If you’ve ever felt like the ocean has healing powers, you’re not mistaken. The roar of the surf, blue horizon and heart-melting sunsets on the Oregon Coast are a balm for the soul, and sometimes a getaway is just what you need. Pack up the bags and head out in the fall, when towns and beaches are less crowded and the temperatures are still mild and mostly dry. Here’s how to take an easy coastal road trip within a few-hour drive of Portland, Salem, Eugene or Corvallis.
Day 1: Waldport to Lincoln City
From Corvallis, hop on Highway 34 to the Coast. Also known as the Marys Peak to Pacific Scenic Byway, the road meanders for 72 scenic miles before arriving in the lovely town of Waldport. Grab a bite at the heavenly Pacific Sourdough bakery, and rent a kayak to slide into the bay to explore the Alsea River Water Trail and recharge with wildlife all around. Back on Highway 101, pause to take in the beauty of the tide pools and lighthouse at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Nosh on fish ’n chips and clam chowder on-site or to go at Local Ocean. Just north in Depoe Bay, see the gray whales feeding close to shore during winter and spring migration. If you’re looking for some forest therapy, walk the wooden footbridges through the Sitka spruce, western hemlock, shore pine and alder forest at Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area and soak up the solace at the secluded ocean cove. Order takeout from Tidal Raves or sip a pint on the dog-friendly patio at Beachcrest Brewing Company. Spend the night at Salishan Coastal Lodge in Gleneden Beach or Siletz Bay Lodge in Lincoln City. Don’t forget to enjoy the sunset.
Day 2: Lincoln City to Wheeler
In Lincoln City, fill your spirit with a morning on the Cascade Head Hike, kayak on Devil’s Lake or take a glass-blowing class for some appreciation of this iconic coastal tradition. Two great lunch spots are Blackfish Cafe and Corner Cafe. In Neskowin see the ghost forest, a geological fascination of Sitka stumps visible at low tide, or Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In Pacific City, pick up lunch at Pelican Brewing Company or Grateful Bread Bakery for an al fresco lunch, and continue to Cape Kiwanda to climb the giant dune and catch views of the brilliant orange and yellow sandstone. Hop back on Highway 101 to Garibaldi, where you can walk the quiet 4-mile strip of the Bayocean Spit for views of the ocean, then get your fill of kite flying and sandcastle building in Rockaway Beach, with its long expanse of uncrowded shoreline. End your day with a DIY picnic supper made with fresh produce and fish from any of the coastal farmers markets (many of which you can shop online and pick up goodies to take home). Channel the tranquility of your bayside room at Wheeler on the Bay Lodge, and wake up to the sounds of birds on the bay.
Day 3: Wheeler to Astoria
Spend your last day finding even more natural beauty as you take on the northernmost part of the Coast. Pick up coffee and breakfast in Manzanita and wind your way up to Arch Cape, where you can find a number of stunning trails at Oswald West State Park. Take a short walk along a forested trail and over a wooden suspension bridge to Short Sands Beach, a surfers’ favorite. Avoid the crowds in the busier cities and make your next stop in Gearhart to hit the greens at Gearhart Golf Links, established in 1892 — the oldest course on the Oregon Coast. If golf’s not your thing, find comfort among the wildlife at Necanicum Estuary Natural History Park. In Astoria, stop for takeout at the famous Bowpicker Fish & Chips or for Bridgewater Bistro, and take your picnic to enjoy with 360-degree views at the base of the Astoria Column, but note that the column is temporarily closed. Cap your day with an afternoon at Fort Stevens State Park, where you can walk the 2.5-mile Coffenbury Lake Trail, visit the Peter Iredale shipwreck and listen to seagulls. Bring your binoculars to spot birds on the jetty. Head home and start planning your next coastal getaway.
Photo of Cape Kiwanda by Joey Hamilton