How to Explore the Oregon Coast with your Camper Van

We have a long list of places we want to visit, and the Pacific Northwest is on there! So when Mark Joy reached out and offered a guest post about exploring the Oregon Coast with a camper van, we were happy to offer him some space. We hope you enjoy his guide and have a chance to use it! -Ari & Jessi

Guest post by Mark Joy

The Oregon Coast is a beautiful drive for any traveler, but it can also be an ideal trip for those who are traveling with their camper van.  The coast has many different sights to see and explore, including Cannon Beach, Cape Disappointment, and Florence.  If you’re looking to take your time exploring this picturesque coastline in the Pacific Northwest of America, then these are some of the places you will want to stop at along the way!

What Do I Need to Explore the Oregon Coast with a Camper Van?

Before you start your trip, you’ll need to prepare for it by making sure you have the necessary items.  For this guide, I’m estimating this trip will take about 7 days to complete, but packing a little extra might be a good idea if you want to stay in one place a bit longer than another.

Preparing for your trip includes packing your essential camping gear, as well as making sure your camper van is ready for the long journey ahead. You’ll also want to make sure you know where all of the best places are to stop and camp along the Oregon Coast by reading this guide ahead of time.

One of the most important things you will need for this trip is obviously the camper van.  If you already own a camper van, you’re all set.  If you don’t own a camper van, here are a few options to explore:

  • Buy a camper van that’s already been converted (either used or new)
  • Buy a camper van and have it customized to your needs by a professional
  • Rent a camper van.  Here are a few places in the PNW for renting a camper van:
  • Buy a van, and get a DIY camper van conversion kit to install yourself (if you’re handy and have the time).

Campgrounds are in high demand these days and it may be necessary to get a reservation at the state parks recommended in this guide put together by Trekers.  Be sure to check for campsite availability and make a reservation for each destination so that you have a place to rest your head each night.  

The Route

This adventure mainly takes you along Highway 101.  Depending on where you’re coming from, you can start this trip with the first stop at either Florence (South), or Cape Disappointment (North).  

Please note that I’ve ordered the trip from South to North.  

I’ve added campsite options for your overnight stay in each area.  Here’s a map to take a quick look ahead at the route:

I’ve also included food, drink, and other activity stops on this route.  And of course, you can go anywhere that looks interesting along the way!

Florence

Popular in Florence are its sand dunes.  You can rent sandboards, toboggans, ATVs, or horses to explore the dunes.  Check out these links for more information:

Hike up and down the dunes if you prefer to travel on foot:

Cleawox Lake at Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park also offers day-use for swimming, picnicking, and kayak and paddle board rentals.

Other points of interest:

Food Recommendations:

Campgrounds to stay at:

From Florence, mosey on over to Cape Perpetua, a 23 mile (1/2 hour) drive along the 101…

Cape Perpetua

Cape Perpetua is known for its amazing views of the coastline and its wildlife.  There are plenty of trails to explore, as well as a visitor center with exhibits on the area’s natural history.

Check out these areas of interest while you’re staying in Cape Perpetua:

  • Cook’s Chasm & Thor’s Well – Cook’s Chasm contains Thor’s well, which has a view of the ocean crashing in and out of a sinkhole, and Spouting Horn where water shoots into the air during high tide
  • Devil’s Churn – a beautiful narrow ocean inlet
  • Cape Perpetua Overlook – stunning views seen 800 feet above the ocean.  Hike up from Cape Perpetua Campground along the St. Perpetua Trail to access the overlook
  • Amanda Trail – a difficult but rewarding 7 mile hike from Cape Perpetua Overlook with stunning views
  • Giant Spruce Trail – short hike to an outstanding 550 year old, 185 foot tall Sitka Spruce tree

Campgrounds to stay at:

Food Recommendations:

From Cape Perpetua, jump in your van and head 35 miles (1 hour) on over to Newport…

Newport

Newport is a coastal beach town. It is one mile from Yaquina Bay and hosts many restaurants, shops, galleries, museums and parks in the downtown area.  Newport is the largest town on the trip.

Newport areas of interest and activities:

Campgrounds to stay at:

Food Recommendations:

After wrapping up your overnight stay in Newport, hit the dusty trail and make your way to Manzanita, 95 miles (2.5 hours) away…

Manzanita

Manzanita has small town charm.  It has some shops where you can grab a souvenir for yourself or someone back home!  You may want to spend 2 days in Manzanita because there’s a ton to do, or work these in on your way to Fort Stevens.  From Newport to Manzanita, you should take a slight detour to see the Three Capes Scenic Route.

Look out for signs for the Three Capes Scenic RouteStop to check out the capes:

Areas of interest:

Campgrounds to stay at:

Food Recommendations:

After exhausting yourself from all of the activities in Manzanita, motor over to Fort Stevens, a 40 mile (1 hour) trek…

Fort Stevens

Fort Stevens park is located on the Northern tip of Oregon.  It was used in World Wars I and II, but it also served as a military outpost until 1953! The fort includes interesting exhibits detailing its history and what life would have been like for soldiers who were stationed here.

Things to do here:

Campgrounds to stay at:

Food Recommendations:

When you’re finished up at Fort Stevens, you can continue on to the great state of Washington to see Cape Disappointment.  Drive across the Astoria-Megler bridge on the Columbia River to get there.  It’s technically not on the Oregon coast, but it’s so close (30 miles, 1 hour away) and worth adding to this trip…

Cape Disappointment

Image Courtesy of Washington State Parks

Cape Disappointment is home to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, as well as Radar Hill.  The interpretive center is a great place to learn about the Corps of Discovery’s journey along the Columbia River, and there are lots of interactive exhibits for kids (and adults).  It’s not disappointing, I promise!

Activities here:

Food Recommendations:

  • Goose Point Oysters – crack your own oysters on the deck that overlooks the water and fishing boats nearby
  • Roots – adorable cafe for breakfast, lunch, or drinks with healthy foods
  • Streetside Taco – bright yellow food truck with delicious little tacos

An amazing trip

This is an amazing trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The scenery is beautiful and there are so many things to do and see. If you’re looking for a great road trip, the Oregon coast is definitely one of the best places to explore with your camper van in the Pacific Northwest! Thanks for reading!

About Mark Joy

Mark Joy is the owner of markjoyblogs.com, where he works to empower people to find their outdoor passions.  He proudly lives in the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle area, where he enjoys the salt sea air, and sweeping mountain views.  Feel free to contact him if you want to get in touch.

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