Why you’ll love the Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is a fantastic family vacation destination for a million different reasons. But the number one reason I love vacationing there is that, even while vacationing with my 2 super high energy kids, I leave feeling truly relaxed and rejuvenated.
Along the Oregon coast, there are tons of great things to do for people of all ages. There is tons to explore, space to run and jump and play, delicious food and drinks, wildlife viewing, fishing, and tons of sights to see. But things move at a little bit slower pace, where there is time to take everything in, as it comes. And no pressure to overschedule or overbook.
The beaches are uncrowded, and the towns are quaint. The Oregon Coast is full of beachy charm but in a totally Pacific Northwestern way.
This post contains affiliate links. We may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Looking for other Pacific Northwest Vacation ideas? Check out our post here.
Temperatures on the Oregon coast don’t vary a lot. Even in the peak of summer, the Oregon coast stays cool, with highs in the mid-60s °F, and typically rain is minimal. In the winter, highs are in the 50’s, but you can expect a lot more rainy days.
And while the mid-60s might not seem like ideal beach weather, it can actually feel pretty pleasant. We typically dress in shorts (for a shallow ocean splashing), and a tee with a light sweatshirt. And often, it feels warm enough to just wear a tee. It’s perfect weather for strolls on the beach, sandcastle building, and watching seals play in the water. And for my kids, it’s perfect for chasing and jumping waves!
Where to Stay
Because much of the Oregon Coast is very rural, you won’t find a ton of hotel options. If a hotel is your preference, they are out there. But they are few and far between. Your best bet would probably be in the Cannon Beach area. We love the Hallmark Resort & Spa or the Ocean Lodge.
However, there are tons of really great vacation rentals all along the coast. What is great about a vacation rental is that you can usually pick one on a quieter section of beach, so you’ll have tons of free space for your family to spread out and play! We prefer picking a place right on the beach for convenience. Last time, we had a hot tub which was REALLY nice for warming up after playing in the cold Pacific Ocean.
For tips on picking a great vacation rental, read our post here.
Areas and Points of Interest
The Oregon coast is long, around 350 miles long in fact. And there are special and unique sights to see and things in each little area.
Astoria, Seaside, and Cannon Beach
The northern-most area of the Oregon Coast is also by far the busiest section. And that’s not to say that it is super crowded. It’s not. However, you will see a lot more people in this area. This area is west of Portland, and the easiest area of the Oregon Coast to access. Plus there are a lot of great things about staying in this area. There are more lodging options, rental services, and shopping options. Plus there are so many things to do!
Astoria sits right along the mouth of the Columbia River, and is well known for the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which crosses the Columbia River and allows motorists to cross from Washington to Oregon along the coast. If you get the chance, it’s pretty neat to cross it! The bridge is beautiful, and at about 4 miles long, it’s the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.
Astoria also has a great Maritime Museum you’ll most certainly want to check out. Plus it’s just a great little town to explore on foot and take in the sights.
As you head down to Seaside, the vibe shifts as you begin to see an amusement park and mini-golf, arcade, carousel, and even a ropes course. This adorable little town is full of fun things to do for kids or young-at-heart!
Next, as you head south, is Cannon Beach, famous for Haystack Rock. You’ll recognize this beach from The Goonies. The town is a dream, with tons of delicious restaurants, beautiful lodging options, and adorable shops. And, of course, the fantastic sandy beach.
Further south, the Tillamook area is definitely worth the visit, with quiet bays, green farm country, and of course the famous Tillamook Creamery.
Located in Tillamook (of course), the Tillamook Creamery is a popular destination and can be quite crowded. But it’s definitely worth the visit! You’ll be able to watch how the cheese is made, and learn about how the cows are raised and milked. And you can even grab some delicious, cheese-filled snacks, or ice cream!
For those that can handle big dropoffs, and the huge views you get from them, check out Cape Lookout State Park. During the winter months, it’s a perfect spot to watch whales as they migrate down the coast.
If you are driving through this area, you’ll notice that the highway heads inland, away from the coast, for this portion of the drive. This might feel like a disappointment at first. But as you make your way into Pleasant Valley, the beauty of the area is sure to surprise and delight you. This rural farmland is so lush and green, you’ll be tempted to become a farmer just so you can stay!
Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay
Pacific City is home to the original Pelican Bay Brewery, right in the sand on the Pacific City Beach. The Brewery is super fun, kid-friendly (with outdoor seating on the beach), and overlooking an absolutely gorgeous stretch of Oregon beach. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon!
The Nestucca Bay Wildlife Refuge is a perfect stop for animal-loving families. Grab your binoculars for a chance to see some amazing animals like Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, herons, pelicans, otters, deer, and many, many more!
Lincoln City is famous for its Finders Keepers program, where the city hides over 3,000 glass floats every year, made by local artists. If you find one, you can keep it! It’s super fun and available year-round.
Depoe Bay is considered the whale-watching capital of Oregon. You’ll find tons of great whale-watching tours here, and because so many grey whales migrate through Oregon, chances of seeing one are great most of the year.
Newport, Waldport, Yachats
Newport is one of the larger towns (but still really tiny with a population of around 10,000 people) on the Oregon Coast. So you’ll find a few more services there- larger grocery stores, tons of great restaurants like this one, and even an aquarium! The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a small aquarium, but still definitely worth the visit! It’s a great way to learn more about the local sea life, plus you get an opportunity to watch otters play, and see tons of sharks and large fish in the shark tunnels.
Seal Rock State Park, near Waldport, has some really amazing rock formations. Seals, sea lions, sea birds, and other sea life love this area, making it a perfect spot to watch wildlife, and the ocean views.
Yachats State Recreation Area is a great spot for tide pooling. Even if you can’t make it down at low tide, there are tons of creatures to find in this area, including sea urchins, sea anemones, sea stars, crabs, limpets, chitons, seals, and many many more.
Coos Bay area
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which stretches between Florance and Coos Bay, is a destination you definitely won’t want to skip. The rolling dunes are quite the sight to see, so plan to, at minimum, stop by the viewpoint and day-use area to take in the views, and wander in the sand a bit. In fact, this area is said to be the inspiration for the Dune books and films. If you are up for more, take a longer hike, or explore the dunes in an ATV.
Coos Bay is the largest town on the Oregon Coast, with about 16,000 people. So if you are looking for great dining and breweries, more lodging options, outdoor tours, museums and even a theatre, Coos Bay is a fantastic choice. Plus, this area of the Oregon coast has some amazing bluffs, fantastic tide pooling areas, and beautiful beaches. Be sure to check out the Coos Bay Boardwalk and the Cape Arago Lighthouse.
Things to do
The best part about the Oregon Coast is that there are a million sights to see and things to do, but you can also easily spend your days doing nothing. The Oregon Coast is the perfect destination for relaxing (even with the kids), walking along the shore, and taking in the views.
Anywhere you end up along the Oregon coast will have tons of unbelievable sites to see. But don’t feel pressured to trek up and down the coast to see it all. Don’t even feel like you have to trek 15 minutes down the road, if you don’t feel like it. You can have a great vacation just on one stretch of beautiful Oregon beach.
Here are some of our favorite things to do on the Oregon coast with our kids, and everyone in the family. And the great thing is, you can do any of these things where ever you are on the Oregon coast!
1. Splash in the ocean
The Pacific Ocean along the Oregon coast, is typically around 55°F basically year-round, so you probably won’t want to jump IN to the ocean. But the kids will have a ton of fun playing a game of jump the waves, letting the waves chase them, or just splashing in the shallow water. And brave, older kids MIGHT just want to see if they can get fully in, just to say they did it. But you’ll want to be prepared with a hot tub, a hot cocoa, or at least a towel afterward.
Tide pools all along the coast are teeming with colorful wildlife that is super fun to check out. Check out the tide tables- low tides less than 1 foot will provide the best viewing opportunities. And as you explore, keep an eye on ocean levels, and make sure you always have a way safely out.
Fishing on the Oregon coast is excellent. On our last trip, everyone in our group hit their limits on rockfish (5 fish), and crabs (12), and they had a ton of fun out there fishing for them. In the Waldport area, we loved Yaquina Bay Charters. But, where ever you are, you’re sure to find a great fishing charter.
Clamming along the Oregon coast is a super fun, family-friendly activity. Everyone, from the kids to the grandparents, will have fun digging in the sand, and trying to find the best spots for clams. Be sure you pick up a license for everyone, and review the rules beforehand since they can be a bit confusing.
5. Beach walks/searching for beach treasures
Taking a long walk on the beach and listening to the sounds of the ocean can be the ultimate stress reducer for many people, myself included. For kids, a little extra stimulation might be required. But there are plenty of treasures to find all along the Oregon coast. Find a perfect shell, a mostly-intact sand dollar, interesting driftwood, sea glass, or crab claws. You might even find a jellyfish or two that has washed ashore. The most common, moon jellyfish, don’t sting but we still recommend avoiding touching any jellyfish you do find.
6. Building sandcastles
Many of Oregon’s beaches have beautiful, soft sand, perfect for building sandcastles. Get some buckets and shovels and build an amazing sandcastle. It can be such a fun family activity- everyone from babies to the grandparents can participate (though some might prefer to just be the photographer, and will have fun doing that job). It’s a great way to spend the day together with your family and make some amazing memories.
7. Play with Beach Toys
Toss a frisbee around. Break out the beach balls. Play a game of corn hole. Shoot these awesome bow and foam arrows as far as you can. Or rent these cool beach tricycles. The wide-open spaces on Oregon beaches are perfect for all kinds of kid- and adult-friendly beach toys.
8. Build driftwood forts
Stacking driftwood together to build whatever you can imagine is such a fun activity that is sure to attract everyone in your group. It’s quite a puzzle to figure out how to stack things JUST right so they won’t immediately fall down. See what you can build!
9. Look for wildlife
Oregon’s quiet beaches are full of sea life. We’ve been able to easily watch whales from the shore, seals, sea otters, and tons of beautiful birds. We’ve noticed that even young children prefer seeing animals living ‘free and in the wild’ as the Kratt brothers say, versus in a zoo. Children seem to know how special it is to happen to see an animal out in the wild. Bring your binoculars and give yourself the time to enjoy watching them.
10. Visit a lighthouse
Wherever you are on the Oregon coast, you are probably close to lighthouse. And all of them are historic and charming, and super fun to check out. Often you can even go inside and check out the huge light from the inside, which is super interesting to see. Many are located near cliffs with amazing viewpoints as well.
11. Fly a kite
Coastal breezes and wide-open spaces make many stretches of the Oregon coast perfect for flying a kite. In fact, we found conditions to be perfect for kite-flying. All my memories of kite-flying as a kid included running as fast as I could but still finding that the kite would nose dive into the ground over and over. That is NOT how kite flying went on the beach in Oregon. It was almost too easy to get the kite up and flying (my kids will NEVER KNOW the struggle), and we had tons of fun with our kites.
12. Cook from the sea
If you go fishing, crabbing, or clamming, now is the time for tasting! Cooking something fresh from the ocean is tons of fun, and extra tasty. Get the kids involved in setting the menu, or helping to prepare the meal. We were even able to get my picky eater interested in tasting this fresh ocean food!
13. Eat at a restaurant
Restaurants on the Oregon coast are delicious. I think every single restaurant I’ve eaten at along the coast has been wonderful. We go for all seafood all the time while we are there, but there are lots of other great restaurants if you aren’t a fan of seafood, or are just ready for a break. Plus the retro beach town vibe of many of those restaurants is super fun!
14. Go for a hike
The Oregon beaches get all the attention, but there are tons of great hikes along the coast as well! You’ll see forests with old-growth trees, spits filled with wildlife, mountains, and overlooks. There are beautiful hikes for hikers of all levels, including plenty of shorter hikes for families with younger kids.
15. Watch the Sunset
Don’t forget to save a little time at the end of each day to watch the sunset over the ocean. The Oregon coast’s ever-changing sky makes for some pretty amazing sunsets you won’t want to miss. It’s the perfect way to help the kids settle down for the evening as well, as temperatures will drop and everyone will be ready to come in for the evening.