Best Camping on the Oregon Coast

by Lauren Braden

in Camping and Outdoors

When summer finally comes to the Pacific Northwest, it passes too quickly. Those twelve or so sunny weekends must be cherished and savored.

There’s no better place to spend the warm, sunny days of summer than outside. Even better? Spend your nights outside, too.

Go camping on the Oregon Coast.

Camping the Oregon Coast

Car camping is all the rage. Maybe it’s the uncertain economy. Or maybe our Northwest winters seem so very cloudy that sleeping outside, under a clear night sky, just needs to happen come summer.

But be warned – it’s crowded out there. Make reservations for a campsite if you can (some campgrounds take them, and some don’t). If you don’t have reservations, have a backup plan in case you can’t get a campsite at your first-choice campground. My backup plan is usually knowing where some nearby, less-popular campgrounds are.

Many Oregon coast campgrounds take advanced reservations these days. For federal recreation lands (forest service and national park campgrounds) go to recreation.gov to make a campsite reservation. About half of Oregon state parks’ campgrounds accept advanced reservations – to make a state park camping reservation click here.

Here are some of our favorite Oregon Coast campgrounds. 

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 Fort Stevens State Park

 

Fort Stevens State Park

Great for: RV’ers, families and history buffs.

Why Camp Here: Get splashed! This is your front-row seat for watching the Columbia River join the Pacific Ocean.

Just ten miles northwest of Astoria, Fort Stevens State Park’s offerings to campers are unique, diverse and fun. Where else can you swim in a freshwater lake in the morning, then while away your afternoon beachcombing near an old shipwreck? Walk or bike along the miles of trails through dunes and shorepines. Talk with long-distance hikers as they leave this spot for their journey along the Oregon Coast Trail. Visit the historical museum on site and learn about the military history of Fort Stevens.  Watch migrating seabirds from the south jetty. Yes – that is ALL in one state park!

Camping Details: It’s an RV’ers paradise here with more than 300 campsites that have electricity and water, all with picnic tables and fire grills. 170 of those are full-hookup sites. Tent campers who like tent-only sites will find the pickings slim as there are only 6 tent sites. There is a separate camping area for thru-hikers and bicyclists. Enjoy showers, a playground for the kiddos, and firewood available for purchase. Sites at Fort Stevens State Park are $21 per night for tent sites and $27 for hookup sites  (summer rates), plus $8 if you make a reservation (recommended, though some sites held for first-come, first-serve). The pet fee is $10 per night. Don’t expect solitude here; more than 210,000 people camp at Fort Stevens State Park every year. There are 15 yurts and 11 deluxe cabins available for rent here, too.

Info and Reservations: Fort Stevens State Park / 1.800.452.5687.

Take a Hike: Take binoculars and hike the 2-mile trail around the park’s Coffenbury Lake, a coastal dune freshwater oasis. Nine miles of paved trail for bicyclists lead to the historic Peter Iredale shipwreck, military museum and Battery Russell.

Grab a Bite: The west coast’s oldest cannery building now houses one of the west coast’s best coffeehouses, all the way at the end of Pier 39 in Astoria. Blame it on our modern economy. Or lay no blame at all, because Coffee Girl Coffeehouse is a lot more charming than a fishy cannery. Enjoy free wifi, delicious (and artful) lattes and really sweet service.

 

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Nehalem Bay State Park

 

Nehalem Bay State Park

Great for: Beachcombers, fishermen, kayakers, windsurfers, swimmers and families on bikes.

Why Camp Here: Nehalem Bay State Park, just to the south of Manzanita, sits on the 3-mile long sand spit that separates the ocean from Nehalem Bay, comprising a total of six miles of beach frontage. On the ocean side you’ve got sand for building castles, flying kites, and majestic sunsets. Miles of paved bike paths navigate around the shore pines, and the campground is sheltered from the beach by gently-rolling sand dunes. One the bay side are beaches for wading, calmer waters for paddling and locally-renowned crabbing, clamming and fishing.

With nearby Oswald West State Park now closed to overnight camping (a total bummer I’m still sad about) Nehalem offers the best camping option in this watersports mecca.

Camping Details: This large camping park has 265 campsites with electricity available.  Sites are $24 per night (summer rates), plus $8 if you make a reservation (recommended, though some sites held for first-come, first-serve). There are 18 yurts available for rent here, too.

Info and Reservations: Nehalem Bay State Park / (503) 368-5154

Take a Hike: Head 3 miles north of Manzanita on Highway 101 as it unwinds into the gorgeous Oswald West State Park, one of the most scenic treasures of spruce, fir and sand along the entire Oregon Coast. Any of the three parking lots along 101 launch trails that lead you down to Short Sand Beach where you’re almost sure to spot surfers, up to Neahkahnie Mountain or out to the tip of Cape Falcon.

Grab a Bite: Locals get their coffee and tea fix at Manzanita News & Espresso, which also serves up homemade soups, local pastries and dozens of newspapers and magazines. If you’ve tired of campfire cooking, our favorite local spot is Vino Manzanita, open for dinner only and worth the splurge for its eclectic wine selection and fabulous tapas.

 

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Beverly Beach State Park

 

Beverly Beach State Park

Great for: kite fliers, families, surfers and rock hounds.

Why Camp Here: Just to the north of Newport is a fantastic but popular camping destination, Beverly Beach State Park. You’ll camp in some lovely woods on the east side of Highway 101, but only a short distance away through a tunnel is a stretch of beach that offers miles of roaming and beachcombing. Head south to search out fossils and north for Devil’s Punchbowl, a spectacular place to watch the tide come in or go out as the carved rock formations cause the ocean water to swirl violently. Splash!

Camping Details: Choose from 125 tent sites or 75 with electrical hookups ($21/$26 a night in summer, $8 reservation fee) all with picnic tables and fire grills, and a separate camping area for hikers and bicyclists. Also there are 21 yurts ($40 per night) and reservations are recommended.

Info and Reservations: Beverly Beach State Park / 1.800.551.6949.

Take a Hike: The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area at the north side of Agate Beach is on a basalt headland that extends one mile into the Pacific Ocean. Short interpretive trails take you through amazing tidepools.

Grab a Bite: The Canyon Way Restaurant and Bookstore in Newport is more than just an eatery with great homemade soups and sandwiches. It’s also a unique bookstore, gift shop, deli and espresso stand.

Don’t Miss: the outstanding Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport for re-created tide pools, creatures like seals and sea otters, and educational presentations.

 

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Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

 

Cape Perpetua

Great for: photographers, hikers, tidepoolers, whale watchers, solitude seekers

Why Camp Here: If ever you have needed a heavy dose of scenery, this will deliver. Cape Perpetua is a mammoth basaltic headland that towers 800 feet over the frothy water below. It’s one of the Oregon Coast’s top attractions for a number of reasons, and its rugged, beautiful scenery tops the list.

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is over 2700 acres of Siuslaw National Forest land. The namesake cape sits just two miles south of arty and scenic Yachats. This is the heart of the central Oregon Coast and noticeably less-visited than its northern counterpart. Spend your day watching migrating whales from the coastal cliffs or hike on one of the many nearby trails.

Camping Details: Choose from 38 tent sites at $22 per night.

Backup Plan: While state park campgrounds along the coast are numerous, this campground is managed by the forest service. It is only open for camping from mid-May through late September. For year-round camping in this vicinity or for a campground with RV hookups, head south to Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park.

Info and ReservationsCape Perpetua Campground / (541) 547-3289

Take a Hike: Cape Perpetua has the most miles of hiking trails in a single location along the Oregon Coast. See a map of the extensive and varied trail system here.  From the campground you’ll find trails that lead you to the Giant Spruce tree, the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, tidepools and the Devil’s Churn, and stunning cliff viewpoints. There’s a stone shelter at the summit of Cape Perpetua that was built by the CCC.

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 Bullards Beach State Park

 

Yurt at Bullards Beach State Park by Fred Sharples

Great for: Families, equestrians and lighthouse lovers.

Why Camp Here: Just two miles north of Bandon is the expansive Bullards Beach State Park, with three campground loops set among shore pine, protecting the campsites from strong ocean winds, a slight drawback to camping this close to the sea! Rent one of the park’s 13 yurts year-round for one of the cheapest sleeps on the Oregon Coast. Bullards Beach is horse-friendly and quite popular with equestrian campers; the horse campsites have east access to the beach and dunes. Fishermen and crabbers often make this park their base for the east access to the Coquille River. Birdwatchers will love the paved pathway to the beach that meanders through beach dunes and grasslands near the Coquille River — the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is just on the other side. Also within the park is the historic Coquille River Lighthouse, staffed May through October.

Camping Details: Choose from 100 full hookup sites or 82 with electrical hookups ($24 a night in summer, $8 reservation fee) all with picnic tables and fire grills. There is a separate camping area for hikers and bicyclists ($5) and 8 horse campsites ($19). Also there are 13 yurts ($36 per night) and reservations are recommended.

Info and Reservations:  Bullards Beach State Park  |  (541) 347-2209

 

For more on planning your trip to this area, consult our Oregon Coast Trip Guide.

See all of these campgrounds plotted on a Google map here.

photo: Fort Stevens State Park shipwreck by looneyhiker, snowy owl by ideld, parasail by dolanh, Nehalem Bay kayak by dolanh, Nehalem sign by burke_wicker, wading into Nehalem Bay by dolanh, Dunes at Nehalem by Scott McCracken, Airstream by koocheekoo, Devil’s Punchbowl by Barb Mayer, Oregon Coast sunset by Barb Mayer, Cape Perpetua viewpoint by Alex1derr, yurt by Fred Sharples.

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emily August 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Cape Perpetua is the highest point on the Oregon Coast! We love the dramatic view and the miles of hiking trails there. Good list!

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