Top Stops and Attractions on the North Oregon Coast
By Gary Hayes
Published: 09/12/2013  Updated: 08/16/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

With beautiful sandy beaches stretching out between scenic rainforest-covered headlands and dramatic rocky coastlines, the North Oregon Coast offers unimaginable beauty at every turn.

Some of the Oregon Coast's great scenic viewpoints, lush rainforest hiking trails, historical attractions and quaint coastal communities can be discovered on Oregon's North Coast. Visitors can explore Astoria, the oldest settlement west of the Rockies; Seaside, Oregon's first beach resort town and very possibly the Northwest's favorite family destination; Cannon Beach, a scenic wonderland and renowned art town; and at least a dozen other small towns on the edges of scenic beaches, rivers and bays. Beautiful natural areas like Ecola State Park, Cape Meares, Oswald West State Park and Cape Lookout offer stunning sights and scenic hikes. You can visit a more than 100-year-old shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park, walk Seaside's historic oceanfront promenade and explore tide pools at Oregon's iconic Haystack Rock. The region also offers one of the best side trips off scenic Highway 101, the Three Capes Scenic Route.

Astoria, the oldest US settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, was the first commercial hub of the West Coast due to its strategic position near the mouth of the Columbia River. Today, a riverfront walk offers views of the river, now busy with cargo ships, rather than the sailing ships of the earliest international traders. A restored trolley also traverses the river front, passing working waterfront buildings and old cannery piers intermixed with hotels, pubs and restaurants. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is a top attraction on the riverfront. Victorian homes climb the hillside of Astoria and the top of town is crowned with the Astoria Column, a lighthouse-like structure built in the 1920s offering panoramic views of the entire region.

US 101 Milepost 6.5
Fort Stevens State Park stretches from the south jetty of the Columbia River south along a sandy beach where you can still see the remains of a shipwreck from over 100 years ago. Encompassing 4200 acres, the Park includes a large campground, a network of nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails that allow you to explore forests, lakes, wetlands, dunes and beach. Visitors can explore the military fortifications that served to defend the Columbia River through World War II. A military museum shares the history of the Fort that dates back to the Civil War.

US 101 Milepost 7.1
One of the top sites of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop features visitor center exhibits, multi-media programs and a full size re-creation of the fort built by the Lewis and Clark expedition to endure the winter of 1806. During the summer and for some other special events, authentically costumed re-enactors offer interpretive programs.

Oregon's first beach resort town is known as one of the Northwest's top family destinations. Family friendly shops, restaurants and attractions ranging from a large arcade to bumper cars line famous Broadway street which ends at the beach and the historic automobile turnaround. The Turnaround and Seaside's 1.5 mile oceanfront promenade are top attractions in Seaside and are among the Oregon Coast's most recognized landmarks dating from the 1920s.

US 101 Milepost 28
A day-use park offering panoramic views of the coast including Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and other offshore rocks; headlands to the south and the offshore Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The main viewpoint area offers paved walking trails and hiking trailheads. The Indian Beach parking area offers beach access and additional hiking trails including the Tillamook Head Trail crossing six miles over the headland to Seaside. This is one of the coast's best Gray Whale watching viewpoints during the twice-annual migration. Watch for the frequent sightings of Bald Eagles and Roosevelt Elk too.

This destination combines small town beach resort character with great nearby natural areas and is known as one of the Northwest's top art towns, home to numerous galleries in this picturesque community. Oregon's famous Haystack Rock sits at the edge of the beach and Ecola State Park is accessed from the north end of town. Haystack Rock is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and is home to the state's most easily viewed colony of Tufted Puffins during spring and summer. The tidepool area at its base is one of Oregon's seven designated Marine Garden protected areas.

US 101 Milepost 39
Sky-high scenic views from roadside turnouts offer stunning panoramic views from the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain. A short trail leads to Short Sand Beach and hiking trails extend to the end of Cape Falcon and climb Neahkahnie Mountain. The park encompasses 2484 acres including a 13-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail that weaves its way through the entire park, starting at the community of Arch Cape.

Just three miles south of Oswald West State Park, several miles of sandy beach stretch out to the south from the base of Neahkahnie Mountain past the quaint town of Manzanita. Laneda Avenue serves as the main street in town and meanders down to the beach between unique shops and restaurants befitting this artisan-centric beach town.

Located along the banks of the Nehalem River, this town is adorned with hanging baskets of brilliant blooms at fun shops and restaurants along the main street. Nearby is Nehalem Bay State Park, featuring ocean and bayfront beaches, camping, hiking and bike trails.

US 101 Milepost 43.8
Campground and day use areas on a four-mile long sand spit with ocean on one side and Nehalem Bay on the other. The park features a forested 1.8-mile long bike path.

With seven miles of beaches and Twin Rocks just off shore, Rockaway Beach offers easy access to its small town beach experience. The historic town with railroad beginnings grew up along the line reaching from Portland to Tillamook in the early 1900s and pays appropriate tribute with a red caboose-housed visitor information center along the highway near easy access to the beach. Visitors can still catch a train here and explore the shores of Tillamook Bay.

Best known as the home to Tillamook Cheese, the Tillamook County Creamery visitor center draws nearly a million visitors each year. At the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center you will find quilts and textiles dating back to 1851. Just south of Tillamook, a hiking trail leads through ancient Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar along Munson Creek to Munson Creek Falls, the tallest waterfall in the coast range, dropping 319 feet. Tillamook is the northern gateway to the Three Capes Scenic Route.

Check out our recommended side trip to Three Capes Scenic Route.

From the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site wayside just off the highway, follow the path along Hawk Creek to the beach and Proposal Rock.

Watch our North Coast video.

Top Attractions for the Central Oregon Coast Click here
Top Attractions for the South Oregon Coast Click here

Top Stops and Attractions on the North Oregon Coast