Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids: 12 Exceptional Stops to Include

There’s no doubt about it – the Oregon Coast has just about the most gorgeous shoreline in the country. So, it’s no wonder that taking an Oregon Coast vacation by driving the Pacific Coast Highway is an excellent idea. 

But if you’re concerned about making the trip with kids, you’re in luck! There are tons of things to do on the Oregon coast with kids.

We’ve compiled a list of 12 different stops with dozens of activities perfect for driving the Oregon Coast with kids. From wildlife viewing to sand surfing, this list has everything to fill your Oregon Coast drive itinerary. 

Curious about what’s on the list? Let’s get into it. 

Distance Driving the Oregon Coast with Kids 

If you’re planning to drive the Oregon Coast, there’s one road to take, and that’s US-101 South, aka: the Oregon Coastal Highway. The full distance from Astoria in the north to Brookings, on the border with Washington, covers 340 miles. Lucky for us, the 101 is the most gorgeous Oregon coast scenic drive and has plenty of things to do and see with kids. 

Now, if your starting point is Portland, you’ll tack on about 100 miles to get to Astoria, taking I-5 North and US-30 West. Although it’s not exactly on the Pacific Coast, it’s still a gorgeous Oregon Coast scenic drive.

You’ll travel along the Columbia River and be able to explore places like the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, which is considered one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Astoria to Warrenton6 miles (9 kms)11 minutesWarrenton
Warrenton to Seaside12 miles (19 kms)17 minutesSeaside
Seaside to Cannon Beach9 miles (14 kms)13 minutesCannon Beach
Cannon Beach to Manzanita14 miles (23 kms)20 minutesManzanita
Manzanita to Tillamook26 miles (42 kms)38 minutesTillamook
Tillamook to Neskowin Beach32 miles (51 kms)41 minutesNeskowin
Neskowin Beach to Depoe Bay25 miles (40 kms)36 minutesDepoe Bay
Depoe Bay to Newport13 miles (21 kms)18 minutesNewport
Newport to Florence49 miles (79 kms)1 hour 1 minuteFlorence
Florence to Siuslaw National Forest42 miles (68 kms)1 hour 13 minutesSiuslaw National Forest
Siuslaw National Forest to Brookings197 miles (317 kms)4 hours 10 minutesBrookings
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

How Long is the Oregon Coast Drive with Kids? 

The full Oregon Coast drive from Astoria down to Brookings takes, on average, just over seven hours to complete. That bumps up to nine hours if you’re coming from Portland.

But those times are if you’re not stopping. Let’s be real. This is about enjoying the drive, taking your time, and enjoying everything the Oregon coastline has to offer. Instead, with all of the amazing things to see and do, you can spend a good week making your way down the 101. 

Best Time of Year to Drive the Oregon Coast With Kids  

The best time of year to drive the Oregon Coast with kids or without has to be during the summer. You’ll find the warmest and driest weather June through September.

During the summer, temps can rise as high as the mid-80s. But you should always prepare for cooler temps, wind, and the possibility of rain (yes, even in the middle of summer!)

12 Best Stops on an Oregon Coast Road Trip With Kids  

1. Astoria

There’s no better place to start your epic Oregon Coast vacation than Astoria. As the first town in the state, it holds great historical significance. But more importantly, it’s the perfect place to visit with kids.  

Go for a ride on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. Everyone in the family will love riding the historic trolley along the southern bank of the Columbia River. It’s only $1 to board and travels about 3 miles. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Astoria

A totally different way to see the city is to climb The Astoria Column. Modeled after the historic Trajan’s Column in Rome, the Astoria Column was built in 1926, showing images of Astoria’s history. Today, you can climb all 164 steps to get a 360-degree view high above it all. Visiting and climbing the column is free, but you will need to pay for parking.

Both Fort Clatsop National Monument and Lewis and Clark National Historical Park are great ways to bring history books to life. Kids will love walking around the encampment that Lewis and Clark established when they reached the west coast. 

There’s no better place in Oregon for kids than the Columbia River Maritime Museum. They’ll love learning all about seafaring vessels and shipwrecks in particular. It’s only $5 for kids and free for those 5 and under.

Pro Tip: Kids and kids-at-heart who love the 80s movie The Goonies, consider visiting in early June. Astoria (the setting of the film) celebrates Goonies Day each June 7th with special events and even a showing of the movie in the Columbian Theatre– a super cool activity to do with your kids on the Oregon Coastal road trip.

2. Warrenton

Okay, so Warrenton is super close to Astoria (just across Youngs Bay to the west), but it’s such a great place that we had to give it its own spot on this list of things to do when driving the Oregon Coast with kids. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Warrenton

A must-do in Warrenton is visiting Fort Stevens State Park. Kids and adults will love checking out a real shipwreck Wreck of the Peter Iredale, walking the beach, hiking any of the 15 miles of trails, checking out Historic For Stevens, and kayaking in the Trestle Bay. 

For family fun that gets your blood pumping, head to High Life Zipline Park. You’ll be soaring through the trees – a completely different way to appreciate the Oregon Coast with kids.

Pro Tip: Fort Stevens Park offers year-round camping, including RV hookups, making it the ideal place to stay on your Oregon Coastal road trip.

3. Seaside

Heading down the Oregon Coast, the next no-brainer stop is Seaside. It’s just over 12 miles south of Warrenton, making it a short drive down the Oregon Coastal Highway.

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Seaside

Seaside is one of the best places to find things to do on the Oregon coast with kids. Catering to families, you’ll find tons of restaurants, ice cream shops, and arcades. Don’t miss walking the Seaside Promenade, riding the carousel, and visiting the Seaside Aquarium

Pro Tip:  Since it’s so close to Warrenton, you could choose to stay in either place and easily visit the other. As a major destination, you’ll find tons of places to stay in Seaside, like Seaside Thousand Trails

4. Cannon Beach

On the road again, the next stop on this epic Oregon Coast road trip, Cannon Beach, is only 8 miles down the coast from Seaside and one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast.

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Cannon Beach

With its iconic Haystack Rock and Sea Stacks on the shoreline, you’ll recognize this special place right away. Maybe the kids won’t recognize it from movies like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop, but the grownups definitely will. 

Make sure to visit the beach during low tide. It’s the best time to walk out to the rock and see it up close. Kids will love finding sea creatures in the tidepools, too. Keep an eye out for puffins that call Haystack Rock home during the spring and summer months. No wonder Cannon Beach is one of the best Oregon beaches for families. 

Just north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park, one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast. Running along the shore for 9 miles, the park has tons of hiking trails with beautiful views of the Pacific. 

5. Manzanita

Heading south from Cannon Bay on the 101, you’ll be in two more of the beautiful state parks that line the Oregon coastline: Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site and Oswald West State Park.

Arcadia is the perfect place to have a picnic, walk along the beach, and go tide-pooling. Unlike its neighbor up the Oregon coastline, Oswald West feels a bit more like you’re on an adventure, walking through a temperate rainforest and onto a secluded beach. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Manzanita

Once you’ve enjoyed the parks, it’s on to Manzanita and Nehalem Bay. Seven miles of sandy beach means there’s tons of beachcombing to do. 

Pro Tip: If your family is looking for a different beach experience, why not ride a horse along the shores with Nehalem Bay Horse Excursions?

6. Tillamook

Heading inland just slightly, a great place to spend some time on the Oregon Coast drive with kids is Tillamook. 

Visiting the Tillamook Air Museum is a great activity for families with little ones who like planes. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Tillamook

For some of the most delicious ice cream and cheese, make sure to spend some time in the House that Cheddar Built – Tillamook Creamery. Your taste buds will thank you.

If you’re planning to drive the Oregon Coast in the fall, definitely visit The Hydrangea Ranch. There’s plenty of harvest fun where you can pick a pumpkin from the patch, go on a hay ride, and get lost in the largest corn maze in Oregon. 

Another super cool thing to do is to take the kids on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. Now you won’t be traveling the entire Oregon coastline, but a 90 minute ride on a historic steam engine could be the ride of a lifetime for your family.

Pro Tip:  If you’re a family that loves exploring the beach, then you’ll love Oceanside just to the west of Tillamook. The best place to head is the Oceanside Beach State Recreation Site.

7. Neskowin Beach

On the way to the next stop of Neskowin Beach, make sure to stop at Cape Kiwanda Sand Dunes in Pacific City. Here, you’ll love climbing to the top of the enormous dune for a gorgeous coastline view. You may even spot historic Dory fishing boats in the water. If you’re driving the Oregon Coast with kids in July, check out Dory Days Festival Weekend.

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Neskowin Beach

The next must-stop on the Pacific Coast Highway is Neskowin Beach. Specifically, Neskowin Ghost Forest is a super cool place to visit if you’re into things that are a bit more on the creepy side. The Ghost Forest are the trunks of ancient trees that were buried thousands of years ago and have only been brought to the surface in recent years. So, although this isn’t a spooky ghost story feel, it can be a great discussion topic for kids who are studying history and science. 

Neskowin Beach also has great tidepools and warmer water than others, making it one of the best beaches to visit the Oregon Coast with kids. 

Pro Tip:  Neskowin Beach RV Resort is a solid choice when looking for a place to stay in the area. They also have cabins to rent if you’re not making the Oregon Coast drive in a house on wheels. 

8. Depoe Bay

One of the biggest draws of visitors to the Oregon coastline is whale watching. And there’s no better place to do it than in Depoe Bay.

Although it may be difficult for most of us to figure out which whales are in the area and which are on the move, the OPRD Whale Watching Center is ready to help. They’ll answer all of your questions and even help you spot the Grey, Humpback, or Orca. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Depoe Bay

Don’t miss seeing the Devil’s Punch Bowl just south of Depoe Bay. The powerful sea smashing into the rocky coast created this amazing rock formation. It’s super cool to check out any time, but during the winter months, the agitated, energetic sea makes the bowl super active.  

Pro Tip: Remember to bring our binoculars.  If you forgot to bring your binoculars on your Oregon Coastal road trip, don’t worry! The Whale Watching Center has some to borrow. 

9. Newport

About 133 miles from the start of the trip in Astoria, the next major stop on the Oregon Coast drive itinerary is Newport. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Newport

The major claim to fame is that Newport is the home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, a favorite among Oregon Coast vacations. The whole family will love learning about life under the sea and walking through underwater tunnels, giving a different perspective. Jellyfish and Octopus encounters are a super fun experience kids love but are an extra expense.

Lucky for us, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is open daily and offers discounts for seniors, young adults, and kids, and is free for 0-2 years old.

Beyond the aquarium, Newport is a great place to stop when driving the Oregon Coast with kids. You’ll definitely be drawn to the Bayfront with all of its places to eat and shop. It’s also a great place to see the local sea lions. Let the kids run, climb, and play at Coast Park, a large playground area. 

Pro Tip:  Just south of Newport is Seal Rock State Recreation Site, which is a great place to see rock formations, go tide-pooling, and see sea lions and seals.

10. Florence

Seeing the wildlife on the Oregon Coast is one of the biggest draws to vacationing here. But sometimes, it’s hard for kids to know where to look. A perfect solution is visiting the Sea Lion Caves. As they say, it’s not a zoo, but there’s a good chance of seeing sea lions. So, hey, why not check it out? 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Florence

If you have kids into fairies, gnomes, or enchanted forests, go for a hike on the Hobbit Trail in Florence. At the trail’s end, you’ll be on the secluded Hobbit Beach, but it feels like you’re journeying into a magical place along the Oregon Coast.

For a totally awesome experience when driving the Oregon Coast with kids, hit the dunes. Sandboarding is all the rage at Sand Masters Park. You and the kids can rent a board for the day or take a lesson to learn the moves. Either way, you’ll have a blast. They’re open all week April–December but only Thursday through Sunday in the off-season.

Pro Tip: Places in Florence are RV-friendly. Specifically, most places have enough parking for RVs, which is nice to see. 

11. Siuslaw National Forest

Make sure to put Oregon Dunes National Recreation Center in the Siuslaw National Forest on your Oregon Coast drive itinerary. You’ll love all of the family-friendly activities within the park, like hiking the Sweet Creek Falls trail, which is only 1.1 miles but passes 11 waterfalls.

Kids and grownups alike can be Citizen Scientists in the park, too. The Agents of Discovery app is a whole new way for kids to engage with the nature around them in Cape Perpetua. Tahkenitch Area is the best place to go kayaking with kids, too. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Siuslaw National Forest

Just south of Siuslaw National Forest is Coos Bay, one of the largest towns on Oregon’s Coast. It’s nice to take a short stroll on the Coos Bay Boardwalk and learn about the town’s development and the importance of logging in the area.

Pro Tip:  Carter Lake Campground in the Oregon Dunes Recreation Area is a favorite place for families to camp.  

12. Brookings

We’ve made it! After traveling 338 miles down the Pacific Coast Highway, the final destination on this Oregon Coast road trip with kids is family-friendly Brookings. It’s here that you’ll find a number of the best Southern Oregon Coast attractions. 

USA Driving the Oregon Coast With Kids - Brookings

Azalea Park is a favorite destination with locals and visitors. Kids (and kids-at-heart) will love playing disc golf, horseshoes, and playing on the large playground. The gardens in Azalea Park are a delight and are celebrated with the Azalea Festival every Memorial Day Weekend. If you’re in Brookings in the summer, check out life music at the American Music Festival in the park. In winter, it’s all about Nature’s Coastal Holiday Festival of Lights. 

Don’t miss spending time in Harris Beach State Park. With tidepools, soft sands, and gorgeous views, it’s definitely one of the best Oregon beaches for families. 

The Port of Brookings Harbor Boardwalk is the best place to bring the kids for seafood dinners and ice cream desserts. During the summer and early fall, it’s also the home to Saturday Markets at the Port featuring vendors and live music.

Pro Tip:  Harris Beach State Park is the perfect place to stay the night when visiting the Southern Oregon Coast. With RV hookups, tent sites, and yurts, you’re likely to find a type of camping that’s right for you.

More Tips for Road Tripping the Oregon Coast with Kids   

  • When on your Oregon Coast drive, check road conditions and alerts in Oregon by dialing 511 or on TripCheck.com
  • There are so many State Parks on the Oregon Coast. Depending on how many you have on your Oregon Coast itinerary, buying a 12 month parking permit may save you money instead of getting daily ones. The Oregon Pacific Coast Passport is also a great idea – it’s honored at a number of places on this list of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast.
  • Make reservations in advance, especially if you’re planning to drive the Oregon Coast in the summer. It’s a super popular time to do it, so you’d hate to miss out on something because you didn’t get a spot in advance. This goes for not just accommodations but for places like aquariums, too.
  • Dress in layers on your Oregon Coast drive. Although temps are quite mild year-round, when the wind whips up, you’ll definitely want to make sure you and the kiddies are prepared with something warm like a jacket or sweatshirt.
  • Make sure to pack the binoculars (for the adults and kids) for your drive on the Oregon Coast. With so much amazing wildlife on the coast of Oregon, it’s the best way to see it all and keep your distance.
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Where to Next?

After Brookings, you can continue your journey into Northern California. We recommend you pick up one of these itineraries next to continue exploring the US West Coast:

© Family Road Trip

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