Best Beaches on Oregon Coast

Best Oregon Coast Beaches

The Oregon coast is as beautiful as any stretch of coastline in America. While the California sun draws off the tan-seeking masses (Oregon summers are generally mild), Oregonians are left to hike and clam-dig along their own secluded four hundred miles, almost all of its public land.

State parks and campgrounds abound, and extensive and often isolated beaches offer numerous free activities, from beachcombing to shell-fishing and whale-watching.

Although Oregon hasn’t escaped commercialism (only lucky travelers find budget rooms without booking ahead in July and August), the state’s shoreline could well be considered the least exploited, or developed, in the entire US.

Oregon beaches:

Bandon Beach

At the mouth of the Coquille River, twenty miles south of industrial Coos Bay, easygoing Bandon combines old-town restoration with a strong New Age, arts-and-crafts presence.

It was originally a Native American settlement, swamped by the onset of the Gold Rush. The twentieth century began rather ominously, when townsfolk dynamited Tupper Rock, a sacred tribal site, to build the sea wall, and the town was cursed to burn down three times: it’s happened twice so far, in 1914 and 1936, and the superstitious are still waiting for the final conflagration.

Bandon’s main attraction today is its rugged beach, strewn with unusual rock formations and magnificent in stormy weather when giant tree stumps are tossed up out of the ocean like matchsticks.

In calmer conditions, clammers head off to the river’s mudflats, crabbers gather at the town dock, and the whole scene makes for a delightful stroll.

The visitor center is centrally located at 300 SE Second St., and there’s oceanfront accommodation just south of town at the outstanding Sunset Motel, 1755 Beach Loop Drive, which comprises motel rooms, condos, and, best of all, seafront cabins.

West of town, there’s great seafood at Bandon Boatworks, at the end of Jetty Road, and at various eateries along the First and Second streets in the center of town.

Cannon Beach

Nine miles south of Seaside, the more upmarket and pleasant Cannon Beach manages to retain its small-town air despite decades of relentless commercialism.

The place is at its liveliest during the annual Sandcastle Competition, a one-day event held in late May or early June, whose most notable sand works have included dinosaurs, sphinxes, and even the Crucifixion.

Cannon Beach’s best natural draw is its 240ft Haystack Rock, a black monolith crowned with nesting seagulls – accessible at low tide, though definitely not climbable.

To escape the town’s inevitable crush of tourists, head four miles north to Ecola State Park, where dense conifer forests decorate the basaltic cliffs of Tillamook Head, or south to Oswald West State Park where there is a beautiful beach, rocky headland, and coastal rainforest.

Oswald West, a tent-only campground popular with surfers, has wheelbarrows to transport your gear to the site.

Accommodation is tight, especially at competition time. Cannon Beach Hotel, 1116 S Hemlock St., is a petite, European-style hotel, while the popular Waves Motel is right on the seafront at 188 W Second St.

For food, Midtown Cafe, 1235 S Hemlock S., has the best breakfast in town; the Bistro, 263 N Hemlock St., doles out a fine range of seafood; and Heather’s Cafe, 271 N Hemlock St., makes a mean grilled-cheese sandwich.

Florence Beach

Located on the central Oregon coast along Highway 101, Florence is a scenic and recreational paradise.

A charming old town that was originally a mill town, Florence has a population of over 6200.

Old Town boasts a number of interesting shops and restaurants, and there is a marina and RV campground on the waterfront. Along Highway 101, there are many new stores in this growing area of the Oregon coast.

Massive sand dunes characterize the area around Florence. Located on the northern edge of the National Dunes Recreation Area (NDRA), Florence is best known for the hiking, bird watching, horseback, and dune buggy riding activities available in the dunes.

The NDRA contains some of the largest oceanfront dunes in the world, ranging up to 500 feet high and forming banks up to three miles deep. The Oregon dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the U.S. and stretch for 50 miles between Florence and Coos Bay.

Other popular recreational activities include fishing, swimming, and boating in the 17 lakes around Florence and crabbing, clamming, and ocean, and river fishing.

There are jet boat trips available up the Siuslaw River during the summer.

Ten miles north of Florence, the enormous sea grotto of the Sea Lion Caves contains the only mainland rookery of Stellar’s sea lion in the lower 48 states. After paying an admission fee, visitors descend through a 208-foot elevator shaft cut into the natural basalt and enter the grotto. The sea lions occupy the cave in fall and winter, with up to 200 sea lions living there.

Gold Beach

Gold Beach is nestled on the Southern Oregon coast where the legendary Rogue River meets the powerful and scenic Pacific Ocean. Gold Beach offers countless adventures and beautiful panoramas in a mild climate.

Golf year-round at Cedar Bend, a beautiful course located in a scenic valley, or test your skill at miniature golf.

Take an exhilarating jet boat trip up the river through the narrow canyons and swift rapids of the wild and scenic section of the Rogue, or experience windsurfing on one of the West’s most breathtaking and breezy stretches of shoreline (not advised for beginners).

Fish the Rogue and seven smaller south coast streams for steelhead, salmon, and other fish. Gold Beach is a year-round angler’s paradise. Charter a summer ocean trip, or try your luck from shore.

Many people enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Oregon Coast Trail. With a beach and grassy and wooded areas on the trail, it’s just a few minutes away from Gold Beach.

Some of the local trail portions frequently intersect with Highway 101, so short hikes of 1/2 to three miles can be planned, or try longer distances if you wish to travel several sections in one day.

After a day of new recreational experiences or just strolling along the beach looking for agates and other treasures, visit one of Gold Beach’s excellent restaurants or stay in one of the beautiful motels or lodges.

Newport Beaches

Thirty miles south of Lincoln City, Newport is one of several Oregon ports laboring to turn itself into a resort – more successfully than most, perhaps.

The place has an artsy feel, manifest in a pair of arts centers – one performing, the other visual – on uncrowded Nye Beach, a quiet oceanside gem.

A more traditional attraction is the impressive Oregon Coast Aquarium, across the bridge at 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd., home to sea otters, seals, the tufted puffin, and all sorts of aquatic species.

Just north of town, Newport’s other top attraction is Yaquina Head, home to a marine-science center, striking cape lighthouse, and manmade tidepools constructed from the remains of a quarry.

Activities abound in Newport. Estuary and forest trails, teeming with wildlife, lead you through clearings to sweeping ocean and bay views.

Beachcombers delight in hunting for coastal treasures such as driftwood, shells, and fossils.

Miles of sandy beaches and a moderate climate allow for year-round beach activities. Visitors can see native plants and animals in controlled environments at local aquariums and interpretive centers.

Many of Newport’s scenic roads and beaches are ideal for biking, hiking, and jogging. Residents and visitors alike enjoy sporting activities with public facilities including tennis, racquetball, handball, swimming, and golfing.

Seaside Beach

Seventeen miles down the coast from Astoria, Seaside is a rather seedy resort, the one spot on the Oregon coast that nature lovers try assiduously to avoid as it’s an amalgamation of crude carnival rides and depressing chain motels.

Surprisingly, it was here that the Lewis and Clark expedition had to take a tedious turn boiling seawater to make salt – vital to preserving meat for the return journey.

The reconstructed salt works – a few boulders and pans – are located near the south end of town and are mildly interesting, or at least better than observing the endless parade of pimply teenagers and middle-aged burnouts patrolling the town’s central concrete walkway, the Prom.

Whether you’re interested in exciting beach volleyball and evening cookouts, golfing, horseback riding, exquisite food, or shopping sprees through eclectic shops and galleries.

Surf the wild waves, kayak with sea lions, canoe, fish for salmon, crab for Dungeness or relax on a paddle boat.

Dig for razor clams, beachcombing for Japanese floats and other treasures, take a horseback ride at sunset, build a fire and have a cookout, or attend a world-class beach volleyball tourney.

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