Tucked up against the hillside with easy access to beautiful beaches and iconic rocky cliffs, Oceanside, Oregon is perhaps the most overlooked hidden gem along the Oregon coast. Because it’s slightly out of the way, many people choose to skip Oceanside, driving straight to Tillamook instead. However, we think doing so would be a mistake! Covering just one square mile, perched up on a steep cliff rising up from the edge of the beach, Oceanside is the perfect off-the-beaten path stop on your next Oregon road trip! Keep on reading to learn about all the great things to do in Oceanside, Oregon!
why we love oceanside, oregon
We spent two months living along the Oregon Coast and have explored nearly every beach, town, viewpoint, and state park from Astoria down to Brookings. And Oceanside, Oregon is one of our favorite towns along the entire coast!
But with so many cute, seaside towns dotting the rocky Oregon coast, you’re probably wondering what sets Oceanside apart from the other coastal villages. Well, let me explain!
When we pulled into the tiny seaside hamlet of Oceanside, we both immediately said that it felt like the Cinque Terre of the Oregon Coast. The entire town is built up the steep hillside that overlooks beautiful beaches and impressive rock formations.
Much like its Italian brethren, the way the buildings in Oceanside seem to climb up and cling onto the edge of the hillside leading up from the ocean below is not only an impressive feat of modern construction but also gives the town a quaint and unique seaside vibe that you can’t find anywhere else on the Oregon coast.
Despite its easy access to beautiful beaches and picturesque sea stacks, Oceanside seems to attract fewer crowds than other towns along the Oregon coast, likely due to its more remote location away from Highway 101, the main road that runs along the Oregon Coast.
While most visitors likely choose to head through Tillamook along Highway 101, Oceanside is off the beaten path just enough to attract few visitors, while not being too far out of the way!
More to do on the Oregon coast
Where to stay in oceanside
Staying true to its quaint seaside town ethos, there are no large hotels or hotel chains in Oceanside. However, there are plenty of cute, locally-owned accommodations available. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to spend the night in Oceanside, but we would have loved to stay and watch a sunset over the beach!
Here are a few lodging options in town:
Featuring well-appointed king rooms with huge ocean-view windows in a prime location.
Located right on the beach, you cannot beat the location of these super cute, rustic cabins in Oceanside.
This stunning oceanfront condo sleeps 6 and features a huge deck right over the beach with sea stack views
where is oceanside, oregon
One of the reasons we love Oceanside, Oregon is that it’s located just enough off the beaten path to feel slightly hidden but not too far out of the way.
While most Oregon coast road-trippers elect to stay on Highway 101 as it passes through Tillamook (which is overrated in our opinion), Oceanside is located along the Three Capes Scenic Highway, just north of Netarts and south of Cape Meares.
For simplicity, we’ve provided driving times to Oceanside from some larger cities nearby:
- Portland | 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Salem | 1 hour 45 minutes
- Eugene | 2 hours 45 minutes
- Medford | 5 hours and 15 minutes
- Bend | 4 hours and 15 minutes
How long do I need in Oceanside, Oregon
This is a really tough question to answer because it all depends on what you want to do and what you’re looking for in your Oceanside, Oregon escape.
If you’re pressed for time, you could see most of the tiny town’s highlights in a couple hours. Get breakfast or lunch at Current Cafe and Lounge, enjoy a walk on Oceanside Beach and Tunnel Beach, explore Short Beach, and soak up the views from Cape Meares Lighthouse.
While you can certainly squeeze in the most popular activities in a morning or afternoon, we would recommend a little more time. Oceanside would be a perfect weekend destination for those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Portland.
Or, if you really want to relax and enjoy the quietude of Oceanside, you could spend a few more days, enjoying sunset views and slow mornings with hot coffee and a book overlooking the ocean.
Additionally, Oceanside would make a nice home base for several days exploring the northern Oregon Coast.
When is the best time to visit Oceanside, Oregon
Like the rest of the Oregon coast, the weather in Oceanside hovers between the 50s and 60s (F) year-round. Rain and fog are a common sight.
We’d recommend visiting Oceanside in the summer months when temperatures will be a bit higher (mid-60s) and there is a higher likelihood of sunshine. That being said, don’t expect to be laying out on the beach in a bathing suit and beaming sunshine.
Again, rain, clouds, and fog can roll in at anytime so be prepared for wet and windy conditions any day you’re in Oceanside, Oregon.
Things to do in oceanside, oregon
With all of that background out of the way, let’s jump into the best things to do in Oceanside, Oregon!
- Walk through a tunnel to a hidden beach
- Take a walk along Oceanside Beach
- Soak up the views of Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge
- Take a quick hike to Short Beach
- Snap some pictures of the iconic Cape Meares Lighthouse
- Enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat from Current Cafe and Lounge
- See the mysterious Octopus Tree
- Drive the Three Capes Scenic Route
- Hit the trails in Cape Lookout State Park
- Enjoy a seafood dinner at Roseanna’s Cafe
- Visit the neighboring town of Netarts
- Have a campfire on the beach
- Tour the Tillamook Creamery
Map of the best things to do in Oceanside, Oregon
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1. Walk through a tunnel to a hidden beach
Without a doubt, the top thing to do in Oceanside, Oregon is to explore Tunnel Beach. This hidden beach is accessed through a man-made tunnel that cuts through the base of Maxwell Point, a large basalt cliff that jets out into the ocean.
When the tide is high, the only way to reach this secluded strip of rocky beach is through the tunnel, constructed in 1926. Spanning 90 feet from end to end, the tunnel is slightly claustrophobic. You’ll definitely want to have the flashlight on your phone available, as the ground is dark and uneven.
But as you pass through to Tunnel Beach, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world, where sea stacks dominate the coastline and tide pools are teeming with all sorts of aquatic life. Tunnel Beach features the best views of Three Arches Rock Nature Preserve just offshore.
To access Tunnel Beach, you can park in the parking lot for Oceanside Beach. You’ll see Maxwell Point towering over the beach and the tunnel at its base just a few hundred feet away.
Tip | If the tunnel makes you claustrophobic, you can walk around Maxwell Point when the tide is low. Remember, however, that if the tide comes in while you are on Tunnel Beach, you will need to return through the tunnel.
2. Take a walk along Oceanside Beach
After exploring the secluded shores of Tunnel Beach, you can easily continue your beach exploration on Oceanside Beach, which is wider, sandier, and seems to stretch all the way to Netarts. Oceanside is more of your classic beach, with white sands and large dunes.
Oceanside Beach is a popular place to surf and you’ll find many people searching for agates along the water. Off the coast, enjoy views of several large sea stacks.
We’d recommend bringing some snacks and a bottle of wine for a perfect sunset picnic!
3. Soak up the views of Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge
Just half a mile off the shore of Tunnel Beach lies Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge, which is the smallest designated wilderness in the US. Though it may be geographically small, Three Arches is one of the prettiest sites along the Oregon coast.
Designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Three Arches is a breeding area for many different types of seabirds, including puffins. It’s also the only pupping area along the northern coast of Oregon for Steller Sea Lions.
Note | It’s not actually possible to visit Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge. It’s closed to the public to protect the fragile nesting environment. However, you can see the unique formations from both Tunnel Beach and Oceanside Beach, as well as at a distance from Cape Meares.
4. take a quick hike to Short Beach
Just a short, 5-minute drive north of town, you can access the trail to Short Beach, although you might drive right past the discreet access point if you aren’t paying attention! Nestled between Oceanside to the south and Cape Meares to the north, Short Beach is a half-mile stretch of Oregon coast paradise, with two waterfalls (one man-made), sea stacks, tide pools, and plenty of sea life.
Parking is limited and the once-overlooked Short Beach is becoming more popular. Make sure you try to get there when the crowds are low.
Also, to access Short Beach, you will need to descend a series of stairs that are steep and a bit slick. Make sure to have proper footwear.
5. Snap some pictures of the iconic Cape Meares Lighthouse
Continuing north from Short Beach, you’ll soon reach Cape Meares Scenic Viewpoint, home to the picturesque Cape Meares Lighthouse. With sweeping ocean views from high above the cliffs, we thought the short stroll down to Cape Meares Lighthouse was easily one of the best things to do in Oceanside, Oregon!
Clocking in at just 38 feet tall, the Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest lighthouse on the entire Oregon coast. However, its location perched high on the cliffs of Cape Meares, some 200 feet above the ocean below, make it one of the prettiest lighthouses we saw in Oregon. Even more impressive is that the lighthouse has been in operation since 1890!
The paved path down to the lighthouse is just 0.2 mile and features epic views on both sides.
6. marvel at the mysterious Octopus Tree
If you’re making the short drive up to see the Cape Meares lighthouse from Oceanside, it’s definitely worth continuing your stroll to see the unique and mysterious Octopus Tree. From the Cape Meares Lookout parking lot, it’s about a quarter mile to the tree.
This Sitka Spruce has no central trunk and instead has 8 limbs that extend horizontally from the base before extending upward. The tree, which resembles an octopus, is between 250 and 300 years old.
There’s no doubt how the tree came to be named. The reason for its unique shape…well that remains a mystery!
7. Enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat from Current Cafe and Lounge
There aren’t a ton of dining options in Oceanside but our favorite is easily Current Cafe and Lounge. Attached to Oceanside Surf Company, Current Cafe and Lounge might not look like much from the outside, but the food is filling, freshly-made, and delicious!
We each ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee while we were in town and the breakfast sandwiches were piled high with piping-hot scrambled eggs and crunchy, crispy bacon! And the coffee was stellar too! It really hit the spot.
We watched a few other meals come out of the kitchen and they all looked great! If you’re looking for a place to grab a quick bite before you head down to the beach, or better yet, to take down to the beach with you, then Current cafe and Lounge is the place to stop!
The Blue Agate Cafe is another popular breakfast and lunch spot in Oceanside. This modest diner serves up delicious classics, including a crab omelet, fried pacific rock bass sandwich, and a crab and shrimp melt.
Tip | Get your breakfast sandwich from Current Cafe to go and enjoy it with a view on the beach! It’s sure to be a breakfast to remember.
8. Drive the Three Capes Scenic Route
One of the best activities to do on the entire Oregon coast, nevermind Oceanside itself, is to drive the Three Capes Scenic Route.
With some of the best views, beaches, lookouts, lighthouses, and trails anywhere in Oregon, the Three Capes Scenic Route was one of the highlights of our time in Oregon. This scenic drive passes through Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda (aka the three Capes)
Running for 40 miles and passing right through Oceanside, the Three Capes Scenic Route encompasses everything there is to love about the Oregon coast!
9. Hit the trails in Cape Lookout State Park
One of the most popular stops to get out and stretch your legs along the Three Capes Scenic Route is Cape Lookout State Park. The 4.7-mile Cape Lookout trail will take you all the way to the end of the cape, passing through lush forests of Sitka Spruce with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
This trail is known as one of the most popular whale watching areas along the entire coast, as pods of gray whales pass through the area in the spring and fall during their annual migration.
10. Enjoy a seafood dinner at Roseanna’s Cafe
If you’re looking for a local joint in Oceanside to have a nice sit down dinner, then Roseanna’s Cafe is the place to be. Serving up seafood staples like clam chowder, fish and chips, burgers, salmon, and crab cakes, you know you’ll be getting a solid meal when you’re at Roseanna’s!
11. Visit the neighboring town of Netarts
Just six minutes from Oceanside sits another tiny Oregon Coast town called Netarts. The word Netarts literally means “near the water” in the language of the local Tillamook tribe, and we’d say that description is pretty fitting!
Netarts sits along the shore of Netarts Bay, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a narrow strip of sand called Netarts Spit.
Netarts is best known for serving the freshest seafood, made easy by its prime coastal location. Most notably, the Schooner Restaurant and Lounge serves up amazing seafood dishes with ingredients sourced primarily from local farmers, foragers, and fishermen.
Additionally, nearby Jacobsen Salt Co creates unique salts, seasonings, and chocolates using salt harvested right here in the Netarts Bay!
12. Have a campfire on the beach
One thing we love about Oceanside (and many sections of the Oregon Coast) is that you can have a campfire right on the beach! On Oceanside Beach, you’ll find a few existing spots with massive pieces of driftwood arranged around a pit.
Enjoy a campfire, s’mores, and a beer or two while you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean!
13. Tour the Tillamook Creamery
The Tillamook Creamery is just 20 minutes from Oceanside, and visiting the famous cheese and ice cream factory is a super popular thing to do on the Oregon Coast.
This uber popular tourist attraction is the primary production factory of the ubiquitous American cheese and ice cream brand, where you can enjoy self-guided tours, free samples, shop the gift shop, or get a burger, pizza, or ice cream from the food hall.
For full transparency, we were not very unimpressed with the Tillamook Creamery. The self-guided tour is cool enough, but after a while, you’re just looking at huge chunks of cheese moving along fancy conveyor belts. The free samples are nothing more than the same single-serving packets of cheese you can find in any grocery store. The gift shop didn’t carry any unique cheese or ice cream flavors, and while the food in the food hall looked tasty, it was absolutely swamped with people.
Despite our lackluster experience at the Tillamook Creamery, if you’re a lover of all things dairy, it’s worth a visit. We personally just wouldn’t recommend going out of your way.
Other day trips from Oceanside
Oceanside is the perfect quiet home base if you want to explore a little further along the northern Oregon Coast. Below are a few amazing day trips from Oceanside, all within an hour and a half drive:
- Go crabbing at Kelly’s Brighton Marina | Located on Nehalem Bay just 40 minutes from Oceanside, Kelly’s offers crab trap rentals and bait for $17, with access to their dock where you can try your own hand at crabbing. The best part? They’ll cook whatever you catch for you to enjoy on their deck.
- Hike to Short Sand Beach | Not to be confused with Short Beach (just outside Oceanside), Short Sand Beach is a scenic hidden beach popular with surfers, that’s accessible only via a 1-mile hike.
- Explore Hug Point Recreation Area | The short 1.2-mile Hug Point Trail leads along the beach at the base of a cliff to coastal caves, waterfalls, and vibrant tide pools. It’s about an hour from Oceanside.
- Visit Cannon Beach | Home to perhaps the most iconic landmark on the Oregon Coast, the famous Haystack Rock, the cute little town of Cannon Beach is just an hour’s drive from Oceanside.
- Hike God’s Thumb | A uniquely shaped grassy cliff with some of the best views we’ve seen on the Oregon Coast, the 4.3-mile hike to God’s Thumb is certainly worth the 1 hour drive from Oceanside.
- Hike Cascade Head Trail | This popular 4.2 mile hike is also located about 1 hour from Oceanside, and features stunning coastal views similar to those found at God’s Thumb.
- Visit Proposal Rock at Neskowin Beach | Located 45 minutes south of Oceanside is Neskowin Beach, a beautiful wide sandy beach most famous for the so-called Proposal Rock, a small island with a unique arch clinging to its cliffside.
Other Oregon Resources
Looking for more incredible hikes and things to do on the Oregon coast? You may also be interested in the following:
- 21 Amazing Things to Do in Coos Bay, Oregon
- The Hobbit Trail in Oregon: Hike to a Secluded Beach
- How to See the Spouting Horn in Cook’s Chasm
- How to Visit Thor’s Well: A Mysterious Ocean Cauldron
- Best Hikes & Things to Do in Silver Falls State Park
And with that, we’ve rounded out our list of the best things to do in Oceanside, Oregon! Feel free to reach out with any questions in the comments section below.