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15 Best Places to Visit on The Oregon Coast For First Timers

If you’re looking to visit the best places on the Oregon Coast but not really sure where to go, I’m going to help you there because I’ve done that several times already.

Not only have I crossed the entire coastline of Oregon, but I’ve also crossed the entire eastern and nearly the entire western shorelines of the United States overall. Without hesitation, out of the 1,000’s of miles of nature that I saw during the span of all my trips, the Oregon Coast stands king and this post showcasing 10 spots I’ve seen there will show why. Here are the spots:

  1. Samuel H. Boardman Park
  2. Whaleshead Beach
  3. Natural bridges
  4. Secret Beach
  5. Oregon Sand Dunes
  6. Thor’s well.
  7. Florence (Sea Lions and caves)
  8. Cannon Beach
  9. Devil’s Punchbowl
  10. Astoria 
  11. Cape Sebastian Scenic Corridor
  12. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse
  13. Jetboat tour in Gold’s Beach
  14. Depoe Beach (whale watching)
  15. Otter Crest

All of them are easily accessible as they are right off the 101 road, which is also known as the Oregon Coast scenic drive.

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor: 

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Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is a very long park that stretches for about 40 miles that has many attractions that are easy to access (hikes, overlooks, and some of the best sights on the Oregon Coast in my opinion).

This park itself has at least 10 different spots where you can pull off the road and go exploring to the coast itself, including secret beaches, natural bridges, hiking trails and more. Samuel H. Boardman Park itself has at least 10 different and amazing locations you can explore and I could honestly fill up this whole article’s list with just the locations here (plus the 101 road in this section is one of the best Oregon scenic drives in my opinion), but this park is only a small chunk of the beauty that is the Oregon coast. But I would be re-missed if I didn’t include the next 3 locations on this list to visit that are all within this park that I honestly think you can’t afford to miss:

Whaleshead Beach:

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  • Location: Within Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor.

This is a large beach area with large cliffs in the water. Overall this place is great for sunset viewing and seeing classic Oregon Coast views. I mentioned Whaleshead Beach and how awestruck I was when I got there in this article, so I won’t say the same stuff other than you should go here if you own a all wheel drive vehicle.

This is simply a beach that has a beautiful scenic view where you can spend hours at. If I had my way, I’d stay there all night as it has some of the best Oregon Coast camping spots to enjoy the views. Other than the rocky road that is a bit annoying to drive through, the parking lot near the beach is clean, organized and the beach is a few steps from there.

Natural Bridges:

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  • Location: Also within Samuel H Scenic Corridor.

Natural Bridges Oregon is an aamazing overlook of an iconic rock formation on the Oregon Coast (very famous spot on Instagram). There are also awesome hikes in the area. If you’ve been impressed by the recommendations I’ve had so far, then I can argue that Natural Bridges is going to put those other spots to shame.

I will say that in my opinion Natural Bridges is one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast and overall state (and that includes central and Eastern Oregon). I can’t be more anymore clear on this. And quite frankly out of all the spots in the park I saw on the 101 road here, this one ironically was the easiest to access. You can park right outside the viewpoint of this place and if you then wish to, hike down to it (that is a tough hike, and I explain how to do it in the link above, but fair warning, it can be dangerous).

Secret Beach:

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  • Location of this place on the Oregon Coast: 2 minutes north of Natural Bridges.

Secret Beach Oregon is another iconic location to visit. It has some of my favorite sea caves on the Oregon Coast, beautiful sunset views and a beach walk you can do. Ideally you should visit this place when it’s low tide. And it’s easy to reach too! 

The first time I visited the Oregon Coast, I missed it, but the second time and every time after, I made sure to get there and altogether I have been here at least 4 times. Believe me when I say, you need to come here during low tide because most of this places “secrets” are open to explore then (like sea caves) making the stuff you see here one of the best hikes on the Oregon Coast you’ll find. Considering this and Natural Bridges are so close, the next thing I want to do is kayak at both spots.

Oregon Sand Dunes:

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The 101 in Oregon will undoubtedly lead you across a large beach mixed in with sand dunes. I’ve been to this place once and tried to rent some ATV’s and dune buggies, but most of the places that rent them close around 5 pm so if you want to try this attraction, make sure you visit the sand dunes before then. But if not these attractions, then just seeing the Oregon Coast mixed with sand dunes is incredible in itself.

Thor’s Well:

places to see on the oregon coast thors well

Thor’s Well is one of the most popular Oregon Coast attractions for tourists and photographers and honestly the actual well is not even that big, but the whole location around Thor’s well is well worth looking at which is a park with many other attractions, hikes and sights. 

But regarding Thor’s Well, it is located on this amazing black rock formation (not on a trail) that looks like it’s been made from lava and the entire landscape around Thor’s well is also impressive. If you want to see the “geyser” like effect of Thor’s well, visit it during low tide like I did. If you come here during high tide, you won’t be able to get close to that area (it’s too dangerous). During low tide you have a much easier time accessing it, but you should also be careful as there’s still many slippery areas and sharp rocks too so wear good hiking shoes as they will help protect you better here.

There are some other cool areas near Thor’s Well you can explore such as Hug Point, that features a beautiful waterfall right on the beach. Just as well, sunsets around (or any area in Oregon) are absolutely stunning and I recommend staying for those too if you go.

Florence sea lion caves:

florence oregon coast sea lion cave

Florence is actually a town right by the Oregon Coast and it has it’s own beach and nature spots to see, but in this case what I’m recommending is the sea lion cave attraction that’s north of it. It’s actually easy to spot as you’re on the 101 road as you will see a pull off with signs for it. This is a paid attraction and you will go down in an elevator to see the sea lions.

Cannon Beach:

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Cannon Beach is considered by many people to be one of the best places in the Oregon Coast (to me, it’s in the top 3). In terms of why, there’s many reasons:

  • There’s many gigantic mountains in the ocean and throughout the beach there.
  • There’s an amazing town right on the beach too with hiking trails nearby.
  • Generally speaking, Cannon Beach is one of the most photographed places on the Oregon Coast.

Having been there myself, I can say that this place is really amazing in many ways. As an east coast native, when I first came here, I was floored by this place because I was just not used to seeing anything like in the eastern states.

Devils Punchbowl:

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Location: Otter Rock Oregon.

A good way to describe Devils Punchbowl Oregon is to imagine a meteor landing on a shoreline, making a huge hole in it and then within that hole you can enter and see the ocean waves come in. It’s viewable from the top area 24-7, but if you want to go inside it, you can only do that during low tide.


astoria on the oregon coast

One of my favorite childhood movies was the Goonies and if you’ve ever seen that movie and wondered where it was filmed, the answer is Astoria, Oregon. In addition to that this town also has a lot of things to see and do including great restaurants, great scenic views of the Columbia River Gorge area and even areas where you’ll also find a lot of sea lions.

Cape Sebastian Scenic Corridor:

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Cape Sebastian is an amazing yet easy spot to miss on the Oregon Coast because the turn into it is so small. However after discovering it and actually going there, I was amazed at how beautiful this place was. There are a lot of things to see here including:

  1. A beautiful overlook of the Oregon Coast.
  2. An awesome hike called the Cape Sebastian Trail.
  3. A really awesome beach you can hike down to.
  4. You can see amazing sunsets here.
  5. And more.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse:

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Location on the Oregon Coast: Yaquina Head Lighthouse OR.

Another must do activity on your first trip through the Oregon Coast in my opinion should be to see Yaquina Head Lighthouse and it isn’t only because it’s one of the best lighthouses on the Oregon Coast, but also because this is one of the most popular and scenic activities to do in this area (lighthouse hopping basically). For what it’s worth every major coastal state in the US has amazing lighthouses and I have more and more articles coming out sharing where to find them in everyone. 

Jetboat tours:

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Jetboat tours are also very popular to do on the Oregon Coast and in this particular case, the type of tour you will be doing is a 50-100 mile boat ride that starts from the Oregon Coast (near Gold’s Beach) and takes you up the Rogue River. This will give you awesome views of the inland mountains of Oregon and there are parts of the tour where you explore the Oregon Coast too.

Depoe Bay:

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Whale watching is another awesome way to explore the Oregon Coast and in this case, you will take a tour boat out into the Pacific Ocean to do this. Whale sightings in Oregon are seasonal though and it’s usually after June through early December when you can see them. Depoe Bay in this case is the most well known spot for this attraction and I have created a list of the best places to do whale watching on the Oregon coast, where there are 3 places specifically in Depoe Bay that have them.

Otter Crest:

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This place is a small, yet beautiful park that overlooks one of the most beautiful parts of the Oregon Coast. From it you can hike up to the top of the area to see the famous overlook there, or hike down to the beach area if you want to swim. There are also incredible sunsets in this specific park as well.

Bonus: Oregon Coast scenic railroad

oregon coast train ride attraction

  • Location: Tillamook Oregon

This is a recent one I learned about while studying scenic train rides. This one is an excellent attraction to add to your Oregon coast explorations. There’s an entire guide you can find on the Oregon Coast scenic railroad that will show you when to go. Ticket prices are usually very cheap and the ride is very family friendly.

Common questions:

Which part of Oregon Coast is the best?

In my opinion the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor has the best compilation of spots to see on the Oregon Coast.

What is the nicest coastal town in Oregon?

Cannon Beach city as it has a great combination of beaches, views and village areas to explore.

What is the Oregon Coast famous for?

For the most part it’s beauty. There are over 400 miles of coastal road that contain beautiful parks, beaches, sea cliffs, great sunset spots, sea caves and much more.

What is the best month to visit the Oregon Coast?

The best time to visit the Oregon Coast is in March because the weather is pretty cool, there are far less crowds on the coastal drives and you can also see the beginning of spring rise up.

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  1. Love the Oregon coast! Drove it’s entire length as well. I did not explore as much as you but I will save this article and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to return and see more.

  2. Great suggestions Vitaliy! If you ever return to the Oregon coast, I encourage you to visit the follow epic spots that will leave you in awe;

    1. The Devil’s Cauldron inside Oswald West State Park
    2. Cape Perpetua Overlook in Yachats
    3. Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City

    When you have a chance, check out my instagram to see some of my pics from my recent Oregon coast trip and let me know what you think! IG: Nando928

    1. Really appreciate you sharing these spots Nando! I have never heard of them, but since I will be revisiting the Oregon Coast again, I’ll be sure to add them! I also added on you Instagram as well.

  3. I’m researching Oregon and Washington coastal areas to move to (and eventually retire to) sometime in the next 3-5 years. I came across your blog in my research.

    What you shared makes me sure the Oregon coast is the perfect place to settle! Now it’s just deciding where. Thank you for such a wonderful post!

    1. Hi Jennifer thanks! I would agree on the Oregon or Washington areas to settle, and I hope within the next 3 years or so things will calm down in those regions.

  4. A visit to all these 10 places would be a dream come true, but for a small budget, I would rather visit some fabulous places like the Thor’s well. I am a lover of historic places, even if they are man made. 

    Of the Oregon coast wonders I have had the opportunity of seeing devils punch bowl and it was such a awesome sight. 

    1. I wish I was able to see Devil’s Punchbowl in the daytime like you probably did, but i have to say with regards to the 10 spots listed here, you CAN check them out on a budget. Just rent a car, head along the coast during the off season and the prices for hotels during that period (February was pretty good for prices) will be pretty cheap.

  5. My wife and I are going to be doing retirement soon and we are looking for ideas on travel that we can take our underused trailer on.

    This is something we have talked about wanting to do for a few years now. Up until now, our trailer adventures have been limited to the North West corner of Washington State for a couple of weeks at a time so you can understand why we would like to expand our horizons.

    These places sound amazing and the pictures, although very nice, probably don’t compare to the real thing and being in the great outdoors is something that has always been appealing to us.

    Friends of ours have been to Cannon Beach often and really like it there. It will definitely be on our list when we go.

    I was wondering if you knew whether or not there were any places one could camp for free in this area?  We have a limited budget so we are looking for ways to save, you know?

    Thanks again for this timely post.

    All the best as you travel,


    1. Hi Wayne, I am certain you will find plenty of areas where you can park and camp all throughout highway 101, which will take you through all the areas I listed here. As I drove up the coast, I saw a lot of empty spots (it was off season) and at times there was one trailer or so. I doubt these people reserved a spot but I would call up the area you are going to before hand and ask them. 

      For example, when you enter an official park, find the park on Google maps, and you will be given a number for the ranger station. Ask them these same things and they will be able to provide a better answer.

  6. I once did a road trip from San Francisco to San Diego and the coast there is supposed to be amazing, it is very well known for it. However, the Oregon coast sounds better and prettier. I just added it to my bucket list. I want to see all of the places you’ve mentioned but on the top of the list is probably Thor’s Well. That just looks and sounds unreal!

    Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

    1. Hi Hollie, I briefly stopped at San Francisco and then headed up the coast to Fort Bragg, before hitting up Oregon the next day. Trust me, California itself has plenty of beautiful coastal spots to see there too, but if you’re tight on time and really into nature, Oregon is where I recommend you spend most of your time. Thor’s Well is awesome, but do not neglect the beauty of Samuel H. Boarderman park, they have even more spectacular places there!

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