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Best Beaches to Visit on the Northern Oregon Coast
One of our favorite things to do in Oregon is visit the Coast. It’s one of my wonders of the world… it’s the combination of beach and rocky coast and trees and cliffs. It’s so beautiful. If you’ve never been you must add it to your travel bucket list.
In this post, I’m outlining our favorite places on the Northern Oregon Coast for you. These places are all within a 90 minute drive of downtown Portland. They make great day trips or weekend trips. They are also all great places for renting beach houses.
For each location I’ll share some photos for you, our favorite beach to visit in each town, and the pros/cons of that beach. Mostly it’s all pros 😉 But it is good to have some tips about the best beaches with bathroom access, or where to go if you want to avoid really windy spots, etc. I’ll try to lay all that out for you!
I’ll start with the Northern-most beach and head south. The beaches I’ll be covering are: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Hug Point, Rockaway Beach, Manzanita/Neahkahnie Beach, and Oceanside/Cape Meares (this last spot is also just near Tillamook Creamery, which I’ll cover too).
Seaside is the Northern-most beach I’ll cover today. It has wide open flat beaches, but fewer rocky cliffs. It is the biggest of the beach towns I’m covering, and has a much larger feel than other towns (think hotels on the beach, carnival boardwalk, etc.) I have to say, just related to the town itself, it’s not my favorite actual beach town, even though I love the beach itself. The beach itself is wide open and beautiful. The town is less small beach town and more of a larger, touristy beach town. If you have a large group and need activities for a group to do (mini golf, arcades, factory outlet shopping, golf course, aquarium, etc.), then Seaside is a great place to come.
Seaside is also a great place to come for a few activities like the arcades, shopping, go-karts, golf, etc. if you’re staying in a little beach town for the week and need some activities.
To get to my favorite area of Seaside, I like to go a little north of the city past the busy area, and to a beach that is a little quieter.
If you want to visit this quieter beach in Seaside too, here’s how to get there: Take the Oregon Coast Highway through Seaside (heading North) and turn left on 12th Avenue. At the end of the road is a public parking lot with a bathroom. It’s a great way to get to a quieter spot of the beach and still have access to a bathroom. Here is the Google Maps link to the parking lot.
Cannon Beach is hands down my favorite small town of the Best Beaches to Visit on the Northern Oregon Coast. If you can only go to one small beach town during your stay, you have to make a trip to Cannon Beach.
It’s quaint and charming, it has a wonderful downtown area with candy shops, local restaurants, toy shops, and more.
And the beach itself? Definitely my favorite. It’s a combination of wide open beach with beautiful haystack rock out in the ocean to the left, and then to the right evergreen covered hills and cliffs. There is a huge variety of lodging options (resorts, rental condos, airbnb homes, etc.) without giving up that tiny town feel.
I love this little town.
If you’re coming just to visit the beach, here are some of our favorite spots:
- Public Beach Parking and Access – Park here and then walk down 2nd street to the beach – it’s good to get to this lot early because it can get crowded in the afternoon. The plus side of this parking lot location is a bathroom on site.
- If you have small children, there is a tributary / creek that runs through the north side of the beach. We’ve found it’s a great place to play with small children so they can play in very shallow water without being in the ocean. See the photo of it below:
- Side Street Access to the Beach – Here is the general area – along Ocean Avenue between Monroe St. and Jackson St. This is a little less crowded, but you’ll need to find street parking on one of these side streets, and if needed you’ll have to use the bathroom in a restaurant or local store because this part of the beach doesn’t have one.
- This is also a great area for photos! Lots of pretty field brush just before the sand – see the photos below for reference.
My girlfriends from college and I did a girls’ weekend to Cannon Beach a couple years ago – it was restful and relaxing. We rented a beach house and had a wonderful time.
If there is any major con to a day trip to Cannon Beach, it’s the distance from the public bathrooms to the beach access point. This could especially be hard with little kids. When we do it, we park right by the bathrooms, use them when we get there, maybe make one bathroom run during the day, and then use them again before we drive home. (Hug Point is a great location near Cannon if you’d like a bathroom right at the beach parking lot. See below.)
Hug point is one of my all-time favorites of the Best Beaches to Visit on the Northern Oregon Coast – it’s great if you want tons of varied, beautiful geography – cliffs, a small waterfall, caves, and of course a lovely beach. One thing I love about Hug Point is an area you can set up for the day in a little cove that shields you from the wind. The Oregon Coast can be much windier than most beaches in warm places (make sure you bring a hoodie!).
Here a pin to the parking lot at Hug Point (make sure to get there early, or it gets filled up – and if it is full, try waiting for a spot – many people come to do short hikes so cars will come and go). If not, you can park on the upper road.
And here is a pin to the spot in the cove we like to set up in. If you climb up the rocks on the side of the small waterfall, you can also hike up into the trees and get a wonderful view from the cliff. This photo below is on top of the waterfall.
Hug Point is magical! If you stay in Cannon Beach or near it, or even in Manzanita, Hug Point is a great excursion. It’s also a great day trip destination! One of our favorites.
A great day trip from Portland to the Oregon Coast includes an early stop at Tillamook Creamery and then heading to the beach. Tillamook is one of our alltime favorite places to visit as a family.
It’s a free tour of the factory (along with free cheese samples, a fun view of the factory floor, a video, and an interactive display). They also have an amazing ice cream scoop bar and a cafe.
If you want to visit Tillamook, Manzanita and Oceanside are great beaches to finish out your day – they are both just about 25 minutes from the Creamery. See more about those beaches below.
Manzanita & Neahkahanie Beach
Manzanta is another charming beach town, similar to Cannon Beach, but smaller and more off the beaten path. This is a great place for a vacation beach rental if you want to get away from crowds. We love Manzanita!
Right off the main street of the town, there is beach access here, which is great if you want to walk down from a restaurant here.
If you want a beach that’s a little less crowded, just head north of Manzanita 1 mile to Neakahanie Beach. It’s a beautiful beach nestled in a little cove – it’s a hidden gem. It is a wide sandy beach nestled in a cove. It is pretty windy though, so bring a sweatshirt!
Here is a link to a spot where you can park by the side of the road and access the beach.
Oceanside & Cape Meares
Oceanside is a less traveled beach that is usually pretty empty when we’ve been – it has huge rocky cliffs surrounding it – and even a cool cave tunnel you can walk through to a secret cove (Tunnel Beach, below).
It’s also a great place to rent a beach house for a little less than the other more well-known towns. We went with friends and all our kids a couple years ago and got a great large house for less than smaller homes in Cannon Beach. It’s also really close to Tillamook and Cape Meares, so a great place for a weekend trip.
Here a link to the best place to park to access the Oceanside beach. There is also a little town area with a couple restaurants.
Cape Meares has a lighthouse and a beautiful and easy hike with kids to a gorgeous lookout. Here is a link to the parking lot. It also has the infamous Octopus tree! Look at the view from this Cape Meares hike! (below)
I hope this guide to the Best Beaches to Visit on the Northern Oregon Coast helps you plan your vacation or day trip. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have, if I can. Hope you love the Coast as much as we do! Tag me on Instagram @plumstreetcollective if you get to visit any of these spots.
Lincoln City & Olivia Beach
Lincoln City is a bit further south of the Tillamook/Oceanside area. The beach is beautiful but I have to say this is one of the downtown areas I like the least on the coast. It is a bit rundown in the town, but just past the town there is an amazing little neighborhood community called Olivia Beach. It’s all newer homes, Americana style – very colorful and classic – and it has wonderful amenities. In addition to a private beach access stairway, the community has a park/playground, a pool, and a sand volleyball court. It is so pleasant in this community. Our kids loved it.
One of the perks of this area is the beaches are less crowded than areas like Seaside or Cannon Beach – it’s just a smaller town. We’d definitely recommend staying in Olivia Beach if you’re looking for a great family friendly community on the coast. Here is a link to the home we rented (photo below). We loved the hot tub, rec room with air hockey and foosball, and the kids bunk room. But honestly any in this neighborhood would be great!
The beach itself is really pretty here too. Not as rocky as some of the places further north but really open, lots of tide pools, pretty cliffs. My kids loved having the beach to themselves. We built sand castles, played baseball, climbed rocks… overall it was a wonderful beach for our getaway.
No matter where you go on the Oregon Coast, the beach is always beautiful and re-energizing. Remember to take some warm coats (even in the summer it can be windy), and plan to play at the beach more than swim or be in the water (though in the summer you can definitely go in on a hot day).
I hope these tips help you for your Oregon Coast trip planning! I’m happy to answer any questions you have – just leave a comment below and I’ll respond.
Hope you love the Oregon Coast as much as we do. It’s my happy place.
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