Fall on the Oregon Coast

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Have you considered an Oregon Coast fall trip? I know what you’re thinking—why visit in the fall? The water’s too cold in Oregon for swimming—actually it’s too cold and rough most of the year for swimming. And it will be rainy, right?

I had the same thoughts about visiting the Oregon Coast in October when Alan suggested one. But we were desperate to escape the smoke from forest fires that had been lingering over Montana’s Bitterroot Valley since mid July.

After a week of last-minute planning, we were on our way to one of the most delightful boomer trips of the year. Since then, we’ve enjoyed several fall trips to the central Oregon coast. 

September and October are wonderful months for visiting the coast of Oregon. The weather is usually sunny and mild, although rainy periods move in toward the end of October.

I’m sharing our original road trip experience plus other Oregon coast adventures we’ve experienced in the last several years. Alan and I aren’t done exploring Oregon, yet!

Where to stay on an Oregon Coast fall trip

A sunset pinks the sky a pinky beige, reflecting into the water on an Oregon Coast fall trip.
Sunset from the deck at Ocean House Bed and Breakfast in Newport

When planning our first visit, we discovered that Oregon coast hotels, vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts get booked up early for the summer and into fall. Of course this makes finding a last-minute place to stay challenging.

After days browsing the online listings at VRBO, Alan finally found a vacation home in the Bayshore community north of Waldport on Oregon’s central coast. Staying in a vacation rental is our first choice for a coastal visit.

But the rental wasn’t available as early as we wanted—we were really desperate to get away from the oppressive smoke. So Ocean House Bed and Breakfast in Newport, Oregon, became our home for the first three nights of this boomer travel adventure.

Boomer Travel Tip

We use the Benchmark Oregon Road & Recreation Atlas to plan our Oregon road trips.

Where to eat in Newport on an Oregon fall vacation

Fish layered over poblano peppers at Local Oceans Seafood in Newport, Oregon
When peaches are in season, this halibut/peach combination at Local Ocean Seafoods is yum!

This trip introduced us to restaurants that will become favorites as Alan and I continue to visit the central Oregon Coast. Yes, we’ve designated this area of Oregon as our new last-minute escape when we need a break from exploring Montana.

Hummus, vegetables and clam chowder served in a wooden tray.
Homemade hummus and seafood chowder at the Taphouse at Nye Creek in Newport.

In Newport, Taphouse at Nye Creek provided a sunny deck for lunch that included Oregon crafted beer. We also enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner at Local Ocean Seafood followed by sea lion watching in the Newport Harbor. I’ll be returning to Local Ocean for the seasonal special of grilled halibut and peaches. Yum!

Since first writing this article, we’ve added new restaurant favorites in Newport:

Continue down the Oregon Coast for more good food

In the Bayshore community near Waldport, we met a couple from Helena, MT—can you believe that? They introduced us to excellent Mexican food at Fresco Mexican Food in Waldport. If you go, I recommend the chicken molé. We’ve since discovered Azul Mexican Restaurant which has become our new favorite.

And we enjoyed breakfast at Hilltop Café-Bistro, also in Waldport.

A lunch at Luna Sea Fish House was our first introduction to the charming seaside village of Yachats. The drive was so pleasant that Alan and I returned to Yachats and the Drift Inn & Cafe for dinner and breakfast.

If there’s a long wait for dinner at Drift Inn, ask if you can sit at the bar. We were seated immediately, enjoying a fun dinner accompanied by an education in cocktail making from the bartender.

Luna Fish House now has a second location in Seal Rock, which is closer to Newport.

What to do on the central Oregon Coast

You won’t be bored on a trip to the coast. Take your pick: beachwalks, coastal range hikes, scenic drives, lighthouse exploring and covered bridge searches are just a few of our favorite things to do on the Oregon Coast.

Walk the many beaches

Grasses cover sand dunes in front of the blue Pacific Ocean.
We walked over dunes for a daily walk on a beautiful beach.

Since this was a smoke escape, the goal of this Oregon Coast fall trip was mostly to breathe fresh air on long beach walks. And we found plenty of beautiful beaches and wayside parks between Newport and Yachats to do just that. 

The beach at the Bayshore Community in Waldport was our main beachwalking site. After a short path over the dunes, Alan and I enjoyed a flat beach that went on for miles. South Beach State Park, near Newport, offers another expansive beach for walking and beachcombing.

wide expanse of beach with stormy clouds overhead
Ona Beach

Small state park beaches are located all along Highway 101. Ona Beach, part of the Brian Booth State Park complex, has become another of our favorite beaches to walk.

Located almost halfway between Waldport and Newport, this state park offers a large parking lot and restrooms. Those looking to spend the day will appreciate the shady picnic grounds with tables.

Explore Cape Perpetua

Ocean waves wash up onto black sand beaches bordered by a mountain headland.
Beaches are just a small part of the exploring to be done at Cape Perpetua.

At Cape Perpetua Secnic Area, a unit in the Siuslaw National Forest, hike in a coastal range forest or on trails above the beaches, photograph the Devil’s Churn or explore tidepools. Cape Perpetua deserves an article dedicated to all there is to see and do. I promise, one is coming.

Visit the Central Coast lighthouses

Yaquina Lighthouse stands on the headland at Newport, Oregon.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse

On our first trip, Alan and I enjoyed the hike to Yaquina Head Lighthouse that was accessible directly from Ocean Head Bed and Breakfast. Although we didn’t pay to explore inside the lighthouse that dates from 1873, whales provided a free show in a nearby bay.

Tidepool exploring at Yaquina Head is another fun activity. It’s on the list for next time.

Although we didn’t explore Heceta Head Lighthouse on this visit, we drove past it’s Cape Perpetua location south of Yachats. There’s a darling bed and breakfast located in the former lightkeepers house. A stay at Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast is definitely on our to do list.

There are eleven lighthouses on the entire Oregon Coast. Hmm, that sounds like a wonderful theme for the next road trip.

Take a hike in the coastal range

forest trail between big trees
Drift Creek Wilderness trail

Harris Ranch Trail was our introduction to coastal range hikes. Getting to the Harris Ranch Trailhead in the Drift Creek Wilderness proved to be quite the adventure. We turned onto a forest road east of Waldport that wound around and around until finally reaching the trailhead.

I can’t describe the quiet beauty of standing among Sitka spruce and western hemlock in the largest rainforest stand of old growth in the Oregon coastal range. Although we didn’t hike far, it was worth the drive.

Hiking is a wonderful way to experience Oregon in the fall. And there are plenty of trails to choose from. Alan and I have barely scratched the surface. Drift Creek Falls Trail near Lincoln City is on our list for next time.

Search for covered bridges on an Oregon scenic drive

A white covered bridge surrounded by green trees in Oregon.
Driving the Alsea highway between Waldport and Philomath is beautiful. Especially when you stop to explore covered bridges like the Hayden Bridge.

On a fall trip to coastal Oregon, try a scenic drive in the mountains when it’s too windy to enjoy the beach or when the marine layer has moved onto shore. That’s what we do!

You’ll find 50 covered bridges in the state of Oregon. It’s the largest concentration of covered bridges in the West. And I’m determined to visit every one of them.

Of course I’ll write about it so that you can enjoy them, too. Stay tuned!.

There’s so much to see and do on the Oregon Coast. Check back as I add more tips for your Oregon Coast fall adventure.

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