The Ultimate Pet Friendly Oregon Coast Guide
Contributed by Breanna Groneman (Bio Below)
The west coast is beautiful, I don't think that anyone would dispute that. But in my ever so humble opinion, the Oregon Coast has the most breathtaking scenery and the largest variety of things to do and see. As someone who has quite the attachment to my pooch, it also matters a great deal that the Oregon Coast is also the most dog friendly as well. So let me take you through what I believe to be the most comprehensive guide of places that are must-sees, for both you and your dog.
While most places were dog friendly, with plenty of places to stretch our six legs, there were a few places that weren't that I mention in the article. Regardless if you are traveling with your fur baby, or not, let me give you a guide for the PNW Coast, from Astoria to Crescent City, to avoid crowds, do it on a budget, and have memories to last a lifetime.
I would plan on a minimum of a full week to do the whole coast, but plan on more time if you really want to take the time to see everything you want to see!
Traveler tip: A lot of the places that are cool to see have a parking fee. You might want to consider buying an Oregon Pacific coast pass or a Oregon State Park pass as it will be cheaper in the long run rather than paying for each individual park pass.
If you are coming in from Portland, you’ll want to start at the north end of the coast, in Astoria, and make your way down the coast from there. Astoria is a charming coastal city with lots of hills to traverse and with plenty to do and see.
One place you’ll want to include on your itinerary of Astoria is the Astoria Column. Placed on the tallest hill in the city, you can climb the many stairs to the top to get a fantastic view of the area. From the top of the column, you’ll be able to see where the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River and the Youngs River all converge, as well as the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
Now, you can't take your dog to the top of the column, because there's barely enough space for the humans to squeeze by each other inside the column, much less a wiggly dog. But you can walk around the top of the hill, have lunch at one of the picnic tables, and enjoy the view from the top of the hill with your fur baby.
If you have kids with you, you can even buy a cheap little wooden glider to take up to the top and send it gliding down. Parking is $5.
Astoria Riverfront Trolley
Another fun thing to do with kids is the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. It’s free (although they do accept donations for the upkeep) and they will take you on a ride up and down a section of the Columbia River in a historic trolley car.
For the history buffs, they do tell you some interesting history of the area. And another plus, if you have a dog with you, and they are well behaved, you can bring your dog on this quick ride!
Lewis and Clark National Historic Park
Another good stop is the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. Lots of interesting history, a fort to explore, and beautiful trails through the trees as well as alongside the river.
Dogs are allowed on the trails and it’s a great place to take your kids to learn a part of our nation’s history.
Fort Stevens State Park
Walk in and see the inside of the ruined ship and let your imagination tell its own story of the ill fated shipwreck! During the summer, if you’re lucky enough to have the right conditions (warm temperatures, no moon, no fog, etc), this is a great place to spot bioluminescent algae lighting up the waves!
I was able to go one night last summer (in 2021), and while it was too foggy to see the waves, the algae was also in the sand and it was truly magical to see the sand sparkle to life with every step my dog and I took!
Famous Film Locations in Astoria
Those who are fans of the movie Goonies will recognize certain parts of the city shown in the movie. Every year on June 7, there is a “Goonies Day” celebration with multiple Goonies themed activities around the city.
If you are goonie geeking out though, one thing to take into consideration: though the house shown at the beginning of the movie is located in Astoria, it is a privately owned home and the owners have asked fans not to treat it as a tourist attraction.
But as there are lots of other areas to see, the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria is one such location and has a whole section on the Goonies!
Heading South To Ecola State Park
As you start making your way down the coast, the first place you’ll want to stop is Ecola State Park. As mentioned before, this is one of the filming locations of the Goonies, with a few recognizable spots (such as the part where they hold up the coin to compare to the rock outcroppings).
Indian Beach, located in the park, is also one of the filming locations for Twilight, but also a great location for surfers! There’s a couple of great trails where you can hike through the mossy trees of the rainforest in that area. In springtime, it’s also a great location to be able to see mother and baby whales migrating back up north from their winter location.
Just south of Ecola State Park (and visible from the park) is Cannon Beach! Such iconic and beautiful rock formations/haystack rocks provide the perfect setting for a breathtaking sunset scene. There are also some tide pools there that you can catch at low tide.
Traveler tip: Keep in mind, with a lot of the things to do and see on the coast, it is dependent on the tides, so make sure to look up the tide charts before you start your trip.
Hug Point State Recreation Beach
Continuing down the coast, a quick stop you’ll want to make is at Hug Point State Recreation beach. It has got a waterfall there on the beach as well as some shallow caves next to the water that my inner child insisted on exploring.
Tillamook Cheese Factory
The next stop you should DEFINITELY include on your coastal itinerary is the Tillamook Cheese factory. It’s a free, self guided tour where they take you through each step of how they make their yummy cheese!
At the end of the tour, there’s even a setup for you to sample multiple types of their tasty cheese, but be careful! That’s where they hook ya!
I definitely recommend getting a bag of their cheese curds to either eat fresh or to take home and fry them up later! It’s a great place to stop for lunch because they also have a counter for you to order some food made with their cheese or even an ice cream cone for a treat!
Neskowin Ghost Forest
Driving out of Tillamook, it’s a bit of a drive to the next destination, the Neskowin Ghost Forest. You’ll want to go at low tide to be able to see the forest that the ocean has claimed. Especially when it’s foggy, it can definitely be a little eerie, but definitely worth it to see the remnants of these ancient trees and how the ancient stumps persevere despite the power of the ocean waves that shape/carve rock.
Another great stop to take is to see the Devil’s Punchbowl. This is a large, collapsed sea cave that, at low tide, you can go down to go inside. It’s pretty spectacular to see from just the top down too, so if you don’t have a ton of time on your trip (like me!), it’s a good quick stop. But I do wish that I had taken the time to climb down and see it from inside the formation.
If you do want to see it from the inside, be very aware of the changes of the tide as it can be very dangerous for those still inside the cave when the tide is coming back in. Though it’s free to visit this site, parking can be limited.
Next Up Newport!
Newport is the next big “city” on your way down the coast. There are a couple of lighthouses on the north and south end of the city you might want to check out, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is also located here in Newport, although I didn’t give myself enough time to see these sites. My main objective here was to take a whale watching tour from the Port of Newport! It was great to get out in the water and see these magnificent creatures! On our way out of the bay to see the whales, I got a spot right on the bow of the boat and had my Rose on the Titanic moment, a moment I later regretted as someone who easily gets seasick.
Newport is also a great place to go crabbing, off of the pier or chartering a boat to get where the big keeper crabs are (see section on considerations for crabbing).
Another stop that should be on everyone’s itinerary is Thor’s Well. You may not recognize the name, but most people have seen a picture of this unique feature of the coast. It’s a collapsed sea cave, where the water flows up and out before cascading back down the hole, creating the circular waterfall effect.
It does take some planning to see it like you would expect to see from the pictures. The absolute best time to see and photograph Thor’s Well, if you can swing it, is at sunset and at high tide. But if that won’t work out with your itinerary, at least try to make it at high tide so you can get the full effect of this beautiful seascape.
One thing you need to keep in mind, it does require walking over some rough volcanic rocks to get to a good vantage point. It’s not slippery but I would definitely not recommend trying to traverse it with flip flops.
Haceta Head Lighthouse
As you continue your way south, consider stopping at the Heceta Head Lighthouse for some epic views and some great trails. There is even a campground here and also a B&B if you're looking for a place to stay the night. It does require a parking pass (or the Oregon State Park Pass), so if you would rather not spend the money and just have a quick stop with a pretty great view of the lighthouse, I recommend continuing south and stopping at the Lighthouse and Sealion Beach Vantage Point.
This spot is just a pull out off of the 101, so it is free and you can usually see a bunch of sea lions swimming and sunbathing. Just south of this point is the Sea Lion Caves. Admittedly, this is a place I have never stopped to see because I was warned by a couple of people that it is just a tourist trap and not worth the money they charge considering that you can see sea lions at the vantage point already mentioned.
Florence Sand Dunes
As you drive into the north part of Florence, you’ll definitely want to stop at the sand dunes here and have some fun! There are a couple of places in town where you can rent a sandboard or a dune buggy if you didn’t bring your own.
I had so much fun cruising down the sand dunes on my sand board! I definitely got some good speed going down those dunes! There’s a spot where you can park for free right by the Fred Meyer there in town, so if you have your own board to bring, just park and head in to have fun on the dunes!
Traveler tip: When walking on the sand/sand dunes, if it’s even a bit on the warmer side, the sand can feel really hot on your feet if you’re wearing sandals or open shoes. Take it from someone who learned the hard way! Keep that in mind too if your dog is coming with you, it might be too hot for their paws alone.
Sweet Creek Falls Trail
At this point, before continuing your way south, you might want to consider a slight detour inland to hike a trail that I promise is worth your time! Sweet Creek Falls trail is an easy 1.8 mile trail that has so many waterfalls along it to see! It is easily one of my favorite trails in all of Oregon! Plus, it's dog friendly!
Back to the coast, as you keep going south, there’s a point where you’ll want to veer off of the 101 towards Charleston, Oregon. The Charleston Marina is a good place to go crabbing off of the dock.
Shores Acres State Park
The main thing to see in this area is Shores Acres State Park. It does require a parking fee if you don’t have the pass, and they don’t allow dogs on the trails, but I definitely recommend a stop here. During the winter months, there are HUGE waves that hammer the coastline here creating these completely unique and mesmerizing rock formations. If you are doing this trip during the winter, you’ll definitely want to stop here at high tide and walk out to the shelter they have there to witness the power of the ocean and the massive waves that have molded this part of the coast.
Even when it’s not winter though, it’s still worth going at high tide to see some pretty big waves. This used to be the home of a man who made his fortune logging, and the formal gardens still exist and are cared for. Super beautiful to visit in the spring.
There is also a trail that you can walk to see some more fascinating rock formations up close (although it is not recommended to use this trail if visiting in the winter as the massive waves pummel this area, carving out the formations from the coastline).
The next stop on your journey should definitely be Bandon, Oregon. Of all of the spectacular sites to see along the coast, I think Bandon was my favorite place, not only because of the natural beauty in this area, but because there is so much to do and see!
Bullards Beach State Park
Just north of Bandon is Bullards Beach State Park. Here, they have some great trails along the coast and also Coquille Lighthouse, which you can visit all year round, and even take tours of seasonally. We also went down, past the large pieces of driftwood on the beach, to enjoy the soft sand and the sea lions swimming in the water right by the jetty and the lighthouse.
Washed Ashore Gallery
Once you get into downtown, there are several things for you to see and try! One thing that should definitely be on everyone's list is the Washed Ashore Gallery. I’m not really an “artsy” person who enjoys going to art galleries, but I really enjoyed this one, not only because the art is unique and amazing, but also very educational! Here, they make incredible sculptures from the trash that they have picked up on the beaches. It’s completely free to visit, and it’s great if you have kids, because they will even let you and the kids help with some of the prep work for a sculpture they are working on! I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that this really was literally a life changing experience for me!
Kitty corner from the Washed Ashore Gallery is Cranberry Sweets! They are a candy company that makes super tasty and unique goodies! It’s great because you can go in, and they have samples for you to try for most of their options (so you can try the cheddar cheese chocolate to see if you like it before you buy it… that’s not a typo, and I know how is sounds, but you seriously have to try it!). There’s a wide variety of treats that they make, and we loved trying everything out without feeling pressured to buy anything… although of course we did!
Eat and Fish Crab
There is also a fishing pier here in Bandon if you want to try your hand at crabbing. Or, if you are looking for a yummy place to eat, without the hassle of figuring out how to cook what you catch, try Tony’s Crab Shack! It’s a popular place for their good food.
I had heard great things about their clam chowder, and maybe it was because my expectations were so high, but I was less impressed with the clam chowder as I was with their crab cakes! My friend and I both got the crab cakes and thought that they were delicious! Even just thinking about them now, my mouth is watering!
Bandon has, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful parts of the coastline. One of my favorite beaches I went to here is Coquille Point that is actually just a hop skip and jump west of the city center. I went here with my nieces and nephew, and they loved exploring the rocks and walkways created by the unique formations there.
There is a lovely sea arch in one of the haystack rocks, with a rocky area right in front of it where the seals were sunning themselves on the rocks. We brought our kite and it was perfect conditions for flying a kite!
Face Rock State Scenic Point
The next beach we went to, and probably my favorite beach along the coast, was Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. There were sea tunnels to explore (at low tide), tide pools with sea critters to get up close with, and with more unique and interesting rock formations, it made the perfect backdrop for a gorgeous sunset! But what really cinched it for me was that I had one of my favorite and most memorable beach experiences here: Circles in the Sand.
Circles in the Sand
Circles in the Sand is a beautiful piece of artwork created by a local artist, Denny Dyke, and his band of volunteers. Together, they use the landscape and their tools to extract amazing, intricate pieces of artwork from the environment.
When it’s finished, you can experience it yourself by walking through the path created by these artists. But they (and you) have to plan it out carefully, as they do this at low tide so they have enough space to create these massive pieces of landscape art, and you only have a short time to experience it before the tide comes back in and washes it away.
The schedule of when they do their “draws” is on their website, and if you plan far enough ahead, you can even participate in creating one of these beautiful works of art!
West Coast Game Park Safari
Continuing on your way south, not far from Bandon, you’ll see signs for the West Coast Game Park Safari. Now, this is not a dog friendly activity, but if you have kids, this is a super fun stop, for you and them. They give you a cup of food, and you can go explore the park and see the animals, many of which you can get up close and personal with!
I had never been so close to a beautiful peacock or had such a following of deer, goats, etc interested in what I had. Their staff also brought out other animals to see up close, like a fox, skunk, and minks… I had a possum climb up and become my bestie! My nieces and nephew even got to experience a bobcat up close!
Floras Lake State Park
Another stop we made was at Floras Lake State Park. As a freshwater lake that is right next to the ocean, it is a popular site for Kitesurfing. I’ve never tried kitesurfing myself, but it sure looked fun, as our group hiked past the lake to get to a lovely trail.
During several parts of it, it felt like we were hiking in an enchanted forest, enough to the point where we were chanting “lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!”. A portion of this trail is heavily shaded and can be very wet/puddly, especially in the spring. We even found a salamander in one of the puddles (I tried kissing it to see if it was of the prince variety… sadly it wasn’t).
If you are hiking the trail trying to get to the beach and hike along the sea cliffs and to the arch/waterfall, I would highly recommend using Alltrails or a similar hiking app where you can download the map and check your progress along the way.
We hiked a little over 8 miles on this trail, but never made it to our destination because we missed the trail that branches off the big main trail we were on. Our hike was still a beautiful one, hiking through an enchanted forest and through puddles, but I’m still disappointed we missed that arch and waterfall! It’s definitely still on my list to see, and next time, I’ll have my Alltrails map to keep me on the trail!
Meyers Creek Beach Viewpoint
Meyers Creek Beach Viewpoint is a spot that I’ve had marked on my map to stop and see for a while, but alas, with my trips to the coastline, I’ve never given myself enough time to stop here! Yet another reason to give yourself plenty of time when planning your coast trip! With the sea arch and tide pools, this would be another good stop off point to get out and stretch your legs.
Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor
My second favorite part of the coastline, and probably the most beautiful part of the coast is the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Everytime I think about my time here, I kick myself, because I only gave myself one day in this area, which definitely was not enough time! Make sure you give enough time to not only hike, but take time to enjoy the scenery and you’ll want to stop and take it all in!
Hiking in Samuel Boardman Corridor
Secret Beach is a lovely beach that’s not really all that secret anymore. When we went, there weren’t many people on the beach itself, although part of the reason behind that may be because there isn’t an actual parking area, just a small clearing behind the end of one of the guardrails with room enough for only a few cars. For that reason, I suggest making this beach an early visit in the day.
Natural Bridges trail is one of the iconic spots of the area. A popular spot for photographers and instragramers alike, because of the unique formation of two sea arches in one rock formation. This is a quick, easy hike where you can get several different perspectives of this beautiful spot. There is a trail that people have made that goes down and over the formation, but it is not advised as it is considered dangerous. Please be wise, and respect the environment that you’re in!
Arch Rock Picnic Area isn’t a hike, but it’s the perfect spot to take a break from your ventures of the day and eat lunch with a fantastic view.
Indian Sands Trail is a loop trail that gives you spectacular views. On one part of the trail, you are hiking a flat trail on a steep hill that goes down into the ocean. There were lots of wildflowers when we hiked this trail and I was charmed. At one point, you reach a big area on top of the cliff with lots of wonderfully soft sand. The kids loved climbing the sandy hill and running back down.
Harris Beach State Park is just south of the scenic corridor, and definitely worth stopping at as well. With haystack rocks, sea arches, and some great tide pooling, you won’t regret your time spent here.
Though not in Oregon state, you’ll likely be ending your journey at Crescent City, California (or beginning your journey, if you are going up the coast from the south). The very northernmost town in California, and because of the way the roads heading back inland run, you have to go through Crescent City to complete your tour of the Oregon Coast. And there is so much to do here, so it is definitely worth spending some time here as well!
Check out my article on Things to do in Crescent City.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
This was definitely my favorite thing to see in the Crescent City area. The Oregon coast has lots of unique trees/rainforests that you’ll see and drive through on your coastal journey, but there is just something awe inspiring about walking through groves of massive Redwood trees. I felt so small walking among these goliath trees and I could help but think of how old they must be and wondering what they have witnessed. There are many groves of Redwood trees in this area, my favorite of which was Stout Grove right by the gorgeous blue waters of the Smith River.
Now, something I was recently made aware of, while dogs used to be permitted on the trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, sadly, they are no longer permitted. They are still allowed in developed areas such as the campgrounds and roads, but you can no longer take your dogs on the trails. But good news! Just a little further down the 101, and you'll reach the Trees of Mystery, where dogs are permitted on the trails through the massive Redwood Trees there!
Battery Point Lighthouse and Tide Pools
This is a beautiful lighthouse to make sure to stop at while in Crescent City. Make sure you go at low tide, or else you won’t be able to walk up to the lighthouse as during high tide, it becomes an island.
Another reason you’ll want to go at low tide is to see the tide pools in the rocks on the way up to the lighthouse! This was the first place I’d ever gone tide pooling and I was excited to see my first sea stars! Not far from the lighthouse, there is a fishing pier where you can try your hand at Crabbing.
California has different shellfishing rules/guidelines, but they don’t require a shellfish license to go crabbing off of piers, so this might be a good place to give it a shot!
Sand Dollars on the Beach
On the south end of the beach that is just south of the marina in Crescent City, if you go at the right time, you will find all kinds of Sand dollars! I’ve gone to this beach several times over the years, and each time, I find lots of broken sand dollars, and for someone who had never found one before, that by itself was very exciting to me.
You’ll want to park at the Crescent City Beach Picnic area, and if you go when it is just about low tide, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll find a few whole sand dollars to take home! Each new tide brings and deposits more sand dollars to collect. It’s also a great beach to take your dogs and let them run as it is a large beach and there aren’t many people that come to this area.
From Crescent City, you’ll make your way back inland and up into Oregon in the Grant’s Pass area (with lots to do even there, but that’s another article….)
Camping On the Oregon Coast
If you’re planning on camping your way down the coast, here are some good options (listed from north to south):
Fort Stevens State Park Campground (Near Astoria)
Cape Lookout State Park (by the coast near Tillamook) OR
Camper Cove RV park & Campground (inland near Tillamook)
South Beach State Park Campground (Near Newport)
Tillicum Beach Campground - (Between Yachats and Bayshore)
Rock Creek Campground- (Between Florence and Yachats): I’ve personally stayed at this campground. This was a beautiful little campground in the trees and ferns along the coast, one of my favorite campgrounds I’ve stayed in. It just has tent sites, no hookups, but has water spouts at each campsite.
Sutton Campground- (Near Florence)
Sunset Bay State Park Campground (Near Charleston): I’ve personally stayed at this campground. The campground is right across from and a quick walk to Sunset Bay Beach.
Bullards Beach State Park Campground (Near Bandon): I’ve personally stayed at this campground. NOTICE: this park has many wild racoons in the area who are very intelligent and have learned how to get into camp coolers. Keep your garbage and food/coolers in your car at night.
Harris Beach State Park Campground (Near Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor): I’ve personally stayed at this campground. There is an easy walkway down to the beach, close to the tide pools and haystack rock.
About Breanna Groneman (Contributing Writer)
I'm Bree! I'm a travel nurse that loves nature and exploring the outdoors with my cute pooch! I grew up exploring the deserts of Utah and then developed an obsession with the PNW, the place I make my home when I'm ready to stop traveling for my profession. I may be an introvert, but I'm a dog lover, Janiel's best friend, and I love sharing the beautiful places I've been!
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