Every year on our snowbird trip, when we go south to find the winter sun, we travel on Highway 101 along the Oregon coast, eagerly anticipating each curve in the road that reveals sea stacks, ocean waves, and the rugged coastline.
We’ve driven the road 15 times now (an odd number because one year we went to the east coast in spring and drove all the way around the USA in a big circle). There is certainly no shortage of amazing places to see and photograph along the way. I probably could have made a list of 20 excellent stops for photography. But over the years a few places have stood out as being astonishingly beautiful with guaranteed great shots in any weather.
You never know what you’re going to get on the Oregon coast. It could be foggy, rainy, sunny and calm, stormy, or you might even get sand blasted on a windy day. But there’s always something and it’s always fun.
As always, to make my list of favourite photography locations, a place has to meet a few criteria:
- There must be room to explore. I love to wander around and find new things and new perspectives. If there is only one shot, it wont make my list.
- It must be reasonably accessible. If it requires a 20 mile hike in the sun, rock climbing, or rapelling into a canyon, it isn’t for me! I like to hike, but I’m no athlete.
- I like to be able to camp nearby, ideally right on the spot. I don’t mind a short drive to get somewhere for sunrise, but if it’s a 2 hour drive before sunrise, it probably wont make my favourites list. Of course, on the Oregon coast, every place is a sunset location.
- I dislike crowded locations. I love the quiet and solitude found in nature and that’s usually what it takes to make my favourites list.
Quick tip: if you are planning on driving the Oregon coast in both directions during a single trip, plan your roadside stops (of which there are many) for the southbound trip. All the pullouts are on that side of the road, so if you stop on your way south it is much easier.
Here are my favourite photography locations on the Oregon Coast from North to South:
Click on the little square in the top right corner of the map to view it in google maps with more detail.
1. Cannon Beach
I’ll always think of this as Oscar’s favourite beach. My old beagle loved the beach and this was his favourite one. Miles of sand will do that. While Haystack Rock is the main attraction, I prefer to photograph the Needles.
Where to camp: We always stay at Nehalem Bay State Park where there are sites large enough for the RV. It’s about 25 minutes south of Cannon Beach.
2. Cape Kiwanda
This is a fantastic spot for photographing waves crashing into the rocks, washing up and over rocks, or waves rushing back out to sea.
The first shot below you can get right from the parking lot without hiking anywhere. For other shots, you’ll need to hike a little up onto the hill for different perspectives.
Where to camp: When we visited here, we were members of Thousand Trails, so we stayed at Pacific City Thousand Trails just 5 minutes away. But there are plenty of other campgrounds in the area as well.
3. Lincoln City
This is probably a place that most people drive right by. I only found it because our truck broke down one time and we were stuck there for a few days. At first the beach may seem like any other, but over the years I have found it to be extraordinary once you start looking.
I’ve found new sea creatures I’ve never seen before called Valella Valella shown in the first shot below. They are a jelly and also knows as “by the sea sailors” since their body acts like a little sail. Given the right ocean currents, they sometimes wash up on shore in the thousands. I’ve also found giant mussels, strange tiny clams, and hundreds of sandpipers. Its seems there is always a new discovery to made there.
Where to camp: Free camping can be found at Chinook Winds Casino where you can stay for a few days in the parking lot right above the beach. After that you have to gamble a bit to stay longer. Or they also have an RV park next door.
4. Depoe Bay
My favourite photography spot in Depoe Bay is not right in Depoe Bay itself, although it’s definitely worth checking out. Just north of Depoe Bay there is a highway “scenic viewpoint” called Boiler Bay that provides great photo ops.
Where to camp: Since Depoe Bay is only 25 minutes south of Lincoln City, we stay at Chinook Winds Casino.
Newport is a quaint fishing village that is never crowded (at least not in November or April when I am on my way through) and has hundreds of cool things to photograph. You’ll find all the sorts of things you would expect to see in a fishing village like piles of traps and floats.
In addition, there is a sea lion dock where the sea lions like to hang out and bark at each other. If you ever want to get up close and personal with sea lions this is the place! You’re not too close though because you can’t actually get on their dock. You can photograph them from a different dock just above them which gives a great perspective.
Where to camp: South Beach State Park is on the south side of the bridge and has great photo ops of its own.
6. Bullards Beach
Located only 10 minutes from the next location on the list, Bullards Beach deserves its own mention since the beach is so different from the other locations listed.
Home of the Coquille River Lighthouse, the beach has a ton of driftwood. Between the jetty, the agates on the beach, the grassy dunes, the driftwood, and the lighthouse, there is plenty to photograph here.
Where to camp: Right here in Bullards Beach State Park. Great campground!
7. Bandon Beach
This is my all time favourite place on the Oregon Coast. Every time I go it is different. I have so many photos it was really hard to choose just a couple to show you. I chose Face Rock at sunset so you can see this unique feature. The other photo shows Ray enjoying the incredible view at sunset (even on a day with no clouds) during our most recent stop.
Where to camp: 10 minutes away at Bullards Beach State Park.
8. Myers Creek Beach
You might recognize this place from various car commercials that like to pick this spot since the highway goes right by and around a corner giving you a quick glimpse of these gorgeous sea stacks. But we discovered a spot to stay here one time when the weather was so bad that we just had to stop driving. We could barely see a thing at all so we pulled into one of the scenic viewpoints to wait it out. I remember telling Ray we should just stay there overnight if it didn’t clear because no highway patrol officer would kick us out during that storm. Turns out, we made a great discovery. And we didn’t get kicked out.
Where to camp: There are two scenic viewpoints on the highway. The one on the south has signs that say no overnight parking. The one on the north does not and that’s where we parked overnight on two occasions.
I’m always looking for new places to discover, so if you have a favourite spot on the Oregon coast, let me know in the comments!
This is the just the second of my Location Guides. What other places would you like me to cover in this series?
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