Not to be confused with the Pacific Coast Highway, which is in California, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway is an Oregon coast road trip.
The Oregon segment of US-101 is one of the most stunning stretches of coastline in the USA. It pretty much defines scenic route, with dunes, cliffs, picturesque towns, historic bridges, and iconic lighthouses.
The reason you’ll want to allow plenty of time for this road trip is because of the sheer number of scenic overlooks. With colorful names like Thor’s Well, Devil’s Churn, Seal Rocks, and Cape Foulweather, it’s an entertaining string of gorgeous views.
There are lots of scenic towns along the way where you can stop for a bite to eat and to rest. If you’re a New England clam chowder fan, don’t miss Mo’s in Newport. It’s the original location of what is now a popular chain.
A stop in Cannon Beach is a must so you can see one of the most recognizable landmarks along the coast, Haystack Rock.
If you want some Pacific coast beauty but don’t have time to drive the entire stretch, this Oregon scenic drive will definitely fill your bucket.
- Start: Brookings, Oregon
- End: Astoria, Oregon
- Number of miles: 363 miles
- Recommended length of road trip: 3-4 days
Oregon’s Pacific coastline stretches for 363 magnificent miles/584 kilometers — and this world-class route traces it from border to border. A landmark state law ensures every inch of it is open to the public. Welcome to The People’s Coast.
Ahhh, the Coast: That single word encompasses a world of diverse delights in Oregon. Craggy headlands, crashing waves, sandy beaches and rocky tide pools invite exploring. Coastal communities brim with character, some geared toward visitors with galleries and resorts, others simple and sturdy fishing villages where residents still pull their living from the sea. Plentiful public lands offer easy access for outdoor pursuits. Whether you do the entire drive or explore just a segment, plan to take it slow. This route is a feast for the senses, and frequent stops are practically mandatory.
Garibaldi to Newport
The byway arcs inland around Tillamook Bay at Garibaldi, a hub for fishing and kayaking. In Tillamook, take a self-guided tour and sample cheeses at the Tillamook Creamery. Head west on OR-131 for a detour along the Trees to Sea Scenic Byway to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. From here, continue south along the Three Capes Scenic Loop to Cape Lookout State Park and onward to the massive sand dune of Cape Kiwanda in the little beach town of Pacific City. The route rejoins the byway north of Lincoln City, which draws kite flyers to its breezy beaches, skilled surfers to Nelscott Reef and hikers seeking solitude to the Cascade Head Preserve, with trails bending up through old-growth forest.
The fishing village of Depoe Bay bills itself as the smallest navigable harbor in the world, where fishing boats and whale-watching excursions thread through a rocky channel to the Pacific. Gray whales tend to linger here, along with the many whales that migrate along the Coast.
Eye tiny critters in the “marine garden” of tide pools around Otter Rock. Nearby, the collapsed sea cave called Devils Punchbowl churns with swirling seawater.
Newport to Coos Bay
Newport sits on Yaquina Bay, marked by the pretty 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Oregon’s last remaining wooden lighthouse. Visitors wander among the shops and restaurants of Nye Beach, and along the working bayfront, noisy with barking sea lions. Across the bay, the Oregon Coast Aquarium enlightens 400,000 visitors each year about what goes on below the surface with touch tanks, under water tunnels and interactive displays. With more than 40,000 students coming through its doors every year, the aquarium is a key educational resource for the state. And the nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center, part of Oregon State University, focuses much of its research on marine ecology and climate change.
Near Yachats, waves boom and swirl against the furrowed base of 800-foot Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, and trails lead through old-growth forest above. Twelve miles/19.3 kilometers south, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is Oregon’s brightest beacon and no doubt one of its most photographed. Visitors can tour the tower and stay in the lightkeeper’s home, now a B&B. At the nearby Sea Lion Caves, an elevator descends 208 feet/63 meters to an observation area in a huge natural cavern, where Steller sea lions and other wildlife gather. It’s one of the oldest private attractions along the Oregon Coast.
The byway briefly dips inland as it approaches Florence, where fishing boats and shop-filled historic buildings line up along the Siuslaw River. Across the pretty Siuslaw River Bridge, the rugged coast gives way to mile after mile of high dunes and sandy beaches, stretching all the way to Coos Bay. Near the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, businesses offer dune-buggy tours, sandboarding equipment and ATV rentals. The recreation area’s headquarters in Reedsport has information and interpretive displays.
Coos Bay to Brookings
The Oregon Coast’s largest city and the largest natural harbor between Seattle and San Francisco, Coos Bay is a busy port for commercial and recreational fishing, crabbing and clamming. Nearby, the Charleston to Bandon Tour Route hugs the coast, reuniting with US-101 in Bandon at the mouth of the Coquille River. Bandon is known for its world-class golf, art and sandy beaches punctuated with dramatic sea stacks.
The byway next greets the coastline at Port Orford, an exceptionally scenic fishing harbor and the start of the Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway. Harbor seals and sea lions often frequent the rocky outcrops at Port Orford Heads State Park. The Sixes and Elk rivers draining down from the Coast Range offer great salmon and steelhead fishing. The Rogue River, a Wild and Scenic River famed for its rafting and fishing, meets the Pacific at Gold Beach. Jet-boat tours power upriver for a look at the scenic Lower Rogue.
The coastal scenery dazzles on its final stretch, as the byway skims along cliffs and rocky shores dotted with tide pools. Beyond Pistol River, a famous windsurfing spot, 12 miles/19.3 kilometers of coastline are designated as the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, with ample overlooks, hiking trails and beach access. The byway concludes south of Brookings, a region known for its temperate “banana belt” climate and the largest stand of coastal redwoods in the state.
Here Are the Best Attractions Along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway
Astoria is a must-see, especially if you’re driving down from Seattle. You can satisfy the movie buffs in your group by visiting the Oregon Film Museum in the Clasp County Jail. It’s where the opening scene of the Goonies was filmed! Marvel at the 600-foot tall Astoria Column and its hand-painted designs as you explore the museum. Before hitting the road again, relax and enjoy a handcrafted beer at Buoy Beer Company.
Seaside is a charming 1920s-era promenade with boardwalk games. You can park your car on Broadway and walk towards the immense beach that spreads along the town limits. Seaside boasts a spacious beach and many restaurants and bars, which make for a fun happy hour gathering with your friends and loved ones!
Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park is a dream-come-true for hikers. The park is part of the Oregon Coast Trail, which is one of numerous Lewis and Clark National Historic Trails. Within its borders is the Clatsop Loop, a route used by an expedition party from Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery that was led by Captain William Clark in 1806. Enjoy a hike to Ecola Point and Indian Beach, two of the park’s landmarks, and even have a picnic by the ocean!
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, also known as the Cannon Beach lighthouse, is an impressive monument you need to see. Both nature lovers and history buffs will enjoy the view of this majestic rock in the middle of the ocean. Built in 1881, it still makes visitor’s imagination go wild when they see the top of the lighthouse in the distance and the fierce Pacific waves crash onto the black rock. Note that the lighthouse itself is not open to the public.
One great outdoor activity along the coast is to explore the sea caves at Hug Point! This spot is only a few miles south of Cannon Beach, just a half mile from our Inn. At low tide, you’ll discover some beautiful sea caves worth exploring, as well as a small waterfall that gets bigger throughout the rainy season. You can also spot the wheel ruts from the original stagecoach road dug into the rocks of the cliffside. Be on the lookout for tide pools! They’re full of sea anemones, starfish, and an array of other small sea creatures worthy of your time.
After a restful few days at Arch Cape Inn, feel free to continue exploring the remainder of Oregon’s coast to the south! Some of our favorite coastal gems include the Tillamook Cheese factory, Cape Meares Lighthouse, the Cascade Head Preserve, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Lion Caves, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and more! Remember to download our free Vacation Guide to make sure you don’t miss any of them.