One of the most asked about itineraries we keep hearing about is an Oregon Coast road trip. Traveling the Oregon coast is a spectacular experience. Having lived near the Oregon coast, in Arcata, California, for 40 years, I have traveled to many of these places, many times. It is a gorgeous drive and definitely worth a family or couples’ road trip. This itinerary will give you some ideas on where to stay and what to see on your 6-7 day Oregon Coast road trip. As a bonus, we’ll show you how you can do it using some of those hotel points you’ve been acquiring. For more information on how to plan any trip, look here.
We are going to start in Portland, Oregon. Located on two rivers, the Columbia and Willamette, Portland is a beautiful city. The capital of Oregon, it is definitely the largest city on our itinerary. It is also an easy city to fly into if you want to fly and then rent a car. You can definitely use airline miles to fly there or simply drive your own car to Portland.
There are many hotels in Portland that you can use hotel points on for free stays. Hyatt, Marriott, Holiday Express (IHG), and Hilton all have hotels in the Portland area. I personally like to stay at a hotel with free breakfasts when I travel with family. It really cuts down on the costs.
Marriott Residence Inns have been a personal favorite as you also get a kitchen and can actually cook something for dinners if you want to save money. They also offer snacks during the weekday evenings that can often fill in for a light dinner.
The Residence Inn Portland North is a great option. For 1 night, it will only cost 20,000 points. It also has great reviews!
Another great option is the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Washington Square. It is only 38,000 points a night and that includes free breakfast. It is a 2 room suite (a living area with a separate bedroom) and has a microwave and fridge that is nice to use for snacks. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Credit Card will give you 125,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 in 3 months.
I would only spend a day in Portland. It is a beautiful city but I’d want to get on to the main attraction, the rugged Oregon coastline.
If you don’t want to visit Portland, you can start your Oregon coast road trip in Astoria. Located in the top corner of Oregon, it also has great hotels to spend a night in. The Holiday Inn Express and Suites is just 30,000 points and comes with free breakfast. If you get the IHG Club Premier Rewards Credit Card, you can get 140,000 IHG reward points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. I love my IHG credit card because of the benefits it gives me including a free night each year when I renew it.
Starting from Astoria, we will start our drive down the coast of Oregon. Our first stop will be Ecola State Park. This gorgeous park stretches across nine miles of Oregon coastline and is a hiker’s paradise. Put on your hiking shoes and choose one of its many paths. Day parking is a mere $5.00 and there are no overnight stays. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of the many elk and deer that live in the park.
Ecola Point is a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables. You can stop at the cute town of Seaside prior to entering the park to pick up some lunch supplies. Ecola Point overlooks Crescent Beach and is quite spectacular!
After lunch, drive to Indian Point. There is a parking area there and you can get out and walk along Indian Beach. If you have children with you, check out the tide pools at the beach. My children always enjoyed looking for starfish in tide pools! Be sure and check the tide tables to know when the tides are low.
When you are through visiting Ecola State Park, stop off at the cute town of Cannon Beach just a few miles south. It is famous for Haystack Rock and is a popular stop for photographers. The quaint town of Cannon Beach, populated by only 2,000 people, is worth a quick stop to meander through and photograph Haystack Rock. Enjoy a few moments on the beach but don’t be surprised if it’s not warm. Oregon beaches often have fog and the waters are on the cooler side. Therefore, don’t forget to pack a sweatshirt or two for your Oregon Coast road trip!
We’ve only traveled 25 miles from Astoria but this cute town is where I would stay the night. There aren’t any major hotel chains in Cannon Beach but there some local hotels or you could look into an Airbnb. If you have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can book your choice of hotel or Airbnb on that card and then use your points to get a statement credit. You may want to consider booking on hotels.com because, after 10 nights, you get a free room.
For dinner, I suggest the following:
After breakfast, let’s head to Garabaldi and take a ride on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The trip between Garabaldi and Rockaway Beach boasts spectacular views. The cost is $22 per person and $15 per child roundtrip. The ride takes about an hour and a half and it is a nice break for the driver of this road trip to relax and take the coastal views too!
After our train ride, we will stop at Tillamook, Oregon, and go to the Tillamook Creamery for some of their famous cheese or ice cream. Both are well known among the Pacific Northwest.
From Tillamook, we will head to Pacific City. The views along the way are gorgeous! It is a 40-mile scenic drive that passes Cape Meares, Cape Kiwanda, and Cape Lookout. Each has beautiful views, beaches, and hiking if you want to stop along the way.
The next stop is Lincoln City. A stop at the Lincoln City Glass Center is fun for all ages. Watch how glass is made and then head to one of the nearby beaches to hunt for your own glass ball treasure. It’s Finders, Keepers there! Will you find one of the balls the Float Fairies have dropped on the beach? One of our favorite Oregon Coast activities on our road trip is walking the many beaches. With seven miles of soft, sandy beach, Lincoln City is a great place to do that.
Our last stop on our Oregon Coast road trip for today is Newport City. We’ll stay the night here. A great activity in Newport City is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It’s open from 10:00-6:00 pm daily. It’s a little pricey but a family favorite to visit. They even have a Sleep in the Deep program where you can spend the night at the Aquarium! Now that is a once in a lifetime experience!
Of course, if you prefer using your hotel points to book your sleeping accommodations, you can use some more IHG points to stay at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. It will only cost 25,000 IHG points and includes breakfast.
After breakfast, we’ll head to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. Stop at the Visitor’s Center and learn about the area. Then head out to explore tide pools, Devil’s Churn, and the Spouting Horn. One of the most popular sites here is Thor’s Well, a gaping sinkhole, that brings visitors from all over the world to see and photograph it.
After spending a few hours here, we’re back on the road. We are headed to Florence, Oregon where we will spend the rest of our day and night. In Florence, we will check out the Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon. Our country’s largest Sea Lion Cave is also found here, so we will definitely be going there. Have you ever sandboarded? Similar to snowboarding but on the sand dunes, it’s a fun experience for the family. You might want to stop at Sand Master Park and try it out! For more ideas about what to do in Florence, go here.
There aren’t places to stay in Florence and use our traditional hotel points but here are some low-cost options, with good reviews where you could use your Capital One Venture Miles.
One of the most popular destinations on the Oregon Coast is the Oregon Sand Dunes. Families head there most weekends with their vehicles and off-road vehicles to camp and ride the dunes. Go to watch the fun or rent your own vehicle and join in! It starts just a few miles south of Florence and stretches 40 miles to Coos Bay.
Gold Beach, Oregon is our final stop on our day 5 Oregon Coast road trip itinerary. There are a lot of fun activities to do in Gold Beach. The beautiful Rogue River offers river rafting trips and we have found that to be a fun family activity. Whitewater jet boating up the Rogue is also a fun thing to do. I remember once fishing on the Rogue and I had just caught a huge salmon. A jet boat saw this and stopped with their passengers to watch me reel it in. Talk about pressure! Jerry’s Rogue Jets has trips of varying distances. It is usually cool and you might get a little wet. Therfore, you might want to dress warmly.
If fishing is your thing, it is possible to book a guide and do some river fishing or fishing in the ocean as the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean here in Gold Beach. There is nothing quite like getting a big salmon on your line!
You could hike in the 12-mile Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. There are trails of varying difficulty that will allow you to get out and see the beautiful area. Check out Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint and look for whale migrations if you are there in the spring or fall. Other noteworthy sites include Whaleshead Beach, Arch Rock, and Natural Bridges.
You could also choose to explore Cape Sebastian State Park where you could hike, check out the tide pools, and walk along the beaches.
A favorite for families with young kids is the Gold Beach Prehistoric Gardens filled with 23 life-size dinosaur sculptures. The admission price is only $12 for adults and $8.00 for children. Children of all ages have fun learning facts about these creatures.
Places to eat:
You aren’t going to find anywhere fancy in Gold Beach but I’ve stayed at Jot’s Resort eons ago. Back then it was the place to stay. The SureStay Plus Hotel Gold Beach looks like one of the nicest hotels now.
I know this is called an Oregon Coast road trip but you have to continue on a bit into Northern California and see the Redwoods! It would be a shame to miss them. Right over the Oregon/California border is Jedediah State Park and it is home to some magnificent Redwood Trees. Be sure and see the Grove of the Titans- it is spectacular!
If you have another hour to spare, I would head to Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It is phenomenal. Hike there and see where part of Jurassic Park was filmed. Enjoy the huge Elk as you drive and continue to enjoy the Redwoods.
At this point, you will be close to Arcata, California. I lived there for 40 years. You might want to check out the Arcata Plaza and see the 1960’s again. On a Saturday, the Farmer’s Market is a unique experience full of hippies and street performers. Be sure and stop in for the best frozen yogurt on the Pacific West Coast at Redwood Yogurt in Arcata.
Places to eat:
You can use hotel points to stay in this area by booking the Holiday Inn Express and Suites near the (tiny) Arcata/McKinleyville Airport in McKinleyville, California. This will cost you only 25,000 IHG points and includes a free breakfast.
If you booked with your IHG Credit Card for your nights in Astoria and Newport, Oregon, and then again in Arcata, California, you would have used 80,000 of your points leaving you with 60,000 left. Pretty nice for a family to stay 4 nights with breakfast with just one sign up bonus and you will have plenty of points to spare for a couple more nights!
If you want to fly from Arcata to your home, you can fly for free if you have United points. Arcata/McKinleyville airport is small and United is the only airline that flies there.
The Oregon Coastline is a popular road trip for couples and families. If you love the ocean, mountains, trees, and wildlife, you will enjoy this fun itinerary. Hiking, fishing, museums, swimming and more are all part of the fun, along with some of the most beautiful coastline you can imagine. When you combine a little travel hacking to stay in some hotels for free, you really have a win-win!
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