Top Stops on the Central Oregon Coast Between Lincoln City and Florence
By Gary Hayes
Published: 09/29/2013  Updated: 08/15/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

The Central Oregon Coast entices visitors to discover some of Oregon's top natural attractions like Devil's Punchbowl, Spouting Horn, Yaquina Head and Devil's Churn, along with large and small communities including Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay and Yachats.

The town of Lincoln City extends along a stretch of coastline covering more than seven miles of US 101 and incorporates several unique districts, once individual communities. The city offers abundant shopping including a large factory outlet mall and attractions including Chinook Winds Casino Resort and the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio where visitors can blow their own piece of art glass.

The small town of Depoe Bay is separated from the ocean by only the Coast Highway and a seawall that runs the length of the town. Known as the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast, the nearby waters are frequented by Gray Whales that linger much of the year in the area rather than migrating north with the majority of whales. Oregon State Parks operates the Whale Watching Center at the south end of the seawall. When tides are right, "spouting horns" on the Depoe Bay oceanfront put on a show as surging waves are forced through small openings in the lava beds shooting water like geysers up to 60 feet in the air. Nearby Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint is also a great place for wave watching. Depoe Bay is also home to the world's smallest navigable harbor and offers charter fishing and whale watching tours.

(Southbound: US 101 MP 132.4; Northbound: US 101 MP 133)
A short side trip off US 101 at Otter Rock leads to Devils Punchbowl a unique geological formation. From the viewpoint, you peer down into the sandstone caldron, likely once a sea cave whose roof collapsed. When surf is up, waves roll into the cave opening, swirl and froth like a devilish brew. The small wayside offers nice panoramic views and a trail leads to tide pools on the north side of the punchbowl, one of just seven protected intertidal areas in Oregon designated as Marine Gardens.

(US 101 MP 137.6)
The scenic headland reaches a mile into the Pacific offering panoramic views, Oregon's tallest lighthouse and access to a beautiful intertidal area. Small offshore islands offer habitat for seabirds and Harbor Seals while Gray Whales are often spotted in the waters, even during the non-migratory seasons. A stairway leads to Cobble Beach and one of Oregon's seven protected Marine Garden intertidal areas, a great place to see purple sea urchins and many other interesting creatures. A second intertidal area, Quarry Cove, offers handicap access. An interpretive center features exhibits on the lighthouse history and the natural and cultural history of the area.

The Central Oregon Coast's largest city is home to popular attractions including the Oregon Coast Aquarium and an historic bay front area that is part working waterfront and part tourist attraction with shops and restaurants. Attractions include Ripley's Believe It or Not, Wax Works wax museum, marine life exhibits and dive shows at Undersea Gardens, charter fishing and marine life boat tours. The barking of sea lions on the bay front docks frequently resonates throughout the area and the blubbery beasts always draw a crowd. The historic and now trendy Nye Beach district adjacent to Newport's beachfront is another commercial center. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is located in the Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site on the northwest side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge at the bay entrance, also offering good views of the bridge, one of the gems by designer Conde B. McCullough dating from 1936.

(US 101 MP 150.8)
Seal Rock makes an easy stop for day use exploring. The wayside offers paths and viewpoints overlooking near shore rock formations that are habitat for seals, sea lions and sea birds. The stretch of sandy beach offers access to tidepool areas.

This small beach resort community makes a great base for exploring the Central Oregon Coast including the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area located just to the south. The Yachats 804 trail is an oceanfront walking trail that connects to a seven mile stretch of beach to the north. Part of the trail parallels a rocky basalt shelf with tidepools and exciting ocean action when the surf is up.

(Southbound: US 101 MP 166.2; Northbound: US 101 MP 167.5)
Enjoy spectacular highway wayside viewpoints for a brief stop or spend the day hiking though diverse scenic landscapes including old growth rainforest, beaches and dramatic rocky shores. The Devils Churn Viewpoint overlooks a deep narrow channel in the basalt headland where waves are channeled with great force, booming and crashing as they collide with the rocks, then raining down as misty showers of ocean spray. At Cook's Chasm, visitors can be mesmerized by the action of the rocky shoreline. When tides are right, waves surge up the chasm, forcing water through a hole in the rock that erupts like a geyser of spray and foam a natural wonder known as Spouting Horn. On the rocky shoreline plateau just to the northwest of the Cook's Chasm viewpoint is Thor's Well, a hole in the lava shelf where water surges out of the opening, then drains back like a hole in the ocean, creating a 360-degree waterfall. In all, the Scenic Area encompasses 2,700 acres connected by 26 miles of hiking trails. The Interpretive Center serves as the hub and main parking area. You can hike or drive to the Cape Perpetua Overlook offering a panoramic view of 65 miles of coastline. Tidepool areas can be accessed along the Captain Cook Trail. There are also 10 miles of trails open to mountain bikes.

(US 101 MP 178.2)
The recently restored Heceta Head Lighthouse sits in an idyllic setting on a beautiful headland. The park features a pretty cove beach, a large picnic area and a half mile trail to the recently restored lighthouse. On the walk to the lighthouse you pass the keeper's quarters, now operated as a bed and breakfast. The viewpoint at the lighthouse is one of the best locations on the Coast for watching, whales, sea lions and sea birds. The Park also includes Cape Creek and the Cape Creek Bridge, one of the distinctive designs of the famous Oregon Coast bridges designed by Conde B. McCullough. Picture perfect views of Heceta Head and Lighthouse can also be enjoyed just south of the park entrance at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Scenic Viewpoint, actually three small turnouts along the highway (US 101 MP 178.8-179.1).

(US 101 MP 179.1)
One of the Oregon Coast's oldest private attractions, Sea Lion Caves has attracted visitors for the past 80 years. It's been a coastal attraction since the 1930s, but today, an elevator whisks visitors down 208 feet to the largest sea cave in the U.S. About 200 Steller Sea Lions crowd the cave during fall and winter. During the spring and summer they are often seen basking on the rocky ledges below the Sea Lion Caves' viewpoint. The grounds at Sea Lion Caves offers expansive scenic views hundreds of feet above the surf.

A picturesque community on the Siuslaw River, Florence is the northern gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and the city features a small, fun to explore Old Town and port area filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. Nearby businesses offer dune buggy tours, ATV rentals, sandboarding equipment and lessons. The pretty Siuslaw River Bridge is another of the classic designs by Conde B. McCullough, dating from 1936.

Watch our Central Coast video.

Top Attractions for the North Oregon Coast
Top Attractions for the South Oregon Coast
Top Stops on the Central Oregon Coast Between Lincoln City and Florence