4 Must-See Spots Along the Oregon Coast
By Adam Goldberg
In all my travels, the Oregon coast is one of the most beautiful and photogenic places I have been fortunate to visit. It has it all, rugged rocky coastlines, wide sandy beaches, tide-pools, and charming friendly towns. Thanks to Escape Campervans, I had lots of flexibility on my trip and these are the 4 spots – along with a few other treasures – that one can’t miss. You can get there in just 2 hours from their new Portland camper van rental site, opening May 1, 2019.
1. Samuel H. Boardman State Park
As I was working my way from south to north, my first stop was Samuel H. Boardman State Park. While it is over a 7-hour drive from San Francisco and nearly 6 hours from Portland, the destination makes the drive more than worth it. The Huffington Post called Samuel H. Boardman State Park straight out of a fairytale and it is clear why. Beautiful secluded beaches, walks through Sitka spruce pine forests, and amazing rock formations make this park a must stop on anyone’s Oregon coast travels.
My two favorite spots to enjoy the views were Natural Bridges and Secret Beach. Natural Bridges is a double arch bridge formed by the constant battering of the Pacific Ocean against the rock. It is best viewed early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Secret Beach is not so secret but it is incredibly beautiful. Beach, waterfall, waves rolling in, and beautiful rock formations make this the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset. One could explore this area for days and I only touched on a few of the locations that one should stop and see while in Samuel H. Boardman State Park. However, for me, it was time to leave and head for Bandon Beach.
- Drive Time to Bandon Beach: Less than 2 hours
- Sights: Ariya’s Beach and Port Orford’s Battle City Rock
- Food Stops: N/A
2. Bandon Beach
Bandon Beach is exactly the kind of quaint little beach town I would expect to find along the Oregon Coast. With a charming old town filled with delicious restaurants and shops and a beautiful beach, it is the perfect base to spend a few days. The beach itself is quite photogenic with many rock formations (including the Howling Dog), tide pools, as well as seals. It is amazing to watch the beach change shape from high tide and low tide so I’d recommend finding time to go see the beach at both.
Less than a 5-mile drive north of town is Ballards Beach State Park. It is perfect for a nice stroll or a visit to the Coquille River Lighthouse. There is also a campground here for those looking for a spot. Old Town Bandon is a great little spot to grab a bite to eat from places like Bandon Brewery or Bandon Fish Market or to do a little shopping for souvenirs for your journey at the Big Wheel General Store. After two days of exploring and photographing the area, I departed Bandon Beach for the next stop on my journey – Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda.
- Drive Time to Pacific City: About 4 hours
- Sights – Cape Perpetua Marine Garden (Thor’s Well), Seal Rock, Yaquina Head Lighthouse (Fee), Depoe Bay (Whales and Port)
- Food Stops – Yachats, Depoe Bay
3. The Three Capes
Looking to be a beach bum and live the surf life for a few days? Well then head for Pacific City and Cape Kiwanda as you’ll be in good company. Alternatively, you can use this spot as the launching point to explore the scenic route that takes you to the Three Capes – Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares. It is a beautiful drive along the coast with beaches, stunning outcroppings, and small towns. The drive takes about 45 minutes, but plan on longer so that you can get out of your vehicle and explore each of the three capes.
Cape Kiwanda is right off the beach and takes a climb up some sand dunes to really explore. The view of some unique rock formations and outcroppings is well worth the short climb. To reach the end of Cape Lookout requires a 2-mile hike (one-way). It is not overly strenuous, but I’d recommend bringing water and a snack or two. The reward is expansive views of the Pacific Ocean from Cape Kiwanda to Cape Meares and beyond. Cape Meares was the last of the Three Capes that I visited. Beautiful views are easy to take in with a ¼ mile stroll down a path that culminates with a lighthouse. Climb up the stairs and you get even better views from higher up while taking in some historical lighthouse information.
When you are done, you can head back to Pacific City and stop at the Pelican Brewing for some food and to watch the sunset over Cape Kiwanda. Alternatively, you can continue your journey and drive north to the most well-known spot on this list, Cannon Beach.
- Drive Time to Cannon Beach – Less than 2 hours
- Sights – The Three Capes
- Food Stops – Nehalem, Tillamook
4. Cannon Beach
The last formal stop on my journey is the iconic Cannon Beach. Less than an hour from Portland, Cannon Beach is most famous for the large rock formation, known as Haystack Rock, and beautiful sunsets. Haystack Rock is one of the most easily accessible tide-pools to explore on the Oregon coast so I recommend spending some time at low tide. A long, wide flat beach makes walking and dipping your toes in the water a breeze. The town itself is charming with little beach cottages and delightful restaurants. Don’t miss the north end of town with art galleries and more can’t miss food options. I could have spent many more days just enjoying the slow pace of life, but I am glad that I took two days out of my journey to enjoy Cannon Beach.
A week is certainly not long enough to experience all that the Oregon Coast offers, but these spots are worth a visit whether you have a few days or a month. I am already planning a return visit to see some familiar spots and explore new ones – and I’ll definitely be taking my Escape Campervan along for the ride.