In the Oregon area with a day or two to spare for a road trip? I’ve got an idea for you–hit the Oregon Coast!
The Central Oregon Coast is a breathtaking stretch of coastline that offers a wealth of natural beauty and a variety of unique experiences for visitors. If you’re planning a road trip along the central Oregon coast, there are a few must-see stops that you won’t want to miss.
Here’s a guide to the perfect central Oregon coast road trip, featuring some of my favorite road trip stops including Historic Old Town Florence, the Sea Lion Caves, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Thor’s Well, Cape Perpetua, and more.
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Table of Contents
Central Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary Route
First, let’s take a birds-eye view of this Central Oregon Coast road trip itinerary so you know what you have in store for you at a high level. The stops that are featured on this road trip include:
- Old Town Florence
- Sea Lion Caves
- Heceta Head Lighthouse
- Thor’s Well
- Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
To do this road trip, you can start from either Florence or Newport. If you start from Newport, simply reverse the stops listed in this article.
When I did this road trip back in July, my starting point was Florence because of the fact that I was based in Eugene, OR. This meant to get this road trip started, we had to first drive 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Florence, OR.
If you are based in Salem, OR, the better starting point for your road trip would be Newport (1 hour 30 minute drive), meaning you could spend the night in Florence to end your road trip.
Because this is a full-day jammed with scenic overlooks, hikes, and charming towns, I recommend booking a hotel along the coast and staying the night before either (1) going back to your home base, or (2) continuing on your multi-day Oregon Coast road trip.
If you live in Central Oregon (somewhere like Salem, Eugene, etc), while it is possible to do this as a day trip, I don’t recommend it because it will feel rushed.
The Central Coast has so many charming towns, natural sights, and lush hikes that are best explored by taking your time!
Renting A Car In Oregon
If you are flying into Oregon for this, then renting a car is the best way to explore the Oregon Coast. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and to take as many stops as you or your travel buddies fancy.
We only ever do Oregon with a rental car precisely because there’s so much to see outside of the cities. And to get to these pristine explore-worthy destinations, you need to have yourself a set of four wheels.
We recommend using RentalCars.com to reserve your car. You’ll find an unbeatable selection and stellar prices that compete with other rental car comparison sites – check prices here!
ARE YOU ROAD TRIP READY? YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:
License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
Jumper Cables / Car Jump Starter | A must-have for any road trip! If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool was sent from heaven and serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one!
iOttie car mount | This is my partner in crime on any road trip. It’s got an amazing grip and popping your phone in and out of the mount could not be easier. If you’re renting a rental car and you’re not sure if it has a navigation screen, bring a phone mount with you. The iOttie attaches by suction, so it’s easy to transport from car to car.
Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This convenient little kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more.
The Perfect Central Oregon Coast Road Trip: Stops To Make
Historic Old Town Florence
Your road trip along the central Oregon coast should start in Historic Old Town Florence, a charming coastal town that is rich in history and culture. The town is home to a number of antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants, making it the perfect place to begin your journey.
You can start by grabbing a light breakfast and coffee at River Roasters, then stopping for a quick view of the Siuslaw River Bridge. From there, it’s time for a stroll through town!
As you explore the town, be sure to visit the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the town’s history and its pioneers.
You can also take a walk along the historic Old Town District, where you’ll find a number of historic buildings and homes that have been preserved and restored.
After exploring the town, take a short drive to the Sea Lion Caves, a must-see attraction on the central Oregon coast.
Sea Lion Caves
The Sea Lion Caves are a natural wonder that you won’t want to miss on your road trip. Located just a short drive north of Florence, the Sea Lion Caves are home to a large colony of sea lions, who can often be seen lounging on the rocks or swimming in the water below.
If you’re trying to catch a glimpse of sea lions without paying the admission fee, you can walk the path towards the Sea Lion Lookout, peer out along the bluff, and look down at the sleeping sea lions! While enjoying the view here, we were able to see a few whales breaching!
But for those who want to actually see the sea caves, you’ll have to pay the admission. While parking is free, tickets are $16.00 each per adult. You can get additional pricing info here.
To get to the caves, you’ll need to take a short elevator ride down to the cave’s entrance, where you can observe the sea lions from a safe distance. The caves are also home to a variety of other marine life, including seals, sea birds, and whales, so be sure to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking views.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
From the Sea Lion Caves, head north to Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most iconic landmarks on the central Oregon coast. The lighthouse is situated on a scenic bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and offers breathtaking views of the coastline.
Looking to get in a late-morning hike? After exploring the lighthouse, you can take a 2-mile hike down to Hobbit Beach, a secluded stretch of coastline that is perfect for a little picnic, via the Hobbit Beach Trail.
This magically green and gorgeous trail winds through a lush forest and offers a number of stunning vistas of the ocean. It was so beautiful the whole way to the beach!
All in all, this is 2-mile out-and-back trail, totaling a 4-mile hike.
From the lighthouse, continue north to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area where you’ll find Thor’s Well, a natural wonder that is not to be missed.
For those of you unfamiliar, Thor’s Well is a natural sinkhole that is located just off the coast and is known for its dramatic displays of seawater gushing into the hole during high tide.
To get the best view of Thor’s Well, you’ll need to time your visit for high tide, or during storms when water washes violently over the rocks and funnels into the hole. As the waves crash against the shore, you’ll be able to see the water being sucked into the well, creating a truly awe-inspiring sight.
Since our road trip took place in July and it happened to be particularly low tide when we arrived, there wasn’t much “well” activity going on at all.
Instead, it just so happened to be about 1pm, when a docent-led walking tour of the area was just about to start, so we did the tour instead. In asking the guide when Thor’s Well looks most like a water-sucking well, she said it looks most impressive in the winter season.
While we were a bit bummed we didn’t get to see Thor’s Well in action, we did really enjoy the tour. We learned a lot about Cape Perpetua and enjoyed the scenery of the park!
Cape Perpetua Lookout
One of the best trails in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is the Saint Perpetua Trail, a 2.7-mile trail that takes you through the forest and along the coastline, offering a number of stunning vistas along the way. It may be a leg burner, but at least you can say you have earned your views!
You can pick up this trail from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, where you likely parked your car when you arrived.
If you’re not up for a quick sweat, I have good news. You can actually enjoy these views by car!
From where you parked your car for Thor’s Well and the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, drive over to Cape Perpetua Lookout, a scenic vantage point that offers panoramic views of the central Oregon coast. It’ll be a slow 8-10 minute drive up some windy roads to get to the top.
The lookout is located on a high bluff, and from its vantage point, you’ll be able to see for miles in either direction.
The views here were awesome! And though we visited on a very clear day, I could imagine how visiting on a day with overcast skies would add to the beauty of this coastal area.
This was by far one of my favorite sights of our entire road trip.
At the lookout, you’ll also find a number of trails that wind through the surrounding forest, offering a chance to explore the area’s natural beauty. If you skipped the hike at the lighthouse area, now’s your chance to fit another one in!
Luna Sea Fish House in Yachats
With all that walking and exploring, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. For a meal that showcases the region’s cuisine best, we’re going to head to Yachats, a charming coastal town that is known for its stunning views and delicious seafood.
One of the best places to sample the local cuisine is at Luna Sea Fish House, a popular restaurant that specializes in fresh, locally-sourced seafood.
At Luna Sea Fish House, you’ll find a variety of delicious seafood dishes on the menu, including classic seafood chowder, Dungeness crab cakes, fish and chips, grilled salmon, and much more. The restaurant also offers a selection of locally-crafted beers and wines, making it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the coastal views.
For our meal, we ordered a bowl of clams, fish and chips, and a side of clam chowder. Delicious!
After a delicious meal at Luna Sea Fish House, walk to Toppers Ice Cream and Candy to round out your meal.
At this point in the day, depending on how much hiking and/or lollygagging you did during the day, it’ll likely be getting late.
Newport, OR is the perfect place to end your road trip along the central Oregon coast.
Located just about 30 minutes from Yachats, this coastal town is home to a number of art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a great spot to explore and have dinner before either driving home or staying the night.
One of the top attractions in Newport is the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is home to a variety of marine life, including sharks, octopuses, and sea otters. The aquarium also offers a number of interactive exhibits, including a touch tank where you can get up close and personal with some of the marine life.
After exploring the aquarium, be sure to visit the Newport Bayfront, a bustling waterfront area that is home to a number of seafood restaurants and shops. You can also take a stroll along the historic Nye Beach district, which is home to a number of charming bed and breakfasts, art galleries, and restaurants.
Another popular attraction in Newport is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which marks the northern end of Yaquina Bay. Lighthouse lovers, this stop is for you! This picturesque lighthouse stands 93 feet tall and has been guiding travelers since 1873.
Other notable landmarks include Agate Beach Wayside Park, Rogue Ales & Spirits Brewery, Hatfield Marine Science Center and more.
Where to eat in Newport:
- Mo’s Seafood & Chowder (classic PNW eatery!)
- Clearwater Restaurant (on the pricier side but delicious)
- Local Ocean Seafoods (more seafood)
Where To Stay In Newport, OR
Since you will be reaching your final road trip stop once you reach Newport, this would make for a good place to spend the night. In terms of hotels, these come highly recommended:
Hallmark Resort – Newport – offers all the oceanfront goodness you could ask for!
Inn at Nye Beach – less than a 5-minute walk to the beach, good complimentary breakfast.
If you’d rather drive back to your home base, you could also very well do that, but keep in mind you may need to cut out a stop or two from this itinerary as this is a pretty jam-packed itinerary that will take all day to do.
Having said that, I’d recommend staying somewhere along the coast so you can experience the magical sunrises on the Oregon coast followed by breakfast at a local diner/restaurant before driving back to your final destination!
Where To Stay In Florence or Eugene, OR
If you’re doing this road trip backward, then you’ll likely be ending this road trip somewhere near Florence. And if you’ve never been to Eugene, then why not extend your road trip to include Eugene? Here are some ideas on where to stay:
The Landmark Inn – All 12 rooms have a separate entrance, private full bathroom.
Need a home base in Eugene, OR for this road trip? Here are the two hotels I stayed at during my time in Eugene — I’d recommend either to you!
If you’re looking for boutique hotel vibes with a mix of Oregon Ducks decor, go with the Graduate Eugene.
However, if you’re looking for an excellent free breakfast that comes complimentary with your stay, I’d choose Hayward Inn!
They had huge rooms and a surprisingly delicious and hot breakfast that I was shocked to find in such a random hotel! Biscuits and gravy before a day hike? Yes please.
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