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Travel down the Oregon Coast Highway, also known as Route 101, and you’ll hit one charming oceanside town after another, each offering its own list of nature, history and nautical activities. You can enjoy quaint seafood eateries serving up classics like Dungeness crab and savory cakes, rocky beaches and stay in quaint, waterfront vacation rentals. A trip down Oregon’s picturesque coast reminds us of the classic family beach vacations from decades ago. Get ready for jaw-dropping scenery along this epic Oregon coast road trip.
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Being the oldest city in all of Oregon, Astoria is an exciting city that overflows with history and culture. The Riverwalk will guide you through the most scenic spots, where you may discover sea lions, and of course stunning water views. Explore via trolley if you tire of walking. Dive into the unique Chinese culture, or explore the history of the sea, at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. The best opportunity to taste all the local flavors is at the Sunday Market, where hundreds of vendors come together with various artisan creations.
Just 25 minutes from Astoria, Seaside lives up to its name, with a gorgeous coastline with plenty of recreational sandy space, and rock formations. Quite literally, it’s picture-perfect. Aside from water activities such as canoeing and kayaking, you’ll want to check out the seafood scene. Seaside Brewing Co. is a solid place to start, culinarily. Crisp brews are cultivated from the coastal rainwater, then can be paired with an assortment of seafood dishes. But that’s literally the beginning of all the great eats here.
Next, drive 30 minutes to Manzanita. Wake up in one of the charming rooms at Kendra‘s Kitchen at the Nehalem River Inn. Manzanita is heavily outdoors-oriented, so whether you decide to meander along the beach, or hike up a mountain trail, you’ll be getting your fill of fresh air and beautiful views. Horseback riding is also a popular excursion for exploring the terrain. But one of the best local experiences would likely be upon one of the fishing boats, heading out to catch your own Dungeness crab.
Less than an hour away, Tillamook is largely appreciated for two things—dairy products thanks to the historic Tillamook Creamery, and unparalleled kayaking via abundant river recreation areas. However, travelers will quickly notice there’s even more to this magical nook, especially when taking a drive along Three Capes Scenic Byway. When visiting all of the surrounding food cultivators, making everything from sausages to blue cheese, you might be inspired to put together one heck of a charcuterie plate.
Drive an hour to Lincoln City, where you’ll find practical cozy lodging with fireplaces and jacuzzis at Shearwater Inn. Then begin an exploration of Lincoln City, known for dramatic hikes that cross heart-pounding suspension bridges, colorful kite flying festivals and hand-blown glass treasures that are dropped into the ocean by artists, only to float to shore to be discovered by a lucky shell hunter. There’s something exceptionally magical about Lincoln City, whether it be the mysterious creature in the lake or the extra special touches that locals go out of their way to create.
Depoe Bay is about 20 minutes away, largely sought after thanks to the surrounding whale population. Visitors can either go out on a boat to spot the majestic creatures, or they can visit the center, where spottings can be made from the land. Cape Foulweather is a must-see, as there isn’t an angle that doesn’t have a stunning picture-worthy appearance. Aside from the scenery, be sure to venture downtown and explore antique and art shops. Grab a cone of ice cream, enjoy lunch at a quaint café, as this is an unforgettable eclectic destination on Highway 101.
A 2.5-hour drive from Depoe Bay, Coos Bay is yet another classic rugged portion of the Oregon coast. There are some adorable restaurants and shops that sell fudge, while a huge portion of the area is famed for its natural attributes. A handful of state parks offer a variety of outdoor recreation, whether it just be enjoying the waves, or watching for birds. A couple of interesting museums offering a glimpse into the past are in Coos Bay as well.
Bandon is both a fishing and agricultural hub 30 minutes from Coos Bay, where cranberries are produced in abundance. However, one of the more interesting activities in the area is storm watching, as the rains and winds are particularly jaw-dropping when whipping across the ocean water. When things are a bit calmer, the wind still provides great propulsion for avid kite surfers. Bandon is also acknowledged for the stunning coastal rock formations.
Next, travel to Port Orford, which sits on the southern coast of the state and has many water features from the ocean, lakes, to rivers. So this ultimately means the fishing is spot on. A sense of art is woven through the area, adding a touch of vibrance. The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish and Chips uses local cod in their fresh rendition of the classic dish. Homemade bread goes in the recipes such as the crabcakes! Some travelers say they would drive all day for a meal here.
Around 35 minutes away, Gold Beach exudes a lot of the same characteristics as other coastal locations. However, it tips over the edge when it comes to seclusion and outdoor adventure. In one moment you could be traversing lush forest trails, then next be on a silent breezy beach. It’s the best of all worlds. And the salmon fishing? Spectacular! Barnacle Bistro is a top restaurant for Gold Beach, and you’ll have to try the garlic fries and crab cakes.
Wrap up your road trip in Brookings, Oregon, which is blessed with diverse beaches that feature golden sand and stunning rocks. The location has much to offer but is still considered somewhat tranquil. Beachfront Inn is among one of the highest-rated hotels to stay at, as it sits right on the water and is a bit more refined than the average lodging option. First Rise Baking Company is the best place to start the day, with fresh bagel sandwiches, scones and cinnamon roll bites. Take some for the road!