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Beach vacations don’t get much moodier than Oregon’s North Coast, where the state’s busiest stretch of Highway 101 strings together century-old resort towns like Seaside and Rockaway Beach, rugged fishing ports, and forested parks. The wild landscapes of the Northern Oregon Coast Range are the big draw around Cannon Beach, an oceanfront village known for its tide pools and views of Haystack Rock. You can walk up to the rusting remains of a shipwreck on the beaches near Astoria, an artsy city that’s appeared in famous films. It’s the type of place where storm watching ranks as a popular winter activity and resident fishers host an annual poetry festival.
Major airlines fly into Portland International Airport (PDX), where you’ll want to rent a car for the road trip. A scenic drive on Highway 26 takes you from Portland, the nearest urban center, to the popular coast towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. It’s about a 75-mile drive through state forest and farmland before Highway 26 merges with Highway 101, aka the Oregon Coast Highway and the main artery along the entire Oregon coast. At the very northern end of this region, you’ll find Astoria set inland on the Columbia River, which forms the natural border between Oregon and Washington.
Unless you visit at the peak season of July and August, don’t feel obligated to pack a swimsuit, as the ocean stays quite chilly and the climate drizzly. While the record highs in the dry summer months have reached the upper 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the average daily highs on the North Coast are in the upper 60s, though temperatures tend to rise as you head inland. The varying elevations of the Coast Range create numerous microclimates, meaning you’ll want to pack layers. Even in the warmest months, nighttime gets nippy.
Late spring and early fall offer mild weather with fewer crowds. September and October remain reasonably warm before temperatures begin to decline until the winter months, when temperatures remain in the 30s Fahrenheit. Precipitation along the coast is highest in the winter, when most towns experience average monthly rainfall of more than 10 inches. You’ll need dry boots, a raincoat, and warm layers if you plan a visit in the off season.
At the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, this beachfront state park overlooks one of the most dangerous maritime crossings in the world — known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. At low tide, you can walk right up to what’s left of a 1906 shipwreck, whose ghostly ribs rust right there on the beach. You can also hike six miles of trails and tour a Civil War-era earthen fort.
This 40-mile scenic drive spotlights some of the Oregon Coast’s most scenic places. The popular day-trip route takes you to a trio of state parks, all known for their narrow headlands jutting out into the ocean: Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout, and Cape Meares.
Reaching an elevation of 3,288 feet, Saddle Mountain stands among the tallest peaks of the Northern Oregon Coast Range. Access the summit trail within Saddle Mountain State Natural Area, where the diverse flora draws wildflower watchers in the spring. From the top, you can take in views of the Columbia River, the Pacific Ocean, and the snowcapped Cascade Mountains. Before setting out, check the Oregon State Parks website for potential seasonal closures.