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  • Writer's pictureKristina Browning

I need a Drivable Vacation: the Oregon Coast

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Explore The Oregon Coast rich with natural wonders

The Oregon coast is protected by a law ensuring public access to the 363 mile coastline. The beaches aren’t developed much and the towns still resemble that of years gone by. The Coast is the perfect weekend getaway for those of us who live in the metro area. If you are considering moving to Portland, here is an introduction to the coast:

From North to South, your options generally lie within Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Pacific City, Depoe Bay, Oregon Dunes and Port Orford.


Astoria is a city of 10,000 people, wonderful architecture and the home to the Astoria-Kegler Bridge. Bonus: the Pacific Ocean is right around the bend. It has new breweries, galleries and charm to boot. It’s industry is mostly shipping and timber and it is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. (Smithsonian Magazine named this as one of the five best small towns to visit! Just sayin’…) You’ll find shops, restaurants and hotels…you might enjoy the Hotel Elliott built in 1924 with luxuries like heated bathroom floors. Yep, Sign me up. Cannery Pier Hotel was listed as one of the 25 best hotels in the West by Sunset Magazine. You will also find a Maritime Museum and a Trolley. Please eat at Clemente’s Cafe and Public House because they catch fish and serve it the same day (what?!) This darling town also has a theater and a river walk. Astoria Brewing Company is located here, as is Buoy Beer Co and Fort George Brewery. See the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park. Garden of Surging Waves is a park that was built in 2014 to honor the thousands of Chinese immigrants who have come since the 1870’s. Go to see the Peonies, plum and bamboo as well as native grasses. If you’re interested in more information, the TravelAstoria website can help!

The Morton family enjoys an annual trip to the Oregon Coast as a family tradition.


Most of us Portlanders know Seaside because it’s the end of the Hood to Coast Relay! Remember that the 3rd weekend in August is always the Hood to Coast event and hundreds of extra runners will descend on the town that weekend. Seaside’s Aquarium seals have been entertaining visitors for over 70 years. Just two blocks from the beach inside the Carousel Mall is a Carousel you can ride on featuring 24 carousel animals. You’ll also find upscale home decorating boutiques, apparel stores and art galleries. Since the breeze is fairly dependable, bring your kite or buy one here. It’s the perfect place to “go fly a kite!” You can also rent skates, mopeds, bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. If you are thinking Seaside is your destination of choice, check out this visitors guide. Seaside Brewery is located here and they have one really cool website you should check out.


At 235 feet above sea level, Haystack Rock is one of the most recognizable landmarks in photographs taken at Cannon Beach pictured here on the cover of the June issue of Portland Family Magazine.

A brother and sister frolic in the surf near Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. The photo taken by Kristina Browning landed on the cover of Portland Family Magazine.

You will enjoy wide beaches and neighboring Ecola State Park filled with beautiful pine trees. Beachcombers come both in the summer to escape the heat and in the winter to find a change of scenery and peace. I enjoy the chowder at the Wayfarer no matter what time of year because you can watch the sun shine off the big rock and water outside. Stunning. Visit the restored cannon that lent its name to this town at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. If you enjoy art, the town hosts twenty or more galleries all within walking distance from one another showing both local and national art. For lodging, consider The Ocean Lodge which has oceanfront views and is pet-friendly or the Stephanie Inn. If you are booking in advance, consider a dinner “show” at EVOO, a cooking school where you go to eat while you watch and learn. If you are a beer person, Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse brews their own. Public Coast Brewing Company is a fairly new brewpub serving craft beer made in house. Bonus; they serve locally sourced fish and chips and feature gluten-free menu options as well. Buy fish from Ecola Seafoods Restaurant & Market before you leave because it's about as fresh as it gets! Art galleries are clustered downtown near Sweet Basil’s Cafe which is about as cozy as they come with a separate bar and live music. The chef with roots from the bayou features World-Class Cajun & Creole cuisine. Get your southern fix with choices like crawfish étouffée, gumbo and jambalaya. If your heart calls for pastries, try Sea Level Bakery + Coffee. If a trip to the spa is in order, you’ll enjoy Cannon Beach Spa. If you would like surf lessons, you can find them at Cannon Beach Surf or if theater is more your cup of tea, you’re in luck. Visit the calendar on their website for Coaster Theatre Playhouse. It occupies the building that used to be a roller rink in it’s former life. Surfsand Resort is pet friendly welcoming your dog in the lobby with their name on a board. A warm paw wash near the beach path rinses off the sand after you’ve done a beach run with the pup. Investigate historic cottages and lovely gardens on the annual Cottage and Garden Tour in September. Interested in surfing or mindfulness? NW Women’s Surf Camps offers day camp, surf weekends, classes for beginners, and a mindfulness class teaching stand up paddling and SUP yoga. You CAN take your spouse, despite the name it’s not just for women. What does a beach town do with rain in the forecast for a big portion of the year? For the last thirty years, they have hosted a Stormy Weather Arts Festival! Celebrate the precipitation with live music, a rain gear fashion show, art auction and more; typically held in November. Grab your waders and go out during low tide to search for anemones and shells.


If you are looking for dazzling sunsets, then Manzanita is the place for you. Seven miles of soft sand is an ideal vantage point for sipping a beverage and enjoying spectacular color. If a low key weekend is what you’ve wished for, try The Houses on Manzanita Beach. Kim & Eric’s website is esthetically pleasing with lots of large images of their three adorable homes so you can clearly book a room based on an accurate image (pictured here!) I mean – look at this updated vacation home. YES PLEASE!

The Coast Cabins are tranquil, more luxurious than they sound. Check out their website. whether you are staying for a few hours or a few days, please check out Buttercup for ice creams and chowders (you can thank me later.) If golf is your jam, Manzanita Golf Course offers unique par-32 9-hole course on a hillside that faces the ocean. There is no shortage of stuff to do. The cove at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State park is surfers heaven. You can hike a half mile through old-growth forests and let the beginner-friendly waves embrace you. If you are looking for a road trip, 15 minutes East is NorthFork53, a 1930’s farmhouse on 4 acres of riverfront property that allows you to harvest chicken eggs and mushrooms that go into your breakfast. I mean, this is SO PORTLAND without being in Portland!


Pacific City paces a little different because there’s no fudge shops, casinos or typical beach summer traffic. Every room at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda has an amazing ocean view. There are miles of shoreline to explore and hello Instagram opportunity; you can sand-board down a 300 foot dune. From bird watching, bicycling, camping or kayaking to crabbing, clamming or horseback riding there is much to do in this quiet town. If you are a “horse person,” Bob Straub State Park has a large asphalt parking lot with designated parking for horse trailers and there are trails all through the park that winds through the spit with access to the beach. The Pelican Brew Pub is located here on the beach. They’ve won many beer awards, so if you like beer at all, you pretty much need to swing by for a pint. The Tillamook Cheese Factory is 22 miles north of Pacific City if you are driving in that direction anyway, it’s worth a stop for sure. Entrance is free and you will enjoy a self guided tour, interactive kiosks and their tasting counter!


People come from all over the world to learn about the gray whales that travel along our coast each year. Some months are better than others for viewing them. The winter is the best time from mid-December through mid-January as they travel south to the warm lagoons of Baja Mexico. There is a whale watching center if the weather is too much windy and cold. Enjoy the crab feed at Depoe Bay while perusing classic wooden boats at the world’s smallest harbor on Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14, 2019.  Indoor and outdoor dining is available, with a beer garden courtesy of the Depoe Bay Brewing Company. If beer is your thing, you can also visit The Horn Public House and Brewery. On their second floor you’ll find a large dining area with windows looking over Depoe Bay Harbor. You can also enjoy their game room equipped with a pool table, dart board, and shuffle board. All bread loaves and desserts are baked in house along with their Chicago style pizza dough.


This area is a hiker’s dream. Between Florence and North Bend, the Oregon Dunes dominate the coastal landscape for over 40 miles. Trailheads appear regularly along the highway, heading west to the beach or winding through the dunes. Off road vehicles are not allowed in some areas; get info at the visitor center in Reedsport. The easiest access for general hiking is through day use areas at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park and the Oregon Dunes Overlook just south of Florence. Bring your camera, it’s a true sight to see. You can reserve a decked-out Yurt for the night at a state park. Wheelchair accessible sites like Lagoon or Taylor Dune Trail and Oregon Dunes Day Use open the wonders of the Oregon Dunes to all forest visitors.


If you are driving south along the coast, pull off to visit the small town of Port Orford, the oldest town on the Oregon coast. Enjoy great food, art, miles of coastal trail and a beach that will make your jaw drop. Scenic Bikeway routes are the best bike rides in Oregon and showcase beautiful scenery, state history and local communities. They run past state parks on paved paths and roads. One of these routes starts here in Port Orford. Bikeways are state-designated with printable maps, gps and on-road signage. This ride is not for beginners, but isn’t a major undertaking for those who ride regularly. Views from the ride include the Wild and Scenic Elk River, lush cranberry bogs, towering basalt sea stacks and massive ocean views. Don’t miss Battle Rock City Park; it’s as dramatic as it sounds. Although artists, actors and organic farmers & chefs have laid down roots here, you will still find it predominately a fishing village. Imagine how fresh the fish and chowder are at the Crazy Norwegian Fish & Chips restaurant. (Expect a line but it moves quickly.) Named by Sunset Magazine as a Top 10 Seafood Restaurant. 259 Sixth St., Port Orford OR; 541-332-8601


Being on the water, it's no surprise that Newport is knows for its seafood. Newport is home to the Oregon Coast aquarium which includes a giant tube allowing you to walk through the water without getting wet, looking overhead to see things swimming about. Be sure to stop at Mo's- this was the original location that launched six more up and down the coast and now in Portland + one more at the airport! This original location opened in 1946 so you know the chowder is good in order to stay in business over 70 years! Family owned and operated, you'll find the great, great grandchildren of Mo hosting, serving and cooking in the family business.

SAMUEL H. BOARDMAN State Scenic Corridor

Jagged bluffs, tucked away beaches and beautiful rock formations await you along the 12 mile corridor located between Brookings and Gold Beach along Highway 101. Discover arched rock formations at Natural Bridges or bring your binoculars for spying migrating whales from the Cape Ferrelo trail. This stretch features one turnoff after another with access to picnic tables, viewpoints and trailheads that connect an 18-mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail. Find out more information HERE.

Whether you are looking to buy a home or condo in the greater Metro Portland area or you are looking for a beach house at the coast, I am licensed throughout the state of Oregon and would be thrilled to assist you with your home buying quest. Let’s chat!

If you’ve discovered any links that no longer work, please let me know by clicking here! I do my best to keep everything up to date and accurate.

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