Oregon Coast Camping : 10 Amazing Places To Explore

A guide to the Oregon Coast.

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Oregon Coast Camping
Breathtaking sights like these welcome visitors to the Oregon Coast. Tom Driggers/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

 

There are some things in life just meant to go together-marshmallows and campfires, Sunday mornings and sleep-ins, and if you didn’t know this already- camping and the Oregon Coast!

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Oregon’s coast boasts some of the most exhilarating sights in the Continental US.

With the state’s sandy beaches, the quaint tide pools, the breathtaking hiking trails- from photographers to adventurers to exploring families, Oregon Coast Camping is suited for everyone.

Oregon Coast Campground

Oregon Coast Campground
Campsites like these are a common sight around the Oregon Coast.
Yun Huang Yong/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Camping is the best way to explore this rugged terrain, with the summer months being prime camping season.

State Park Campgrounds

Oregon State Parks
A signboard announcing entry into Cape Blanco State Park, Oregon.
Kirt Edblom/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Due to the popularity of Oregon Coast Camping, campgrounds are a common sight along the shoreline and are some of the best equipped in the country.

With over 254 state parks operated by the State Parks and Recreation Department, there is plenty of space available for both tent sites and RV camping in each major campground.

The Oregon coast campground also has other facilities like hot showers, flush toilets, and a dump station at every other RV campground.

Camping Styles: RV Camping, Tent Camping, Yurts, Cabins

Luxury Yurts
Yurts like these are a common sight around most state campgrounds.
Bernd Thaller/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Booking sites ahead for RV campers is a smart way to beat the rush, as every RV campground tends to be at full capacity during the summer months.

Whiles many opt for RVs, hikers following the famed hiking trails of the Oregon Coast prefer the more traditional and accessible tent campers.

Yurts, even rustic log cabins with drinking water, permanent electricity, and well-furnished interiors are available for those campers seeking a more luxurious stay.

Some even come with a game room and a hot tub attached.

So it’s time to pack your bags and get that RV revving; these amazing places are waiting for you with open arms!

1. Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park
An old military installation at Fort Stevens, Oregon.
Doug Kerr/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

At Fort Stevens State Park, there is something historical to see around every corner.

At the northwest tip of the Oregon Coast, the park is named after Fort Stevens, a Civil War-era military installation at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Constructed to defend against British aggression in the Pacific Northwest, it has now been transformed into a military museum.

Peter Iredale Shipwreck

Peter Iredale Shipwreck
Peter Iredale Shipwreck, Fort Stevens State Park.
Eli Duke/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Bordering the mouth of the Columbia river, of the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific‘ infamy, the region has seen its fair share of shipwrecks. More than 3000 ships have met their unfortunate end off the Oregon Coast, and more ancient remains of ships are being discovered to this day.

Particularly well known is the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, a wreck of a ship grounded here after a storm in 1906. The hulking wreckage is still accessible to visitors during low tide and is a popular attraction in this part of the Oregon Coast.

The hiking trails of Fort Stevens State Park carry the added pedigree of being the same paths followed by the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition and are part of the wider territory of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

The Campgrounds

Fort Stevens State Park Campground
Families often dock at the campground here due to its sprawling size.
Robert Couse-Baker/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The largest of the Oregon coast campgrounds, with about 170 full hookup sites at the RV park, the campground at Fort Stevens offers ample privacy to campers.

 

2. “Terrible Tilly” and the Vistas around Ecola State Park

Tillamook Lighthouse,Ecola State Park
The “Terrible Tilly” still stands tall today.
skedonk/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

An engineer swept out to sea never to be found again; a construction racked with squalls; a shipwrecked near its waters a few months before its opening- the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is the subject of much tragedy and mystery.

About a mile out from Cannon Beach, the lighthouse can still be seen from the shore, standing lonesome, with only the seabirds for company.

Haystack Rock

The aforementioned Cannon Beach was so named after a military cannon washed ashore and is famous for being the location of Haystack Rock, a 235 ft. large basalt monolith on the Oregon Coast.

Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock, cannon Beach.
NullSynapse/ Flickr/ Copyright2021

The rock is accessible on foot during low tide and remains a popular spot among beachcombers who come to explore tide pools around its base.

Where to Set Up Camp

The popularity of Haystack Rock and its status as an icon of the Oregon Coast means that camping in and around Cannon beach is forbidden.

Ecola State Park, too, since it enjoys protected status, offers no camping site, so RV sites are out of the question.

Due to the difficulty in finding public RV sites around Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park, tent camping would be the more convenient camping style for campers who wish to spend the night around here.

An alternate for RV camping and a tent site for tent campers is provided by Nehalem Bay State Park, another one of the Oregon Coast campgrounds.

Just a twenty-minute drive south of Cannon Beach, Nehalem Bay State Park, located on a sheltered sandpit surrounded by Nehalem Bay and the Pacific Ocean, has provisions for RV campers as well as tent campers willing to make the trip.

Nehalem Bay
Sections are closed during the year to protect the rare Snowy Plover chicks. USFWS Pacific Southwest Region/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

However, portions of Nehalem Bay State Park remain closed every May to September to protect the threatened Snowy Plover, a native species of the Oregon Coast, which has only recently begun nesting here again.

3. Whale-Watching at Cape Lookout

Cape Lookout
The two-mile jut of Cape lookout. Doug Kerr/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The aptly named Cape Lookout is a prime whale-watching spot.

The jutting rocks extend 2 miles out into the Pacific Ocean, forcing the migrating sea mammals to swim all the way around the cape, giving whale watchers glimpses of these slow-moving giants.

While gray whales are the most commonly spotted species, a few humpbacks are seen around Cape Lookout from time to time.

But whales are not the only fascinating creatures to be found in the waters surrounding Cape Lookout State Park.

Cape Lookout
Leatherback Turtles, the world’s largest species, can be sighted around Cape Lookout.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Four of the largest sea turtle species in the world- the Leatherback, the Loggerhead, the Green, the Kemp’s Ridley- can be spotted at Cape Lookout State Park.

Where to Rest

A few miles north of Cape Lookout is the Cape Lookout State Park Campground, where visitors can rest after a long day of whale watching.

4. Depoe Bay

Depoe Bay
A sleepy-looking Depoe Bay Harbor.
US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Just 12 miles south of Lincoln City lies Depoe Bay, the world’s smallest harbor site.

The intimate seaside town has also been a location for one of the greatest films ever made. Parts of the 1975 classic, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,’ was shot right here on Depoe Bay.

If the urban pleasures offered by Lincoln city is not up to your liking, a day trip out of Depoe Bay to Yaquina Bay may be the thing for you.

 Yaquina Bay Bridge

Yaquina Bay Bridge
‘The Green Lady” of Newport.
Kirt Edblom/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Constructed in 1936 at $1.3 million, the Yaquina Bay Bridge is a feat of engineering.

Lovingly dubbed “The Green Lady” for the color of its central arch, the bridge connects Newport with South Beach.

The beloved 81-year-old monument bears the loving marks of its years in the scrawls that litter its weathered surface- with some delightful declarations of love carved into its arches.

Where to Set Camp

With over 60 tent sites, the campground at South Beach State Park is the most easily accessible due to its proximity to Yaquina Head.

It offers campers miles of the Oregon Coast to explore while still being only ten minutes away from fast food and groceries centers.

A long enjoyable day on the bike trails can end with a burger and a shake, only at South Beach State Park.

Just 19 miles south of Lincoln city lies Beverly Beach State Park, famed for its expansive campground.

Despite being one of the most visited places on the Oregon Coast, Beverly Beach State Park retains its sense of whimsy.

Beverly Beach State Park
Wildflowers in bloom among the driftwood at Beverly Beach State Park.
Rick Obst/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The park’s enduring charm is evidenced in the curved shapes of the giant windblown trees, the quiet beauty of Spencer’s Creek, and the driftwood forts leftover by visiting families.

5. Siuslaw National Forest

Covering over 630,000 acres, the expansive Siuslaw National Forest is one of the finest Oregon parks.

It is managed by the US Forest Service rather than the Parks and Recreation Department who look after the state parks and the Oregon Coast campgrounds.

Covering windy Oregon Coast shores, thick coastal forests, and vast dunes, the diversity of this forest is an embodiment of the many-faceted quality of the state.

Cape Perpetua Visitor Center

The lush forests of Siuslaw National Forest are introduced to the crashing tides of the Pacific Ocean here. The ancient trees open up at the top of the Cape to a stunning view of the ocean.

cape Perpetua Visitors Center
The churning waters of Thor’s Well. Oregon Department of Transportation/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The Visitors Center at the central Oregon coast also offers 26 miles of hiking trails covering some spectacular sites, including Thor’s Well and Devils Churn.

Rock Creek Campground

Rock creek Campground
The quiet, secluded air of Rock Creek is reflected in its geography too.
Bureau of land Management Oregon and Washington/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

A few miles south of Cape Perpetua Visitor Center stands Rock Creek Campground. Though campsites here are limited, the rustic quality of this Oregon Coast campground is surprisingly delightful.

Lush tropical forests and the arrangement of the simple picnic tables around the camp gives Rock Creek Campground a unique, holistic appeal among the bustling campgrounds that dot the Oregon Coast.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes Recreation Area
A lone figure among the grass of the Dunes.
Patrick yagow/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The location that inspired Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic, “Dune,” Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a barren-looking land, dotted with grass and enormous sandscapes, some reaching over 500 ft. high.

It is not difficult to see why a writer could imagine an alien planet when among its dunes.

Oregon Dunes Recreation Area.
Such startling shades can sometimes be seen on the dunes here.
Francis Storr/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The shifting land of sand, bordered by the pristine Pacific, is an adventurer’s delight. ATVs, dune buggies, and off-road bikes are readily available for hire and waiting to be let loose on the dirt.

Spoilt for Choice

With four well-equipped campgrounds in its vicinity- Tycee, Lagoon, Wax Myrtle, Driftwood II- all camping styles have easy and comfortable access to permanent electricity, hot showers, and flush toilets.

6. Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

The Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is nestled among the exhilarating landscape of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Freshwater Lake Marie

Freshwater Lake Marie
Lake Marie. Rick Obst/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The unique draw of the distinct red and white flare of the Umpqua Lighthouse at Winchester Bay and the gentle, unassuming beauty of the nearby freshwater Lake Marie makes Umpqua Lighthouse State Park the perfect spot for thrill-seekers to rejuvenate after a thrilling experience at the nearby dunes.

However, with a limited 12 full hookup sites and 23 sites for tent camping available, it is a good idea to pre-book space at the campground.

7. Coos Bay

Coos Bay
Signs on the highway into coos Bay.
Oregon Department of Transportation/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021.

The S-shaped bend of the Oregon coast at Coos Bay is a prime docking spot, and the city enjoys a long history of being a port city. Today the presence of several popular attractions, coupled with its mild oceanic climate, makes Coos Bay a favorite among families and those looking to get a quick break off US Highway 101.

Sunset Bay State Park

Sunset Bay State Park
Children and adults alike love to explore tide pools like these at Sunset Bay.
johnnycochran/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Located on the shores of the Coos River, Sunset Bay State Park has a beach open all year round, with a well-equipped, popular campground just a short walk away.

The beach here, with its calm, sheltered waters, is well suited for children. Kids will love to explore the tide pools here- with sea stars, hermit crabs, and colorful shrimps popping up at low tide.

While exploring Sunset Bay State Park, wearing shoes with a good rubber grip is recommended, especially for children, as the rocks tend to be slippery at low tide.

8. Cape Arago State Park

Cape Arago State Park
A noisy group of sea lions at Cape Arago. Rick Obst/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The sounds that welcome campers to Cape Arago State Park are thus- the booming waves of the Pacific, the ever-present gull cries, and, beloved by all, the noisy chatter of the sea lions down at the beach.

Stellar Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Harbor Seal, and the Northern Elephant Seal are some of the species spotted on the beaches surrounding Cape Arago State Park.

Cape Arago State Park
Picnic tables are set up for visitors at Cape Arago. Rick Obst/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

While the Cape Arago Lighthouse off of Gregory’s Point remains a central attraction, the view offered from the cape is immensely popular too. Picnic tables have been placed so that visitors can enjoy the view in comfort.

Bullards State Park

Bullards Beach State Park
The beach here is best experienced on horseback.
John Liu/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

A half an hour drive south of Arago State Park is the Bullards Beach State Park with its equestrian delights. The scenic stretch is best explored on a leisurely horseback ride, listening to the lapping of the waves.

With over 10 miles of trail and more of the beach and sand dunes to explore, many bring their own horses along to ride this beautiful stretch of the Oregon Coast.

Along with 103 full hookup sites at the RV park, Bullards Beach State Park also provides corrals for the horses at the horse camp.

9. Humbug Mountain State Park

Humbug Mountain
The imposing Humbug Mountain, rising straight from the ocean.
Robert Ashworth/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The central attraction of the Humbug Mountain State Park is the eponymous mountain which stands a staggering 1765ft high, rising straight from the lashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Humbug Mountain State Park experiences some of the warmest weather on the entire Oregon Coast. For this reason, every spring to summer, the landscape is dotted with wildflowers blooming under the warm sun.

Humbug Mountain

Humbug Mountain
The trail at Humbug Mountain State Park.
Dan Hershman/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

One of the highest peaks on the Oregon coast, the mountain offers some of the best hiking trails. The nearly 3-mile long trail to the summit ends in a meadow offering dramatic views of the ocean.

Fern Trail is a favorite among visitors seeking a more leisurely trek up Humbug Mountain among the other hiking trails.

The waters around the mountain are a popular scuba-diving spot, famed for its reef formation and startling depth.

Camping at Humbug Beach

Though tent sites and camps are not allowed on the mountain itself, the Humbug Mountain State Park has a well-equipped campground at Humbug Canyon.

A half an hour drive north rests the historic Cape Blanco Lighthouse, the oldest operating light on the Oregon Coast, still warning ships to keep off the reefs to this day.

10. Harris Beach State Park

Harris State Beach Park
Tufted Penguin.
Gregory Smith/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

The VIPs of Harris Beach State Park are definitely the Tufted Puffins.

Goat Island

Harris Beach State Park
Goat Island, Harris State Beach Park. Rick Obst. Flickr. Copyright 2021

Nesting off-shore at Goat Island, these loveable creatures, along with a host of some 11 other species, call the island their home.

The rocky topography of Harris Beach State Park provides the perfect nesting areas for seabirds, with over 100,000 birds gathering at Goat Island during mating season.

Harris State Beach Park
Arch Rock is one of the park’s most frequented spots.
Bill Morrow/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

As part of the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor, the park is renowned for its sea stacks. Created by the erosion of the rocks by the wind and the sea-spray, with many resembling bridges, these monoliths are every photographer’s dream come true.

These rocky outcroppings can be seen all over Harris Beach State Park.

Harris Beach Campground

Just a short walk from the Harris Beach campground is one of Oregon’s 7 ‘Marine Gardens’ with its glimmering tide pools and a plethora of sea creatures.

This intertidal region of the Oregon Coast has a rich ecosystem of shallow water creatures with sea anemones, spiky sea stars, and shy hermit crabs making an appearance in every other tide pool.

Following the road of downtown Brookings, the beach is about a 5-minute drive away.

Downtown Brookings
Farmers’ markets like these are places for campers to stock up on fresh produce in Brookings.
Gemma Billings/ Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Since Harris Beach is just outside Brookings city limits, campers get to enjoy the city’s delights while still enjoying the bounty of nature.

The Lingering Magic of Oregon Coast Camping

Oregon Coast Camping
Magical sunset on the Oregon Coast.
liquid crash / Flickr/ Copyright 2021

Each state park on Oregon’s Coast offers an unrivaled uniqueness, which, coupled with their picturesque splendor, keeps bringing people back to this mystical land, time after time.

With some, it’s their history, while others amaze with their timeless beauty, but the lingering flavor of each of these places is a testament to the magic of the Oregon Coast Camping.

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