Though it doesn’t get as much attention as neighboring California, planning a 3- to 5-day Oregon Coast itinerary is a real treat. Highway 101 runs down the length of the state’s coastline and takes visitors through quaint small towns, along stunning cliffs, and to secluded beaches.
This article covers when to visit, where to visit, and how to structure your days so you feel relaxed while still experiencing as much of the coast as possible.
Best Time to Visit the Oregon Coast
Most people flock to the Oregon coast during the summer months, especially late summer. At this time of year, the chance of rain is low and it’s sunny or partly cloudy almost every day.
However, you should expect chilly mornings and evenings. The afternoons on the coast are often breezy, so dress appropriately. Do not expect to want to swim or lay on the beach in a bikini.
The temperature of the water off the Oregon coast doesn’t change throughout the year and usually remains at a frigid 55°F (13°C). In late summer, you’ll have a higher chance of encountering weather that warrants swimming in the ocean, however, these days are not common on the Oregon coast.
A summer day on the Oregon coast, while not hot like California, is pleasantly warm and comfortable. Come prepared with a light jacket, or a rain jacket to help keep warm against a breeze. The Oregon coast is known for its unpredictable bouts of rain.
Wear shoes that you’re comfortable getting a little wet, sandy, and muddy if you’re planning to hike along the cliffs in southern Oregon. Even though it might not feel warm, remember to wear sunscreen as you can still easily burn on the Oregon coast during summer.
If you aren’t able to visit during the summer, an Oregon road trip is still within reach. As a travel tip from locals, consider visiting the southern Oregon coast in peak winter to watch massive waves crash on the cliffs. Photographers come from all over to capture these incredible waves.
You can also enjoy a campfire on the beach near Newport or Cannon Beach. A winter visit also means fewer people to contest with while visiting small towns along the coast.
Summer by far is the most popular time to visit the Oregon coast, but a road trip can be done any time of year. Keep reading for an idea of how to structure your itinerary.
3 to 5-Day Oregon Coast Itinerary
This road trip requires that you have your own vehicle. If you need to a rent a car, you can browse Rentalcars.com for deals across major providers.
Day 1 – Portland to Cannon Beach
Imagine flying into Portland International Airport, renting a car, and beginning your Oregon coast trip on the northern end of the state. Here’s where to stop on your first day.
Cannon Beach & Haystack Rock
Portland is approximately 80 miles, or 90 minutes, from the coast. The nearest city on the coast is Cannon Beach – it’s also one of the most beloved places to visitt. For your first night on the road, try to stay in Cannon Beach and take a day to explore the area.
Downtown Cannon Beach offers plenty of options for dining and shopping. Take a midday stroll down the beach and admire the famed Haystack Rock – a stunning rock formation that is incredible to see. You might see visitors flying kites, surfing, or building sandcastles on the gorgeous sandy beach.
Ecola State Park
If you’d like to hit the trail for an afternoon hike, make your next stop near Cannon Beach be Ecola State Park. Take a hike through a forested trail to a cliffside with excellent views of neighboring Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock – a view that you’ll find on several postcards in local gift shops.
The park wraps around Tillamook Head, just north of downtown Cannon Beach, and stretches for nine miles of coastline. Make sure to dress appropriately as these trails can get muddy. This is also a great opportunity to see what sea life lies in tide pools.
Silver Point Outlook
Finish your day by stopping at Silver Point Outlook on the south end of Cannon Beach for a spectacular sunset. It’s an easy pullout from the main road and is fitted with benches for visitors to easily relax to enjoy the view.
For dinner, try Mo’s Restaurant to sit on their patio, watch the sunset, and enjoy clam chowder or delicious fish and chips.
Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
Inn at Cannon Beach – If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Cannon Beach, you cannot go wrong with this gorgeous inn. They have a number of great rooms available and a location within easy walking distance of the iconic Haystack Rock.
Ecola Creek Lodge – Located just a 5-minute walk from the beach, this is a great option if you’re looking for a mid-range choice in Cannon Beach. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and other amenities to make your stay a great one.
Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own private place to stay while on your trip to this part of the Oregon coast, then finding a private vacation rental is a great option. This elegant unit with a spa bath is just one of many options in the area.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cannon Beach hotels!
Day 2 – Cannon Beach to Newport
On your second day along the Oregon coast, venture along Highway 101 toward Newport. Here are some stops to consider making along the way.
As you drive south from Cannon Beach, consider making a stop off at Oswald West State Park before arriving in Tillamook.
Visit any grocery store in Oregon to find the famed Tillamook cheese and ice cream. The dairy creamery is a favorite stop for visitors. Taste a variety of cheeses, including some unique seasonal flavors, and sample the creamery’s beloved ice cream. There is also a museum that details the history and inner workings of the creamery.
From Tillamook, this is a great time to embark on some or part of the iconic Three Capes Scenic Route. This drive takes you by Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda while en route to your next stop in Depoe Bay.
From whale watching to shopping for local crafts, Depoe Bay has a lot to offer its visitors. In its earliest years, Depoe Bay was a small fishing town. More recently, it’s become the whale watching capital of Oregon.
People flock from all over to look for whales from the cliffside or hop on a boat to spot whales from the water. If you are planning to visit for whale watching, make sure to visit during prime whale-spotting season, mid-December through mid-January.
Oregon Coast Aquarium
Your final stop for the day is in the town of Newport. Newport boasts the only aquarium on the Oregon coast. It’s known for housing sea otters, octopuses, and several other kinds of unique aquatic species.
This is a particularly good stop if you’re traveling with children as they are certain to love the touch pool. Make sure to check out what exhibits are live before visiting so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Where to Stay in Newport
Inn at Nye Beach – If it’s luxury you’re after, then you can’t go wrong with this swanky inn. Located only five minutes from the beach, they have a number of plush rooms available and a wonderful breakfast included each morning.
The Whaler – If you’re after something a bit less on the high end in Newport, then this hotel is an excellent choice. They have a range of comfortable rooms available with stunning views over the Pacific and there’s also a swimming pool and hot tub on site.
Not quite what you’re for? Click here to browse more Newport hotels!
Day 3 – Newport to Florence
Day three of this itinerary brings a visit to sea lions, maritime coastal wonders, and a historic lighthouse. Make sure to explore the beaches along the way and try local seafood.
Lost Creek State Recreation Site
Your first stop on day three is just seven miles south of Newport. Lost Creek is known for beachcombing, whale watching, and viewing sunsets. It’s a perfect stop on your drive to Florence for a casual walk down the beach. Keep your eye out for local birds and the famed Sitka spruce that lives along the Oregon and Washington coasts.
Chances are good that you’ve come across Thor’s Well as you’ve been researching your Oregon coast road trip. It’s a natural hole in the rock along the coastline that appears to be draining into the sea, located just south of Cape Perpetua.
Researchers propose the hole began as a sea cave dug out by waves and is most likely 20 feet deep. Try to pay Thor’s Well a visit during high tide as this is when it looks the most impressive, but make sure to stay back from the edge.
While an impressive site to see, Thor’s Well can quickly sweep visitors off their feet and be dangerous.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed on the Oregon coast. Visitors can explore the inside of the lighthouse as well. There is also a scenic hike along the coast and access to a secluded beach to explore.
Sea Lion Caves
As America’s largest sea cave, it should come as no surprise that Sea Lion Caves is a recommended top attraction on any Oregon coast road trip. Enter through the street-level building where you can find information about the caves and sea lions.
After you’ve learned a little background, take a trail around the side of the building and down a series of stairs before arriving at the caves. This is another stop that works well for those traveling with young children.
Where to Stay in Florence
River House Inn – An excellent luxury option in Florence, this inn is the perfect place to get some beauty rest during your trip. Situated on the backs of the Siuslaw River, it’s also only a 2-minute walk from the Florence old town.
Park Motel & Cabins – If you’re sticking to a smaller budget during your trip along the Oregon Coast, then this is a great option for you. They have a range of basic rooms and fully-equipped cabins available that can suit all kinds of visitors.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Florence hotels!
Day 4 – Florence to Bandon
If you’re planning a 5-day itinerary, you’ll begin to notice a change in the coastline as you near the southern part of the state on day four. The cliffs become more pronounced and there are fewer beaches, but no shortage of places to explore.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
The Oregon Dunes run along the coast for about 40 miles between Florence and Coos Bay. The dunes were created when the tide, winds, and waves pushed sand inland, creating the rolling hills seen today. Visitors can explore the dunes by foot or rent an ATV.
One of the most popular trails is a loop around Tahkenitch Dunes. Day hikers should keep in mind that hiking in loose sand is more difficult than hiking on a standard trail. They should also keep an eye out for wildlife like elk, cougars, and a variety of local birds.
Cape Arago Lighthouse
There are several popular lighthouses along the Oregon coast, but the one at Cape Arago is one of the most popular. Cape Arago is a small detached slice of land that served as the entrance to Coos Bay in the 1800s. In an effort to assist in the delivery of lumber to and from the region.
Today, visitors are permitted to visit the lighthouse for educational, recreational, and cultural events. There are several places along the nearby coastline where visitors can hike for excellent views of the lighthouse on a clear day.
If you’re already stopping to visit the Cape Arago Lighthouse, you should pause to visit Bullard’s Beach located near Old Town Bandon. Grab lunch from a local cafe or a few sweet treats from Cranberry Sweets to take with you while exploring this section of the coastline.
Locals can be found riding horses, bikes, and hiking along the beach. Make sure to learn the legend of Face Rock before visiting for a bit of local lore.
Where to Stay in Bandon
Windermere on the Beach – If your budget allows for a high-end stay during your trip, then this beachside hotel is an excellent option in Bandon. They have a myriad of plush and comfortable rooms available, great amenities, and an unbeatable location.
Lamplighter Inn – An excellent opinion for those traveling on a mid-range budget, this small hotel is the perfect place to stay in Bandon. They have a number of basic yet comfortable rooms available and a location perfect for exploring the surrounding area.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bandon hotels!
Day 5 – Bandon to Brookings
Your final day of the road trip takes you to the southern end of the Oregon coast. Learn about the historic Coast Guard bases and natural bridges that make this part of Oregon unique.
Port Orford Heads State Park
This state park near Port Orford boasts a long history during wartime. Throughout the early 1900s, the Coast Guard provided crucial support along the southern Oregon coast from their station in this park. Now, visitors can enjoy exploring the Cape Blanco Lighthouse or climbing to the top of Humbug Mountain.
The Natural Bridges is hands-down one of the more impressive sites along the southern Oregon coast. A short one-mile hike takes visitors to an outstanding view of rock bridges spanning over sections of the ocean and carved by natural forces.
It’s the most famous stop while traveling through Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor – a stretch of coastline filled with breathtaking views of the coast. Visitors should make sure to take their time while driving through.
Try taking a few short hikes or stopping at a viewpoint to enjoy a packed lunch. The scenic corridor is just a short drive outside of Brookings.
Just south of the corridor is Harris Beach State Park, only a stone’s throw from the center of Brookings. This is a gorgeous beach to visit and a great place to end your trip to the Oregon Coast.
Where to Stay in Brookings
Beachfront Inn – The perfect higher-end option in Brookings, this inn is an excellent choice for those looking for a great hotel to end your road trip in. They have a number of great rooms available, a heated outdoor swimming pool and an unbeatable location.
Westward Inn – Another great option for those with a bit of a lower budget, this inn is located only a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Oregon coast. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms available and off great facilities.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Brookings hotels!
Have More Time?
If you find yourself with some additional time, here are some favorite sites to consider visiting on both the southern and northern Oregon coastline.
Chetco Point Park
Nestled in the Brookings Harbor is Chetco Point Park. This nine-acre beach park spans the southern Oregon and northern California coastline. Comb the beaches for shells and stones, look for the occasional whale, or visit St. George Reef Lighthouse.
No matter what time of year you visit the park, you will be met with spectacular views and crashing waves.
While technically located in Washington, Cape Disappointment is an easy destination at the beginning of your road trip. Towering seaside cliffs, camping, and a variety of maritime activities lend Cape Disappointment being a great stop if you have more time.
Visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, explore abandoned military bunkers, and learn about local Native American tribes all while visiting the cape. You can stay at a local inn, yurt, or camp.
The greatest challenge you’ll encounter when planning your 3 to 5-day Oregon coast road trip itinerary is where to stop. No matter where you choose to visit, you’ll find several iconic sites that will make it a trip to remember.
Are you planning a trip along the Oregon coast? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!