This Oregon central coast RV destination will dazzle your eyes and treat your taste buds.
Oregon’s Central Coast not only bolsters the state’s reputation for spectacular coast hiking and wildlife watching, but it also delivers mile after mile of scenic open trails through the lush evergreen forests of the adjacent Oregon Coast Range. Over 630,000 acres of the range is covered by the Siuslaw National Forest, a land of mind-blowing biodiversity, which stretches from the Oregon Coast Range to Coos Bay on the Pacific Ocean.
The Central Coast region is dotted with unassuming oceanfront towns imbued with an artsy, nature-loving vibe and home to restaurants that serve superb fresh seafood. There’s an adventure for every mood and moment. Bikers cruise coastal pathways dotted with lighthouses that overlook sea-battered rocks and moody headlines. Wildlife watchers stand awestruck as migrating whales breach in turbulent waters and harbor seals laze on coastal outcrops. Central Oregon’s coast has all this and more.
Starting from Lincoln City, here are some of the highlights of a trip through Oregon’s Central Coast.
One of Oregon’s more popular beach getaways, Lincoln City is best known for three things: kites, tide pools and clam chowder. The city has great shopping, with little stores selling everything from quartz crystal to stained glass, and most visitors in the know like to stop off at Mo’s for a cup of the iconic restaurant’s famous chowder. Gamblers have lots of options here, including the Chinook Winds Casino Resort right in town and the nearby Spirit Mountain Casino, about 30 miles inland.
Considered the Oregon coast’s whale watching capital, Depoe Bay’s most famous residents are its pod of gray whales, which linger here for much of the year. There are also plenty of spouting horns just off the coast that can spew water up to 60 feet in the air.
Devils Punch Bowl
With its fascinating geological formations and pounding surf, Devils Punch Bowl forms one of the state’s most emblematic coastal trailheads. Carved into a rock headland, the park’s centerpiece is a huge hollow rock formation formed when the roof of two sea caves collapsed. The formation was shaped over time into its distinctive punch bowl configuration by crashing waves.
On the bowl’s north side, a series of tide pools arouse family-friendly exploration, and the park’s scenic overlooks provide a popular setting for whale watching and picnicking. Several heavily trafficked marked trails lead from the Devils Punch Bowl trailhead. The easy, one-mile Devils Punch Bowl Trail leads down to the beach (steep in parts) near Otter Rock and is famed for its kaleidoscopic wildflowers and excellent birding.
One of the most popular of Oregon’s coastal enclaves, Newport revels in its vocation as a thriving working port and tourist hotspot. Travelers mix with fishermen and sea lions at the town’s frenetic harbor before exploring Newport’s atmospheric downtown. The community’s lively streets are dotted with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants for all tastes. One of the coast’s most popular attractions, the top-notch Oregon Coast Aquarium stands on the south side of Yaquina Bay. The attraction is reached by the Gothic arches of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, built in 1936 and designed by Conde McCullough with Art Deco and Art Modern design flourishes.
The aquarium’s crowd-pleasing inhabitants include frolicking sea otters, seals, a giant octopus, sharks and jellyfish. Steeped in a traditional fishing village ambiance, the historic enclave of Nye Beach stands at the north end of town and features soulful cottages and heritage buildings that date from the early 1900s. Nye Beach is home to the Newport Performing Arts Center, a popular year-round venue for performances and art events of all kinds. Newport is also home to two historic lighthouses.
Seal Rock State Recreation Area
With its fascinating geology and vibrant sea and bird life, Seal Rock State Park combines primal scenery with inspiring wildlife watching. Seal Rock draws budding naturalists to its wealth of tide pools, chock-full of anemones and starfish, and sheltered coves (at the south end of Seal Rock State Park beach), where harbor seals and sea lions frolic and bask in the sun. At the Seal Rock viewpoint, at the beach’s northern fringes, stands one of the region’s most photographed landmarks: Elephant Rock.
The largest of the sandstone-supported sea stacks, Elephant Rock — named for its uncanny elephant aspect — is flanked by dark igneous surf-pounded rocks that rise sheer some 20 feet above the ocean. This wild and foreboding setting forms a rich habitat and prime nesting ground for myriad sea bird species including cormorants, brown pelicans, bald eagles, gannets and gulls.
To the south, Waldport offers great opportunities to catch your own crabs just off of the free crabbing dock on the Alsea River (crab pots are also available for rent). Waldport also offers plenty of spots to whale watch and kayak, plus a popular bakery, Pacific Sourdough, which sells bread, pastries and coffee from its own retail outlet in Old Town.
Siuslaw National Forest
The dramatic landscape of the Siuslaw National Forest encompasses an array of ecosystems, including some 1,200 miles of marine shore, streams and rivers. Within the forest, Drift Creek Wilderness—named for the accumulations of driftwood on its banks—contains one of the largest remaining stands of old growth in the Coast Range.
Siuslaw delivers an epic assortment of activities for travelers wild at heart. Climbers can take on Mary’s Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range, standing at 4,097 feet. There’s excellent hiking (8.5 miles of trails), hunting, fishing and wildlife watching; elk, black-tailed deer, black bear and spotted owl are just some of the forest’s denizens.
One of the most popular hikes, the Drift Creek Falls Trail takes hikers though majestic coast range forests of fern, alder and maple. The destination is an impressive 240-foot suspension bridge that spans the dramatic Drift Creek Falls. You can view the cascading 75-foot waterfall (best seen in the spring or fall after seasonal rains) from above (on the bridge) or take the trail to the base of the falls where there’s a picnic table carved from a tree.
Yachats is the perfect destination for relaxation, recreation and romance. Nestled between densely forested mountains and lapping waves, this quiet vacation town offers an escape from busy city life while providing all the typical Oregon coast accoutrements including shops, art galleries and renowned restaurants.
Outside the town lies the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This region features 26 miles of interconnected hiking trails through dazzling vistas, old growth rainforests and pristine beaches. At low tide, you’ll find tide pools with anemones, sea stars, mussels and urchins. Don’t miss Thor’s Well, a tidal rock formation that becomes a thrilling sight as ocean water rapidly empties into a gaping hole.
A former lumber town, Florence owes its existence to the California Gold Rush, but nowadays, its focus centers squarely on its status as a base for exploring the region’s scenic wonders. Within striking distance, outdoor enthusiasts can kayak on freshwater lakes, take an ATV tour along sand dunes, swim and fish
Just southeast of town at the Siltcoos Lake Resort, kayaks can be rented for a round-trip paddle along the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail to the Pacific Ocean, where three ecological zones (rain forest, estuary and dune) are packed into a scenic six-mile route. Active days can be bookended with visits to the town’s iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse, a stroll through Old Town Park, bird-watching in the atmospheric marina and touring the town’s small art galleries, book shops and eclectic stores.
Just outside town, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches for miles with dunes that rise as high as 500 feet. If you want to get your heart racing, give sandboarding a shot at Sand Master Park, the world’s first sandboard park.
For More Information
Oregon Coast Visitors Association
Oregon Tourism Commission