Updated March 2020
US Route 101 is one of the most breathtaking roads in America. it winds along 363 miles of the Oregon coast and is ideal for a road trip with kids.
Traveling between the mouth of the Columbia River and the old-growth redwoods of Northern California, we encountered charming costal towns about every 30 miles along the drive.
Tip: A local historian recently explained to me this is the approximate distance a horse could travel in a day.
We spent the better part of this past summer driving 101 in sections. This strategy allowed us to enjoy an unhurried, in-depth appreciation for the diversity and natural beauty of the entire coast.
Some towns, like Cannon Beach, are well known for romantic vacations. And of course, Tillamook draws busloads of hungry tourists in search of ice cream and cheese.
Here are our four favorite towns for families.
4 Stops You Have To Make On A Road Trip Down the Oregon Coast With Kids
West of Portland: Rockaway Beach
We began our road trip at the north end of the Oregon Coast.
Rockaway Beach is an excellent place to fly a kite. Near constant winds and a wide, sandy beach are a perfect combination and likely on any random sunny afternoon.
When your neck is sore from looking into the sky, wander down the main drag in search of an ice cream cone or watch a glass-blowing demonstration at one of several local art studios.
The area leans toward inexpensive motels and RV Parks. For something a bit better, try the Rockaway Beach Resort. It has large family-friendly rooms with kitchenettes and sitting areas, an indoor pool and whirlpool and a beach-front setting.
But if you start your trip 25 miles north, at Cannon Beach, you can stay at the Hallmark Resort & Spa, which offers freshly-baked cookies to its human guests on arrival, a bowl of dog biscuits for dogs.
It’s a bit more modern, with a beachfront setting and two indoor pools and whirpools. Families can rent one or two-bedroom suites with kitchnettes, some have nice decks for enjoyng the view. And its close the Haystack Rock, which is what draws visitors.
2 Central Coast Stops
Our next stop was Neskowin, 46 miles south of Rockaway Beach.
We arrived at low tide, which meant we could walk out to Neskowin Beach State Recreation Area and look down near the shore for 2,000-year-old remains of decayed cedar and spruce tree trunks.
Another low-tide activity we enjoyed is buying a clamming license so we could dig for our dinner.
We found a bucket full of steamer clams under the Girabaldi pier earlier this summer, but you’ll find popular clamming spots all up and down the coast.
Hotels are a bit scarce in Nescowin itself, but a bit further south in Lincon City You’ll find the cheerful, nautically themed Surftides Lincon City.
The boutique hotel has a modern feel, indoor pool, onsite restaurant and outdoor firepits. The rooms are roomy; some comes with seating or eating areas and a microwave.
One of the larger costal communities, Newport is 38 miles south of Neskowin. We had fun watching the fishing and crabbing boats come in to port in the afternoon.
We like to dine at Rogue Brewers on the Bay (take brewery tour if you have the time.)
Families with younger kids will enjoy the Oregon Coast Aquarium with its touch tanks and other Hands-on fun. Or try the free Hatfield Marine Science Center.
In the lively Nye Beach district, the boutiquey Inn at Nye Beach looks like a row of connected beach houses in front. In the back there is a small infinity pool and gorgeou stretch of beach.
It doesn’t scream family as much as some other places but you’ll find a room to suit your needs and breakfast is included, here.
West of Eugene: Florence
One of our favorite destinations is Florence, at the southern end of the Oregon Coast, 49 miles from Newport.
It’s located in the heart of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and is the birthplace of sandboarding.
We found plenty of shopping and dining options in the historic downtown district.
Just north of town are the sea-lion caves and the highly-photographed Heceta Head Lighthouse.
If you want to stay in town, you’ll find small hotels and some familiar chains; the latter might be a bit more reliable.
The Old Town Inn has cute, roomy rooms, a friendly inn-keeper and a great location right in town. It’s fine to rest your head for a night.
If you want a pool, the Best Western Pier Point Inn, just across the bridge from the historic center is a good bet. It’s had a recent refurbishment, which is always nice. In addition to the indoor pool and hot tub, it has nice river views, a bar and restaurant onsite and free breakfast, too.
Anywhere On Your Road Trip
You can’t go wrong stopping anywhere along the coast that might tempt you.
Walk on the beaches or explore one of the many state parks, natural forests, wildlife refuges, and marine reserves. Each town has a chamber of commerce or visitors center with maps, tide tables and suggestions for local activities.
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Julie Henning is the new owner (but longtime editor) of the family travel website Road Trips for Families. She recently moved to Eugene, Oregon with her husband, three kid, and black lab.