There is truly no coast as special as the Oregon Coast. I may be biased, but nowhere else have I found such expansive seashore available entirely to the public, for free.
While a white-sand, tropical beach, adjacent to turquoise waters is lovely, I prefer the rugged and rocky, windy and stormy Oregon Coast for my beach vacations.
The central Oregon Coast spans 74 miles from Lincoln City to Florence, offering a mix of both sizable and tiny towns along the way. Cellular service is come and go, a welcome treat that forces visitors to explore without distraction.
This itinerary highlights the best dog-friendly things to do on the central Oregon Coast.
Best Time to Visit the Oregon Coast
One might assume that summer is the best time to visit the Oregon Coast, and while the chance of sunshine and warmth are much higher, I’m partial to the stormy gray winter days.
The fickle weather means fewer crowds and better lodging deals. Some restaurants and hotels shut down for the season, so be sure to check before hit the road.
When the winter blues have me down and I want a change from the rain and snow, I head to the Oregon Coast. It’s one of my favorite dog-friendly winter destinations in the Northwest.
Dogs and Oregon Coast Beaches
The Oregon Coast is renowned for its generous public access. In 1967, a bill known as the Oregon Beach Bill declared free and public access to the entirety of the Oregon coastline. All 363 miles of it. For that reason, it is known as The People’s Coast.
It’s also the Dogs’ Coast.
Aside from a few protected areas , dogs are welcome just about everywhere. Pets must be leashed if they are within the boundaries of a state park, but otherwise, are generally welcome to run free, as long as the dog is under voice control and does not disturb wildlife or other people.
Since fewer visitors brave the wild weather, a winter visit will usually mean you and your dog have the entire beach to yourselves.
Where to find a good beach?
Look at a map and pick one of the many you see. Or just stop along the highway when you spot one. Some are small, others are huge.
Some have virtually zero people, those closest to the cities are more populated. Stop often and explore as you drive down Highway 101.
A Dog-Friendly Winter Road Trip Itinerary for the Central Oregon Coast
This dog-friendly itinerary includes stops in a number of towns between Lincoln City and Florence. You’ll note that we skipped Newport, not because it’s not worth a visit, but because we ran out of time and wanted to see some smaller towns.
This bustling town is located at the mouth of the Siuslaw River and the gateway to the famed Oregon sand dunes. Offering plenty dog-friendly recreational activities year round, Florence is an ideal launching spot for your Central Oregon road trip.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
From Florence to Coos Bay, the Oregon sand dunes span nearly 40 miles along the coast to make up the largest stretch of dunes in the country. Towering as high as 500 feet above sea level and reaching up to 2.5 miles inland, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers a unique visitor experience.
Formed by millions of years of erosion by wind and rain, the youngest dunes began to shape 7,000 years ago. Pieces of the Oregon Coast Range were washed downstream to the ocean and pushed back inland by tides, wind, and currents.
With endless places to enjoy the dunes, a good place to start is at Honeyman State Park, just across the bridge from Florence in Glenada. During the summer months, the park is teeming with campers and the constant whine of dune buggies, however during the winter, there’s hardly a soul around.
As a bonus, the sand is usually wet and therefore easier for walking. Hiking in dry sand is exhausting, so plan accordingly and bring plenty of water in hot temperatures.
Permit: Oregon State Park Pass required.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
This working lighthouse stands 205 feet above the Pacific and is among the brightest along the entire coast. One of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, Heceta Head was erected in 1894 and the Frensel lens casts light that reaches 21 miles out to sea.
A short, wooded trail leads to the lighthouse itself, and if you listen carefully, you can hear a different kind of bark from what you may be used to — that of the famous Oregon sea lions. The entire seven-mile network of trails feature various wildlife and beach views.
Permit: Oregon State Park Pass required.
This is one of my favorite small coastal towns in all of Oregon. Pronounced YAH-hots, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, but it doesn’t mean it’s lacking in fun. It has one of the best breweries and the best breakfast spot on the coast, lots of recreational activities, and some pretty amazing natural wonders.
Devil’s Churn is an inlet likely created by a collapsed lava tube in the volcanic rock. Thousands of years of crashing waves have widened the chasm to 80 feet across.
Located just north of Cape Perpetua, a short trail winds down to a wide rock bed where you can stand mesmerized by the rolling waves crashing through the Churn. Like watching the wave wind its way around a baseball stadium, the barreling water creates a hauntingly beautiful natural wave park.
In calm weather, it’s generally safe to watch perched upon the volcanic rocks just to the side of the Churn, however it can be very dangerous during a storm or in high winds, as waves crash up against the side walls.
Permit: NW Forest Pass required.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Standing at 800 feet above the shoreline, this is your chance to see the Pacific Ocean from the highest viewpoint accessible by car on the Oregon Coast. On clear days, you can see 70 miles of coastline.
When FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, Cape Perpetua served as a base camp for workers. Many of the trails, campgrounds, and fauna exist today because of them.
A number of hikes wind through old-growth forests along the 26 miles of trails. From the view point parking lot, hike down to the campground and to the Sitka Spruce that served as the namesake for my own Sitka.
This tree began its life before Christopher Columbus came to the Americas, birthing on a nurse log. Today, it stands over 185 feet tall and is 600 years old with a circumference of 40 feet.
The round trip hike is four miles with plenty of climbing on the return trip.
For more information and a detailed trail map, see the USFS site.
Permit: NW Forest Pass required.
Fondly known as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” this small fishing town makes a good mid-day stopping point to spot wildlife or simply stand on the rock wall to watch the waves crash against the cliff.
Devil’s Punch Bowl + Beverly Beach
During a particularly stormy day, Devil’s Punchbowl is a great place to while the time. The partially collapsed sea cave fills with water during high tide and the viewpoint just above lets you watch waves crash dramatically against and inside the cave.
During the summer months, and only in low tide, visitors can wander around inside the cave. Check the tide report and never go inside when the tide is coming in. You will not come out alive.
When you’ve had your fill of watching the waves crash, walk down the road a short way to a set of stairs leading to Beverly Beach. This long stretch of sand caters to surfers, and makes the perfect spot for a mid-day walk.
Whales come and go throughout much of the year along the Oregon Coast, and between mid-December through mid-January, some 20,000 gray whales migrate to the warm waters of Baja in Mexico.
The best part about whale watching in Depoe Bay is that it doesn’t necessarily require a charter tour to see the whales. It’s not too uncommon to spot whales from the Sea Wall in town. Just keep an eye out for spouting water, and ask if your accommodation has binoculars you can use to get a closer glimpse.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the resident pod of gray whales who make their home in the town 10 months of the year.
Depoe Bay Sea Wall
There’s an “official” sea wall in town, just off Highway 101 where cars can easily park to watch the “spouting horns” crash against the basalt rock. Watch from there, or, take a short walk for a less crowded experience.
Grab a cup of coffee at Pirate Coffee company and walk down NW Vista St to the end. You’ll see a path that leads to a grassy wall overlooking Pirate Cove Research Reserve. This is the spot to watch the waves crashing.
Many years ago a friend took me to the Lincoln City outlet malls for a day trip. I thought that was all there was to the town and never went back. I learned on this recent visit that I had been missing out! This seaside town has beautiful beaches, abundant trails, and plenty of fun activities, year round.
A walk along the beach might seem like a no brainer when you’re on a coastal road trip, but the beach in Lincoln City is special. There are over seven miles of beautiful, driftwood-laden, sandy beach for you to explore.
With lots of public access points along the way, it’s relatively easy to find a secluded spot, especially during the winter months, when there are fewer tourists. The most popular entry point is near the Looking Glass Inn.
Keep an eye out for glass floats hidden on the shoreline. Throughout the year, local artists “hide” over 3,000 glass treasures along the beach. If you find it, it’s yours!
What once used to be situated on private property, this once neighborhood secret has now opened to the public. As the name implies, the basalt peak sticks out just like a giant thumb, and is one of the most scenic spots along the entire coast.
Park in the lot at Road’s End State Recreation Site and walk through the neighborhood to reach the trail head. The hike is not well marked and intersecting trails make the walk confusing. This write up in the Oregonian provides detailed instructions.
Keep in mind, God’s Thumb is a steep climb with precarious cliffs, so don’t think about letting your dog off leash! Try to go on a sunny day if you find one in the winter months.
Dog-Friendly Central Oregon Coast Hikes
One reason the Oregon Coast is so unique compared to other coastlines is the Coastal Range. The mountains jut out right beyond the shoreline, which means there is tons of hiking within minutes of the beach.
I did mention a few trails above, however there are plenty others to explore if you have the will and the time. If the weather too wet for the beach, then just head to the trails and follow these tips for hiking in the rain.
Make sure to bring a NW Forest Pass and Oregon State Parks Pass or you’ll have to purchase one at the trail head for some hikes.
If you’re starting your trip in Florence, then you’re probably veering west at Eugene. Take a hike break on the way and walk the short 2-mile trail. The hike features several waterfalls with access to most, depending on the weather conditions.
Yachats has a superb network of trails that spans miles and miles. Cummins Creek is a great 5.8-mile loop that runs along a river and offers a nice challenge 2.5 miles in. If you’re a trail runner, this is a great option that doesn’t see a lot of traffic.
Another Yachats trail, this 6-mile out and back starts from the Cape Perpetua viewpoint. With options to make the hike or run longer, you can easily connect to the St. Perpetua and Giant Spruce trails.
Not technically a true hike, this beach walk follows Ona Beach to Seal Rock, as the name implies. Make sure to check the tide schedules and plan your hike (and return!) during low tide. There’s a chance to see wildlife, such as bald eagles, tide pools, and the lava rocks that form Seal Rock.
This popular trail makes a good detour on your way back to 1-5 toward Salem. The 2.5-mile hike leads to a 240-foot suspension bridge hanging over a gorge and an 80-foot waterfall. A bonus? The rain makes this hike even more special, with the moss glowing a vibrant green and the falls swelling with water.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants on the Central Oregon Coast
The restaurant attached to the hotel and conference center is set practically in the ocean. The views will leave you taking just a little longer to finish your meal. The menu features seafood and is mostly carnivorous. There are no real vegan options, but the chef is more than happy to work to accommodate alternative diets.
Dog friendly: No
This lovely restaurant is on a quiet street away from the main drag. The menu features a variety of fare, including soups, sandwiches, seafood, and best of all…a dog menu! Pups are welcome on the lovely patio and can pick from a few menu options, including a burger and meatloaf.
Dog friendly: Weather dependent, but enthusiastically, yes!
When a friend suggested we head to this Hawaiian joint, we were admittedly a little unsure what to expect, but we were very happy to have given it a try. The fun vibe adds to the delicious food, made with fresh ingredients. It was quite nice to have a little bit of an island getaway in the middle of winter!
For a tiny town, Yachats has a lot going for it in terms of restaurants and accommodation, including my favorite breakfast spot along the entire coast. Keep in mind that several businesses close during the winter months, or take mid-season breaks. Check schedules before planning a trip.
Despite its popularity, the Green Salmon is a true locals’ gathering spot. A proponent of practicing sustainability, this cafe serves organic coffee, collects rainwater for cleaning purposes, and uses alternative sources of energy to power its operation.
The menu consists of mostly vegetarian and vegan breakfast fares, but my omnivorous friend was plenty happy with her meals. The real treat are the various coffee drinks they serve, like my go-to, the Kashmir Express, spiced coffee with cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. And the pastries too. Don’t miss them. 🙂
Dog friendly: Yes, seasonal. In nice weather there is a patio around the side of the building.
What was once the town bank, is now an upscale brewery serving high quality brews and food while promoting Yachats culture. The remodel made use of salvaged wood from an old locomotive service shop and beautiful murals adorn the walls.
Beers range from traditional PNW-style IPAs and Pale Ales to sour beers, and other German-style brews. The menu features something for everyone, serving a variety of salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
In addition to beer, kombucha, and other prebiotic drinks, the brewery acts as a farm store, selling fermented vegetables like pickles and Kimchi made in-house.
Dog Friendly: Weather-dependent. There is one covered picnic table outside, so if the weather isn’t too bad or cold, then enjoy a brew with your pup!
Just a tiny restaurant with seats for maybe 10 people, Sushi Hunter Asian Fusion Bistro provides a quick meal with vegan and GF options. Unlike many sushi restaurants, the vegan sushi included several options, with more than just one filling.
The oldest continuously operated bar on the Oregon Coast, Snug Harbor opened in 1930. Locals frequent this place for a beer and pub food. The Snug is said to have the best pizza in town.
Dog-friendly: Weather dependent. The back patio allow dogs during the nicer months. It’s worth it to pop in for a quick beer anyway, even without your pup, just to catch the super local vibe.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation on the Central Oregon Coast
At the time of our visit, Driftwood Shores was just working on completing a long term renovation. Our room included a full-sized kitchen, two cozy beds, and a big living room with a fireplace. The best part was the ocean view from the large windows in the back of the unit.
Driftwood Shores is the only hotel within the Oregon Sand Dunes Recreational Area located right on the shore. The remaining 30,000 acres and 40 miles of dunes don’t allow for construction, so if you want the best of the beach and the dunes, this is it!
Part of the renovation project includes making the hotel dog-friendly! Our pups got to be among the first dog guests. The south side of the hotel will feature dog-friendly rooms, with the patio door leading right to a grassy area for potty and is just steps away from the beach.
The hotel will also include a dog wash station and towels just for your pup.
Located just at the edge of town, right off Highway 101, the Ocean Cove Inn is a cute cottage within walking distance to the beach and all the shops and restaurants in town (it’s especially close to my favorite, Green Salmon).
The room includes two queen beds, a TV, and a mini fridge and microwave.
This darling cottage includes a full kitchen, queen-sized bed, sofa sleeper, and a view of the Pacific. Dogs are welcome and the host includes a sheet to put over the bed for furry guests.
While it is located right on Highway 101, the noise is negligible and just across the street, you can reach the sea wall walk I mentioned earlier. To get to the wall takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
Quite possibly one of the most dog-friendly places I’ve ever stayed, the Looking Glass Inn is located right on Siletz Bay, directly across from the beach. Our room was cozy, with a small kitchenette, comfortable bed, and pull out sofa. We could watch the sun set right from the living room and hear sea lions barking.
At check-in, we received a basket containing sheets to cover the bed, towels, poop bags, bowls, and dog treats. All sizes of dogs are welcome and there’s a potty area out back where they can do their business.
Dog Friendly Camping Along the Central Oregon Coast
Camping makes a trip to the Central Oregon Coast affordable and puts you right in nature much of the time. All of the state parks listed below have pet-friendly yurts, which is a fun option during the winter months especially. They do book fast, do plan in advance.
- Florence: Honeyman Memorial State Park
- Yachats: Carl G. Washburne State Parks
- Yachats: Cape Perpetua Campground
- Tillicum Beach Campground
- Waldport: Beachside State Recreation Area
- Newport: South Beach State Park
- Otter Rock: Beverly Beach State Park
- Lincoln City: Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area
Map of Dog-Friendly Things to Do on the Central Oregon Coast
The map below includes everything listed in this dog-friendly itinerary to the central Oregon Coast and is organized by category to help you find what you need easily.