Family cuddling on the oregon coast with elk in background

Which Northern Oregon Coast Town is the Best

What makes the perfect northern Oregon Coast town to visit? Depends what you’re looking for! It might be beach access where you can play in the sand and waves. Or maybe you like dramatic cliffs and enjoy looking rather than playing. Possibly your idea of a perfect beach vacation involves less crowds, or maybe you’re looking for a lively town full of fun activities. Everyone’s needs are different so I’m going to break down my favorite Oregon Coast beach towns so you can figure out the best choice for your coastal vacation or day trip. 

But before we get to the actual towns, here’s some common questions you might have about visiting the Oregon Coast!

Table of contents

Common Questions About the Oregon Coast

Most Delightful Oregon Coast Towns Near Portland

Common Questions about the Oregon Coast

What is the most touristy town on the Oregon Coast?

Cannon Beach is one of the most loved towns in Oregon, and is considered to be the most popular town on the Oregon Coast. But as popular as it is, it still remains quite small and has kept it’s small coastal town appeal. If you visit in the summer, you’ll likely find a lot of other people typically there for the day. In the early mornings is when you’ll find it to be the most peaceful (my favorite!) but you may have a hard time finding anything open before 8am besides the Pig n’ Pancake.

Kids running around parents on the beach with haystack rock behind them
Cannon Beach, Oregon

What is the prettiest part of the Oregon Coast?

This is definitely subjective, as all the parts of the Oregon Coast are beautiful. But I find that the prettiest parts are the ones with lots of rocks and cliffs, because just a flat beach can be found anywhere. My favorite towns with lots of rocks, cliffs, and interesting landscapes would be Cannon Beach, Pacific City, Oceanside, and Yachats (Okay, I cheated a little bit: Yachats is a little further than 2 hours from Portland but it’s worth it).

Pregnant couple below cliffs at yachats oregon
Yachats, Oregon

What Oregon coastal town is best for bike riding?

Seaside is super bike-friendly, with a boardwalk that goes right between the town and the ocean making it very easy to get around and also enjoy the salty Oregon Coast air. The flat, accessible path makes it perfect for cyclists of all ages, so you can enjoy Seaside’s unique blend of natural beauty and vibrant community life at your own pace. Just watch for pedestrians 😉

Family walking towards the sunset and ocean

Which northern coastal town in Oregon has the best weather?

In the northern half of the state, Astoria tends to be a good bet for better weather. It’s the northernmost coastal town in Oregon, situated right by the Columbia River’s mouth as it meets the Pacific Ocean. While Astoria sees its fair share of rainy days, being a bit inland helps it avoid some of the more intense coastal storms. Astoria is full of history, offers beautiful Victorian architecture, and has a vibrant arts scene, which is fun to explore. They also filmed scenes from The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop there (anyone else love that movie??).

What is the most walkable town on the Oregon Coast?

When I think of walkable, I am thinking which town has the most food and shop options in a condensed area. There are lots of towns like this but my favorites would be Seaside, Cannon Beach, and Rockaway Beach. Seaside is great because the majority of the restaurants and attractions are located on First Avenue, which is a road just off the main highway so traffic drives very slowly, and there is tons to do. Cannon Beach has a small town feel, with lots of shops and places to eat in a small area. Rockaway Beach has one long strip of businesses that runs along the main highway, making it a bit trickier for families with young children who like to run off, but it’s very cute and small.

closeup of hands touching with sun shining through them

What are the best Oregon Coast towns for families?

If you’re looking to take your kids on a beach trip, I would recommend Seaside or Pacific City. Seaside has a lot to do in a very small area, so you can get a hotel close to First Street and never need to get in the car for the entire stay if you don’t want to. Kids will be entertained no matter the weather because of all the indoor activities they have like the arcade, bumper cars, mini golf, and aquarium. The beach is huge, with tons of sand and plenty of ocean to play in, and you’ll always find someone making gigantic bubbles or carving sandcastles for onlookers. 

Pacific City is a great beach town for families because it offers a great blend of adventure and relaxation for all ages. The town’s most known spot, Cape Kiwanda, is a natural playground where kids can get out their energy climbing massive sand dunes and parents can unwind with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The beach is spacious and inviting, perfect for sandcastle building, kite flying, or simply soaking in the sun. With a quaint (yes, I will use this word, as it’s the only one that truly describes it) selection of local eateries and shops, families can enjoy the comforts of small-town hospitality. Additionally, the calm, family-friendly atmosphere of Pacific City ensures a safe and welcoming environment for creating lasting memories. Whether you’re exploring the tide pools or enjoying a picnic as the sun sets, Pacific City is the ideal setting for families seeking both adventure and relaxation by the sea.

Maternity couple at the oregon coast with cape kiwanda behind them
Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon

Most Delightful Oregon Coast Towns Near Portland

Now let’s get into my absolute favorite Oregon Coast towns within 2 hours of Portland. This is based on the MANY times I have stayed on the coast either alone, with friends, or with my family. So no matter who you’re traveling with, you are going to enjoy your trip! My idea of a perfect coastal town mixes that charming, small town feel with breathtaking scenery. And we are very lucky to have lots of that!) 

Here are the best Oregon Coast towns within 2 hours of Portland:

Seaside, Oregon: Most Fun Oregon Coast town

If you stay right on First Street, or very close, it typically stays a little loud until late at night. But the variety of activities definitely makes up for it. It’s such an interesting mix of tall hotels and dive bars with partying adults, and boutique motels and family-friendly activities. Seaside has lots to do, including bumper cars, mini golf, an arcade, and a small aquarium. They also have one of my favorite restaurants, Finn’s Fish House, which I have been known to eat at for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in the same day! Plus, there are tons of places to get ice cream here (I recommend either Seastar Gelato or Zingers) if you have a sweet tooth. I don’t come here for amazing views, as the beach is basically flat with no cliffs or rocks close by (other than in the distance). But there are a ton of things to do in a small area so it’s definitely one of the most fun towns on the Oregon Coast.

One of the things I both love and hate about this town is the fact that almost every business closes by 9pm. This makes it a quiet place to stay, but also annoying when you want a late night snack. Luckily, Seaside is just 10-15 minutes away if you’re looking for nighttime entertainment. Cannon Beach is great because it’s very easy to walk all around, and Haystack Rock is right there ready to be the subject of all your photos, as well as your place to explore tide pools when it’s low tide. You can also drive up to Ecola State Park for some beautiful views and amazing hiking trails. But be warned, Cannon Beach is the most popular town on the Oregon Coast so expect lots of crowds, especially in the summer. Hug Point is also just down the road, which is worth a visit anytime but especially at low tide.

Family hugging at ecola state park viewpoint
Ecola State Park Viewpoint in Cannon Beach

Oceanside, Oregon: Cutest Beach Town in Oregon

Not to be confused with the one in California, the Oregon version of Oceanside could not be more different. This is one of the smallest and most beautiful towns on the Oregon Coast, with it’s three food options (but sometimes less depending on what day you visit) and completely unique beaches. You have a fantastic view of Three Arch Rocks as you descend into town from Netarts, and if you choose to stay at a place up on the hill, you usually have a nice view of them, too. Oceanside Beach State Park is one of the coolest beaches because it has a tunnel that you can go through to explore Tunnel Beach that can’t be accessed any other way. But be careful, do not try and go through at high tide! Other places to explore here are Short Beach, and Cape Meares which has a lighthouse, amazing views, and the Octopus Tree!

Couple holding hands and running in the water
Oceanside, Oregon

Pacific City, Oregon: Best Oregon Coast Town for Families

If you have curious kids, I guarantee that this will be a winner in their books. Exploring Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area is one of my kids favorite things to do at the Oregon Coast. There’s a super tall sand dune that children love to climb up and then roll down, so be prepared with some baby powder to get the sand off afterwards. The entire Cape Kiwanda area is tons of fun to explore, with plenty of tide pools to see at low tide, and trails to hike around to at the top. Plus it has the other haystack rock (did you know there were two??). As far as the town goes, there are a few shops over by Cape Kiwanda, but if you drive a few minutes into the main part of town on the other side of the river, there are lots more options. I love the small town feel of this place. Make sure to visit Village Coffee Shoppe for an excellent hometown breakfast just like mom used to make (bring cash, as that is all they accept) and you’ll love seeing all the personalized mugs saved for all the locals.

Couple hugging while sun plays nearby at the oregon coast
Pacific City, Oregon

Capture Your Oregon Coast Adventure: Book a Photo Session

As you plan your unforgettable trip to the Oregon Coast, one thing you may want to do is save your memories with a fun and carefree photo session! Whether it’s a family adventure or a romantic getaway, I’m here to capture the story of your experience against the stunning backdrop of the coast. My photography style is all about genuine moments and natural beauty, making sure your memories are preserved in a way that’s authentic and true to you. Let’s create something beautiful together that you’ll look back on and remember with a smile on your face. I welcome you to book a session or see my photography and videography portfolio. I can’t wait to help you capture the magic of the Oregon Coast!

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