Roadtripping the Northwest coast
Oregon and Washington boast some of the world’s most beautiful coastline. Activities along this stretch include whale-watching from a verdant national park and zipping up the majestic Rogue River (to name a few). Because there are so many options, we’ve put together a short list of must-see locations along the Pacific Northwest’s dramatic coast.
We suggest you make Seattle your kicking-off point. After you’ve had some time to enjoy the Emerald city, you can take a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, drive through the lush Olympic Peninsula, and be at the Washington coast within just a few hours.
Olympic National Park
Located on the Olympic Peninsula west of Seattle and Puget Sound, Olympic National Park offers 73-miles of rugged coastline, much of which is surrounded by dense old growth forests. The coast also has sea stacks, which are blocks of erosion-resistant rock isolated from the land by sea.
When it comes to accommodations, if you want to be right in the thick of things, consider the Kalaloch Lodge, an ideal spot to hunker down and watch storms roll in. If you head further south, you’ll find both Iron Springs Resort and Seabrook, a planned community with old school charm and beautiful, modern rental properties.
Easy access to the beach from the road
About 28 miles of sandy beach make the aptly named Long Beach one of the longest sand beaches in the world. But the area offers more than just seemingly endless stretches of sand; it is rich with national history. For instance, the peninsula is the westernmost terminus of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and home to Cape Disappointment, one of a series of Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. It’s also home to the International Kite Festival every August.
After you cross the 4.1-mile long Astoria Bridge, you can visit Fort Stevens State Park and check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906. You’ll then arrive at Seaside, one of the Oregon coast’s most visited beach destinations. The classic beach town is popular for its razor clams. If you’ve never been clamming (and don‘t mind getting really sandy), you should give it a shot.
Just south of Seaside is Cannon Bach, home to Haystack Rock, a giant (and iconic) sea stack. The town is also well known for being an artist community; galleries abound.
Viewfinder Tip: Don’t come to this area anticipating California-like beaches. Expect milder weather, colder water, and rougher waves.
This former mill town is at the north end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, in an ideal area to zoom around in dune buggies, go sandboarding (yes, that’s a thing), or just relax and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
About 60-miles north of Florence, make sure to stop at Devil’s Punch Bowl State Park to see the sea roll into a collapsed sea cave. Make sure to stop by Sea Lion Caves to see hundreds of Steller sea lions laze about.
Also, if you’ve not yet had clam chowder at Mo’s on your way down the coast, Florence is your last chance.
Now that you’ve explored a good portion of this extraordinary coastline, you can head even further south to Gold Beach at the mouth of the mighty Rogue River. When you’ve had your fill of sand and sea, pop over to I-5 and zip back to Seattle for your flight home. Consider keeping a leisurely pace by breaking up the 8-hour drive with a stop in our old hometown, Portland.
What is your favorite way to spend a road trip?