How To Have An Epic Oregon Coast Road Trip

 

The Oregon Coast is the perfect destination to explore with or without an itinerary any time of year. You’re guaranteed to make memories wherever you stop. The actual drive is breathtaking! No matter how long you have to dedicate to your trip you’ll leave planning your next visit. There are so many things to see and do that you couldn’t cover it all in just one trip.

 

Our Oregon Coast story

We camped up the Oregon coast in June 2021. It was our first big camping trip together sleeping in a tent, AND with our kids. Yup, we hadn’t slept in a tent together before then. It felt like a risky endeavor, especially with kids. To prepare, we took a short camp trip down to Southern Utah a couple of weeks prior to see if we could handle a longer trip further from home. That trip was a success.

On our first trip down the Pacific coast in 2009, pre-kids, we slept in a KOA cabin. My husband’s grandparents lived in Southern Oregon and they were always happy to host us on our other trips. This was our first trip since they passed away. Whether you’re traveling with friends, or family, with or without kids, the Oregon coast has something for you any time of year.

For this trip, without the convenience and blessing of grandparents to take care of us, we branched out. Our main goals are fresh air, a change of scenery, camp, and to get off the grid a little bit. And, it worked out so well we’re doing it again this year!

Want to know how we made the most of our time on our seaside getaway with our two kids? Read on!

3 days and 3 nights exploring the Oregon Coast

Day 1: Crescent City, California to Coos Bay, Oregon

133 miles | 2 hours 36 minutes
Camp: Sunset Bay state park campground

One photo of the open trunk of a car packed with duffle bags and food coolers. The other, a father with his two young daughters on the beach smiling as the  sunsets behind them.

Starting in Crescent City, California heading north, hop over the state line into Oregon. Working our way up the coast toward Coos Bay, Oregon to set up camp for the night there are plenty of scenic spots to take advantage of! Brookings, Oregon is the first stop on this trip for tide pools and fish and chips – getting right to the important stuff!

First, a gem off the beaten path is Chetco Point Park. Surprisingly, there isn’t much when you google this place. Park at the wastewater treatment plant and walk down the paved path that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere but does indeed lead to a spectacular scenic picnic area. We took the trail down to the beach and spent an hour exploring driftwood and tidal pools, watching sea anemones and crabs.

After working up an appetite The Hungry Clam was just the ticket. The restaurant was busy but there was plenty of parking, and a nice, clean bathroom. We ordered fish and chips to-go and headed to Azalea Park to eat.

There are a couple of options for how to get to Sunset Bay. We prefer the one that isn’t Seven Devils Road. Eventually, we arrived and thought we’d hit the jackpot. This campsite is by a gorgeous sandy bay where the sunsets gather a crowd.

The campsite is large, well organized, shady, and has a Jurassic Park feel with the insanely ginormous leaves, bushes, and growth.


Day 2: Coos Bay, Oregon to Tillamook, Oregon

167 miles | 3 hours 43 minutes
Camp: Cape Lookout state park campground

Three photos of a family enjoying the beach, smiling together, and exploring rock pools.

 

Less than an hour north of Sunset Bay, Coos, Oregon is Umpqua Lighthouse state park and then another little stretch up the coast is Heceta Head Lighthouse overlooking Devil’s Elbow state park. This beach has more incredible tidal pools, a lighthouse, and the most insanely picturesque Cape Creek Bridge. It might take a little while to get a parking spot. You won’t regret it though. There is top-notch exploring to be had here.

 

 

Depoe Bay is 1 hour south of Tillamook and another good fish and chip stop. Gracie’s Sea Hag was so delicious their clam chowder has been mentioned in our house every couple of weeks since we ate there last year. Depoe Bay reminds me a lot of the beaches we would camp by back home during the summer holidays. Above all, very touristy, very well kept, and has everything you need to make a memory. I have an actual snapshot in my mind of my family on this day filed under “The Happiest We’ve Ever Been.” Not even kidding.

 

The campsite at Cape Lookout doesn’t have an ocean view, however, we did fall asleep to the sound of the waves. A short walk takes you right to the beach – this is the closest we camped to the actual beach on this trip. The site we ended up in was shared with another family, which was fun. Campers have proven to be kind, happy people!

Another night, another campfire, and another spectacular sunset.


Day 3: Tillamook, Oregon to Cannon Beach, Oregon

40 miles | 56 minutes
Camp: Wright’s For Camping campsite

For the love of cheese

 

You can’t come to Tillamook and not visit the Creamery, can you? We can’t. Firstly, we’re here for the cheese. Secondly, the ice cream, the gift shop, the tour, the branding, all of it! However, the huge crowd, the noise, the really long wait for the food, followed by the long walk back to the car, I hate to admit, did put a slight dampener on the visit but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do!

Manhattan Beach

With a little time to kill before our campsite would be ready, we made a random stop and thought we’d ended up in the Caribbean for a second. Manhattan Beach is the definition of “tucked away.” Access the secluded, sandy beach via a couple of minutes walk down a narrow, secret passage of tall, thorny berry bushes. Stepping out to the white sandy beach at the end of the short, Hansel and Gretel-worthy trek left me gobsmacked.

Also, top points for the fantastically clean state recreation bathroom.

Cannon Beach

 

Onward to our last camp spot for the trip; family-owned and run, Wright’s For Camping! (Read their story. You’ll love it.)

At this point, we were pretty tired of setting up the tent and packing it away every morning but when we pulled into our campsite we really felt like packing up in the morning from this place was leaving on the highest of notes possible. And, we were right – and also full of regret not to be staying longer. This campsite is tightly nestled among gigantic trees – it is close to a busy road but the noise didn’t bother us. Sites are shared and well kept; there’s a community feel about the place. Bathrooms are clean and there were lawn games set up to play.

Iconic Haystack Rock is a 10-minute walk from this campsite. Again, top-notch sunset. Well done, Oregon.


And home again…

889 miles | 13 hours 22 minutes

We somehow managed to catch blue skies and sunshine every day of this trip. We got home to Utah with our camera rolls full of pictures we could hardly wait to print. This trip was therapeutic beyond what we could have imagined. On our next trip to the coast, we’ll set up camp for more than one night at a time. We have a good idea of our next itinerary already…

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