In few other places on earth is the meeting of land and sea as dramatic and beautiful as along Oregon’s 360 miles of Pacific coastline, from the mouth of the Columbia River to the redwood forests at the California border. Here, at the far western skirt of the continent, nature has found an expansive stage on which to act out the full range of its varied and ceaseless dramas, from the microcosm of a tidepool to the ferocious storms that make first landfall here. Rocky headlands rise high above the ocean, dropping away to the pounding waves in cliffs hundreds of feet high. Lone fingers of rock poke through sandy beaches and march out far into the surging waves. Seals, sea lions, puffins, and innumerable shorebirds make their home in this marine wilderness.

Ground view of tidepools at low tide with cliffs in the distance.

Coastal Oregon has some great locations for tidepooling, Photo © Judy Jewell.

Here you can find intense solitude, in the company of only the calling seabirds, and experience firsthand why residents refer to this coast as “The Edge.” The comforts of civilization and human company are also close by in an inviting string of towns and villages, each with its own character and charms.

Don’t neglect the opportunity to get outdoors and experience the full range of recreation available here. Cycling the Oregon Coast Bike Route is a rite of passage for many bicyclists from around the world. The Oregon Coast Trail provides hikers many opportunities to explore the coastline. The bays and estuaries are tempting destinations for kayakers, as they provide a watery backdrop for excellent marine bird and wildlife viewing. Diminished wild salmon runs have limited some coastal sportfishing expeditions, but the catch is still good for halibut, tuna, and bottom fish. And when fishing boats from Newport, Depoe Bay, Garibaldi, and Astoria aren’t seeking the catch of the day, many offer whale-watching trips. Surfing the chill waters of the north Pacific demands a particular brand of hardiness, but many find that, with the right wetsuit, they’re able to catch some waves.

Considering the scenic splendor of the Oregon coast, it may seem odd that it remains largely unblemished by upscale tourist infrastructure. In part, this is due to a farsighted state government, which in the 1910s set aside as public land the entire length of Oregon’s Pacific coastline. The Oregon coast belongs to the people. It’s a place where human visitors can encounter the creatures of the sea and forest, and observe the mighty forces of nature.

Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Coastal Oregon .