View of Chapman Point and Bird Rocks in the north end of Cannon Beach.
Photo by Gary Hayes
Its beautiful sandy beaches stretch out between scenic rainforest covered headlands and dramatic rocky coastlines offer unimaginable beauty at every turn. Historic lighthouses and stunning State Parks offer picture perfect views and access to remarkable natural areas. It's impossible to take it all in with any one trip, but our three-part guide to the top must-see attractions on the Oregon Coast will help guide you on your journey. Here are our top suggestions for traveling the North Oregon Coast:
Astoria, the oldest US settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, was the first commercial hub of the West Coast due to its strategic position near the mouth of the Columbia River. Today, a riverfront walk offers views of the river, now busy with cargo ships, rather than the sailing ships of the earliest international traders. A restored trolley also traverses the river front, passing working waterfront buildings and old cannery piers intermixed with hotels, pubs and restaurants. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is a top attraction on the riverfront. Victorian homes climb the hillside of Astoria and the top of town is crowned with the Astoria Column, a lighthouse-like structure built in the 1920s offering panoramic views of the entire region.
FORT STEVENS STATE PARK
(US 101 MP 6.5)
Fort Stevens State Park stretches from the south jetty of the Columbia River south along a sandy beach where you can still see the remains of a shipwreck from over 100 years ago. Encompassing 4,200 acres, the Park includes a large campground, a network of nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails that allow you to explore forests, lakes, wetlands, dunes and beach. Visitors can explore the military fortifications that served to defend the Columbia River through World War II. A military museum shares the history of the Fort that dates back to the Civil War.
LEWIS & CLARK'S FORT CLATSOP
(US 101 MP 7.1)
One of the top sites of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop features visitor center exhibits, multi-media programs and a full size re-creation of the fort built by the Lewis and Clark expedition to endure the winter of 1806. During the summer, and for some other special events, authentically costumed re-enactors offer interpretive programs.
Oregon's first beach resort town is known as one of the Northwest's top family destinations. Family friendly shops, restaurants and attractions ranging from a large arcade to bumper cars line famous Broadway street which ends at the beach and the historic automobile turnaround. The Turnaround and Seaside's 1.5 mile oceanfront promenade are top attractions in Seaside and are among the Oregon Coast's most recognized landmarks dating from the 1920s.
ECOLA STATE PARK
(US 101 MP 28):
A day-use park offering panoramic views of the coast including Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and other offshore rocks; headlands to the south and the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The main viewpoint area offers paved walking trails and hiking trailheads. The Indian Beach parking area offers beach access and additional hiking trails including the Tillamook Head Trail crossing over the headland, six miles to Seaside. This is one of the Coast's best Gray Whale watching viewpoints during the twice-annual migration. Watch for the frequent sightings of bald eagles and Roosevelt Elk too.
CANNON BEACH & HAYSTACK ROCK
This destination combines small town beach resort character with great nearby natural areas and is known as one of the Northwest's top art towns, home to numerous galleries in this picturesque community. Oregon's famous Haystack Rock sits at the edge of the beach and Ecola State Park is accessed from the north end of town. Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is home to the State's most easily viewed colony of Tufted Puffins during the breeding season. The tidepool area at its base is one of Oregon's seven designated Marine Garden protected areas.
OSWALD WEST STATE PARK
(US 101 MP 39)
Offers stunning roadside viewpoints from the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain and several miles of hiking trails. A short trail leads to Short Sand Beach and hiking trails extend to the end of Cape Falcon and climb Neahkahnie Mountain. The park encompasses 2,484 acres including a 13-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail that weaves its way through the entire park, starting at the community of Arch Cape.
NEHALEM BAY STATE PARK
(US 101 MP 43.8)
Campground and day use areas on a four-mile long sand spit with ocean one one side and Nehalem Bay on the other. The Park features a forested 1.8 mile long bike path.
Best known as the home to Tillamook Cheese. The Tillamook County Creamery visitor center draws nearly a million visitors each year. At the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center you will find quilts and textiles dating back to 1851. Tillamook is the northern gateway to the Three Capes Scenic Drive.
RECOMMENDED SIDE TRIP:
Three Capes Scenic Route
(Southbound: US 101 MP 65.7; Northbound: US 101 MP 90.3)
The Three Capes Scenic Route follows a stretch of coastline between Tillamook and Pacific City while the Coast Highway runs inland. The route's top stops include Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda, but also passes through the dune landscape of Sand Lake and along scenic Netarts Bay. From north to south:
CAPE MEARES STATE SCENIC VIEWPOINT & LIGHTHOUSE
Cape Meares rises 200 feet above the waves offering panoramic views and a short walk to an historic lighthouse. The natural area includes three miles of hiking trails and a mile long walking trail through old growth Sitka Spruce including the uniquely shaped Octopus Tree. One of the coast's best spots for bird watching and whale watching during the twice annual migration.
CAPE LOOKOUT STATE PARK
A beautiful park with three miles of beach, a large campground and day use area great for picnicking with more than eight miles of hiking trails through lush, old growth rainforest to the end of the cape.
CAPE KIWANDA STATE NATURAL AREA
This sandstone cape stands in contrast to its neighboring basalt headlands. The south side of the cape is a giant sand dune and climbing to the top offers views of the unique sculpted sandstone landscape, sheer cliffs and crashing waves when the surf is up. The base of the cape features tidepools, one of Oregon's seven designated Marine Garden protected areas. Offshore is Haystack Rock, not to be confused with Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock.
From the Neskowin Beach State Rereation Site wayside just off the highway, follow the path along Hawk Creek to the beach and this legandary rock.
Top Attractions for the Central Oregon Coast Click here
Top Attractions for the South Oregon Coast Click here
- Published in: Coast Explorer Fall/Winter 2013
- Click to see other items about: Sightseeing
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