Punctuated by sea stacks, headlands and capes, the Oregon Coast is unmatched in its beauty. Its wide open beaches stretch for miles in either direction and the sand drops so subtly towards the Pacific Ocean that it can be hard to tell where the beach starts and ends.
The natural landmarks that make Oregon so spectacular may captivate people from far and wide. But it’s the lack of development along the coast that has preserved the best beaches in Oregon and its irresistible coast. Travelers exploring along Highway One will find a series of charming small towns and villages where life is lived on the water and in the surrounding hills.
Because of this, there is an outstanding balance of local beaches that are simple to access from town, along with secluded paradises at the end of a remote trail.
12. Rockaway Beach
A straight shot west from Portland, Rockaway Beach is one of the easiest beaches to see from the state’s biggest city. But those exploring the impeccable west coast could do worse than to stop at this beautiful and wide open beach.
With just shy of 20 access points along the enormous seven miles of beach, it’s easy to find your own tranquil patch of sand. Along the beach you’ll find a series of beguiling structures made from long-lost driftwood, all the while kite surfers make use of the consistent breeze.
Depending on where you are, you can enjoy a walk along the beach to Tillamook or Nehalem Bay.
11. Manzanita Beach
Backed by a seaside town just big enough to be a village, Manzanita Beach is the star of the show. It features a memorable seven miles of bright white sand, so long that it can often feel private. Plus, with seven miles to play with, you’re looking at some great beach walks at sunset.
The beach curves around the coast, reaching Nehalem Bay State Park. Wander up the sand spit to discover a lush sanctuary waiting to be explored. One hike to complete is at the other end of town. This involves a hike up to the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain where you’ll have unbeatable views down to Manzanita Beach.
10. Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area
The many capes of Oregon are dwarfed by the sheer beauty of Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The solid cliffs most common along the Oregon Coast are temporarily replaced by sandstone, allowing nature to better use its artistic abilities.
Cape Kiwanda has been shaped by the wind, rain and ocean who’ve delicately created curves and grooves reminiscent of Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon in Arizona.
From the top of the cape, you’ll have amazing views of the coast, from which you can venture down to the beach via a sand dune. From there, you can relax or enjoy one of the better beach walks in the state.
9. Short Sand Beach
In Oswald West State Park, Short Sand Beach is a sight for sore eyes. On calm days, the water is flat and glistens under the sun. On either end, the headlands rise. At first, it’s smooth rock but quickly turns to soaring green pines.
Because of its location within the state park, Short Sand Beach is often devoid of crowds. It’s a day-use beach, tucked away at the end of a short half-mile walk. It’s a fun place for the kids to roam, or to kick back under the umbrella with a book in hand.
Short Sand Beach can receive some burly surf throughout the year. On these days, surfers will arrive early and ride until sunset.
8. Nye Beach
In Newport, one of the biggest coastal towns in Oregon, Nye Beach ticks all the boxes. It has the standard wide open beaches that are so common in Oregon, along with easy access, sea stacks, picnic areas and great swimming.
Nye Beach is a much loved beach among locals who can enjoy a brief stroll from the eclectic local neighborhood that bears the same name. Beachgoers can laze on the sand, play beach games or enjoy a picnic with a view.
To complement your time at Nye Beach, discover why it has been attracting travelers for over 100 years. Behind the shores is a dozen block historic district with a hearty concentration of art galleries. Not to mention plenty of great eateries.
7. Arcadia Beach State Recreation Area
Set near arguably the best beach in Oregon, Arcadia Beach State Recreation Area is often overlooked. But if you have time to do both, you’ll find Arcadia to be a pleasant alternative to Cannon Beach and for you, it may even be better.
Arcadia Beach has golden sand, typical of the Oregon Coast. But what helps to separate it from others (aside from its tranquility) is its waterfall. A walk along the beach will reveal this natural landmark, where thin veils of water drop over rocky outcrops.
Your beach walking adventure continues as beach caves unveil themselves while the north and southern ends of Arcadia are two points, both fitted with beautiful tide pools.
6. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Sea stacks aren’t the only spectacular aspect of beaches in Oregon. Although it has plenty of competition, it’s hard to argue that any beach is as stunning as those found in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Forget suntanning on white sand, here you can explore 40 miles of towering dunes, some soaring as high as 500 feet.
Set between the Pacific and an inland forest, you’ll have an abundance of mesmerizing scenery. You can earn many spectacular views on foot, but you can’t beat the fun of riding around on a dune buggy or shredding the dunes on your own sandboard. From the beach, you can go fishing or explore on a kayak, including the 30 lakes within the park.
5. Seaside Beach
As both a top holiday destination and beach, it’s hard to top the atmosphere at Seaside Beach. The town is only 90 minutes northwest of Portland and is a common family destination while being a hot spot for beach bums looking for an inexpensive getaway.
Part of the appeal is that Seaside Beach is big enough for everyone, regardless of the crowds. It’s here that you’ll have room to play beach soccer alongside hordes of people tanning. It’s no shock that Seaside Beach plays host to the biggest beach volleyball tournament on the west coast.
This beach has all the needed amenities, from restrooms to showers along with beachfront restaurants and the vibrant town of Seaside.
4. Indian Beach
Within Ecola State Park, Indian Beach is a beloved surf and one of the film locations for the movie Twilight. Many of the state park’s trails guide you along the classic Oregon coast where sea stacks rise out of the ocean spray like planes through a cloud.
Indian Beach is a short drive from Portland, meaning it is both easy to access and popular among locals. If you want to get a prime beach spot, we suggest arriving early. But for the beach hikers among us, the coastal trails are best complemented by a dip in the ocean and a scramble on the stacks before continuing.
When the swell picks up, those on the sand will be able to enjoy the free entertainment, as surfers look to tame the mighty Pacific.
3. Heceta Beach (Cape Cove)
A small cove tucked away on the Oregon coast, Heceta Beach stretches for 1,000 feet along the rugged coastline. Its bookends may be Cape Creek and Heceta Head, but the crescent beach’s rocky stacks will have your eyes firmly set on the ocean. Here, you’ll find gulls, cormorants and murre soaring above the crashing waves. Cape Cove may be rugged, but its remote location leads to a tranquil experience among nature.
Back at the car park, beachgoers will have access to picnic areas and also bathrooms. No time at the beach would be complete without also exploring the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands proudly atop the soaring head, over 1,000 feet above the ocean. You can find the trail to the 19th century lighthouse in the car park.
2. Lone Ranch Beach
At the southern terminus of the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, Lone Ranch Beach effortlessly combines vibrant nature with a picture perfect beach. From the car park, you’ll walk along a trail towards the shore, passing the picnic area along the way.
It can be hard to appreciate the craggy shoreline at high tide, but when the water flows out, it reveals a series of beguiling tide pools. Alongside them are sea stacks that rise like triangles out of the Pacific Ocean. Spend your day enjoying the views along the coast, including that of the lush Cape Ferrelo.
At lunchtime, venture back to the picnic area that features four tables and a beautiful vista of the entire beach.
1. Cannon Beach
Best known for the impressive Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach is a photographer and beach lover’s dream. At 235 feet tall, the startling monolith makes for a breathtaking focal point, splitting the ocean in two. It’s surrounded by several smaller stacks with the endless waves of the Pacific rolling in.
You may have seen it before in movies and TV shows, but nothing quite prepares you for the scenery at Cannon Beach. It’s a part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and beachgoers should also keep an eye out for the resident puffins.
But as for the beach itself, its sprawling expanse of golden sand feels endless. As popular as it is, Cannon Beach rarely feels crowded. The swimming near the shore is comfortable, with surfing opportunities further out.