These are the Best Oregon Coast Day Trips from Lincoln City
By Gary Hayes
Published: 09/27/2019
Photos by Gary Hayes and Beth Wise

Lincoln City makes an ideal base to explore some of the top attractions on the Oregon Coast with easy day trips to lighthouses, natural wonders and scenic parks.

With its abundance of lodging and dining options and easy day trips north and south, Lincoln City makes an ideal base to explore some of the top attractions on the Oregon Coast. Plan at least a day for a trip north and a day for a trip south in addition to your time enjoying all of Lincoln City's attractions. On easy day trips you can visit at least three lighthouses, check out stunning natural areas, explore geologic wonders and probably catch sight of some spouting whales.

Here are some great day trips to consider on your visit to Lincoln City:

A DAY TRIP (or two) SOUTH OF LINCOLN CITY

The hour and a half drive south of Lincoln City turns scenic fast and with the number of stellar attractions to visit, plan at least a long full day for this excursion. Just 20 minutes out of Lincoln City, Highway 101 skirts the edge of the ocean with great stops and stunning viewpoints all the way to Newport and beyond.

Watch waves and whales at Boiler Bay and Depoe Bay: The Boiler Bay Viewpoint, just past mile marker 125 can be a great spot to stop and watch some wave action as well as the frequently spotted Gray Whales that spend most of the year along this stretch of coastline. The small town of Depoe Bay is interesting with its oceanfront seawall, Whale Watching Center and tiny harbor that is the smallest natural navigable natural harbor in the world.

Otter Crest Loop views and Devil's Punchbowl: For a pretty diversion off the highway, veer off onto the Otter Crest Loop Drive just past the Rocky Creek wayside for a slow scenic drive emerging at the stunning Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint atop Cape Foulweather. You can then continue on the loop drive to Devil's Punchbowl at Otter Rock, a unique geological sandstone formation that is a circular basin approximately 75 feet across. An opening on the west side of the punchbowl allows waves to roll into the bowl which can be a churning spectacle when surf is up. The Otter Crest Loop reconnects to the Coast Highway as you drop down toward Newport.

Yaquina Head and Newport attractions: As you come into Newport, the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area should be your first stop. It has great views, a scenic lighthouse, bird and marine life watching and a stairway to an exceptional intertidal area worth timing your trip during low tide. Afterwards, a visit to the historic bay front area is always fun. It's a working waterfront mixed with shops and restaurants. Sea Lions are usually seen (and heard!) on the docks there. At the north side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, you can visit the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Other options for your time in Newport are the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Nye Beach district's shops and restaurants, attractions that you may want to plan a full day for and save another day for the great sights further south.

Cape Perpetua, Heceta Head and the Oregon Dunes: There are some of the Oregon Coast's greatest scenic attractions between Newport and Florence, so with so much to see to the south of Lincoln City, you might want to take a second day for a longer trip south unless you are really frugal with your time. It's about a 1.25 hour drive south of Lincoln City to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area where you can enjoy natural wonders including Devil's Churn, Spouting Horn and Thor's Well. Along the way, Seal Rock State Recreation Site is also a good stop, even if you just take in the overlooks adjacent to the parking area. You also won't want to come this far south without leaving time for the Heceta Head Lighthouse. There's a short walk from the state park to the lighthouse and stunning viewpoints along the highway looking back at the lighthouse just past the state park entrance. It's feasible, if you break up your day trips to the south into two days that you could go as far as the Oregon Dunes. The dunes start just south of Florence and Honeyman State Park offers an easy place to experience this unique landscape. There are dune buggy tours nearby and the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area (past mile marker 200) offers dune viewpoints and hiking. From Florence, the return drive to Lincoln City is about 1.75 hours.

DAY TRIP to the NORTH OF LINCOLN CITY

North of Lincoln City, you will find one of the Oregon Coast's best side trips off Highway 101, the Three Capes Route which can make a perfect day of scenic sightseeing with several stops along the way.

Neskowin Beach and Proposal Rock: Just 20-minutes north of Lincoln City is the small town of Neskowin where the beach is dominated by a Sitka Spruce covered island at the edge of the shore: Proposal Rock. Park at the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site just off the highway, then walk the path alongside Hawk Creek to the beach and Proposal Rock. Sometimes, low tides and sand levels will reveal a perplexing "ghost forest" of stumps on the beach just south of Proposal Rock.

Cape Kiwanda and Haystack Rock: About a half hour north of Lincoln City is the turnoff for Pacific City and the Three Capes Scenic Route. Brooten Road passes through the small town and makes a hard right after crossing over the Neskowin River, leading to the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. From the wayside parking area, Haystack Rock sits offshore to the west, the sandstone formed Cape Kiwanda is to the north, flanked by a giant sand dune. For the best views, climb the dune to viewpoints of the sculpted sandstone cape.

Cape Lookout: To continue the Three Capes Route, continue north on Cape Kiwanda Drive. The road changes names, but in about 15 minutes you reach the stop sign at Cape Lookout Road where a left turn will take you through the sandy expanse of Sand Lake. Crossing over Cape Lookout, a roadside viewpoint offers expansive views north of the sand spit at Netarts Bay before you reach the entrance to Cape Lookout State Park. The park requires a $5 day use fee, but this is a good spot for a beach walk, a picnic or a hike.

Netarts Bay and Oceanside: When you continue north, you'll skirt the edge of Netarts Bay before reaching the small town of Netarts where State Route 131 will take you to the town of Oceanside. At Oceanside Beach State Park, there is beach access, views of the Three Arch Rocks formation offshore and at the north end of the beach is a small tunnel that was blasted out of the Maxwell Point headland dating from 1926 when Oceanside was envisioned by its founders to be the home of one of the finest beach resorts on the Pacific Coast.

Cape Meares and lighthouse: Just an eight-minute drive from Oceanside is Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint. You'll want to save enough time to walk the short path out and back to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. The path loops around both sides of the cape offering views both north and south. Another short trail leads to the impressively misshaped Octopus Tree with multiple trunks. Near the park entrance is another short trail to an 800-year-old Sitka Spruce, Oregon's largest, measuring 15 feet in diameter.

Before you return to your base in Lincoln City, you may want to plan a trip to the Tillamook Creamery, home of the Oregon Coast's most famous brand. An expansive visitor center offers samples, a self-guided tour, restaurant and shopping. The return drive to Lincoln City is about an hour on Highway 101.
These are the Best Oregon Coast Day Trips from Lincoln City