California’s Coast vs Oregon’s Coast. Which is Prettier?

As someone who has driven through both the coasts of California and Oregon, I have to say, it’s very difficult to decide which is prettier. I mean, look at this and tell me it’s easy to pick one:

california coast vs oregon coast comparison

Which would you say is prettier? Tell me below!

I’ll show you even more, but while you can compare these 2 spots and have your own preference, I think it’s pretty foolish to think one is that much more beautiful than the other.

Both coasts are spectacular, have so much to see and you SHOULD drive through it the coast in both states if you have the chance (and Washington’s Coast too). Oh and I did this comparison on a single west coast road trip explained here.

Let me show you where exactly which coastal areas of these 2 states I drove through:

my west coast trip map

It wasn’t the ENTIRE western area FYI, as I was tight on time and many parts of my trip were also inland, but I marked the areas I crossed in both states (and I will list the most beautiful spots) and it was basically 100’s of miles that I explored:

I didn’t drive through the ENTIRE coast because of time constraints (the speed limit on the coastal highway is pretty slow) and also because both these states have so much amazing nature areas deeper within each state worth seeing.

There were some places I really wanted to see between LA and San Jose, but my trip plans forced me to readjust and to visit these missing areas the next chance I get.

Let me explain the similar things you will see if you cross both states near the water:

  • You WILL see plenty of gigantic boulders and even mountains in the Pacific Ocean. 
  • You WILL see a lot of diverse nature, corral reefs, different colors of the water, ect…
  • You WILL see a lot of natural bridges and even arches throughout these states. 
  • You WILL see breathtaking nature that you will want to stop to truly take in. I know I did.
  • You WILL see and get a lot of hiking opportunities. Both states have a lot of popular hikes in these regions.
  • You WILL see more than 1 waterfall literally near the ocean (Hug Point, McWay Falls, Secret Beach are great locations for this).

But is the nature really all that different in both states? Yes actually.

california coast vs oregon coast 2

These are the most noticeable differences I saw with both coasts:

For me personally, I felt the nature I saw along the California coast to be more “tropical” and “warm” in the sense that the atmosphere felt more bright.

With Oregon, it felt different, yet still amazing in that it felt more “cold” and green at times, yet also a lot more “spikey” meaning that the natural bridges there were larger, the mountains and boulders were also a lot bigger in many areas than what I saw in California. 

What I am typically more drawn to is northern nature. Whenever I travel south to places like Florida and beaches for example, I expect the land to be more “flat” and tropical and while I enjoy that, whenever I travel North, I expect to see mountains, waterfalls, elevation changes and that sort of stuff attracts me more so because I prefer places where I can do more active things and I get that in northern areas.

Then there’s places in the east coast of the United States, like in Maine, and spots in Canada like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that I explored in this east coast road trip, and the coast there also has it’s own mountainous areas on the coast, and while they are also beautiful, California’s and Oregon’s coast surpass it in my opinion like I have said in other articles.

The great thing about both these states however is that with California for example, you get a mix of BOTH these things, whereas with Oregon, it’s more steriotypically “northern” and since I said I prefer northern nature, this is why I would say Oregon’s coast attracted me a LITTLE bit more to it.

But I will give you more photo comparisons in this article and:

I would love to know 2 things from you:

1) If you’ve never been to either state’s coastal areas, just based on the photos I gave, which do you think is prettier?

2) If you have been to these 2 states, which one do you prefer and are there any specific locations that I missed which you recommend I see the next time I go.

Here are the specific areas I visited in both states:

In California:

  • Big Sur (this is the main jewel in the whole state in my opinion).
  • Fort Bragg, specifically Glass Beach.
  • The Redwoods (these are literally on the coast too!).
  • San Francisco. I briefly visited this area and only saw the downtown area and the Golden Gate Bridge. 
  • Areas near San Jose (they had natural bridges, but honestly, it wasn’t that amazing).

In Oregon:

  • I visited Samuel H. Boardermann Park (this in my opinion is the best spot in all of Oregon).
  • I checked out Hug Point. 
  • I also visited Whaleshead.
  • I crossed the dune areas.
  • I visited Brookings, Astoria and a few other towns in this region.

In these areas I just listed, for Oregon, here are the 10 recommended coastal spots.

Out of all the Oregon Coastal spots I saw, this was my favorite (video):

What I recommend you see in both states:

Being that there’s over a 1,000 miles of coastal areas between these 2 states and the main road there has a small speed limit, if you’re tighter on time, and want to see the truly spectacular sites, there’s 4 places I recommend you visit:

In California, you definitely need to check out Big Sur and the Redwoods.

In Oregon, definitely see Samuel H. Boardmann park, specifically Natural Bridges and Secret Beach.

It’s these spots in both states that in my opinion offer the best scenery (from what I saw) and will help you decide which is prettier. Here’s a preview:

oregon california nature

It’s photos like these that make deciding which is prettier so hard and again, foolish to even ask because why not just visit both places? And if still think you can choose, let me make it harder to decide:

california coast vs oregon coast 3

Again, the ideal thing to do is visit both these states and enjoy all this scenery. But obviously, if the trip you’re planning only centers around a certain state, just visit the areas in that state only. But make sure to mark down the other state for a future visit because you will not regret it.

My first trip around the west coast and seeing these places is making me plan on a daily basis how and when to go back there and when I do, I’ll cover these spots again and try to see more of the coast from both spots. So again, I’ll ask, which state’s coast is prettier? 🙂

Update: A revisit to the west coast is happening soon!

In 2020, I’ll be revisiting many of these same areas of the Californian and Oregon coast and will take many more comparison pictures to help you decide which is better looking, but of course, as I said before, I recommend you visit both places to get the best experience, since both states are truly remarkable with the nature they have to show you, especially on the coast!

Update: I’ve included more comparison photos between California and Oregon’s Coasts.

Some of these photos were already updated above, but here are more:

california vs oregon coast 4

And here is another one showcasing the Redwoods in California (they are right on the coast) and Devil’s Punchbowl in Oregon:

california coast vs oregon coast 5

So yeah, good luck telling me which coast line is prettier (I’d love to hear your thoughts anyway!).

Update: Comparing Oregon’s Coast to Maine’s

Very recently, I noticed people were making comparisons about Oregon’s coast and Maine’s and so I decided to also do an article comparing them. Check that out if you’re interested in seeing Maine state!

8 thoughts on “California’s Coast vs Oregon’s Coast. Which is Prettier?”

  1. What a great question, and judging from your pictures, I think that Oregon is prettier. I have never been to Oregon but I have visited California 2 times.

    When I visited California, my trip was so short that I didn’t even get to see the nature there at all. But, I visited the Golden Gate bridge. 

    I am actually planning a vacation in California. I have to visit some of my family and visiting your recommendations will be a nice add on in my trip. 

    I’m not sure if I will have enough time to visit Oregon though, but I think it is prettier. I will probably visit Oregon for my next trip. Thank you for the suggestion.

    • I don’t know where exactly your family lives, but if it is in the San Francisco area, then there’s plenty of coastal areas a few hours north and south worth exploring. However, if you head east, towards Modesto, you’ll also find beautiful parks and even Yosemite if you keep heading east.

  2. I live in California and have been driving the entire Pacific west coast highway and Oregon blows California out of the water in my mind. I actually feel like Oregon is a lot more rugged and less tranquil (aside from the lakes that sit on the opposite side of the road at times along the coast). Interested to see how Washington compares, but so far Oregon takes the cake.

    • Hi Alex, I’m really glad you shared your point of view about how each state’s coastlines compare, especially since you reside in California. What you said about Oregon being more rugged and less tranquil is 100% true in my experience driving through there too.

      As for your Washington state question, having driven through its entirety (the west side), I still think Oregon is way better, but that’s really because the roads there are such that you can’t really see much of the coast as it is, unless you stop at one of the major popular beaches there, which are great to check out by the way.

      But having driven through that state’s coastline, I didn’t see as much as I wanted, but the GPS and Instagram research I did on it didn’t show me as many destinations to check out as I saw in Oregon but I’m certain there are some amazing gems that might rival Oregon. Next time I go, I’ll do a better job of exploring that and if you find some good spots there, please share them too.

    • I totally agree. I just drove it for the first time this month, after a lifetime of living along the California coast. In fact, I’m so blown away that I am moving to Port Oxford, maybe the last, affordable town along the coast. Washington doesn’t even compare!

      • If I were to rate the best coasts Elizabeth, it would be in this order:

        1) Oregon.
        2) Washington.
        3) California.
        4) Maine.
        5) Whatever other coastlines.

        I also have to have that the Washington Coast is also beautiful and I’ve been doing top 10 places in these areas to see. Cape Flattery and Deadman’s Cove are my top choices so far.

        • I just spent the last 4 years living along the Washington coastline in Port Angeles. The thing about the beaches here is that (while beautiful) the most rugged and wild are part of the Olympic National Park system and they are very crowded in the summertime.

          People come here from all over the world, and between Memorial and Labor Day, and it’s really hard to find much solitude. Also, you can’t really see much from your car, so you can’t really cruise along and see whales or ocean waves. Maybe I shouldn’t say too much more, because I would hate for the Oregon coastline to turn into one big traffic jam.

          It’s already gotten that way for the beaches closest to Portland. I’m just grateful I’ve discovered my little spot before the world does. I guess it’s just a matter of time. Sigh.

          • Hi Liz, in my experience, during the on seasons, you will always have the major parts of the Pacific West Cast flooded with tourists, including in Oregon. This is one of the reasons I travel to these spots during the off seasons, to avoid the crowds. And I also understand your point about finding solitude and getting away from tourists, as I have had similar experiences in the Catskills, as many spots I used to see less people at, became more crowded as these spots became more accessible and publicized.

            At the same time, when the land is public, the people who want to travel there and find the spots, should have that right. I’ve discovered quite a few spots that I want to revisit on my next trip to the Washington Coast, including hidden beaches and decided that if I do find these spots, that I will publicize in what area they are located at, but in terms of specific directions, won’t give those out, and will let the people who truly are dedicated to this to find it themselves.

            I used to criticize people who kept these places a secret, but after experiencing these trips myself, I understand why it’s important to honor the effort put into finding these spots and having others do the same if they wish to get here.

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