Craving for the sounds of crashing ocean waves, bustling marine life and looking for a true hidden gem? Pack up for a trip to the Oregon Coast!

While sharing the same shore with Washington (in the north) and California (in the south), Oregon Coast is genuinely different. It’s much more impressive, lush and diverse than California’s coastline, yet less known and underrated, wild and rugged. We knew nothing about it until we moved to the West Coast. All we knew about Oregon was Portland :).

Hug Point State Park, Oregon

Keep in mind that Oregon Coast is pretty long: roughly 363 miles and full of natural wonders. We made three trips there in 3 years and still didn’t see all. There are so many beautiful and unique things to see and do that you’ll have to control yourself!

Our family favorites for a 2-days trip along Oregon Coast:

  • Tide pooling, watching sea lions, puffins and surfers;
  • Exploring sandy beaches, coves, caves, and cliffs;
  • Witnessing the most beautiful sunsets over the ocean;
  • Building a bonfire right at the beach at night;
  • Hiking through temperate rain forest;
  • Capturing the iconic views of the Pacific and the dramatic Oregon Coastline.

Bring your little ones, as Oregon Coast is very family-friendly!

Plenty of bunnies live full time at the grassy area near Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site parking

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Historic Coastal City of Astoria

Time to explore: from a brief visit to a full day.
Driving time: from Seattle: 3 hours; from Portland: 2 hours.

What we liked about this place. Driving across the beautiful Columbia River on the Astoria–Megler Bridge – the longest continuous truss bridge in North America – is breathtaking! The invisible border between Washington and Oregon states runs along the river.

Aerial view of Astoria and Astoria–Megler Bridge, longest continuous truss bridge in North America.
photo credit: Wikimedia
Astoria Downtown, Oregon

During a recent “Mommy-Only Getaway” trip to Oregon, we discovered several cool things to do in Astoria.

Watching the California sea lions relaxing in the sun at East Mooring Basin is quite an experience. Hundreds of noisy sea giants occupy the floating docks at East Mooring Basin, creating disorder for local marina workers. Unfortunately, the pier closed in late 2018 for reconstruction, so don’t forget a zoom camera or binoculars to watch the animals.

A colony of California sea lions at East Mooring Basin. Astoria, Oregon
photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Though, the biggest gem for me in Astoria is not in the downtown and would deserve at least a half-day to explore. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself into American history and learn the dramatic story of one of the bravest American explorers. The ranger-guided canoe/kayak tour is on our bucket list now. Register in advance and make sure to check out the summer Fort Programs for kids and adults.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon photo credit: columbiariverimages.com
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Astoria, Oregon
photo credit: National Park Service

On rainy days, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is a worthwhile and family-friendly option.

Have lunch at the Buoy Beer Company microbrewery and restaurant. Kids and adults will be amazed by the floor glass viewing window, wonderful river views, and seafood. We didn’t have a chance to eat there: when it was our turn for the table, we were still watching the sea lions at the East Mooring Basin 🙂 (waiting time was 1 hour in the midday on a long weekend).

Sea lion resting under the floor of Buoy Beer Company restaurant. Astoria, Oregon

Ecola State Park

Time to explore: from a brief visit to a couple of hours.
Driving time: 40 min from Astoria.

What we liked about this place: breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific, Crescent Beach, and the iconic Cannon Beach. Easy to explore: no need to hike at all if you don’t want to. Beautiful views open up after just a couple minutes walking from the parking lot. Picnic tables and restrooms are available on-site.

I have not come across this place before, but Indian Beach (and exploring sea life creatures during low tide) is our next destination in Oregon.

If you looking for an iconic picture of the Pacific Ocean and Oregon Coast, go the Ecola state park. It is one of our most beloved spots along the entire Oregon Coast!

View of Pacific Ocean and Cannon Beach at Ecola State Park, Oregon
photo credit: Wikimedia
Ecola State Park, Oregon
Views of the Crescent beach and the Pacific ocean in late November. Ecola State Park, Oregon

Cannon Beach

Time to explore: from a couple of hours to a full day.
Driving: 7 min from Ecola State Park.

What we liked about this place: lots of things, but first of all – puffins! Lots and lots of tufted puffins could be found at Haystack Rock from April to August. Come during low tide and bring binoculars. From May to Labor Day, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) presents interpretive programs during low tides right at the Haystack Rock. Trained volunteers will let you use the floor standing binoculars, but better bring your own to avoid lanes.

One of the many informative displays at the Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, Cannon Beach
Puffins nest on the grassy meadow on the north face of the Haystack Rock (right upper side of the rock). Cannon Beach

Tide pooling at Haystack Rock is as great as the beach itself. Expect crowds during summer months. As a backup option for tide pooling, check out Indian Beach or Hug Point.

Kids playing at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site
Boy playing with a kelp. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach houses overlooking the ocean

Playing with wild bunnies at the Tolovana Beach parking was one of the highlights of the trip for our kids. I don’t know how those fluffy creatures got there but it was a nice surprise to find them on the same spot 2.5 years later!

Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site parking lot

Exploring the town: checking the small library, candy factory, local art galleries, and Whale Park – a nice secluded sandy area, perfect for watching the sunset at the evening and playing with sand/water during the day.

Cannon Beach library. Oregon
Made with local ingredients: Sea Level Bakery and Coffee. Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is a great place to try some coffee, seafood, handcrafted beer, or pastries. We had brunch at Sea Level Bakery + Coffee (funded through Kickstarter) and would love to come back! This cafe is just one block from the beach, 5 minutes walk from the Tolovana parking lot. It closes at 3 pm daily.
Also, check out Mo’s restaurant, located right at the Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. It has plenty of ocean view tables, and I’d highly recommend their oyster stew.

Ocean view tables at Mo’s restaurant near Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. Oregon

When there is no fire ban in effect, you can build a bonfire (small isolated fire) right at the beach, day or night! We spent a night in Seaside, and a bonfire under the stars accompanied by sounds of crushing ocean waves was one of the most memorable experiences from our trip.

Hug Point State Recreation Site

Time to explore: from a brief visit to a couple of hours.
Location: 10 min drive from Cannon Beach.

What we liked about that: everything! This beach is one of the best on the Oregon Coast. The trail from the parking lot is short and easy. Within a couple of minutes walking, you can reach the waterfall, climb on top of it or hide in multiple caves along the way. Great for tide pooling! Kids (as well as adults) were squealing with excitement when we discovered this place. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. Come a the low tide.

Thousands of goose barnacles are visible during low tides. Hug Point State Recreation Site
One of the many caves at Hug Point State Recreation Site
At the north end of the Hug Point: wide sandy beaches stretch far to the Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park
A colony of giant green sea anemones. Hug Point State Recreation Site
On the top of the waterfall: Hug Point State Park

Short Sand Beach at Oswald West State Park

Time to explore: from a brief visit to a couple of hours.
Driving time: 6 min from Hug Point State Recreational Site.

What we liked about that: the Short Sands trail to the Smugglers Cove – an easy 0.5 miles hike through the beautiful temperate rain forest.
The long sandy beach is perfect to watch the sunset, explore piles of driftwood and a nice place for tide pooling during low tides. It is one of the most popular spots for surfing in Oregon. Worth to check out at least for a quick glance. This state park is one of the best-hidden gems along Oregon Coast. Restrooms are available at the parking lot. There are plenty of picnic tables right in front of the ocean.
We had an incident there: our little one was swept by the icy-cold waters despite calm-looking ocean waves. Bring some change of clothes just in case, even if you don’t plan to play in the water.

Views of the Pacific Ocean at the Oswald West State Park, Oregon
Hiking through the temperate rain forest at the Short Sands trail. Oswald West State Park, Oregon
View of the Smugglers Cove, Oregon
Surfers walking at the Short Sand beach during sunset. Oregon

Have fun and enjoy the Oregon Coast!