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:

california coast vs oregon coast

Which would you say is prettier?

And I also have to say, these 2 examples aren’t even the most beautiful ones I saw (even though they are gorgeous). 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 too). Oh and I did this comparison on a single road trip explained here.

Let me show you where exactly I drove through:

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:

my west coast trip map

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.

fort bragg vs samuel h boardman park

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.

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.
  • 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, here are the 10 I truly recommend.

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:

bixby bridge and natural bridges

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? 🙂

2 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.

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