The north coast, from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Lincoln City , is little more than an hour’s drive from the Portland  metro area, and the region is the most popular part of Oregon’s Pacific shoreline. Still, apart from the weekend crush at Cannon Beach  and Seaside , there’s more than enough elbow room for everyone along this enchanting and varied coast.
Overlooking the Columbia River as it flows into the Pacific, the former shipping and canning center of Astoria  is fast rediscovering its own potential, with a lively arts scene, adventurous cuisine, and brightly painted Victorian homes hosting overnighters for bed and breakfast. Its long-idle waterfront is growing busy again with tourist attractions—most notably the wonderful Columbia River Maritime Museum , one of the best in the West.
West of Astoria, at Oregon ’s far northwestern tip, where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific, visitors to Fort Stevens State Park  can inspect the skeleton of a century-old shipwreck  and a military fort active from the Civil War to World War II—as well as revel in miles of sandy beaches. Fort Clatsop National Memorial , part of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park , includes a re-creation of the Corps of Discovery ’s winter 1805–1806 quarters—a must-stop for Lewis and Clark buffs.
Cannon Beach  and Seaside  are two extremely popular resort towns that are polar opposites of one another. Cannon Beach, an enclave of tastefully weathered cedar-shingled architecture, is chockablock with art galleries, boutiques, and upscale lodgings and restaurants. A few miles north, Seaside is Oregon’s quintessential family-friendly beach resort, with a long boardwalk, candy and gift shops, and noisy game arcades.
Just south of Cannon Beach, Oswald West State Park  is a gem protecting old-growth forest and handsome little pocket beaches, as well as, some believe, a Spanish pirate treasure buried on Neahkahnie Mountain . Beyond Neahkahnie’s cliff-top viewpoints along U.S. 101, the Nehalem Bay area  attracts anglers, crabbers, and kayakers, as well as discriminating diners who come from far and wide to enjoy surprisingly sophisticated cuisine.
Tillamook County is home to more cows than people and is synonymous with delicious dairy products—cheese and ice cream in particular. It’s no surprise that Tillamook ’s biggest visitor attraction is cheese-related. More than a million people a year come to the Tillamook Cheese Factory  to tour the cheese-making operations and sample the excellent results. The Tillamook Air Museum  is another popular diversion, housing an outstanding collection of vintage and modern aircraft in gargantuan Hangar B, the largest wooden structure in the world. Tillamook Bay , fed by five rivers, yields oysters and crabs, while the active Garibaldi  charter fleet targets salmon, halibut, and tuna in the offshore waters.
South of Tillamook, the Coast Highway wends inland through its lush pastureland to Neskowin . It’s a pleasant enough stretch, but the Three Capes Scenic Loop , a 35-mile scenic coastal detour, is a more attractive if time-consuming option. The spectacular views and bird-watching from Capes Meares and Lookout introduce the attraction of this beautiful drive.
At Pacific City , at the southern end of the Three Capes Loop, commercial anglers launch their dories right off the sandy beach and through the surf in the lee of Cape Kiwanda  and mammoth Haystack Rock —a sight not seen anywhere else on the West Coast. Just north of Lincoln City , Cascade Head  beckons hikers to explore its rare prairie headlands ecosystem.