All 363 miles of the Oregon Coast are public lands. This includes 79 different state parks, each offering their own set of attractions and amenities such as campsites, hiking trails, beach access, and visitor centers. Among the working and historic lighthouses scattered up and down the coast, 7 are open to the public. Oregon Coast towns offer unique shops, tasty seafood restaurants, and lodging of all kinds, drawing visitors from around the region and the world.
You'll find a lot to enjoy on any visit to the Oregon Coast. Here are some tips to help make your trip that much more pleasant.
Bring Your Patience and Flexibility
Highway 101, the main route up and down the Oregon Coast, is, for the most part, a 2-lane road that can be narrow and winding. Don't plan on driving the full speed limit most of the time. Which turns out to be fine, because taking in the scenery and stopping on a whim is an essential part of the Oregon Coast experience. Along some stretches of the coast, you might drive for miles without stopping. Along other stretches, you'll find yourself stopping every mile or less to take in a view, check out a gallery, or enjoy a cup of chowder.
Pick up a Mile-by-Mile Guide
The Oregon Coast is a great place for exploring, for taking your time and making frequent stops. As you drive along Highway 101, there is so much to see and do that it can be very difficult to keep up with all the options. Fortunately, Oregon Coast magazine publishes an annual Mile-by-Mile Guide. And the guide does just that, listing the parks, viewpoints, and attractions that you'll find along each mile of Highway 101. They are available at visitor information centers and many other locations up and down the coast. You can also order one in advance through the Oregon Coast Visitor's Association website. You'll want one of these in hand as you take your road trip along the Oregon Coast.
Check the Tide Table
You need to know whether the tides are high or low, coming in or coming out, at every stop along an Oregon Coast beach. Not only is it essential knowledge for safety, but it will also make a difference in the nature of your particular beach experience. You can print out a copy of the appropriate tide table on the web; be sure to keep it with you.
Bring Appropriate Clothes and Footwear
The Oregon Coast is rugged, wet, and windy. Flip flops and tank tops are not recommended attire. As is appropriate throughout the Northwest, dressing in layers is your best bet.
- Hoodies - A hooded jacket or sweatshirt will keep you warm and cozy. Even in the height of summer, the Oregon Coast can have a chilly wind. A hat will not do the job - it doesn't cover your ears and the wind will probably blow it off anyway. A hoody is just the thing to keep your ears - and the rest of you - all toasty.
- Boots or sturdy shoes - The Oregon Coast terrain includes expanses of lumpy rock. Trails down to the beach or up to a lighthouse can be steep. Sturdy, supportive shoes with a good tread will help you get around and avoid injury. If you plan to walk the beaches and explore the tide pools, something waterproof is a good idea. It's typical to find a shallow stream or rivulet crossing the beach, right in the path of where you want to go. The ability to keep on going through those wet spots allows you to explore a lot more of the Oregon Coast's interesting features.
- Change of socks, shoes, and clothes - After you explore the rock formations, sandy beaches, and tide pools along the Oregon Coast, chances are you'll find yourself a bit wet and grimy when you return to your vehicle. There's nothing like a pair of clean, dry socks and shoes to give you a boost of energy and comfort.
- Plastic bags - Keep a few plastic bags of various sizes stashed in your car during the trip. They're great for storing your wet and sandy shoes and clothing when you leave the beach and head into town. The bags are also handy for storing all the little treasures you might find on the beach.
Other Recommended Gear
While this list doesn't cover everything, here are some things that you'll definitely miss if you don't have them along.
- Lip balm
- Camera with batteries and charger
- Water-resistant coat