The Oregon coast is one of our absolute favorite spots on earth. Winding along Highway 101 with the bus windows down, eating saltwater taffy, and jamming out to our favorite “Road Tunes” playlist will likely always be my favorite memory of living in this bus. Narrowing down our favorite five places to see on the Oregon coast was incredibly difficult because there are so many good ones!
From dark and moody beaches with amazing tidepools to local attractions on sunny shores, we weeded through photos to find five of our absolute favorites.
Want to see the five top places in Oregon you should absolutely put on your travel itinerary? Keep reading.
THOR’S WELL/CAPE PERPETUA OUTSIDE OF YACHATS
Thor’s Well is a large hole in the sea cliffs near Yachats created when a cave under the ocean collapsed. As a result, as the tide comes in and out each day, the water rushes out and the hole appears to empty, only to rapidly refill moments later and send huge waves spouting out the top. The hole is only about twenty feet deep, and is often completely empty or covered over by the ocean at low and high tide.
During those magical moments when the tide is coming in or out, however, you can expect huge crashing waves to douse you as you try to peek down into the hole. You can walk right out to the hole and explore the other natural features, including a water spout and tidepools. As a bonus, this area boasts tons of adorable AirBnBs in a central coastal location from which to base your adventures.
This was actually one of our favorite boondocking parking spots on the Oregon coast as well. There’s a large turnout on the shoulder of the highway and a smaller pullout sheltered by the trees next to a walking path that will take you down beside the cliffs to the beach and tidepools below. We passed hours enjoying this little hidden beach and watching the tide rush in and out.
SEE THE WHALES AT DEPOE BAY
Depoe Bay is a quaint little town situated on an inlet known for year-round whale sightings. It’s not unusual to see blue and humpback whales, orcas, dolphins, and porpoises playing in the waves off the shore. Special charter boats are available to take you out to get a close-up view of the local wildlife.
The town itself bears mentioning as well. The small boardwalk boasts a variety of fun shops, including Ainslee’s Saltwater Taffy, the best taffy we found on the Oregon coast.
FORT STEVENS STATE PARK AND THE WRECK OF THE PETER IREDALE
Early in our trip, we stayed at the extensive campgrounds of Fort Stevens State Park. Miles of walking and bike paths lead through gorgeous forests and lead you to the area’s main attraction, a long stretch of white beach where the wreck of the Peter Iredale juts up out of the sand. This rusted shipwreck makes for beautiful photos, and the surrounding state park is magnificent.
If you want to go beyond the pretty sights, however, hike to the beach in the early morning as the tide leaves. You’ll find the locals combing the newly uncovered beach for the troves of razor clams that call it home. Walking along the misty beach in the early morning light, picking up sand dollars as we watched the razor clammers thumping their sticks on the sand to discover their quarry was one of the highlights of our trip. With the bones of the shipwreck jutting up through the mist in the distance and the gulls screaming overhead as they dove for their breakfast, it was an unforgettable experience.
THE SEA LION CAVES IN FLORENCE
If you want to see some native wildlife, look no further than the Sea Lion Caves outside of Florence. A large pull-off is the only indication that you might be near a major attraction because the building perched on the cliffs is small and easy to drive by if you weren’t paying attention. But the real show is reached by elevator through that building, where you’re dropped deep into the cliff and inside the caves.
Hundreds of sea lions live in this area, and you’ll see them up close and personal once you step off the elevator. A museum-like chamber houses information on the caves, fossilized remains of sea lions, and a viewing area where you can see (and hear!) the sea lions living in the cave.
Back up above, you can walk along the edge of the cliffs to viewpoints that allow you to see them sunning themselves on the rocks outside the cave, diving into the ocean, and back out again. The little ones playing with their mothers was a special treat for our kiddos.
Cannon Beach always tops the list of places to see on the Oregon coast, and for good reason. The huge rock formations and tidepools are beautiful, and the beach itself is pristine and lovely, even with massive amounts of tourists.
The town, however, is a draw all on its own. Quaint little restaurants perched right on the beach, funky coffee shops offering their own blends, and a huge ice cream shop make for a fun walk through the town. The architecture in this area is especially beachy/coastal, and we spent several days licking our way through giant ice cream cones while strolling through the side streets to the beach and admiring the beautiful little beach homes in the area.
FIVE PLACES TO SEE ON THE OREGON COAST
Picking our favorite five places to see on the Oregon coast was a challenge because everything about it is stunning. But if you’re going to spend a few days driving the 101, these are almost always our “must-see” attractions.
Looking for more places to visit in the US and beyond? Check out the rest of our bus travel series to see the other places you should definitely head to!