Adventure, camping, hiking, history trips, Pacific Northwest United States, road trips, United States

Oregon Coast Highway 101

oregon coast highway

I’m an east coast girl at heart, but I’ve never been in love with east coast beaches. All that sun and sand, and all those people trying to inch onto your blanket space. I may have enjoyed it when I was in high school, but those days are long gone. Luckily we had a chance to visit the Pacific Coast not too long ago, and that changed everything for me. I’m a convert — totally in love with the rugged cliffs and pounding waves of Coastal Oregon and Northern California. One of our all-time favorite road trips is on Oregon Coast Highway 101, also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. Here are some highlights from the trip that we loved.

Oregon Coast Highway 101

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

We started our journey on Oregon Coast highway 101 in Washington, headed south, and our first stop was the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Astoria. Our family had spent the previous year learning about the journey of Lewis and Clark and their perilous trek across the west from 1804 to 1806. We were on our own monumental journey, traveling 10,000 miles by car in just two months, but I guess that’s where the comparison ended. We faced none of the hardships that this crew faced, but we did enjoy walking in their footsteps for a brief time. In Montana, we stopped at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, which focused on their month-long portage around the massive falls, but that’s a story for another day.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon celebrates the end of Lewis and Clark’s journey. How exciting that must have been for them catch their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean after two years of roughing it in the wild west. We visited Fort Clatstop, a replica of the winter encampment built by the Corps of Discovery in 1805. We visited during the peak season, and the reenactors put on quite a show for us, showing us how to make candles, play traditional games, and tan buckskin.

Visiting the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park: The park is open every day except Christmas Day, but you’ll only find costumed reenactors during the summer months. I recommend hiking the Fort to Sea Trail, which takes you on a gentle hike through deep woods and sandy dunes to the very beach where Lewis and Clark found the Pacific Ocean they had been searching for. The hike is a little over six miles, one-way, but it’s quite easy to call a cab that will meet you at the beach and bring you back to your car.

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Camping: Fort Stevens State Park is just north of Fort Clatsop, right off of Oregon Coast Highway 101. It’s a huge park with 170 campsites, yurts, cabins, bike rentals, and freshwater swimming. A highlight was visiting the wreckage of the Peter Iredale, a steel barque that went down off the coast in 1906. If I could go back and do this trip again, I would spend two or three nights in the park. There’s so much to explore.

Driving Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Coast Highway 101

There is so much talk about the Pacific Coast Highway in California, but the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway on the Oregon Coast is just as amazing. For us, the hardest part was trying to decide where to stop, because every mile or so there’s an awesome beach, hiking trail, or vista to get lost in. We explored sea caves, tidepools, lighthouses, and deserted beaches on our journey. It was a long drive with quite a bit of traffic, but we had nothing but time, which is always a good thing when you’re traveling. Here are some of our favorite spots on Oregon Coast Highway 101:

  • Rockaway Beach – This is a quiet little beach, more of a wayside, actually, but the views are pretty magical, and even in the summer, there were hardly any people exploring the shore.
  • Lookout State Park – Another awesome beach with fabulous hiking trails, and luxurious camping cabins if you’re not into roughing it.
  • Devil’s Punchbowl – It’s a naturally carved rock bowl that’s partially open to the Pacific Ocean. You can hike to the bowl, climb around the rocks, and visit the nearby tidepools.
  • Driftwood Beach State Recreation Site – Another quiet, flat, and sandy beach, this is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over a picnic dinner.
  • Cape Perpetua Scenic Area – We loved visiting the rocky headlands here, and in some places, the forest comes right down to the sea.

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

These incredible dunes were amazing to behold. We saw them on the map and decided to check them out, but we had no idea at the time how massive and sprawling they would be. We stayed in a little federal campground with great amenities. I wish I could remember the name of it, but it was right at the base of the dunes. As we were setting up camp, we still had no idea as to the scope of the ever-changing landscape we would discover.

Oregon Coast Highway 101

A steep trail led from our campsite to the top of the first dune, and once we cleared that one, it was just miles and miles of mountainous sand, as far as we could see. There were no trails, and the wind quickly wiped away our footprints, so we had to be really careful not to get lost. We kept thinking we would find the ocean if we kept walking west, but we never did. Instead we felt like we were that “bear went over the mountain” song. We’d climb one dune and there would be miles and miles more in front of us.

Oregon Coast Highway 101

Tips for visiting Oregon Sand Dunes: Just like going to the beach, you should be prepared for sand in everything – pockets, sleeping bags, shoes, and meals. There are sandboard rental shops all over the place here, but we never gave it a go. It looks like a lot of fun. Also, there were whole sections of the park dedicated to dune-buggies, and that part of the park was really busy and really noisy. We stayed in a more serene area. This place  was definitely one of the highlights of our Oregon road trip.

The Pacific Northwest is definitely one of our favorite places in all the world. Here are a few more PNW spots that we love:

Have you driven the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway in Oregon? What are your favorite spots? I’d love read about them in the comments.

I’m linking this post up with #Weekendwanderlust and Weekend Travel Inspiration. Please pop over for a visit.

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Explore the Oregon Coast on Highway 101, an amazing drive!

56 Comments

  1. Bookmarking it! Might need it this year 😉
    Danielle Lindblom recently posted…The Adventure Dog Gal – 4 Months of Learning & EvolvingMy Profile

  2. Yup, I’m a long time Oregon resident and our coastline is simply gorgeous! I love going to the coast. Did you get to drive south of Florence? I think the southern Oregon coast is the most beautiful drive.

    • Linda,
      We drove all the way to California, but for some reason we didn’t stop as much during the southern portion. Just means will have to go back!!

  3. Like you, I’m an east coast girl at heart (though I grew up and live in the Chicago area…go figure)…but wow, the Oregon coast looks gorgeous! That’s one part of the U.S. I haven’t been to yet.

  4. we did an Oregon coast drive many years ago. At the end of June it was pretty gray and nippy, so we did less beach exploring than we hoped. we should probably give it another try — i think it’s great for families.
    eileen g recently posted…YD Guest Ranch (Ashcroft)My Profile

  5. Beautiful photos!!

  6. Oh, you know how I love a road trip! Stunning photos…I love Oregon!
    Corinne recently posted…Expanding the Cherry ListMy Profile

  7. After driving all around the United States for 16 months, I fondly remember the Oregon coast as among my favorite places. I would love to return for more road trip exploring.

  8. I haven’t been to the Oregon Coast yet but I understand why your liked it so much. I have been to many parts of Northern, Central and Southern California and I never get tired of the scenery. There are so many places to discover. Hope I can visit Oregon and Washington soon.
    Ruth recently posted…Visiting Saguaro National Park {& a Giveaway}My Profile

  9. Love the Pacific coast! Just gorgeous! Great photos that would have us pack and go!

  10. We have a trip planned for June of next year to drive the Oregon coast with friends. And I have done the northern portion – we visited Fort Clatsop in an incredible rain storm which we were told was how it was for them. Can’t wait to see the rest of the coast. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I would love to visit the Oregon Dunes! How fun! And, drive the highway as an adult. We did it on a family trip back in the day.

  12. Natalia

    Very interesting article and great photos! It’s on our bucket list now!

  13. Oregon is one of my favorite places. I’m so glad you shared this. I long to come back one day and drive all over the place!

  14. Gorgeous! All those places sound amazing too. I love to be anywhere near the water. Great tips too.

    I couldn’t find your Twitter username. Would love to follow you with our travel blog.

  15. Really cool post! I’d love to do the Pacific Northwest for my honeymoon, so this post had some cool tips 🙂

  16. Love the comments about sand from the dunes. I grew up near Lake Michigan sand dunes and always had to vacuum my car out. These look different than what I’m used to and certainly on the bucket list!
    Tonya recently posted…Confessions: Lunch at Be Our Guest was a Little DisappointingMy Profile

  17. I love the Oregon Coast! One of my favorite places on the planet. So fun to see it through your eyes. Great photos! Sharing on.

  18. This sounds like the perfect list of ideas for a great Oregon coast road trip. Since I’m based in Portland, I’ve been trying to do little jaunts to all of the little towns and parks around the coast one at a time. This post just gave me a few more ideas, so thank you for that. I just got back from Lincoln City and Pacific City for a nice little two-day retreat from the city – the Oregon coast is a beauty! 🙂

  19. I have never been to the Lewis and Clark National Park, and I have traveled the Coast so many times. =) I can’t wait to explore it more. I grew up in Southern California, but my family lives in Portland, Oregon, so I have been spending more time road tripping up North, and there is so much to see. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Love your blog!

    • The park was really interesting, not just for our kids either. I was so impressed with the staff, the construction of the fort, and the exhibits. You should really check it out.
      Tara recently posted…Oregon Coast Highway 101My Profile

  20. Love the Oregon coastline! I am a Sausalito CA girl and it’s a very similar landscape. We just moved to Charleston SC though and I am loving the totally different beaches here too!
    Melissa recently posted…Bold Lips | Day To Night Makeup Tutorial |My Profile

  21. What a drive! I seriously need to make road trips more of a priority!

  22. I swear my heart is over in Oregon somewhere. I’ve never been yet, but I always swoon over the photos.

  23. Gorgeous… simply gorgeous! I am on the east coast but if I ever have a chance to go out west – I am going to the Oregon coast…. I love how you captured the water with the mountains and rocks, so lovely! Such beauty!
    Clare Speer recently posted…Finding Joy – Part IMy Profile

  24. Driving down the Oregon coast was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken. It was literally breathtaking! Loved the post 🙂

    kristinacamille.com

  25. My husband and I will probably be living in Oregon during the month of April so I’ll have to see if we can check this out.
    Cassandra recently posted…lincoln park zoo | chicagoMy Profile

  26. AWESOME!! I live in Lebanon Oregon so these are all pretty close, I love this beautiful state so much!!

  27. Absolutely gorgeous! I have driven the PCH in California but now I need to take all the way. I have always wanted to visit Oregon these pictures have only made me want to go even more:)

  28. I’ve done Hwy 101 in California so many times. Now I’m inspired to take it all the way up to Oregon!
    Kari recently posted…Potato SoupMy Profile

  29. I love to travel and I have plans to visit the whole US .I’ve never been here but your pictures are absolutely gorgeous and I’ll definitely put this on my to do list. Thanks for this post 🙂

  30. Ah! Those Dunes look amazing. I have not been to Oregon but I do hope to visit when I move back to the states. I have fond memories of the Dunes in the Outer Banks : )

  31. Didn’t know about Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area .. Looks pretty cool and reminds me of Great Sand Dunes NP http://nationalparksimages.org/grsa/
    Will definitely stop by a few of these next time I am driving up there.
    Thanks for sharing.

  32. Stunning photos. I need to explore more of the Pacific Coast – that area of the country is gorgeous!

  33. Wonderful and informative post! Love the Oregon coast and the scenic drive. Canon Beach will always be one of my faves. I went dune buggy-ing too years ago when I was a kid, but I can only imagine what it’s like there now!
    Portia @ Migrant Muse recently posted…Portland is Weird, Here’s WhyMy Profile

  34. I grew up in Washington and had family in Oregon, so we’ve been to many of the places you mention. It’s beautiful and rugged coastline, and everyone should experience it!

    • I agree, Tami. We were heading south from Washington to California and couldn’t decide which route to take. When we asked to locals, they all suggested route 5, saving the coastal route took too long. So glad we didn’t listen.
      Tara recently posted…Oregon Coast Highway 101My Profile

  35. Ah I love the Oregon coast! I just moved back to the midwest after almost 15 years in the PNW. Your photos are making me miss it even more! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  36. Tiffany

    Hi there 🙂 – came from Up Up and a Bear after reading the article about Vermont. I’m actually on the West Coast and have done a lot of Oregon before and you’ve hit all the perfect spots. One of my favorites is Seaside. It’s such a quaint town with small shops here and there. Great write-up.

    • Thanks for stopping over, Tiffany. We drove right past Seaside because there was so much traffic when we were driving through. I guess we’ll have to give it another go. I’m really missing the east coast. February is not my favorite month in Vermont.

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