Boasting a rugged coastline with stunning rock formations and greenery, the Oregon Coast is one of the most picturesque parts of the country. While temperatures might be cooler in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), these beach towns are some of the best and coziest in the USA, ideal to both live and visit.
There are sandy beaches in Oregon that are similar to California’s, but a lot of the shoreline is also rocky and backed by impressive forestry. Doing hiking and water sports is accessible in this region thanks to the range of environments jam-packed into one coast.
The PNW can have hot days, especially by the ocean, so always bring layers and windbreakers to wear when spending time on the beaches. It would be hard to turn down a chance to live in one of these coastal communities, especially with many schools, medical facilities, and retail stores.
Reaching the top beach towns in Oregon is quickly done from bigger cities like Portland and Eugene, which are just 60-90 minutes by car from the coast. Day trips from these places are entirely possible and offer a scenic drive, but many opt to spend a night or two soaking in these towns’ salty air and relaxed atmospheres.
In no particular order, here are the Beaver State’s finest beach towns.
Manzanita is about 15 miles south of the world-famous Cannon Beach and is a coastal playground for visitors of all types. The downtown area boasts quaint stores and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or soak in the forests that hug the shore.
For about 12,000 years, the Tillamook tribe inhabited this area and lived off the coast. These days, roughly 603 people permanently live in this beach town, according to the 2020 census.
Thousands of tourists flock to Manzanita each year to unwind and enjoy some time by the ocean without a busy itinerary. Head up to Neahkahnie Mountain for 360-degree vistas of the coastline, or hit the greens at Manzanita Golf Course for some inland outdoor recreation.
The ocean rarely gets warmer than 60℉ at Manzanita Beach, so a wet suit is recommended for swimming, boarding, surfing, or any activity that requires significant time in the water. Visitors that want to explore the tide pools might want to bring a pair of water shoes to protect their feet and reduce the chances of slipping.
Other beach-goers who prefer staying dry can bring a book to read in the sea breeze or a bike to explore the town on two wheels.
Northwest Oregon’s charming resort town of Seaside boasts a vintage vibe throughout all of its shops, signs, restaurants, and beaches. The 1.5-mile promenade along the sand was constructed in the 1920s and is marked with a monument for being the end of the Lewis and Clark trail.
Based on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Seaside was incorporated as a town in 1899 and now has about 7,115 permanent residents (2020 census). The long and vast stretches of sand are easy to walk and surrounded by forested hills, providing the best of both worlds when it comes to the sea and woods.
Just south of Seaside are Ecola State Park and Indian Beach, two areas that showcase Oregon’s finest scenery and incredible views from its trails through trees and sand. Browse all the stores and side streets in the downtown area by renting a bicycle or pedal car with the sea air in your face.
Seaside’s beach is the staple of town, and even on crowded days, it has a calm atmosphere and is family-centric. By the ocean, there are public restrooms and showers for people to clean up and many establishments along the oceanfront.
Founded in 1937, the promenade’s aquarium is one of the country’s oldest. It features a family of resident seals that like doing tricks in exchange for fish from guests.
Oregon’s oldest city, Astoria, is located on the Columbia River, where the waters merge with the Pacific Ocean. With a population of roughly 10,181 (2020 census), this small historic American town boasts incredible scenery and deep maritime roots.
Many people know Astoria for its filming location in The Goonies (1985), but the rough waters of the Columbia have made it even more famous for being a shipwreck magnet. A lot of the area’s history on the water can be discovered at the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which showcases extensive artifacts from many of the 2,000+ vessels lost in the mouth of the river.
The over 4-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge is one of the town’s landmarks, and it stretches across the Columbia into Washington State as North America’s longest continuous truss bridge. Also, just six miles away is Fort Clatsop, a nice walking park and the last encampment of Lewis and Clark in 1806 before they went back home to Missouri.
Even though Astoria doesn’t have direct beach access, there are still plenty of places to get some time on the sand. Most people travel just a few miles south to Seaside or Sunset Beach Recreation Site to reach the shore or even explore the many beach access points down the coast.
Delaura Beach, Strawberry Knoll, Sand Dollar Ridge, and Del Rey Beach State Recreational Area are just minutes away from downtown by car.
Beautiful Cannon Beach is a village on the Pacific Ocean, which is most famous for its iconic Haystack Rock. It’s a 235-foot sea stack that ranks as the world’s third-tallest structure in an intertidal zone. The beach town is relatively upscale, boasting stunning neighborhoods, beachfront vacation homes, and a sea-themed commercial area.
It’s not hard to see why Cannon Beach is one of the most recognized towns on the Oregon Coast, and it hosts over 750,000 tourists each year. With a population of just 1,489 (2020 census), the city is quiet and great for soaking in quality time with others.
Being in such close proximity to neighboring towns Seaside and Astoria, many visitors stay in one of the three towns and can quickly “beach hop” over their vacation. Residents of these towns have many modern amenities on the shore, but they can easily venture to the big city of Portland, which is only about an hour and a half away by car.
Over four miles of sandy shores are in Cannon Beach proper, but many surrounding areas have nooks by the ocean to explore. Ecola State Park is just to the north of town, and heading south are beach access points by Arch Cape, Arcadia Beach, and Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site.
Just north of Arch Cape, Hug Point has gorgeous waterfalls cascading onto the shore and many fantastic areas to watch the waves roll in and out.
Located south of Tillamook, Pacific City is a beach town that offers numerous outdoor recreation activities practically served up on a silver platter. From the several deep-forested hiking trails to rivers for fishing and kayaking, Mother Nature runs the show in this community.
The town’s miles of pristine sandy beaches attract both out-of-town visitors and Oregon natives for sunbathing and surfing. Pacific City’s century-old Dory fishing fleet is the only of its kind in the continental USA, and watching the boats zip on shore is another form of entertainment.
According to the 2020 census, there are only 1,109 residents living in the city full-time, but tourism brings in many annual visitors. One of the featured attractions in town is the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area which lies on the Three Capes Scenic Route and has many trails to hike with coastal vistas.
After a day soaking in time at the ocean, many visitors retreat to numerous vacation homes right by the water. Some of the most popular activities on the shore include hiking the massive sand dunes, exploring tide pools, and even horseback riding on the beach.
Located in the central part of the Oregon Coast, Lincoln City is a beach town with a population of about 9,815 (2020 census). With seven miles of sandy beaches, ocean lovers can get their fix on these sands with minimal effort.
Lincoln City got its name after the late former president Abraham Lincoln and was chosen by school kids in a voting contest. Incorporated in 1965, the coastal city is now popular with tourists and is an excellent place to live in retirement.
While beachcombing isn’t welcome at every coastline, the city invites guests to discover hidden treasures on the sand, including hand-blown glass floats hidden by locals. Lodging by the water is trendy in most places, and Lincoln City is no different, as it has many inns and vacation rentals with ocean views.
Along the several miles of beaches are numerous tides pools that showcase a peek into the marine life. As impressive as they look, don’t disturb the creatures you discover.
With the highest average temperature all year being 69℉, visitors often opt to sunset watch, whale watch, make a bonfire, or go crabbing instead of swimming, but people do a little of everything on this coast.
The town of Newport is the epitome of a coastal village, featuring a bustling marina, two lighthouses, and plenty of historic buildings to explore. This is the perfect sea town to plan a trip to when desperately in need of unplugging and refreshing the mind from hectic schedules and itineraries.
During the early 20th century, the Nye Beach district in Newport was one of the hotspots for tourism on the Oregon Coast. These days the town has about 10,256 people living in it who work hard to keep the arts and culture of the region alive.
Fresh seafood, pizza, breweries, and other eateries line the streets offering guests and locals plenty of options for dining out and having a break from cooking. Golfers who want to try their hand at hitting a few rounds along the coast should check out the Agate Beach Golf Course, which has been up and running since 1960.
Newport faces both Yaquina Bay and the Pacific Ocean, so there are waterfront accommodations on both shores. Nye Beach and the Ocean Shore State Recreation Area are the most popular beaches, which are great spaces for flying a kite or simply wiggling toes in the sand.
Located about 60 miles west of Eugene, the beach town of Florence is a go-to destination for some time by the water. Not only are there numerous beaches to enjoy, but the area’s unique Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers a whole new set of recreational activities like sledding, riding dune buggies, or even sandboarding.
Florence’s documented history goes back to being initially occupied by the Siuslaw Indians and then getting officially incorporated in 1893. Today, the town has about 9,396 long-term residents (2020 census), which has been slowly increasing over the years. Many families and retirees are located in the area and enjoy being a part of the active community.
This lively coastal town has several beaches to explore. Some of the most popular ones are Bob Creek Wayside, Carl G. Washburne State Park, Heceta Beach, and South Jetty Beach Day Use. Some coastlines are sandy and ideal for water sports or sunbathing, while others have rockier shores that are better for beachcombing, whale watching, and picnicking with a view.
Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast, with a population of 15,985 (2020 census), and a prime place to vacation or live for families and people of all ages. The town has many educational, medical, business, and retail amenities that much of the nearby southwestern coast like to take advantage of.
The Native American tribes Coos, Coquille, Siuslaw, and Lower Umpqua, resided in Coos Bay for an extended period before European ships landed on shore. In 1853 the town’s first permanent settlement got established, and homes, roads, and stores began to develop.
More of the area’s background can be discovered at the History Museum & Maritime Collection on Front Street or the two-story Coos Art Museum with rotating exhibits. Enjoy the region’s legendary scenery with a drive on the Cape Argo Highway or stroll through Shore Acres State Park.
The best beaches near Coos Bay are slightly southwest of the city. Sunset Beach, Bastendorff Beach, Coquille Point, Whiskey Run, and Devil’s Kitchen are the most popular for recreation and photography. Bullards Beach State Park even features a lighthouse and is another excellent option for people with dogs and kids.
Rockaway Beach is known as “the ocean’s edge” and is a casual beach town with expansive sandy and forest areas. Downtown there are lots of local shops to browse, cuisines to sample, and nearby attractions like the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Named after Rockaway Beach in New York, this west coast community started as an oceanside resort in 1909. By 1912 there was direct train transportation to the town from Portland, making it easier for tourists to discover.
Nowadays, around 1,441 people (2020 census) call the town home, and plenty of others come to enjoy the vacation rentals, motels, and campgrounds for tents and RVs. The Cedar Old Growth Nature Preserve is an excellent place to take a quick walk around a wooded area.
There are seven miles of sandy beaches in Rockaway Beach. With so much access to the shore, the top-rated activities for this area are beachcombing, kite flying, looking in tide pools, whale watching, fishing, and clamming. Swimming in this part of the ocean is usually unsafe and challenging with dramatic weather changes and currents.
When you’re ready to head west and be enchanted by the Oregon Coast, these towns are sure to satisfy you. There is something everyone can enjoy between the sweeping ocean landscapes, lush forests, and rich history.
If you’re looking to camp while spending time near the shore, check out our list of Oregon campgrounds.