Oregon’s Central Coast
You can whiz through the 75-mile stretch from Lincoln City to Florence in less than two hours, but we recommend doing the exact opposite: slow your roll to savor rocky vistas, lush evergreen forests, quaint seaside communities and unspoiled beaches. This stretch of Oregon’s coast manages to pack in enough action, adventure and awe-inspiring sights to keep you occupied for days on end. Watch gray whales splash along the shoreline. Get lost in old-growth rainforests. Feast on freshly caught seafood. Board down towering sand dunes. Once you’ve experienced Oregon’s Central Coast, you won’t be able to leave it behind.
Seven Miles of Smiles in Lincoln City
Home to seven miles of plush, sandy shores, Lincoln City is your destination for all things beachy. Go clam digging, play in tide pools, work on your tan or catch a dazzling sunset from shore. If you’re in town during June, build your own kite and fly it at the Summer Kite Festival. From mid-October to May, local artists participate in Finders Keepers, which involves the placement of thousands of beautifully crafted glass floats on the beach for you to find. You can also check out glass-blowing demonstrations and create your own masterpieces at the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio year-round.
More Chowder at Mo’s
Most visitors in the know like to stop off at Mo’s for a cup of the iconic restaurant’s famous chowder. An institution in town for more than 70 years, Mo’s delicious chowder has drawn soup lovers from across North America. 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. Enjoy fantastic table games and entertainment.
Water sport junkies and rainbow trout fishermen will want to play in nearby Devils Lake, while hikers can traverse trails like Cascade Head, Drift Creek Fall and The Knoll to reach dazzling views overlooking the coastline.
Depoe Bay: Whale Watching Capital
Migrating gray whales are visible from Depoe Bay every year from March to December, making the town an excellent spot for watching these majestic mammals trek through the Pacific. Get prime views from the Whale Watching Center or from various shore observation platforms. You can also take a charter boat for an even closer look.
A short seaside stroll in Otter Rock will lead you to one of Oregon’s most fascinating geological sites. Devils Punchbowl is a hollow rock formation shaped like, you guessed it, a massive punch bowl. During high tide, the bowl fills with seawater, which churns with turbulence. Geologists believe this formation was caused by the roof of two sea caves crumbling. Visit at low tide (not high tide, as it’s dangerous) to walk inside the bowl and get up close to the geological wonder. Keep an eye out for whales and stop by the tide pools located on the north end of the bowl.
Newport’s Coastal Delights
Newport is a charming fishing town that will win you over with marine creatures, alluring scenery and ocean adventures. Meander along the waterfront to meet herds of barking sea lions. Afterward, head to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to gaze at sharks, rays and seabirds. The area is also home to the Yaquina Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet. Back near the shore, walk around the tide pools teeming with vibrant starfish, sea anemones and crustaceans at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Don’t leave town without slurping down Mo’s famous chowder or dining at Local Ocean Seafoods, a restaurant and fish market that serves up scrumptious seafood with a stellar view. South of town, the stunning Yaquina Bay Bridge crosses beautiful Yaquina Bay.
Seal Rock State Recreation Site
There’s plenty more wildlife waiting for you at Seal Rock State Recreation Site. Characterized by massive rock formations, this area supports a wealth of marine life including seals, sea lions and seabirds. Venture to the south end of the beach and you’re guaranteed to spot sea lions basking in the sun. Remember to look down at your feet. Bursting with life, the tidal pools here will astound you with their monster green anemones, bright sea urchins, gooseneck barnacles and California mussels.
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.
Catch Your Next Meal in Waldport
You’ve come to the right place if you want to satisfy your seafood craving. Crabbing is excellent here, so drop your trap at the free crabbing dock situated on Alsea River and get ready for a feast. Don’t forget to pack your rod, too. The Alsea River brings Chinook salmon in autumn, steelhead in winter, and perch and herring in spring. Other popular pastimes include kayaking, clamming, whale watching, nature walks and golfing at the nine-hole Crestview Hills Golf Course.
Inside the Siuslaw National Forest
Encompassing pristine forests, rugged peaks, wind-sculpted sand dunes and dramatic beaches, outdoor excursions won’t get any better than in Siuslaw National Forest. Conquer Marys Peak, the highest point on the Oregon Coast at 4,097 feet, by climbing trails such as Meadowedge, East Ridge, North Ridge and Summit. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Range at the summit. Walk among giants at Cummins Creek and Rock Creek, the wilderness areas housing Siuslaw’s old-growth forests. High rocky mountain elk numbers and salmon-filled rivers also make Siuslaw a haven for hunters and anglers.
Exploring Drift Creek
One of the most popular hikes in the Suislaw National Forest, 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.
R&R in Yachats
Feel your stress melt away in Yachats, a romantic town nestled on the shore, with the Coast Range peaks forming a dramatic backdrop. Time slows down here, giving you a chance to revel in beachfront strolls, bird-watching, fishing, golfing and winter storm watching. Art galleries, shops and delicious seafood restaurants round out your experience. Just two miles away is Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, the highest viewpoint that can be accessed by vehicle on the Oregon Coast. Part of the Siuslaw National Forest, this area is worth a visit for its postcard-worthy sights—powerful waves colliding with the shore, soaring trees peeking through coastal fog and headlands as far as the eye can see.
Thrill seekers will find exactly what they’re looking for in the old mill town of Florence. Perched at the mouth of the Siuslaw River and just a stone’s throw away from one of the biggest patches of temperate coastal sand dunes on the globe, Florence promises epic experiences on both land and water. At the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, visitors can grab a board for dune surfing or jump in a dune buggy and shred through, where sand dunes ascend to over 500 feet above sea level.
Rolling on the Dunes
If you’re seeking maximum adrenaline, consider checking out DuneFest, an annual summer event that features freestyle shows, moto activities, night rides and concerts. Other popular activities in this spot include hiking, fishing, camping, bird-watching and relaxing on the sprawling beach.
Rolling on the River
Next, grab a kayak and paddle down the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail to see dunes and old-growth forests from a whole new perspective. Be on the lookout for kingfishers, river otters and harbor seals as they swim in the river.
Heceta Head: See the Light
Conclude your time in Florence by snapping a photo of the iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse. Built in 1894, the lighthouse and Light Keeper’s home are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This working lighthouse stands 205 feet above the ocean and its “first order” Fresnel lens casts its beams approximately 21 miles out to sea. It’s the brightest light on the Oregon coast and is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States.
Sea Lion Caves
Located 11 miles north of Florence on the coast, Sea Lion Caves is a privately owned wildlife preserve that encompasses the world’s largest sea cave. Inhabiting a sprawling cave system throughout much of the year are scores of sea lions; the tide flows in and out of the main cavern, which is 125 feet high. Stairs and an elevator take visitors down to the cavern to see the spectacle. The attraction is part of the Oregon/Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and also includes a bird sanctuary.
For More Information
Oregon Coast Visitors Association
Oregon Tourism Commission