Three Capes Scenic Route
Published: 09/10/2012  Updated: 08/08/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

Take your time, pack a lunch, stop frequently and bring extra batteries for your camera on this scenic road less traveled on the Oregon Coast.

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 it 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. It is also one of the coast's best spots for bird watching and whale watching during the twice-annual migration.

Oceanside Beach State Recreation Site
This beach-side parking area offers access to the beach on the south side of Maxwell Mountain with Three Arch Rocks visible offshore. From the beach, a crude pedestrian tunnel through the mountain offers access to the beach on the other side during low tides. In the winter months, this spot is prime for agate hunting. Summer is prime time for checking out the tidepools, fishing and wildlife viewing.

Netarts Bay
With opportunities for outdoor adventure and wildlife watching, Netarts Bay is a quiet alternative to busier waterfronts. Protected from the ocean by the Netarts Spit, this seven-mile stretch of water, nestled between Cape Meares and Cape Lookout, is a haven for kayaking, birdwatching, clamming and crabbing.

Cape Lookout State Park
Cape Lookout State Park is a microcosm of the Oregon Coast. This nearly two-mile headland reaching into the Pacific encapsulates much of the coast's geology, flora, fauna and ecosystems. Here, you can spend an afternoon beachcombing or hike through lush, old growth rainforest to the end of the cape. The state park features three miles of beach, a large campground and day use area great for picnicking.

Sand Lake Recreation Area
With over 1000 acres of open sand dunes, surrounded by forests and the Pacific, the Sand Lake Recreation Area is a unique stop along the Oregon Coast. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of the Sand Lake Estuary by fishing, swimming and hiking; or bring a properly permitted Off-Highway Vehicle to cruise the dunes. Campgrounds are available, but fill up fast during peak seasons.

Sitka Sedge State Natural Area
Oregon's newest state park, this natural area's main focus is on connecting with the natural world. Take a hike or kayak (at high tide) with some binoculars and enjoy the birds and plants of an area that contains ecosystems including open water, tidal flats, marshes, forested wetlands, dunes and beaches.

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area & Pacific City
This sandstone cape stands in contrast to its neighboring basalt headlands. The south side of the cape is a giant sand dune and a climb 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 and is one of Oregon's seven designated Marine Garden protected areas. Offshore is Haystack Rock, not to be confused with Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock. On the beach nearby, Pacific City is a haven for visitors looking to enjoy activities like fishing, birdwatching or surfing.
Three Capes Scenic Route