Road Trips and Destinations

Camping Road Trip along the Scenic Oregon Coast Highway


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Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR

Many people associate the west coast with California and its gorgeous beaches. However, Oregon's coast rivals the most pristine Californian beaches in terms of beauty and activities. Oregon's coast has something for everyone, and is a huge hit with nature enthusiasts. And for good reason; Oregon's coast plays host to everything from old growth forests to massive sand dunes, secluded beaches to dramatic ocean side cliffs, sea lions and whales to black bears. One of the many highlights of the Oregon coastline is its capes - Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda - all part of the Three Capes Scenic Drive. Not surprisingly there are many other must-see stops along the way. Below you will find a two day and a four day itinerary for a road trip along Oregon's coastline.

When to Go

Late September/early October and May are the best months to visit as rain is less likely during these months. The benefit of going in May is that the days are longer and the sunsets are later.

How to Get There

Fly into Portland Oregon and then drive to Astoria.

From Portland take Interstate 5 North to exit 36 for WA-432 W toward Longview/Long Beach/WA-4 W. Continue onto Tennant Way, turn left at Oregon Way, Continue onto US-30 W via the ramp to Clatskanie/Astoria.

What to See and Do

The more time you have the more of the Oregon Coastline you can enjoy. We would recommend a minimum of two days. However, we have also set out a four day itinerary for those with more time.

Two-Day Visit

Day One

1.  Astoria - Allow two hours minimum.

Located on the Columbia River, Astoria is home to the first permanent American settlement in North America. Today, much of that history is still visible as the town has over 600 historic homes, with the crown gem being Flavel House, an expansive Victorian mansion erected in 1885 by Captain George Flavel, said to be Astoria's first millionaire. During your visit be sure to climb 12 story high Astoria Column. The Column, which sits atop the hill above the town, allows visitors to take in panoramic views of the town, the surrounding lands, and the Columbia River flowing into the Pacific.

There are a number of waterfront restaurants to grab lunch from, with the majority concentrated between 15th St. and 6th St. Alternatively you can have a picnic at Fort Clatsop National Memorial, which is just 6 miles away.

RV parking can be found at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which sits on the edge of town, and is conveniently located along the Astoria Riverfront Trolley line, which costs $1 to ride. The trolley is a restored 1913 streetcar that travels for 4 miles along Astoria's historic riverfront. Your other RV parking option is to park on Basin St. at the former Old Lion Inn, which is also located on the trolley line on the other end of town.

2.  Fort Clatsop National Memorial - Allow one hour minimum.

Fort Clatsop is located roughly 6 miles from downtown Astoria and is a must see for the history buff. For those not in the know Fort Clatsop is where Lewis & Clark built their log cabins & stockade after they had traveled for 19 months and 4,000 miles from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. Today the cabins have been re-created near the original site and in the summer interpreters dress in period garb and demonstrate canoe building, candle making, and fire muzzle-loaded muskets.

One of the highlights of the park is the Netul River Trail, which is a gentle 1.5 mile walk along the river. There is a landing along the river which serves a scenic picnic area and as a launch pad for kayaks and canoes (though you must bring your own). If you're traveling with children Fort Clatsop offers a Junior Ranger Program where your little ones can earn a badge and certificate. In addition, the visitor's center has an animal exhibit that includes fur from different animals.

RV parking is available for day use.

To get to Fort Clatsop from Astoria take US - 101 S heading to Warrenton/Seaside/Airport. Turn left at SE Marlin Dr/U.S. 101 Bus. Turn left at U.S. 101 Bus. Slight right at Fort Clatsop Rd.

3.  Seaside - Allow two hours minimum.

Seaside is located 30 minutes south of Fort Clatsop. It is the oldest coastal destination resort community in Oregon and is also the endpoint of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Seaside is also a good endpoint to your day as it has plenty to offer in terms of attractions, which run the gamut from expansive beaches that collide with rivers and mountains, to live musical entertainment, carousels and bumper boats to one of the oldest aquariums in the Northwest.

Locals and visitors alike love Seaside because it is very much a walking community; you can set your mind at ease with a walk along the 1.8 mile-long ocean side walkway, or through town, as everything is within walking distance. An additional bonus is that most places are wheelchair accessible.

RV Parking is available at the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, located at the corner of Highway 101 & Broadway, just 4 and a half blocks to the beach and is convenient to restaurants and shops. RV parking at the parking lot is for day use only. Seaside Chamber of Commerce's phone number is: 888-306-2326.

Spend the night at one of the campgrounds and RV parks near Seaside, Oregon.

Day Two

1.  Oswald West State Park - Allow two hours minimum.

Located about 19 miles south of Seaside on the US 101, Oswald West State Park is a gem. Parking lots are a quarter mile from the beach, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; the trails that lead you from the parking lots to the ocean side run through a mature forest, offering shade and plenty of opportunities to gawk at wildlife and old-growth Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar trees.

When you get to the beach, be prepared for a visual treat. Smuggler's Cove at Oswald West State Park provides a feeling of total privacy, as mountains surround the beach area on three sides. Rock formations abound.

If incredible views are what you're after take the trails that lead you to the Cape Falcon Overlook. As you reach the edge of Cape Falcon you'll be overlooking the crashing waves and beach of Smuggler Cove.

2.  Cape Meares Lighthouse - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Continue South on the US 101 to one of the most well known landmarks of Cape Meares is its lighthouse. This historical 35 foot tall lighthouse, which sits on the north end of the Three Capes Scenic Drive, provides some of the most scenic views of the Pacific Ocean. Cape Meares is located 40 miles south of Oswald West State Park, and is roughly an hour driving time.

If you are in the area between December and January or late April through June you just might be able to catch glimpse of whales during their annual migration.

The park is open daily, throughout the year, from 7 am to dusk with no day-use fee. RV parking is free and is first-come-first-served.

3.  Cape Lookout State Park and Trail - Allow 2 hours minimum.

Follow the Three Capes Scenic Loop South. Sandwiched between Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout State Park has more than eight miles of hiking and walking trails that wind through a lush old-growth forest. For a short hike take the Jackson Creek Trail, and be sure to look up; hang gliders and paragliders are a common sight.

One of the most scenic hiking trails in Oregon is located in Cape Lookout. The Cape Lookout Trail is roughly 5 miles round trip and offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and some of the best opportunities to whale watch without going in a boat! The trail takes you through a beautiful Pacific Northwest forest along the coast.

4.  Cape Kiwanda - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Continue 14 miles south to Cape Kiwanda, the southernmost cape of the Three Capes and also the smallest. If you have ever wanted to try surfing this is the place to do it. The waves are very good and surfing is popular amongst the locals. Surfs up! Take a lesson and start learning how to surf!

Spend the night at one of the campgrounds and RV parks near Cape Kiwanda or head back to Portland via the US-101 to OR-6 and US-26.

Four-Day Visit

With the luxury of a bit more time, you can enjoy more of what the Oregon coastline has to offer.

Day One

Follow Day One as per the Two-Day visit above.

Day Two

1.  Cannon Beach / Haystack Rock - Allow one hour minimum.

Cannon Beach sits just 9 miles south of Seaside. Cannon Beach is a charming, clean town that just so happens to be home to one of the most well known landmarks along the Oregon coast - Haystack Rock. This Rock juts out into the Pacific Ocean and provides some incredibly scenic views. The Rock stands at a confident 235 feet and is accessible by foot during low tide. Be sure to check the Cannon Beach tide calendar before heading out to the Rock, as it is not uncommon for people to become temporarily trapped on Haystack Rock when high tide engulfs the rock in water.

You can grab a bite to eat for breakfast from any of the local eateries, which include restaurants, cafes, and espresso joints. The majority of the eateries are located between East 2nd St and Beaver St.

There are two RV parking lots located in Cannon Beach. The first sits two blocks from the beach on East 2nd. The second parking lot, which is closer to Haystack rock, is on Gower and Hemlock St.

To get to Cannon Beach from Seaside take US 101 South, take the Sunset Blvd. exit to Hemlock St. Make a right onto Hemlock St. Hemlock St. will take you directly to the Gower RV parking lot, which is a half mile north of Haystack Rock.

2.  Oswald West State Park - Allow two hours minimum.

Located about 10 miles south of Cannon Beach on the US 101 , Oswald West State Park is a gem. Parking lots are a quarter mile from the beach, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; the trails that lead you from the parking lots to the ocean side run through a mature forest, offering shade and plenty of opportunities to gawk at wildlife and old-growth Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar trees.

When you get to the beach, be prepared for a visual treat. Smuggler's Cove at Oswald West State Park provides a feeling of total privacy, as mountains surround the beach area on three sides. Rock formations abound.

If incredible views are what you're after take the trails that lead you to the Cape Falcon Overlook. As you reach the edge of Cape Falcon you'll be overlooking the crashing waves and beach of Smuggler Cove.

3.  Cape Meares Lighthouse - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Continue South on the US 101 to one of the most well known landmarks of Cape Meares is its lighthouse. This historical 35 foot tall lighthouse, which sits on the north end of the Three Capes Scenic Drive, provides some of the most scenic views of the Pacific Ocean. Cape Meares is located 40 miles south of Oswald West State Park, and is roughly an hour driving time.

If you are in the area between December and January or late April through June you just might be able to catch glimpse of whales during their annual migration.

The park is open daily, throughout the year, from 7 am to dusk with no day-use fee. RV parking is free and is first-come-first-served.

4.  Cape Lookout State Park and Trail - Allow 2 hours minimum.

Follow the Three Capes Scenic Loop South. Sandwiched between Cape Meares and Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout State Park has more than eight miles of hiking and walking trails that wind through a lush old-growth forest. For a short hike take the Jackson Creek Trail, and be sure to look up; hang gliders and paragliders are a common sight.

One of the most scenic hiking trails in Oregon is located in Cape Lookout. The Cape Lookout Trail is roughly 5 miles round trip and offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and some of the best opportunities to whale watch without going in a boat! The trail takes you through a beautiful Pacific Northwest forest along the coast.

Spend the night at the campground at Cape Lookout State Park.

Day Three

1.  Cape Kiwanda - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Continue 14 miles south to Cape Kiwanda, the southernmost cape of the Three Capes and also the smallest. If you have ever wanted to try surfing this is the place to do it. The waves are very good and surfing is popular amongst the locals. Surfs up! Take a lesson and start learning how to surf!

2.  Defoe Bay - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Head south on the 101 to Depoe Bay, the whale watching capital of the Oregon Coast. The tiny harbor's rugged coastline is a treat for the eyes. But it's not just the coastline that makes Depoe Bay so enticing. When you visit you'll notice geysers spouting up to 60 feet in the air, the result of waves crashing beneath lava beds. Depoe Bay also holds another claim to fame; it is the only town on the entire coast where all dining and shopping areas of the town are within view of the ocean. Last, there is a pod of grey whales which make their home here 10 months out of the year. Whale watching trips are available. Grab lunch in Depoe Bay.

3.  Otter Crest Loop - Allow 1 hour minimum.

Just south of Depoe Bay is Otter Crest loop a scenic byway that winds along the cliff tops to Cape Foulweather and down to the Devil's Punchbowl Sea Cave. It is believed that the punchbowl was formed when the roof of two sea caves collapsed. As waves enter the punchbowl the water swirls and sprays, leading to some entertaining displays. This is a great place to spot whales from.

4.  Sea Lions Cave - Allow 1 hour minimum.

About 45 miles south on US 101 is Sea Lion Caves a vast, natural cavern that is home to wild sea lions and a variety of sea birds. Some visitors have even claimed they saw Grey Whales feeding off the ocean bottom. There is an elevator that descends 200 feet, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of what marine life is like below sea level. The Caves are a highlight, as they are unique.

5.  Jessie M Honeyman State Park

Continue South for roughly 15 miles to Jessie M Honeyman State Park. It is not only a wonderful place to camp; it's also a great place to play! The Park is located within the confines of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which feature some of the continent's highest sand dunes. Activities run the gamut from boating and fishing to water skiing and wind surfing and hiking.

Spend the night at Jessie M Honeyman State Park.

Day Four

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - Allow 2 hours minimum.

Spend the morning at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, 41 miles of sand dunes. The dunes were formed over millions of years through sedimentary rock from nearby mountains, washed by rivers down to the ocean and moved inland by tides, waves and currents and finally sculpted by the wind. Take a dune buggy tour with Sandland Adventures. Then head down to Eel Creek campground about 13 miles north of Coos Bay where there are some of the best views of the dunes. Head north back up to Reedsport to grab lunch, before heading back to Portland in the afternoon via the OR-38 and then the I-5. Allow 3.5 - 4 hours for the drive.

Copyright ©2012 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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Photos

Astoria Column
Enjoy panaromic views from Astoria Column
Drill reenactment at Fort Clatsop National Monument
Drill at Fort Clatsop
Oswald West State Park
Beautiful coastline from Cape Falcon Overlook
Sunset at Cape Meares Lighthouse
Sunset at Cape Meares Lighthouse
North scenic view from the end of Cape Lookout Trail
Cape Lookout Trail offers many scenic views up and down the coastline
Waves of the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean crashes against the cliffs at Cape Kiwanda
Whale breaching from the sea
Whale watching
Devils Punch Bowl
Devils Punch Bowl
Waves of the Pacific Ocean
Sea Lions at Sea Lions Cave
Devils Punch Bowl
Rolling dunes at Oregon Dunes NRA
Waves of the Pacific Ocean
Dune Bugg Tour Oregon Dunes NRA
 

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1 comment(s) so far...

A couple more suggestions:
1. Everyone needs groceries. Shop at local Safeway which is east of the maritime museum. With your grocery receipt you can purchase discounted fuel at Safeway fuel pumps. Between the Safeway store and the fuel pumps there are several long parking spots where you can dry camp with a view of the Columbia River.
2. The Maritime Museum is a must, and as the article says, with plenty of parking. For lunch go across the highway from the museum and up the hill to the Fish and Chips food trailer. Very tasty!
3. If you in town on Saturday there is a super farmer's market in the Historic Downtown area.
4. Take time to drive across the bridge and visit Cape Disappointment Park and Lighthouse.

By dgypzz on 9/12/2012 2:41:11 PM
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