Oregon’s North Coast
“Ocean in view! O! The Joy!” Capt. William Clark wrote these words in his journal after seeing the land give way to the sea on the northern coast of Oregon in 1805. After traveling almost 5,000 miles with fellow explorer Meriweather Lewis, the pair settled on a camp in an area now known as Astoria. The Lewis and Clark Expedition had taken the men across the northern Plains, over the Rockies and to the Pacific Ocean. For today’s travelers, Astoria is just the start.
Smile at Mile 0
Here’s where it all begins. Start with Mile 0 of Oregon’s legendary Highway 101, and head south for a spellbinding tour of the Oregon Coast. Northern Oregon’s long stretch of Highway 101 is chock-full of epic views and charming seaside towns, stretching from Astoria to Neotsu.
With colorful Victorian mansions perched along the steep hillsides, it’s no surprise the small town of Astoria is called the “Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest.” This was the first permanent settlement west of the Rockies, thanks to its prime location along the Columbia River and the Pacific. High above the city, the Astoria Column rises 600 feet above sea level, paying homage to these settlers. Take a journey on the 1913 Astoria Riverfront Trolley for a tour of the town and a step back in time. Of course, Astoria’s history was shaped by the waterways nearby, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum shares stories of ships and sailors and the forces they encountered in this mighty waterway.
Lewis and Clark History
Today, several well-preserved sites share this rich history. Visit the reconstructed Fort Clatsop just south of town to see where Lewis and Clark spent a winter. Launch your kayak or canoe from Netul Landing on the Lewis and Clark River, just as the explorers did. Go fishing on the Columbia River for hefty salmon.
You’ll turn your eyes toward the waves with a visit to the Astoria Regatta in September. Started in 1894, this event began as a way for the town to welcome the return of local fishermen, with their bounty of freshly caught seafood. Eventually, the event grew into a formal celebration, involving parades, concerts, coronations and a bevy of family fun. The crowning event is the Highwater Boat Parade. Watch from the shores as all kinds of vessels sail by.
About 16 miles along the coast to the south, the town of Seaside has one of the most renowned boardwalks on Oregon’s northern coast. Take a stroll on the Seaside Promenade, locally known as the Prom. Watch colorful kites dance in the skies above the waves, while cooling off with a dripping ice cream cone. Here, you’ll find the Lewis and Clark statue, marking the last stop of their expedition. In August, the Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament brings top players to the sands.
See Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
Art lovers flock to the small town of Cannon Beach, known for its ample art galleries and creative vibe. And after exploring it, you’ll understand why National Geographic named it one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places. Devote a good chunk of time on your itinerary for Haystack Rock on the shore. For centuries, this unusual sea stack has intrigued and inspired visitors. Rising 235 feet above the sandy shore, Haystack Rock is a prime location to explore the region’s wildlife. During low tide, you can make the trek out to the rock for close-up selfies.
In June, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest entices would-be architects to enjoy creative competition. Dozens of teams of professional sand sculpture artists, amateur groups and families construct remarkable creations in the sand during the fun-filled event.
Continue with a visit to Ecola State Park. Take a drive through the lush rainforests, and then emerge to find the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. With a lighthouse in the distance and surfers riding the waves, Ecola is the epitome of coastal Oregon.
Situated at the northern tip of Tillamook Bay, Garibaldi is home to an active port, marina and quaint community of 1,000 residents. It’s also the perfect place to watch the world go by. Stroll the marina and see fishermen haul up Dungeness crab, lingcod and rockfish. Board the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, a historic steam train that chugs along Tillamook Bay. Hop in a kayak and paddle out in search of bald eagles and purple martins. Take a charter to the deep sea for halibut, tuna, sea trout and more.
For some, the name Tillamook is synonymous with rich ice cream and cheeses. That’s because the Tillamook Creamery, situated in the town of Tillamook, has a grand reputation. The creamery is a popular stop on the northern Oregon Coast, with more than 1 million people making a visit each year to sample the wares, see the production lines and learn about the dairy farms that make these flavorful products possible.
Paddlers will want to check out the Nehalem River, which crosses through forests and marshlands. The Tillamook Water Trail includes the Nehalem and four other waterways, offering paddling in diverse habitats. Located in Fort Stevens State Park, Coffenbury Lake is a spot that will please anglers and boaters.
Pacific City and Three Capes
Prepared to be amazed by your drive along the Three Capes Scenic Loop. This 40-mile journey begins in downtown Tillamook before leading to scenic overlooks. Pull off at Oceanside or Cape Lookout to gaze at the panoramic views where the ocean meets the sands. Set out for a hike at the Cape Lookout Trail, which gives hikers views of whales swimming by during migration season.
Grand Oregon Waterways
Anglers often head to the Pacific Northwest seeking salmon, and they’ll find prime salmon grounds along the northern Oregon Coast, including the Tillamook Bay, the Nestucca River and the Nehalem River. Trout, steelhead and more abound in the region’s cool interior waters. Instead of using a rod and reel to capture your dinner, grab a shovel and a bucket. Terrific clamming can be enjoyed in Tillamook Bay and Netarts Bay.
For More Information
Oregon Coast Visitors Association
Oregon Tourism Commission