With 363 miles of coastal highway to drive you could spend your whole week researching the best of what to see, or you could read this post! A diverse mix of hikes and sights from the most popular to some of the most unknown.
Listing from south to north along the Oregon Coastal Highway
#1 Natural Bridges
Without question, this is the most recognizable place along the Oregon Coast. Located in the southern corner of Oregon in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor are a number of marked and unmarked trails that lead to great views of these natural coastal bridges. There is even the famous trail that navigates directly over the arch you see in the picture above.
The main trail that runs through the area is the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), be sure to take the side trails around to taken in all the sights. There is plenty more to see than what you get from the wooden platform viewing point a few feet from the parking lot.
#2 Secret Beach
Located directly north of Natural Bridges is Secret Beach. True to the name in the sense that it remains crowd free but not so secret that there aren’t signs to point you in the right direction. You can walk north directly from the Natural Bridges parking lot so no need to move your vehicle.
The hike uses the OCT and takes roughly 30 minutes to descend through coastal forest to the beach. On the beach you’ll have three to four secluded areas and a waterfall flowing into the ocean – quite literally the perfect scene for a relaxing time at the beach.
#3 Cape Blanco Lighthouse
Located about an hour’s drive north on the Oregon Coastal Highway in Cape Blanco State Park is an old lighthouse in a picturesque setting. The lighthouse sits on the edge of the cape surrounded by long stretches of beaches and coastal rocks. To go in the lighthouse, you must schedule a tour but it’s still plenty worth the visit from the outside.
When you get out of your car makes sure you’re holding down any loose belongings, the wind here is some of the strongest of all the coast line.
#4 Thor's Well
Outside the town of Yachats are several good coastal sights with the most popular being Thor’s Well. A name like that of course would make a place popular but the well and ‘Spitting Horn’ another sight from the same walkway do do the names justice.
Viewers here walkdown a paved pathway to an overlook with dramatic waves crashing into a rocky coast. The rocks form a channel where waves pile in and shoot up through holes in the rock from underneath, or fall into holes from above.
This would be a good place to check tide times as some viewers get little to no show during low tide with the water not pouring over the rocks.
#5 Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area
Following up suit with great names is Devils Punchbowl. The state natural area here is restrictive with almost now walk required to get to the barriers that keep you from walking further down cliffs towards the Punchbowl.
I don’t believe it’s allowed but there are pictures online of people who are able to walk around from the oceanside or down a restricted path during low tide and actually stand in the punchbowl and look out. This would have to be researched before and is definitely not an option during high tide as you can see the pacific is crashing into the rocks in the picture above.
Regardless of what is open and able, it’s a cool geographic location on the coast and only requires a quick stop to see.
#6 God's Thumb
Fire names along the coast right? God’s Thumb! This hike is a favorite that has exploded in popularity in recent years and the parking and trail reroutes are in development to keep people further away from the residential neighborhoods nearby.
The entire path is a little over 4 miles long and includes a first stop at a place called The Knoll which overlooks the beach town of Road’s End. The second stop further along is a place called God’s Thumb. Very much a unique style knoll that protrudes out and above the ocean below.
#7 Tunnel Beach
As the name suggests, Tunnel Beach requires going through a tunnel passage in order to reach the beach! Located next to Oceanside Beach State Park, you walk onto Oceanside Beach and then if you look to your right, you’ll see a small concrete structure in the base of the mountain in the distance. Head over that way and enter the passage.
Tunnel Beach stays under the radar and many visitors don’t know exists even when standing next to it on Oceanside Beach. You may want to check tides before you go as well otherwise you may not have much beach to walk on once you’re looking out of the tunnel.
#8 Neahkahnie Mountain
Another real hike along the coast that’s definitely worth a stop is Neahkahnie Mountain. This a 3 mile out & back hike that climbs to the top of the coastal mountain. Plan for some good elevation and plenty of switchbacks to get you to the top of this climb.
The views from the top look out to Neahkahnie Beach and it's one of the best views of the coastal waves rolling into the beach that I saw my entire coastal trip. The stretch of beach creates a half moon shape that stretches all the way to the horizon.
#9 Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
This is probably the most famous place along the coast. It’s an incredible stretch of beach with a great beach town attached and not too far from Portland. Sunset can be EPIC here with the flat coastline letting the waves roll in fifty yards to create that perfect reflection.
Unfortunately, I had a thick mess of clouds that wouldn't seem to lift as the sun drifted behind but even still, like pretty nice right?
Parking can be tough with the residential neighborhood located in front of the beach but I found driving just out of the town there are several pullover spots that have easy access to the beach walkways.
#10 The Wreck of Peter Iredale
Another beach not requiring much of a hike but is a plenty cool enough site to add to this list is the famous wreck of Peter Iredale. The wreck is located at the most northern point of Oregon’s coast in Fort Stevens State Park. They are the remains from a vessel that ran ashore in 1906 and have been rusting away by the ocean ever since.
Depending on tides the water can either be surrounding the ship or not coming near the remains. This beach is similar to many in Oregon that are almost completely flat and are heavily affected by tides. Unless you have a specific photo in mind, either is fine to visit during as it won’t be overly obstructive when surrounded in water.
Also! Cool experience that happened to me here. I was driving into the state park early morning before any other visitors and I almost hit a female elk crossing the road!
I then thought to look for others and sure enough a full grown male elk is gently walking by in the oncoming lane. My first elk sighting ever and made this a memorable adventure for sure!
Drop me a comment if you enjoyed these top sights and if they're any more you would add!
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