The Oregon Coast draw road trippers and adventurers from all over to experience the beauty of miles of public coastline. Spend three days driving the scenic Highway 101 along coastal cliffs, through forests and sand dunes to get the most out of your trip to the Central Oregon Coast. 

  • Good for: solo trips, couples, families, outdoor enthusiasts
  • Best time to drive:  spring and fall for fewer crowds; winter for whale watching and peak Dungeness crab season

Plan your trip with a stay along the coast or explore from a home base in the nearby Eugene-Springfield metro area.

From Eugene, you can enjoy a leisurely 60 mile drive to Florence, then take your pick of where to anchor your stay: a cozy inn in Historic Old Town Florence, a beachfront hotel with an ocean view or a coastal campground to pitch your tent. Spend the next two days exploring the wonders of the stretch of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (Highway 101). Drive north along the rocky cliffs and south past rolling sand dunes. You'll see amazing panoramic vistas, landmarks and wildlife — and have the opportunity to kick back, relax and stick your feet into the sand while you watch the waves roll by.

Birding at Fern Ridge by Michael Sherman

Birding at Kirk Park - Fern Ridge

Day 1

Eugene to Florence

Head west out of Eugene on West 11th, which becomes Highway 126. From here you can get to the coast in one hour, but we suggest taking your time and discovering some of the treasures along this route.

Just outside of Eugene, you'll pass the small community of Veneta, known for being home to the annual Oregon Country Fair and Fern Ridge Reservoir. Fern Ridge is Eugene's go-to spot for boating, sailing, swimming, birding and picnicking. The lake stretches out to the north of Highway 126, bordered by wetland preserves. Stop at one of the wildlife viewing areas or at Perkins Peninsula Park to observe the thriving ecosystem. Birding is very popular here and you'll likely be rewarded with glimpses of sandpipers, mallards and herons. Fern Ridge's Richardson Park Campground is also a great spot for camping with young kids or first-time campers who want to be on a lake but close to a metro area.

The other great feature of Veneta is its surrounding wine country. If you want to taste some of Oregon's famous Pinot Noir, plan to detour north on Territorial Highway. LaVelle Vineyards is only four miles off the main road and offers a charming tasting room and outdoor seating with great vineyard views.

Continuing on along Highway 126, you'll pass several small farms. Keep an eye out for Morning Glory Farm and Espresso, where you can get a fresh cup of coffee and organic produce, artisan preserves and treats. 

Next up is Wildcat Creek Covered Bridge, one of the area's historic covered bridges that you can still drive through. To get there, turn left onto Siuslaw Road, then right onto Austa Road. This is the perfect place to picnic if you picked up lunch.

Wildcat Creek Covered Bridge by Gregory Burns

Wildcat Creek Covered Bridge

You can also cross the highway and head to the Whittaker Creek Recreation Site for more shady hikes and leisurely strolls. For an easy and accessible waterfall hike, turn off the highway right before Mapleton on Sweet Creek Road to wander the multiple cascades at Sweet Creek Falls

Immediately past the turn off for Sweet Creek Falls is the bridge over the Siuslaw River into Mapleton.

Mapleton on the Siuslaw River by Melanie Griffin

Mapleton on the Siuslaw River

By now, if you've stopped along the way, it may be late afternoon. Check into your Florence hotel and plan your evening. If there is still time, pop over to the Oregon Coast Military Museum for an impressive tribute to the local veterans. Or drive north through town on Highway 101 to see an unusual garden dedicated to Darlingtonia, a rare carnivorous flower.

There are many excellent dinner options in Historic Old Town Florence. Wrap up your evening with a show at the Florence Events Center or a movie at City Lights Cinemas.

Day 2

Florence to Yachats

After breakfast, head north on Highway 101 for an epic road trip of ocean vistas, rocky cliffs and mossy coastal forests. This is one of the most dramatic stretches of the entire Oregon Coast Highway, slowly rising to the highest point of the coastline at Cape Perpetua. 

The Sea Lion Caves are an internationally-recognized destination for good reason.There's a monitor in the gift shop that shows you how many sea lions are currently in the cave. Even if the sea lions are out swimming in the ocean or lounging on the rock ledges, the cave itself –- hailed as America's largest sea cave –- is stellar all by itself. An elevator will take you 200 feet down into the cave. Afterward, stroll the sea cliff walk to spot sea lions, migrating whales and sea birds. 

After driving over the Cape Creek Bridge you'll come to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Before you reach the lighthouse itself, you'll see the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, popular with photographers who come to capture an iconic shot of the lighthouse surrounded by a sweeping view of the coastline.

Once you arrive at the beach, take a short hike past the former Assistant Lighthouse Keepers' House – now a bed and breakfast – to the lighthouse. Seasonally, volunteers or Park Rangers may be on-site leading tours. 

Your next stop is at the Hobbit Trail near Washburne State Park. Parking is limited along the road, but if you're able to find a spot, this is a fun, easy hike. The short trail winds through damp, mossy woods that feel like an enchanted forest from a fairy tale before magically opening onto a wide, flat beach.

Finally, continue to the highest point on the Oregon Coast at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, where the forest meets the sea. Stop by the Visitor Center and learn about the 26 miles of trails with awe-inspiring ocean views, or look over the ocean and try to spot migrating whales. The easy 0.6 (41.8 km) walk on the trail from the visitor center will lead you to tidepools. When near the ocean make sure to follow beach safety guidelines and avoid walking out onto the rocks, where the tide can change quickly. Never turn your back on the ocean and remember that even if a rock or sandy area looks dry, a powerful sneaker wave could surprise you there. Instead, relax and watch from the viewing platform as you take in the awesome display of the wild Pacific coastline.

From the Visitor Center parking lot, you can also drive to the very top of Cape Perpetua to an overlook with breathtaking views, picnic tables and some steep hiking paths. Gaze as the tiny ribbon of a road and vast ocean ripple across the horizon below you.

Looking out from a stone archway, the ocean and dramatic cliffs and shoreline stretch out below.
: Melanie Ryan Griffin

Cape Perpetua Lookout

Now it's time to turn back toward Florence for the return drive, stopping along scenic turnouts for photos or waysides for beachcombing.

Plan ahead and make a reservation at C&M Stables in Florence to saddle up for a horseback ride on the beach. These family-owned stables take great care of their beloved horses and you are sure to have a memorable experience as you ride beside the waves and watch the sun set over the ocean.

Back in town, unwind from the horseback riding at the Three Rivers Resort & Casino. Plenty of gaming, headliner shows and three restaurants will keep you entertained.

Day 3

Florence to Dunes City

Today you'll head south on Highway 101 after a leisurely morning exploring Historic Old Town Florence. Get coffee or tea to go at River Roasters and meander Bay Street and the boardwalk. Tour Old Town's murals, and shop for gifts, clothing, art, kitchenware, kites and fudge. The Florence Farmers Market is here every Tuesday late afternoon between May and October.

Family Enjoying Historic Old Town Florence's boardwalk.

Boardwalk along the Siuslaw River in Historic Old Town Florence

Just across the Siuslaw Bridge is the windswept South Jetty. Drive into the dunes along the Siuslaw River to where the dunes meet with the ocean. Fishing and sandboarding are popular sports here, or you can just enjoy exploring the sand hills and water views. You might even spot surfers and windsurfers out by the jetty.

Day of Adventure - Sandboarding in Florence
: Melanie Ryan Griffin

Sandboarding in the Oregon Dunes

Cleawox Lake is adjacent to the popular Jessie M. Honeyman State Park and offers sandy beaches, calm waters and a roped-off swim area in the summer.  Seasonally, vendors may offer canoe and kayak rentals here, or you may find some available at Siltcoos Lake further south on Highway 101. From Siltcoos Lake, paddle a three-mile river trail to the ocean. Please note signage and respect the endangered Snowy Plover nesting areas, which are restricted in spring and summer.

Cleawox Lake - Honeyman State Park by Dina Pavlis

Cleawox Lake at Honeyman State Park

The best way to explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is to immerse yourself in the dunes and – as you'll quickly discover walking through sand – hiking is not an easy option! If you aren't hauling your own ATV, visit one of the dune buggy tour companies for a fast and thrilling or slow and scenic ride into the massive dunes landscape. Learn all about the habitat and the efforts to preserve this amazing natural wonder. 

A Dune buggy full of people with their arms in the air and smiles on their faces turns in the sand causing sand to fly in the air.

Dune Buggies on the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

From here, you can continue on to more coastal adventures or start planning your next road trip to Oregon wine country or the Cascade Mountains.