Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline offers plenty of contenders for best beach. However, Cannon Beach, famous for its 235-foot Haystack Rock, often tops lists for the area’s sheer beauty. Plus, Haystack is one of the best places in the Pacific Northwest for viewing Tufted Puffins in the spring and early summer. Since Cannon Beach is also near Ecola State Park, leave time for hiking trails and whale watching.
Olympic National Park, Washington
You really can’t go wrong with any of the protected beaches in Olympic National Park, about a two-hour drive from Seattle. It’s worth the trek to Shi Shi Beach, an untouched paradise famous for its Point of Arches seastack. It’s also popular for camping. Ruby Beach is equally breathtaking and a shorter walk, but just know it’s a rocky shoreline. Rialto Beach is the easiest to reach, and you can even walk to the Hole-in-the-Wall rock arch during low tide. Whichever you choose, you’re likely to encounter sand dollars, driftwood and anemones; if you’re lucky, you might even spot eagles, whales, dolphins and more.
Manzanita Beach, Oregon
Head 20 minutes south of Cannon Beach and you’ll hit Manzanita Beach, a great alternative if the former is too crowded. (And even if it’s not.) Hike the trails of Neahkahnie Mountain to get a sweeping view of the seven-mile stretch, whose soft sands are also perfect for strolling barefoot. Come back at night to watch the sunset and enjoy s’mores around a bonfire.
Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
Almost 30 miles of wide white sand awaits just across from the Oregon border. Dangerous rip tides make this beach unsafe for swimming, but there are plenty of diversions. I mean, how many places offer a World Kite Museum? Plus, it goes without saying that kite lovers should plan on attending the International Kite Festival, a week-long fest and competition held every August. Meanwhile, runners and cyclists will love the 8.5-mile trail through sand dunes, while horseback-riding enthusiasts will find this is one of your best bets in the state for that bucket list beach ride.
Bandon’s Beaches, Oregon
Southern Oregon is peppered with remote beaches known for their rugged beauty. The beaches in Bandon are among the best examples, and you’re unlikely to encounter tourist hordes here. Visit Bullards Beach for its lighthouse, Face Rock for its Tufted Puffins, or take your pick from a handful of other worthy contenders. As with much of the coast, the region is protected by the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which means the odds of spotting everything from sea lions to falcons are pretty good. Fun fact: Bandon is considered one of the best places in the world to watch storms.
Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington
Despite the name, the pristine, wind-swept beaches of Cape Disappointment aren’t likely to disappoint. The two main beaches are presided over by lighthouses and near comfortable campgrounds—you can even stay in a yurt(!) The two-mile-long Benson Beach (a.k.a Long Beach) attracts clam diggers and surfers to its wild shore, while Waikiki Beach provides a sheltered cove and picnic tables, which are perfect for families.
Myers Creek Beach, Oregon
Part of Pistol River State Park, Myers Creek Beach (also spelled Meyers) is frequently photographed for good reason. Just south of the equally gorgeous Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor, this quintessential Oregon beach is loaded with seastacks (a type of rock formation), tide pools and wildflowers. You can easily reach it from the road, or take a scenic hike from the top of Cape Sebastian.
Deception Pass State Park, Washington
This park connects Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands in Washington, and holds the title of most visited in the state. Deception's beaches represent the best of wild, untouched nature, including Rosario, a quiet sandy beach that’s a great bet for spying porpoises and orcas. Don’t miss the Maiden of Deception Pass carving, which depicts a local Native American tale. West Beach not only offers easy access from the parking lot, but also a walking trail that traverses a varied landscape, from wetland to sand dunes. Finally, North Beach provides front-row views of Deception Pass and its bridges; as a bonus, it’s not likely to be crowded since it can only be accessed via a trail from West Beach.
Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Oregon
This 12-mile expanse of the Boardman Corridor in southern Oregon is not only unbelievably scenic, but it’s also your best bet for stumbling upon deserted beaches. Most involve some work to find, but a pleasant hike will lead to Secret Beach (and a secret waterfall), while a more strenuous hike along the North Island Viewpoint Trail pays off at China Beach, a secluded mile-long strand bordered by forested cliffs. Since the latter can be tricky to find, no judgment if you opt for beaches with easier access, such as Whaleshead and Lone Beaches.
Cobble Beach, Oregon
The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is indeed outstanding, and home to Cobble Beach, named for the smooth black stones that are a holdover from an ancient lava flow. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot harbor seals, sea lions and whales from shore. At the very least, common murres (birds with penguin coloring) are a common sight in the spring and summer. Take time to examine the tide pools, which are abundant with starfish, crabs, sea urchins, anemones and mussels. You can even take a guided tour of Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest one in the state.