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Ask Oregon: Camping on the Coast Near Historic Towns
Published: 04/25/2017  Updated: 04/26/2017
Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon, Oregon
Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon, Oregon
Photo by Gary Hayes

Coast Explorer publisher Gary Hayes answeres questions from travelers as Travel Oregon's "Ask Oregon" expert for the Oregon Coast.

Where can we go tent camping on the Oregon Coast close to a historic town we can explore?

There are several Oregon Coast towns that were incorporated in the 19th Century, that are fun to explore today and have nearby tent camping. My favorites include the following (with incorporation dates in parenthesis):

Astoria (1876) - It's one of the earliest settlements on the West Coast, rich in history with a good downtown to explore and other historical attractions nearby including Lewis an Clark's Fort Clatsop. The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria is the best museum on the Oregon Coast in my opinion. You'll find tent camping at Fort Stevens State Park, about a 20-minute drive south of downtown Astoria. The park has it's own rich history dating back to the Civil War and you can still explore the World War II military fortifications that used to guard the mouth of the Columbia River. On the beach, you can also see the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale.

From Fort Stevens, it's also just under a half hour drive to Seaside (1899), Oregon's first beach resort town now known as one of the Northwest's top family destinations.

Newport (1882) - Newport features distinct communities on the beach and its historic bay front. Both districts are fun to explore and nearby is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. In Newport, you can also visit historical attractions including the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and admire one of the most beautiful bridges on the coast, the Yaquina Bay Bridge, dating from 1936. You'll find tent camping at Beverly Beach State Park about a 10-minute drive north of town. From the park, you can walk the beach or drive to nearby Devil's Punchbowl, one of the must-see stops on the Central Oregon Coast.

Florence (1893) - Florence offers a picturesque Old Town area along the shores of the Siuslaw River and is just minutes from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. North of town you can visit the Heceta Head Lighthouse and one of the oldest roadside attractions on the Oregon Coast: Sea Lion Caves. Honeyman State Park offers tent camping less than a 10-minute drive south of town and the park offers access to dunes, lakes and trails.

Bandon (1891) - With a quaint Old Town area to explore, a boardwalk along the river front and one of the most scenic beaches on all the Oregon Coast, Bandon has a lot to offer. Across the river you can see the Coquille River Lighthouse or take the short drive to visit it. The beautiful Cape Blanco Lighthouse is a 30-minute drive to the south. My favorite day trip from Bandon is to Cape Arago where you can visit three beautiful State Parks including Shore Acres where the elaborate formal gardens of a one-time oceanfront estate can still be toured. The Cape Arago Lighthouse can be seen from several vantage points. You will find tent camping at Bullards Beach State Park, less than a 10-minute drive just north of Bandon.

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