeping to the 101 south, you’ll be rewarded with a stop in the wonderfully laid-back Bandon. Popular for a stroll are the Old Town district and marina; there’s a lovely boardwalk, including Friday and Saturday Farmers Markets. Bandon is also a well-known destination for horse lovers with horseback rides possible along the beach year-round.
The best beach access point are found on Beach Loop Drive, which also offers whale spotting opportunities in the spring. Coquille Point is very popular with families for its long sandy beaches, spectacular rock formations, driftwoods for fort builing as well as spotting nesting birds, sea lions and tide pools.
Where to stay: Bandon Inn comes highly recommended as it’s in the center of town, as to does Bullards Beach State Park Campground for campers
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Gold Beach
Sitting at the mouth of the Rogue River, Gold Beach is a small town hidden gem on the Oregon Coast. The weather here is much warmer than in the north, earning this stretch of coast down to Brookings the nickname “the Banana Belt”. Expect a perfect mix of secluded beach and vast sand dunes mixed with outdoor adventure.
Gold Beach has numerous activities for everyone, from angling to jet boating with Jerry’s Rogue Jets. The easily accessible Cape Sebastian Trail, 7-miles south of Gold Beach leads to great picnic spots, an ideal destination, especially if you’re with your family.
Gold Beach is also a good spot for watching migratory whales From December to April.
Where to stay: Right on the beach try SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western Gold Beach, or several RV Resorts can be found in the area.
Best Oregon Coastal Towns: Brookings
Sitting just 6-miles miles north of the California-Oregon border and the start of Redwood country, Brookings is a popular starting or ending town for many travelers to the Oregon Coast.
Still with a quaint small town feel, wander the storefronts at the Port of Brookings and grab yourself one last ice cream!
From Brookings, you can travel just 4-miles to the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor for some simply breathtaking coastline views – Arch Rock Picnic Area, Thunder Rock Cove and Natural Bridges are all popular spots.
At low tide, kids will love tide pooling at Harris Beach State Park. It’s also one of the best spots for catching that very last Oregon Coast sunset.
Where to stay: Harris Beach State Park is a very popular choice for campers, or nab yourself a vacation rental cottage with stunning sea views.
A word on booking your Oregon Coastal Trip
We were total new kids on the block when it came to picking out accommodation; all State Park on-site accommodation is booked out MONTHS in advance! (They open bookings 9 months in advance, in fact). With no tents of our own for this trip we needed towns with proper bedrooms and plenty of amenities nearby as we were basically living out of our car!
If you’re happy to go a little more “off the beaten path” and have the right gear, don’t miss some incredible state parks for camping (not nearly as “rustic” as it might seem if you can nab a luxury cabin or yurt!)
We have done a ton of research though ready for the next booking season to open up! Pop on over here for a review of campgrounds on the Oregon Coast.
These state park stops will also give you more stretches of unspoilt beach, at times you can have beaches completely to yourselves!
If you leave yourself enough booking time, you can rent an RV through Outdoorsy to enjoy all the very best the Orgon coast has to offer, beyond just the great coastal towns of Oregon we’ve mentioned here.
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