When you think of iconic American road trips, Oregon might not be the first state that comes to mind. But why not take the ‘road trip’ less traveled – ha…see what I did there? This Oregon road trip is a must for anyone looking for breathtaking scenery, small towns, and outdoor adventure – all with the backdrop of fewer people.
Last spring I had the opportunity to experience southern Oregon and fell in love with this special region. The scenic drive along Highway 101 showcases Oregon’s rugged and dramatic coastline, dotted with hidden coves, towering cliffs, and serene beaches. From astoundingly gorgeous sunsets to world-renowned seafood, this road trip itinerary has everything you need for the ultimate Southern Oregon adventure.
But my Oregon road trip doesn’t stop there, I take you inland to the beautiful forests and refreshing rivers as well as a dip into Northern California. State lines are just suggestions – right? This part of Northern California is pretty quiet, which is why I like to add it to the Oregon road trip itinerary.
Plus, I must confess, that the best redwood forests are in Northern California, and you don’t want to miss them when you are in the region!
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Save Money With This Round Trip Oregon Road Trip Itinerary
Most of the California Oregon road trip Routes take you from point A to B, but I have an adventure-filled Oregon coast round trip route for you starting and ending in Eugene. That way you can buy a round-trip airline ticket (and get a round-trip rental car) to Eugene and save some money. Plus, you’ll still have the variety of a loop route!
Oregon and Northern California Road Trip Map – Starting from Eugene
If you are simply looking for things to do in Southern Oregon here’s a list of adventurous activities you can do in the region. However, if you want a detailed itinerary of where to stay and eat and basically have a complete itinerary built for you – just skip down to the 6-Day Oregon Road Trip Itinerary which also includes all of the adventures listed below, but has much more detailed logistics.
7 Adventures to Take While on a Road Trip of the California and Oregon Coast
First, let’s talk about all of the fun things to do in Southern Oregon and Northern California. All of these can fit into the 6-day Oregon road trip Itinerary below. This way you can put as much or as little adventure into your trip as you want!
1. Sea Kayaking in Port Orford Oregon
When you drive to the Port Orford marina, get ready for a spectacular ‘reveal’ of the southern Oregon coastline! At the marina, you’ll find a little building with a sign for South Coast Tours. The building is a bit weathered by the sea air, but it’s cozy inside. This is where you’ll get all of your high-quality kayaking equipment.
Our guides, Markus and Emily, gave us ‘lessons’ on the beach and ensured that we were ready to go and tackle the Pacific Ocean! It was super to have two guides with us to keep us together and ensure we were all safe.
Sea kayaking is quite different (and harder) than river or lake kayaking. The swells are a bit intimidating when you are at water level in a sit-in kayak, I always have to tell myself not to panic if the swells are big. They did have sit-on-top kayaks too…but I personally dislike them as I feel like my center of gravity is too high.
We went out as a group and we had someone in our group capsize! However, the guides from the South Coast were incredible – they had the person rescued and back into the kayak in no time. It’s great to know that they are well-trained and ready for anything!
There were plenty of little coves, rocks, and caves to paddle near and explore. And then there was the wildlife! We saw seals with pups, and so many cool birds landing and taking off right next to us. And we got to paddle up to the rocks to see sea stars…apparently, this is the new politically correct way to identify a starfish…who knew?
2. Bike the Covered Bridge Scenic Bikeway
In the Cottage Grove region (only 20 minutes from Eugene) you’ll find the biggest concentration of covered bridges west of the Mississippi. The Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway follows the Cottage Grove Bike Route and is appropriate for almost any rider. We pedaled past 6 historic covered bridges for 30+ miles (depending on which route you take) of biking bliss!
You can do a loop route that includes riding on the shoulders of rural roads or an out-and-back on a bike trail if you prefer. Either way, the routes are stuffed with incredible scenery, and it’s mostly flat (especially the out and back routes). The route also winds you through historic downtown Cottage Grove and includes a few bridges in town too! Want more details on this route – check out this article on the Covered Bridge Route.
Note – there are no tour companies that offer this, however, there are a number of ways you can do it independently. Rent a bike from Cottage Grove’s Rainy Peak cycles (they have a small inventory so plan ahead), grab this GPS map, or this great PDF map, and go on your own!
3. White Water Rafting on the Rogue River
The Rogue River in Southern Oregon is one of America’s top whitewater rafting destinations due to its incredible scenery, whitewater, and wildlife.
I tackled the river with Orange Torpedo Trips – a provider out of Merlin Oregon. Orange Torpedo gets its name from a style of river travel they pioneered – meet the orange inflatable kayak. In a torpedo (inflatable kayak), paddlers are closer to the river than is possible in other types of boats. You can actually feel the currents and eddies working beneath you. I did a half-day trip on the Hellgate section of the Rogue River. This is a perfect section to build your inflatable kayaking skills. It was a cold, blustery, rainy, sunny day…yes – the river threw everything at us…and we survived. However, I did tip over once and took a dip in the ‘refreshing’ Rogue River!
4. Hiking in Shore Acres State Park
Stop at this little-known state park along the Oregon coast. Here you’ll find a small botanical garden where something is in bloom almost every day of the year. The first spring bulbs appear in late February; rhododendrons and azaleas soon follow; roses bloom through the summer; and dahlias appear from August through mid-October.
Why not stretch your legs further with the Shore Acres loop hike? This 1.2-mile hike is a big bang for your effort – my favorite kind of hike! Not only were the forested areas beautiful with mossy green trees and lichen-covered rocks but then you suddenly popped out on the coast where rocks had swirling patterns and tidepools were abundant. The views were absolutely fabulous! Note – there is a $5/day use fee at the park.
5. Redwoods National Park Hikes
There are a number of hikes you can take in Redwoods National and State Park. I started at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and hiked the Revelation Trail. As I hiked along the trail I ran my finger across the rough bark of a redwood tree and then compared it to the soft feel of a moss-covered spruce. This was a sensory adventure. Rippling creeks run throughout which provided a soft murmur in the background. My favorite part was taking a big breath and just enjoying the smell of the forest. As you drive through the park you’ll find many other trailheads that take you deep into the Redwood forests.
Note – you will need a National Park Pass to enter the park. You can get an annual one here:
Skips the lines and get your Annual National Parks Pass from REI! The America the Beautiful Pass Covers entrance for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas or up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person (kids 15 & under get in free)
6. Heceta Head Lighthouse and Beach
Stop and enjoy the sandy beaches and dramatic rocks of the Oregon Coast at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint. This is a great place to do photography, do some beach combing, and maybe even take a hike up to the lighthouse and beyond! The lighthouse trail connects to the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) just behind the light station. This 7-mile part of the OCT leads to Carl Washburne Beach and Campground.
7. Slide Down Some Sand Dunes
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area extends for 40 miles along the Oregon Coast from Florence to Coos Bay; it’s like a giant playground for the adventurous!
Visit Sand Master Park in Florence Oregon to try sandboarding! The park was established in 2000 and is the world’s first sandboard park. It is the only place in the area to rent boards AND teach lessons all in their own private dune park. Josh Tenge, who holds three world records and is a four-time world sandboarding champion, is one of two instructors that have the credentials to teach just about anyone the sport.
You know how you stay young… you always keep trying new things! I tried sandboarding for the first time – I wasn’t great…but I also didn’t suck. Just make sure when you ‘crash’, you close your eyes and mouth!
Regardless- I had fun trying this new-to-me sport. And if you want something a little lower-key, you can always opt for a dune buggy tour!
If you want help planning these adventures or other adventures along the coast – check out South Coast Tours – they specialize in this region of Oregon and put together some super itineraries. They are a great resource for these activities and more!
Related: 10 Reasons to Take a Solo Road Trip
6-Day Oregon Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Eugene to Florence
Arrive and hit the road for a scenic 1.5-hour drive to the Oregon coast. Head to Florence – a quaint seaside town that is known for its historic Old Town, dunes, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Try This Oregon Coast Adventure
Try Sandboarding, take a dune buggy, or simply take a walk through the scenic Oregon Dunes Recreation Area this afternoon!
Don’t Miss this Food
Dinner – Bridgewater Fish House located in the Kyle Building, a historic structure built in 1901 – it has a cozy welcoming bar and vibe in general. Order the fish…any fish…the fish is fresh and incredibly prepared!
Where to Stay near Florence
Driftwood Shores –This is a big hotel, but it’s also quite unique because it has superb beach access. Every room comes with a private patio or balcony with full access to Heceta Beach. They also have standard rooms or suites with kitchens for longer stays. Get up early and walk the beach looking for shells or clams – it’s a tranquil environment that provides some of the best beach access in the area.
Day 2: Florence to Coos Bay
The drive from Haceta Lighthouse to Coos Bay is only about 90 minutes – but expect to make lots of stops along the way thanks to the scenic coastline and abundance of adventures to have along the way. But make sure you leave extra time at your hotel tonight because it is INCREDIBLE! You’ll want to have as much time there as you can enjoying the views and the cabin amenities.
Adventures Around Florence and Coos Bay
Do some early morning beach combing, spend some time on the beach at Haceta Head Lighthouse, and enjoy the scenic drive south down the coast (there are lots of places to pull out and take pictures).
Stop at the little-known Shore Acres State Park along the Oregon coast. Here you’ll find a small botanical garden where something is in bloom almost every day of the year. And leave plenty of time for the loop hike at Shore Acres State Park – it will take you close to the crashing waves and tidepools!
Don’t Miss this Food
For a hearty breakfast – check out Fresh Harvest Café in Florence and try their Salmon Crepes!
Lunch – A trip to the Oregon Coast isn’t complete without freshly caught crab! Make sure you stop in at Novelli’s Crab & Seafood. They only sell seafood that was caught that day – and the simple little shack on the dock is worth the stop. But it’s more than just delicious, fresh seafood. Novelli’s only purchases their fresh catches from local fishermen. They are a part of a family of commercial fishermen, who have carried on the tradition of braving the tide and bringing their catch directly to their restaurant. It was such a delicious seafood meal that I ate it outside in the rain! Note – there is only outdoor seating at the crab shack.
Dinner – stop at a local market and pick up fresh fish and some veggies to make at your cottage tonight! Pick up some s’more kits at the Baypoint Landing lobby market and make them over the fire tonight!
Where to Stay in Coos Bay
Bay Point Landing
Baypoint Landing took the traditional RV park that you see dotted along the Oregon coast and turned it on its head. Not only is this an RV park, but it also has 26 Scandinavian-inspired cabins and 14 Airstreams trailers that guests can stay in.
The concept is such that there is a central point where there are facilities like an indoor heated saltwater pool, gym, firepits, lounges, lobby, market stocked with local products, bar, and even a food truck. Then the cabins, Airstreams, and RV spots are dispersed out from that central area.
I stayed in one of the cabins, which was made out of a shipping container. It was basically an incredibly cool tiny house. The design was sleek and modern inside, with a full bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. You even had a porch that looked out on the bay. Each cabin also shared a fire pit.
Not only was the cabin beautiful to stay in, but it was also just plain fun to stay in such a cute tiny home with an incredible view! Check out some other tiny home resorts I’ve stayed in and loved.
Day 3: Coos Bay to Redwoods National and State Park
This is an active and scenic day! You’ll have lots of choices of adventures today and quite a bit of driving. It’s a 3-hour drive from Coos Bay to Redwoods National and State Park in California, but it’s the most beautiful section of coastal highway on this trip thanks in part to the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.
Adventures in Southern Oregon
You’ve been enjoying those ocean views while driving, now it’s time to get in the ocean! Stop in Port Orford at South Coast Tours where you can do some morning kayaking, boat tours/whale watching, or even surfing lessons! I paddled around Port Orford Heads on a spectacular morning. They have all the gear you need for kayaking and staying warm/dry.
Hike the Natural Bridge short trail to one of the best viewpoints in Samuel H. Boardman State Park. The seven iconic arch rocks and blowholes are known as Natural Bridges. You can simply stop at the overlook off of Hwy 101 or if you are looking for more, you can hike a very short section of the Oregon Coast trail that takes you further from the road.
Don’t Miss this Food
Breakfast – cook up something yourself in your cute cabin kitchen!
Lunch – After kayaking and before you leave Port Orford for the drive to Northern California, stop for lunch at Crazy Norwegian’s Fish and Chips Shack It’s the perfect stop full of seaside charm and small-town hospitality. Try their cole slaw if you love mustard. Fish and chips were perfectly battered and they had delicious fried oysters with unique sauces- especially the tartar sauce.
Dinner at Requa Inn (Wed to Sun) or in Crescent City.
Where to Stay in Northern California
Requa Inn – Two words…cinnamon rolls. Yes – this place is worth a stay just for their delicious cinnamon rolls in the morning. The Historic Requa Inn overlooks the Klamath River in Northern California.
The Inn was built in 1914 and each room is unique with a different layout. The old-world charm is welcoming; however, their food is anything but old-world. They have a restaurant on site that serves a prix fixe dinner menu from Wednesday to Sunday. But be sure to check their website for the latest updates.
The historic Requa Inn is in the heart of the co-managed Redwood state and national parks. The parks have been designated as an international biosphere reserve and world heritage site. This is a perfect location to get the most out of a visit to Redwoods National and State Park.
It’s a beautiful and unique setting where you can unplug and enjoy nature…and did I mention they have cinnamon rolls?!
Day 4: Redwoods National Park to Grants Pass
Today you’ll enjoy the gentle giants in Redwoods National Park or other Redwood Groves on your way back into Oregon. Make a quick stop in Crescent City to check out the lighthouse and grab a beer. Then head back to Oregon, heading inland towards the wild and scenic Rouge River.
Northern California Adventures and Stops
There are a number of trails to hike in Redwoods National Park – I started at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center and hiked the Revelation Trail. Or you can drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway – the National Park’s version of the Avenue of the Giants. There are tons of pullouts where you can stop and take short hikes into the woods and try out a bit of forest bathing.
Before crossing back into Oregon stop at scenic Crescent City and check out the Battery Point Lighthouse – one of the first lighthouses built on the rugged California Coast. There’s a great museum to visit in the lighthouse – however you can only visit the lighthouse and island at low tides – so be sure to read the tide schedule before going.
Don’t Miss this Food
Breakfast this morning is not to be missed at Requa Inn!
Stop at Sea Quake brewery near the lighthouse and enjoy a craft beer and sandwiches before heading back into Oregon.
Dinner at Taprock Grill in Grants Pass – it has outdoor seating right along the river.
Where to Stay in Grants Pass
Stay at the historic Weaskyou Inn. This Oregon legend was built in 1924 along the banks of the Rogue River. It was a vacation retreat for many Hollywood personalities such as Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, and Walt Disney. In 1993, Country House Inns purchased Weasku Inn and began restoring it. In addition to the historic main timber lodge, they have cute, new, spacious cottages to stay in!
However, the main timber lodge is really where you’ll find all the history. Its cozy fireplace welcomes you in and the walls are filled with old pictures. The grounds of the Inn are also beautiful and tranquil. It was a complete treat to spend a night and a morning at this iconic inn.
Day 5: Grants Pass to Cottage Grove
It’s time to get close to the mighty Rogue River! Take a float down the river and enjoy the scenic views and beaches. After a half day of river time, head back north to the small town of Cottage Grove known for its covered bridges.
Rogue River Adventures
During the 1850s, the Rogue River in Oregon was the site of the first gold rush in Oregon as well as the scene of the state’s most bitter conflict between Native people and white settlers, the Rogue River Wars. During the twentieth century, the river gained visibility for salmon fishing and challenging whitewater boating. We were there for the latter – bring on the whitewater!
Orange Torpedo Trips offer a variety of ways to experience the Rogue River. You can take a gentle float and enjoy the scenery, do a more active standard white water rafting trip where you help paddle along, or get in one of their Orange Torpedo inflatable kayaks and navigate yourself down Hellgate Canyon! Don’t worry – you still have the safety net of experienced guides with you.
Don’t Miss this Food
Breakfast at Weasku Inn – a great start to the day in the historic building.
Lunch – Today you’ll likely picnic on a beach along the Rogue River as part of your river adventure.
Dinner – Check out Coast Fork Brewing in this charming Cottage Grove. They have delicious beer and food!
Where to Stay in Cottage Grove
Cottage Grove Inn – a basic hotel in the heart of this small town.
Day 6: Cottage Grove to Eugene
Today you are going to cover the ground on two wheels! Biking is the best way to experience the abundance of covered bridges in this part of Oregon! Spend your day exploring the bridges by bike and then head back to Eugene to come full circle on this Oregon Road Trip!
And of course, if you aren’t a biker – then you can skip this day or take time to enjoy Cottage Grove.
Lane County (Cottage Grove) has more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi River! You can rent bikes and head off on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway Rent a bike or e-bike from Rainy Peak Bicycles in Cottage Grove and enjoy the bucolic countryside full of rural farmland, lakes, and covered bridges.
Where to Eat
Lunch – Get a packed lunch from any local restaurant in Cottage Grove and take it with you. Or go biking in the morning and stop in at Jack Sprat’s in cottage Grove for lunch after the ride.
Dinner – Oregon Wine Lab and Da Nang Vietnamese Food Truck is the perfect setting for a unique Eugene eating experience.
Where to Stay in Eugene
Graduate Hotel is a small chain of hotels found in college towns across America. Each hotel is decorated with a nod towards the local history – you can sort of consider it a theme hotel. I love a good theme, so I love to stay at the Graduate Hotels any time I can! The Eugene version had nods to Nike, Steve Prefontaine, the Oregon Ducks, the Simpsons, and more. Staying here is honestly like a little scavenger hunt through Eugene’s history!
Whether you want to do some Southern Oregon Adventures and plan a trip yourself, or if you want a complete Oregon road trip itinerary laid out for you – I’ve got you covered! This region is outdoor bliss…it has everything for the person who wants to get outdoors and loves road trips. Enjoy the coast, beach, forests, lakes, trails, towns, and covered bridges of Southern Oregon!
To see more on each of the accommodations – check out this great post from Kirsten Alana who traveled with me on this trip.
Want help planning your trip – contact South Coast Tours
To learn more about the region check out Eugene Cascades Coast Tourism
5 Travel Essentials to take on Every Trip
One of the things I like about Klean Kanteen is that they have a system where you really just need to purchase one insulated bottle and then use their interchangeable caps for your different needs; caps for sipping drinks, straws lids for cold drinks, or chug caps. One bottle is really all you need!
Packing organizers are the key to packing happiness – they turn your bag into a piece of furniture. I use mine to organize my different types of clothes, just like I would a dresser; one has t-shits, one has pants, one has sweaters. You get the idea – it’s packing bliss. I use and love Eagle Creek packing solutions.
I love all of their styles and normally always have at least 2 of their different hats with me on every trip I take! All of their styles offer superb sun protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the material of every Wallaroo hat with a UPF rating and a 3+ inch brim as an effective UV protectant. Plus - they have so many fashionable styles!
Use my Discount code, OTTSWORLD20, for an extra 20% regular priced items!
I love this pouch - you can fit so much into it - it really is deceptive! Whether storing cables, everyday gear, or travel essentials, Tech Pouch offers unrivaled organization and ease of access. Origami-style pockets create enormous spatial efficiency, letting you pack more into a smaller space while keeping your items neatly organized and easy to find. This goes on every trip with me!
I was a guest of Travel Oregon, Eugene Cascades Coast Tourism, and the Adventure Trade Travel Association on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.