One of the (many!) things I did before my first trip to Oregon was to look up where to find tidal pools on the Oregon Coast. There was a surprisingly a very little amount of information out there for those of us who were first time visitors to Oregon!
Since then I’ve been back to Oregon (and left my heart there!) several times. It’s absolutely stunning on the coast! Even though I grew up in Florida, there’s nothing like the Pacific coastline in the United States. It’s exhilarating, relaxing, adventurous and dangerous all at the same time.
Even though I grew up on the ocean, the tidal pools and animals that you can easily find on the Oregon coast are the true coastal gems! You can read my article here that details some of the animals in the tidal pools on the Oregon coast.
If you want to find some amazing oceanic wildlife in your social media feed, I highly recommend following the Seaside Aquarium’s Facebook page.
If you want a laid back spontaneous approach, I strongly recommend literally just jumping into your car, and driving up (or down) Hwy 1 – AKA the Pacific Coast Highway – and stopping at every scenic pull off and beach you can. You can’t go wrong! The thrill of discovery is refreshing. (However I DO recommend pre-reserving any lodging or camping on the coast so that you have somewhere to sleep at night.)
Although you can find tidal pools pretty much almost everywhere on the Oregon Coast. In this article, we’ll guide you through some of the best locations to find tidal pools on the Oregon Coast moving from the south to the north.
Cape Arago State Park – Coos Bay
Cape Arago State Park is often overlooked, but has great tide pools in in its south cove – especially at low tide. Dig your toes into the sandy beach and keep an eye out for the sea lions and whales if you visit the north cove trail! (The trail is closed March 1-June 30 to protect the seal pups.)
Sunset Bay State Park – Coos Bay
Sunset Bay State Park is surrounded by towering sea cliffs which makes your visit feel even more secluded! The trails connect with nearby parks which means you’ve got plenty of ground to cover! You can find seasonal wildflowers, epic scenic views, and even see a lighthouse!
If you’ve got kids, Sunset Bay State Park has a Junior Ranger Program to help them learn more about the area!
Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint – Florence
Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint is a great place to look for whales, sea lions, agates, sea caves, timeless dense fir trees, and of course – tidal pools! There are several different areas to pull off of the highway, and I recommend exploring each of them!
If you’ve got extra time, I also recommend visiting Florence’s Sea Lion Caves at least once!
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint
Heceta Head is rich in history and scenery – with a lighthouse guiding mariners for over a centry! You can tour the lighthouse most of the year and there are trails on both sides of the lighthouse. The south side trail is easier than the north side trail, but the north side trail has spectacular outlooks before descending down to the beach.
This is yet another worthy spot to stop on your road trip up the Oregon coast!
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area – Yachats
Cape Perpetua is a vast rocky coastal area that I really only recommend going during low tide if you have children as it can be quite dangerous! Tucked throughout the rocky coastline there are plenty of small tidal pools to discover! Just keep an eye out for unruly waves that can easily knock you off of where you are exploring!
It’s a neat place to stop and see, but I prefer digging my feet in the sand and searching for tidal pools that way.
Thor’s Well is a very popular travel hotspot which is essentially a hole in the rocky coastline where waves crash up through the hole from underneath. It’s best observed during high tide, but it’s also extremely dangerous. If you visit I highly recommend staying along the shoreline or on the stairs and viewing this from a distance!
Most of the photos you see online are quite artistic and dramatized but it doesn’t make this unique feature any less cool to see.
Seal Rock – Seal Rock
We first accidentally discovered Seal Rock while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, and re-visited again while camping just across the street! The sheer size of the rocks here along with the view are just breathtaking. Keep an eye out for tidal pool and wildlife – especially barnacles which are fascinating to watch up close!
Yaquina Head Natural Area & Lighthouse – Newport
Yaquina Head is famous for housing Oregon’s tallest lighthouse (which makes for some amazing pictures!), but it was also one of the first places I saw sea lions on the coast! Keep an eye out for sear urchins, hermit crabs, and other tidal pool life! When we went the wind sweeping through just made everything feel even more vast! It’s a beautiful location and a must visit.
Hug Pointe State Park – Cannon Beach
Hug Pointe State Park is one of my absolute favorite spots on the Oregon coast – although let’s be honest, there are many! It has incredible history and even an original stagecoach road blasted into the cliffside in the 1800s! While it’s not my favorite for tidal pools, you can certainly find oceanic wildlife here and tidal pools tucked here and there.
This is one of my favorite beaches to just let the kids run wild and free. It just has such a raw untouched beauty with plenty of places to discover. I definitely recommend taking a good flashlight to explore the caves! Just be mindful of the tide so you don’t get stuck in any area of the beach that you don’t want to!
If the parking lot is full you can continue driving to Arcadia Beach and hike back down.
Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach
I definitely recommend everyone visit the iconic Haystack Rock beach at least once in their lifetime – preferably at low tide. It can be overcrowded but totally worth a first visit. It’s an amazing beach with plenty of wildlife – in fact the rock itself is a refuge! You’ll find everything from starfish, crabs, sea anemones, and even puffins!
What you don’t always see or notice in the movies in how lush and green the top of Haystack rock is! However if you have been to Haystack Rock and are looking for somewhere a little more off the beaten path, check some of these nearby tidal pool locations here.
Ecola State Park – Cannon Beach
Ecola State Park requires some extra time dedication but it is 100% breathtaking. This state park provides both above the bluff views as well as on the beach access. Tidal pools in the state park can be found at the southern end of Indian beach, although Ecola Point must be on your list if you are looking for overly dramatic and stunning scenic views.
One thing to note if you are visiting Ecola State Park – I strongly discourage bringing any RV or trailer on your trip to the park. The road is extremely narrow with tight curves and there is no place to turn around if you get stuck. I was nervous enough being in a small vehicle – I can’t imagine trying to navigate anything bigger.
Other Spots on the Oregon Coast Worth a Stop:
Clearly you can see that just about everywhere on Oregon’s coastline are worth stopping at! Aside from Thor’s Well being one of the most dangerous areas to visit, the Devil’s Punchbowl is also a stunning geological formation that can have dire consequences when visiting if you’re not careful.
Above you can see the punchbowl at low tide which looks like a great place to explore the rocky terrain for tidal pools!
But here is the Punchbowl at high tide – which will be completely filled and trap its occupants with vicious waves if you do not time your visit properly. Thankfully you can safely view the Punchbowl from above on a scenic overlook like we did! Cape Kiwanda is also another treacherous but beautiful location to do some research on if you’re up for an adventure.
Other places to visit:
- Cobble Beach
- Coquille Point
- Face Rock State Scenic View Point
- Harris Beach State Park
- Osward West State Park
- Cape Blanco
- Short Sands Beach
- Peter Iredale Shipwreck
- Fort Stevens State Park
- Goonies Film Locations
You can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a memorable experience on the Oregon coast – there are tidal pools, scenic views and wildlife everywhere you turn. Remember not to disturb the marine life and treat the ecosystems you come across with care and respect.
Oregon’s coastal gems are there because those that came before you also took care not to disturb nature’s beauty. Please do not remove animals, flip rocks, or leave trash!
I HIGHLY recommend solid firm shoes – not flip flops – for climbing on rocks. There are a lot of slippery and sharp surfaces that can easily cause more harm to yourself than you would want! Be mindful of high tides and vicious waves – a fall on the rocks is a quick way to need an emergency room!