A Stop-By-Stop Guide to the Oregon Coast with Kids


Kids at the oregon coast dig in the sand

Oregon Coast with Kids

A friend recently told me about her upcoming Oregon Coast trip, and asked, “Where should I stop along the Oregon Coast?” So I’ve made up a quick itinerary of where I’d go and what I’d do if driving the Oregon Coast, from Astoria to the California-Oregon border.

This stop-by-stop guide down Hwy 101 along the Oregon Coast shows great stops and kids activities. Plan frequent stops into your day, and you’ll discover less complaining and more cooperation.

Drive along the Oregon Coast’s Hwy 101 with my Google Maps directions. (But always double-check directions and open hours, etc. before going anywhere)

Stop 1. Start your trip in Astoria. Pick up pastries for a snack from Blue Scorcher Bakery Café.

Stop 2. Drive 8 miles, about 16 minutes to Lewis and Clark National State Historical Park. Check out the recreated cabins where Lewis and Clark spent their first dreary winter and check out some of the kids activities.

Stop 3. Drive 14 ½ miles, about 22 minutes to Seaside. Ride the Carousel in Seaside Town Center or play a few games in the Funland Arcade.

Stop 4. Drive about 9 miles or 12 minutes. Stop at the gorgeous Haystack Rock and Tolovana Beach and poke around in the tidepools.

Stop 5. Drive 38 miles or about an hour to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a quick tour (if available) and a sample or two – plus lunch.

Stop 6. Drive 45 miles (about one hour) to Lincoln City and visit The World’s Shortest River: D River.

Stop 7. Drive 27 miles or about 45 minutes to Oregon Coast Aquarium. Eat dinner. Sleep!

Stop 8. Drive 37 miles or about 1 hour 15 mins to the Sea Lion Caves and meet some stinky lions of the sea. (Kids love this attraction, but it is a little … redolent). If Sea Lions aren’t your thing, visit Heceta Head Lighthouse, two minutes away.

Stop 9. Drive about six miles to the 18-acre Darlingtonia State Natural Site (or Darlingtonia Wayside), where the kids can meet another sort of wild creature – carnivorous plants that only grow in S. Oregon and N. California.

Stop 10. Drive 12 minutes to and stop in Florence at Nature’s Corner Café and Market and pick up sandwiches, chips and an almost-bad-for-you drink.

Stop 11. Drive about 21 miles or a half-hour to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park and the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area, where towers of beach sand reach up to 500 feet high. Enjoy a picnic.

Stop 12. Drive 75 miles or about two hours to the Prehistoric Gardens, a wild, weird spot that dino-loving kids will adore and older kids may find a bit cheesy, but still amusing.
Order fish and chips at at Crazy Norwegians in Port Orford.

Stop 13. Drive 30 miles or about an hour. Stop in Gold Beach, Oregon and go crabbing.

Stop 14. Drive those last 36 miles (about an hour) to Alfred A. Loeb State Park to visit the only stand of Myrtlewood and Redwood trees in Oregon. Cook your Oregon crabs and sleep in an Oregon yurt!

Read more about the Oregon Coast with kids at Travel Oregon.


The Great Road Trip: 5 fantastic, family-friendly trips

Are the kids are out of school and bickering already? Here are some excellent, longer BC road trips, Washington State road trips and Oregon road trips, along with links to Google maps, so you can customize each one.

I tried to choose points en route that are really worth a stop for families, and create circles, so you’re always seeing something new. I suggest always spending a few nights in one destination along the drive — it’s too easy to get burnt out on the road otherwise.

1. Waterpark Fun on Google Maps

Starting Location: Vancouver or Seattle
Distance: 767 miles / 1,215 kilometres (15 hours drive time)
Days: 8
Route: If starting in Seattle, drive a little over three hours to the always-sunny Lake Chelan for the Slidewaters waterpark. Stay for two nights. Next, drive an hour up to Osoyoos, BC, home to one of BC’s warmest lakes. Spend one night. Drive to Lake Okanagan, BC for two nights near the Vernon Atlantis Waterslides. Spend two nights in Kelowna, Vernon or Penticton. Then head down for the long drive (4+ hours! Pack lots of movies!) to Cultus Lake WaterPark or Harrison Hot Springs for one night. Spend a night in Vancouver, BC and take the kids to the Variety Kids Waterpark at Stanley Park. Drive home!

2. Spectacular City Escape on Google Maps

Starting Location: Victoria, Vancouver or Seattle.
Distance: 340 miles / 513 kilometres (some by ferry) (9 hours + ferry)
Days: 6

Route: Take the ferry from Vancouver, BC to Swartz Bay, then drive to Victoria. Spend two nights in Victoria. From Victoria, take the Black Ball ferry to Port Angeles. Swing by the historic seaside town of Port Townsend and spend one night. Head to Seattle for two nights, then return home. This route can be reconfigured a number of ways, but it’s rare to drive for more than two hours in any direction – except between Seattle and Vancouver. A great choice for those with younger children, because some of the time is spent on child-friendly ferries.

3. Salish Sea Islands on Google Maps

Starting Location: Seattle, Victoria or Vancouver
Distance: 461 miles /742 kilometres (about 15 hours drive time plus ferry)
Days: 10

This meandering trip creates a necklace of Salish Sea island jewels. Starting from Seattle or Vancouver, take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands. Spend one night. Continue on by ferry to Victoria for two nights. Next, take the ferry to the gentle farmlands of Salt Spring Island. Spend one night. Continue up to Nanaimo. Spend two nights to prep yourself for the next big haul to Comox BC, then taking the hour-long ferry across to Powell River. From here, you’ll hopscotch to Vancouver via ferry along Hwy 1. Choose three more nights to stay from the child-friendly Sunshine Coast accommodation options. With very young children, halve this trip and return to Vancouver via Nanaimo.

4. Golden Circle Route on Google Maps

Starting Location: Portland
Distance: 575 miles / 925 km (about 12 hours travel time, but traffic can impact)
Days: 8

Drive from Portland to Cannon Beach, Oregon, a family-friendly favorite. Spend two nights, then pack snacks (and your mental energy) for the long, gorgeous drive along The People’s Coast down to Newport, Oregon — be sure to stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for lunch and a quick visit. Spend two nights in Newport, visiting the aquarium and hanging out on the beach. Then get ready for a big change in scenery — you’ll drive almost three hours east along Hwy 20, through the forests and into family-friendly Bend. Spend two nights. Then head north to Mt. Hood, spending one night at the historic Timberline Lodge. Return to Portland! You can shave time and distance off this trip by halving it — and driving back up I-5 to Portland.

5. Olympic Glory road trip on Google Maps

Starting Location: Seattle or Victoria
Distance: 361 (Seattle)- 581 km (9 h)
Days: 4-6

For this trip, you’ll need to pack a raincoat — and garlic! Leaving from Seattle or Victoria, drive (or ferry) to Crescent Lake, Washington to stay in the Lake Crescent Lodge. Spend one night. From here, swing by the Hoh Rain Forest, then drive to one of the Olympic Park’s campgrounds. You can reserve a spot at Kalaloch, take your chances at the first-come, first-served campgrounds or stay in a Forks, Washington hotel if you’re living with a vampire fan. Spend one night in any destination. Then, drive to Lake Quinault Lodge to spend one more night before driving home. If “home” is in Victoria, spend two extra nights in Seattle, fortify yourself, then drive home via Port Angeles or Anacortes.