Only accessible through a man-made tunnel, chiseled through the base of towering rock cliff, Tunnel Beach in Oceanside, Oregon is a unique adventure that you certainly don’t want to miss on the Oregon coast. After walking through the narrow tunnel, you’ll arrive at a pristine secluded beach, featuring tide pools teeming with aquatic life, rocky sea stacks, stunning coastal views, and a wide sandy beach! In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting Tunnel Beach, a hidden gem on the Oregon Coast.
Tunnel Beach in Oceanside, Oregon
- Distance | 0.5 miles
- Elevation gain | Mostly flat
- Difficulty | Easy
Located in the small town of Oceanside in northern Oregon, exploring Tunnel Beach was one of our favorite adventures on the Oregon Coast. This hidden beach is accessed only through a man-made tunnel that cuts through the base of Maxwell Point, a large basalt cliff that jets out into the ocean, giving it a unique, almost mythical, vibe.
The tunnel to reach Tunnel Beach was built in 1926, to provide access to the beach when the tide is high. The tunnel spans 90 feet from end to end and, be warned, 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 remerge from the darkness of the tunnel, it will feel like you’re entering a new, secret world of towering sea stacks, crashing waves, starfish anemones, and tiny crabs scurrying between barnacle-covered rocks. Even better, Tunnel Beach features the best views of Three Arches Rock Nature Preserve, the first wilderness refuge west of the Mississippi, just offshore.
Other oregon Resources
Looking for more to do on the Oregon Coast?! We’ve got lots of resources to help you plan your trip!
- A unique experience walking through a tunnel to reach a hidden beach
- Beautiful sea stacks and vibrant tide pools at Hidden Beach
- Quick and easy to access from Oceanside
- Despite it’s “hidden” location, Tunnel Beach is quite popular and tends to get crowded on summer days.
- Navigating through the dark, narrow tunnel may be claustrophobic for some.
Where is Tunnel Beach?
Tunnel Beach is located in Oceanside, Oregon, a quaint and picturesque little town on the Oregon coast. Oceanside is situated just south of Cape Meares State Park and north of Netarts, along the Three Capes Scenic Loop on the Northern Oregon coast.
From major cities in the PNW, you can reach the parking area for Tunnel Beach in:
- 1 hour 30 minutes minutes from Portland
- 1 hour 40 minutes from Salem
- 2 hours 40 minutes from Eugene
- 4 hours 15 minutes from Seattle
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…
Where to stay near tunnel beach, Oregon
Oceanside is the most convenient place to stay for exploring Tunnel Beach in Oceanside. Since the town is so small, if you aren’t able to find a place in Oceanside, the town of Netarts just a few minutes to the south is a solid second choice.
Below are a few recommendations for awesome places to stay in Oceanside, Oregon:
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
Camping near tunnel Beach
There aren’t any campgrounds in the area immediately around Oceanside and Tunnel Beach, but there are a couple within a 30 minute drive:
- Cape Lookout Campground | Located in Cape Lookout State Park, about 10 minutes from Tunnel Beach, this campground has 170 tent sites and 38 full hookups. Sites may be reserved up to 6 months in advance.
- West Winds Campground | Located 25 minutes from Tunnel Beach, this National Forest Service Campground has 20 sites that are available only first-come-first-serve.
- Sandbeach Campground | Minutes from West Winds Campground, Sandbeach Campground in Siuslaw National Forest offers 81 sites that can be reserved on recreation.gov up to 6 months in advance.
How difficult is getting to Tunnel Beach
The walk to Tunnel Beach is only about half a mile round trip, making it a fairly easy adventure. The most difficult part of the walk is navigating through the dark rocky tunnel. You’ll definitely want to carry a light source (flashlight on your phone works just fine) to avoid tripping hazards.
If you tend to get claustrophobic, walking through the tunnel may not be a great idea, as the walls are tight and it is dark.
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.
When to go to Tunnel Beach
Much like the rest of the Oregon Coast, rain, fog and strong winds are common at Tunnel Beach, even during the summer. Tunnel Beach is not really the type of beach you should expect to bring a towel and lay out getting a sun tan.
Temperatures on the Oregon Coast remain fairly mild year round with highs in the 50s and 60s, but the wind and rain can easily make a 60-degree day feel much colder.
For the best weather conditions, plan your visit during the summer months, from June through September. During the summer, temperatures are slightly higher with average highs in the upper 60s and average daily rainfall is at its lowest of the year.
We visited on a foggy, rainy day in late May and it was actually pretty nice. Honestly, the gray, moody conditions are part of what gives the Oregon Coast it’s unique charm.
What to pack for hiking to tunnel Beach
- Headlamp | The easiest way to make sure you can see every step you take in the tunnel.
- Packable Towel | Since you’ll be hiking to reach Tunnel Beach, this little towel packs down tiny and is perfect to bring to sit out on the beach.
- Rain jacket | Even if it’s sunny when you start, it’s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket when hiking on the Oregon Coast because the weather can be crazy unpredictable! My Patagonia Torrentshell is my all-time favorite rain jacket for hiking.
- Hiking Sandals | The trail to Tunnel Beach is pretty mild, so you could definitely hike in a pair of comfortable sandals with good traction like Chacos.
- Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | Be prepared for heavy wind once you reach Tunnel Beach. Trust us, you’ll be happy you packed some extra warmer laters.
Getting to Tunnel Beach
With the logistics out of the way, let’s get into details about how to get to Tunnel Beach and what you’ll see when you arrive!
How to get to the Tunnel Beach parking lot
Tunnel Beach is accessed via Oceanside Beach, located in the heart of Oceanside, Oregon. You’ll want to park at the lot for Oceanside Beach State Recreation Area.
Tip | On your way in, pick up a breakfast sandwich to go from Current Cafe and enjoy it with a view on the beach! Their bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel is to die for, and it’s sure to be a breakfast to remember.
To get to Tunnel Beach, you’ll start by walking across the northern section of Oceanside Beach. From the beach access point at Oceanside Beach State Recreation Area turn right and head towards the large rocky outcropping that juts out into the ocean known as Maxwell Point.
As a quick aside, Oceanside Beach is worth a visit on its own, featuring a wide sandy beach and views of several large sea stacks off the coast. If you have some extra time after exploring Tunnel Beach, it’s worth spending some time hanging out or walking south on Oceanside Beach for a bit.
Walking through the Tunnel
As you approach Maxwell Point (the big rocky outcropping) from Oceanside Beach, a narrow man-made tunnel will come into view. From the southern side, the mouth of the tunnel is a rectangular concrete slab. Click on your headlamp (or phone flashlight) and let the adventure begin!
Upon entering the tunnel, prepare to be quickly engulfed in darkness. The walls are narrow with a low ceiling, and while the path starts out smooth and easy to navigate, the conditions become rougher the farther you go. About half way through, the smooth concrete walls are replaced with chunks of rock and the footing becomes less stable and trickier to navigate in the dark.
It takes only a couple minutes to walk all the way through the tunnel. As the light at the end of the tunnel grows closer, the beautiful Tunnel Beach slowly comes into view, framed by the tunnel’s oval-shaped opening.
Exploring Tunnel Beach
After making your way through the dark tunnel, you’ll arrive at a beautiful secluded beach – Tunnel Beach!
The beach itself is fairly rocky and is covered in tide pools, filled with starfish, anemones, crabs, and all other kinds of aquatic critters. The kiddos will love splashing around in the tide pools!
In our opinion, the real draw of Tunnel Beach is the access it provides to stunning views of Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge and the tremendous power of the Pacific Ocean.
Lost Boy Beach
Tunnel Beach continues for only about half a mile before reaching another impassable rocky outcropping. To the north of Tunnel Beach sits an even more secluded beach, ominously known as Lost Boy Beach. Lost Boy Beach is notoriously dangerous to access.
Rumor has it that the beach was named after a boy who was at the beach and was swept up by the tides and stranded there, never to be seen again. While it is possible to access Lost Boy Beach during periods of extremely low tide via Tunnel Beach or Short Beach to the north, it is not recommended for safety reasons.
Tide pools at Tunnel Beach
One of the most popular things to do at Tunnel Beach is to explore the multitude of tide pools along the shoreline teeming with aquatic life, from bright teal sea anemones and starfish to clams, small crabs and kelp.
The best time to see the tide pools is when the tide is low, so be sure to check the tide schedule before you head to Tunnel Beach!
Three Arch Rocks
Just half a mile off the shore of Tunnel Beach lies Three Arches National Wildlife Refuge, which is not only the oldest National Wildlife Refuge west of the Mississippi, but also 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.
Once you’ve finished exploring Tunnel Beach, you’ll want to head back to Oceanside Beach the way you came. Once again, look for the opening in the massive cliff wall. From this side, the tunnel looks more rugged and less obviously manmade, with a round, jagged opening.
If the tide is low, it’s also possible to return to Oceanside Beach by walking along the sand around Maxwell Point.
Other Oregon Resources
Looking for more incredible hikes and things to do on the Oregon coast? You may also be interested in the following:
- Best Hikes on the Oregon Coast
- Hike to Short Beach: A Secluded Beach near Oceanside
- How to Find Secret Beach on the Oregon Coast
- Why Oceanside is Worth a Visit: A Hidden Gem on the Oregon Coast
- Hobbit Trail in Florence, Oregon: A Magical Forest to Beach Hike
Questions about exploring Tunnel Beach in Oceanside, Oregon? Let us know in the comments section below!