The Oregon coast is a stunning stretch of rugged coastline bordering the Pacific Ocean dotted with beaches, parks and hiking trails. Oregon is located on the west coast of the United States and borders Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California.
While there are many gorgeous places to visit in the Pacific Northwest, this post will focus on the top things to do along the Oregon coast within a two hour drive of Portland.
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Oregon Coast Map
A visit to these five picturesque spots is one of the best Oregon coast day trips from Portland. I spent six hours exploring this area in one day but you could easily spend a few days here hiking, surfing and enjoying the small town of Cannon Beach.
Save this map of where to go on the Oregon coast to easily reference for your trip!
Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park is one of the most beautiful Oregon coast State Parks and is the perfect starting point for exploring this area of the Pacific Northwest. Within the forest park you will find numerous hiking trails, panoramic viewpoints and access to Indian Beach.
Directly off the parking area are two paved trails leading down towards the Pacific Ocean. The longer trail to the left offers views of the southern coastline towards Cannon Beach. If you continue on this trail it will wrap around leading you to a small lookout point of the Tillamook Lighthouse.
Ecola State Park is one of the best places along the Oregon coast to see Grey Whales as they migrate through during the winter and spring.
Ecola State Park Entrance Fee
There is a $5 day permit which is required and can be paid by credit card using the machine in the parking lot near the restrooms. If you have an Oregon State Parks permit or an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport than you can display that instead.
Note: The $5 day use permit can only be paid by credit card. Cash is not accepted at the machine.
Is Ecola State Park Open?
Yes, Ecola State Park is currently open to visitors with some restrictions. There are a few Ecola State Park hikes and trails that are closed due to storm damage. However that may change as they get repaired. Check here for all the latest updates on closures in Ecola State Park. While the facilities in the park may be limited the restrooms are still open. Note that visitors are required to wear a mask whenever it is not possible to practice social distancing.
Indian Beach Ecola State Park
One of the most popular spots to visit within Ecola State Park is Indian Beach. You can either hike from Ecola Park or drive directly to the parking lot and walk down to the sandy shores.
Indian Beach in Ecola State Park is a beautiful stretch of sand with incredible views of the coastline. Just south of Indian Beach is Cannon Beach where the iconic Haystack Rock can easily be seen from the shoreline.
Indian Beach is also one of the more popular spots along Oregon’s coast for surfing. The location of the surrounding cliffs offers shelter from the north west winds making the surfing conditions exceptional.
The best time to surf with consistent breaks is usually around mid-tide. Surfing at Indian Beach may not be for beginner’s so make sure you are a strong swimmer and feel confident out on your board before going. Also, be sure to watch out for rocks, rip currents and sharks.
Note that as of August 2020 the Indian Beach trail that goes from Ecola Point to Indian Beach is closed due to damages from the storms. Check here for updates on trail re-openings and restrictions due to the global pandemic.
How to Get to Ecola State Park and Indian Beach
Getting to Ecola State Park and Indian Beach is an easy hour and a half drive from Portland. You’ll take US-26 to US-101 (Oregon Coast Highway) and then turn onto Ecola State Park Rd via E 5th Street. Follow the road until you reach a large parking area. You can find it by typing Ecola State Park Parking into your GPS. See below for all the details on how to get to the north Oregon coast from Portland and Seattle.
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Cannon Beach is one of the most popular Oregon coast beaches and is home to the iconic and imposing Haystack Rock. The long stretch of sandy beach borders the charming old town filled with boutique shops, cottage style homes and delicious restaurants.
Try to visit Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock during low tide so that you can experience the magical tide pools. If you look closely you may see some orange or purple starfish resting on the rocks. Unfortunately, the number of starfish has rapidly declined in the past few years but you can still spot a few.
There is a lot to do in this cozy Oregon coastal town besides just visiting Haystack Rock. Spend some time wandering around the small streets and checking out the local galleries and boutiques.
There are quite a few ice creameries and small cafes around the town which offer delicious treats! I recommend the marionberry cheesecake ice cream from Island Coffee Roasters and the Chai Latte from Insomnia Coffee Company. There are also a couple of trendy breweries in town and restaurants offering local seafood fare.
A visit to Cannon Beach is an absolute must and is easily one of the best beaches on the Oregon Coast.
A few key things to remember about visiting Cannon Beach:
- Dogs are allowed but they either need to be on a leash or well behaved off of a leash.
- Camping is not allowed on Cannon Beach
- When the tide is low you can see starfish or other sea creatures around the tide pools near Haystack Rock. Please be respectful and do not touch any of the wildlife
- As of October 2020 you are required to wear a mask even on the beach if you are unable to properly social distance
- Drones are not allowed at Cannon Beach near Haystack Rock. Click here for all the information on flying drones in Oregon State Parks.
Remember to always practice leave no trace when visiting national or state parks, as well as beaches and lakes. Take all of your trash with you and dispose of it in the proper bins.
Where to Park at Cannon Beach
There are a few free, public parking lots located in the town of Cannon Beach. There is one directly across from Mo’s Restaurant with instant access to the beach. There is another one in the old town behind the Cannon Beach Library. From here you can walk around town and then head down to the beach. There are public restrooms at both parking lots.
Arcadia Beach Oregon
Just a few minutes drive south from Cannon Beach along the Oregon Coast Highway you’ll see a small parking lot and signs for Arcadia Beach State Recreation site. This small stretch of beach has a picnic area, panoramic coastal views and is a family friendly spot along the Pacific Northwest coast.
During low tide you can explore around the rock formations and spot all kinds of unique marine life such as crabs, anemones and ochre sea stars.
You can access the beach from a set of stairs located just off the free parking area. The stairs are a little steep but manageable if you don’t have any mobility issues. You can also view the coastline from Arcadia beach without having to go all the way down to the shore so it is definitely worth a stop!
Hug Point State Park
Hug Point State Park is one of the best places on the Oregon coast and is just a short drive from Arcadia State Park. This beach has a number of sea caves, small stretches of sandy beach and incredibly scenic views.
What makes this particular beach unique is the mysterious waterfall cascading from one of the nearby sandstone boulders. The waterfall is fed from Falls Creek and leads directly into the ocean.
To reach the falls you will head north from the sandy beaches of Hug Point and walk around the large boulder. Unfortunately it is only accessible during low tide so be sure to check the tide schedule prior to arriving.
How to Get to the Oregon Coast
Driving to the Oregon Coast, more specifically Cannon Beach and the surrounding areas, is an easy and beautiful drive. The closest main cities are either Portland or Seattle. All of these places are located along the highway US-101.
How to Get to the Oregon Coast from Portland
The drive from Portland to Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach and the nearby beaches and parks is super easy and beautiful. Departing from Portland you will drive along US-26 towards Beaverton/Ocean Beaches for most of the way until you reach US-101. Surrounded by forests, the two lane winding road will take you right to the coast where you can start exploring some of the best stops in northern Oregon. The drive takes just under 1.5 hours.
How to Get to the Oregon Coast from Seattle
The drive from Seattle is longer than from Oregon but if you drive along the coast you will be rewarded with some pretty spectacular views before you even arrive. Departing Seattle you’ll take I-5 South towards Portland/Tacoma until you eventually reach US-101.
How to Get Around the Oregon Coast
The best way to get around the surrounding area is to either drive or ride a bike. The Oregon Coast Highway is the road that connects these five beautiful places and biking would be fairy easy as long as the weather permits.
If you are stressed for time I highly recommend driving therefore you’ll be able to make it to each of these stops along the way.
Oregon Coast Hotels: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway and want to spend a few nights on the coast there are plenty of options for accommodations. Dotting the shores of Cannon Beach are numerous boutique hotels and quaint bungalows with panoramic sea views. Alternatively, you can find small family run inns scattered around town with easy access to the beach.
You can check out all of the available accommodations here!
Oregon Coast Camping
Camping is not permitted at any of these five parks or beaches located along the coast. There are day shelters which are available for use but be aware that you are not allowed to stay overnight.
Oregon Coast Weather
The best time to visit the Oregon coast is between July and October. This is when the coast near Cannon Beach experiences the most amount of sunshine and clear skies. The weather is particularly perfect during September through mid-October. I visited in early October and the temperatures were cooler and the sun was shining!
Ecola State Park is one of the best places along the Oregon coast to watch the migration of gray whales right from the shore. There are two peak seasons for watching the gray whales: winter and spring. The best time to see the whales during winter is from mid-December to mid-January. Whereas, the best time during spring is from mid-March to mid-April.
How Many Days on the Oregon Coast
These five spots along the northern part of the Oregon coast can easily be visited in one day. However, if you’d like to spend a little more time exploring Cannon beach town or relaxing along the sandy shores then a few days would be perfect.
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