The Ultimate 48-Hour Guide to Lincoln City, Oregon
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea... I’m taking you back to the Oregon Coast for 48 hours of seals, whales, tide pools, horseback riding, glass floats and bonfires in Lincoln City!
You may, or may not, remember that back in the fall I did a little road trip through the North Oregon Coast, and if you don't remember now is the perfect time to check it out! I hit up a few towns on that day road trip and now that I'm back in Oregon I thought I would try to take time to highlight various cities along the Oregon Coast, to give you all more to see and do.
Being someone who lived in NYC for 5 years and lived for those easy 2-3 day getaways (which I could do via the train or a bus) I am trying to figure out how to make that possible back here on the West Coast. Now it may not be the easiest thing back here (we'll see how long I last before i head back to the land of better public transport), but I do know it's possible, and an easy getaway from Portland is the coast.
HOW TO GET TO LINCOLN CITY
Don’t forget you’re on the West Coast now, so unfortunately to get to the beach it requires driving...in a vehicle.
Tip to note: My advice for car rentals is to go with Enterprise. They have a great rewards program, allow you to cancel (without a fee) up to the day before your reservation, and have really great rates. I was able to get an economy car for only $17/day for my trip to the coast!
Once you have your vehicle getting to Lincoln City from Portland is pretty easy and bonus, you’ll get to see some of the countryside along the way.
Depending on where you are staying the below may vary slightly but in general you need to take these highways:
- US-26 W to OR-217 South (towards Beaverton/Tigard)
- From OR-217 take OR-99W South/Pacific Highway West (towards Tigard/McMinnville)
- Take a slight deviation from OR-99W South onto the OR-18/99W Bypass (Newberg Dundee Bypass Back)
- Get back on OR-18/OR-99W South, and then take US-101 South (which is the coastal highway) the rest of the way
Overall it will take you about 2 hours with no traffic. If there is traffic it will literally crawl because a lot of the way you’re on a two lane highway so best to leave during non-peak times!
WHERE TO STAY IN (OR NEAR) LINCOLN CITY
There are many options of places to stay in or near Lincoln City but for this three-day, two-night getaway I had the pleasure of staying in The Coho Oceanfront Lodge.
Now I will admit that staying at The Coho is going to be a little bit of a splurge, but nothing can beat waking up to the sound of sea lions and looking out your window at the crashing morning waves.
These are some of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and why I think you should stay at The Coho:
- Their oceanfront rooms have the cutest little terraces and nothing can beat that view!
- The public beach access is literally right around the corner walking from the hotel, and straight from that entrance are some tide pools
- Did I also forget to mention that the public beach also allows cars and bonfires!?
- For the grey/misty days (which are not uncommon on the Oregon Coast) The Coho has a great indoor heated pool, hot tub and even an on-site gym
- The offer complimentary cookies starting every afternoon at the front desk!
- If you want a chill night in they offer some of Oregon’s best wines, beers and ciders for a reasonable price to purchase (which you can add onto your room bill), and as each room includes a DVD player they even have multiple binders full of movies for you to rent during your stay!
- The have complimentary continental breakfast every morning - including those turning waffle irons!
- The ocean view suite rooms (such as the one I was able to stay in) include a gas fireplace and have multiple bedrooms...working gas fireplace people!
- On the back side of the hotel, next to their pretty impressive lawn area, they have three of the cutest fire pits set up with Adirondack chairs for your use every night - amazing views of the ocean and the sunset included!
- And probably one of the best features of the hotel... they offer an add-on s’mores package which includes a fire bag (basically everything you need to start your beach bonfire) and all of the ingredients and tools you'll need to make the s’mores! Heaven!
I mean I could go on and on, but that is why I will be bringing you a full review post. Stay tuned!
WHAT TO DO IN LINCOLN CITY
The best part about being in Lincoln City is there are a bunch of things to see and do but you’re also 30 mins or less from some other great spots to check out! I'm all about those day trips!
While you are in Lincoln City (this is where you're staying after all) here are a couple of things you must do:
Search for glass floats…
You may be slightly confused right now, so let me elaborate. Every year from mid-October through Memorial Day there is an event called Finders Keepers. This is when local artisans hide 3,000 handcrafted glass floats on the seven miles of public beach in the town.
Guess what?! If you're lucky enough to find one of these floats (I tried the whole time I was there and sadly didn’t find one), you get to keep it! So not only is this a fun game of "hide and seek" it's a once-in-a-lifetime memory making souvenir.
Tip to note: If you do find one don't forget to register it to receive a Certificate of Authenticity and get more info about the artist who crafted your float!
For all of the details, tips and tricks to finding the floats, or to get an idea of what you may find head over to their website here.
Have a bonfire on the beach…
Why do this? Because you can. Because it’s fun. And more importantly, because you can! Many beaches (mainly a lot of the ones in California) do not allow fires on the beach, because of the fire risk, but Lincoln City allows it!
So grab your gear, or if you’re staying at The Coho purchase it at the front desk, dig yourself a good ole' hole, crack open the beverages, turn on some music (or not), sit back and listen to the waves and take in the sunset in a unique way.
Get up close and personal with the sea life…
Seriously though. There is a little grouping of tide pools right on the beach and you’ll be able to seen tons of sea anemones (queue Nemo’s tiny voice saying “Amnemonemomne”), little fish and even a crab or two!
Now I’m not saying to go around and aggressively poke at the masses of green anemones that you’re going to find but I will say that if you give them a gentle touch on the outside you’ll notice they’re super squishy (yay!), and the green stinging cell tentacles are sticky (they don’t sting humans). Just be careful because as fun as they are to touch they are still a living animal.
Fun Fact: Each large sea anemone colony is the result of a single animal that has cloned themselves over many generations.
See the world's smallest river...the D River
You can find it at the main beach entrance in Lincoln City directly west of Highway 101! Watch it flow from the nearby Devils Lake into the ocean – for only 120 feet. If you happen to be visiting between June and October you can also catch one of the world's largest kite festivals held at the D River Wayside.
Go horseback riding on the beach…
Ok so technically this is not actually in Lincoln City, but just 30 minutes north in Pacific City you can ride horses right on the beach!
Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides offers one and two hour rides which begin at their beachfront location in the heart of Pacific City and make their way through Bob Straub State Park and the sand dunes.
One of the great things about this company is they are known for taking extremely good care of their rescue horses (learn all about their horses here). We walked around petting each of the horses and learned each of their rescue stories. They were all so pretty and friendly and the owners and staff were super helpful and informative, and worked with us to get the best horse for our ride experience.
I had only ridden a horse one other time in my life (in the controlled environment of my friend’s horse stables) so this was a first for me! Luckily the horse I got, Phantom, was a pro at given people the easy ride and stayed pretty close to our guide. Phantom was also the prettiest white and brown horse!
The different between the one hour and two hour rides is the level of expertise (the one-hour ride is suggested for beginners), and where you ride (the two-hour ride will take you a little farther out towards the Nestucca River, up into the steeper dunes where the horses love to run, and back to the water’s edge).
In general, I thought the prices for the rides were pretty decent ($90 and $200 respectively), and if you pay in cash you’ll get a $5-10 discount.
There are a couple of times throughout the day (typically at 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, 2:30pm and 4pm) that you can ride which makes it nice if you’re more of an early riser, want to take your time checking out of your hotel, or want to take a ride before heading out of town.
WHAT TO SEE NEAR LINCOLN CITY
When visiting Lincoln City, I highly suggest to venture out a little bit. The sights below are all within a 20-minute drive and will give you some awesome views and a little bit of hiking fun.
Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area
This is the crown jewel of things to see near Lincoln City (at least in my opinion). Known as an area for surfing, whale watching (we actually saw a grey whale!!), tide pools full of anemones, what seems like a million crabs, starfish, etc., and the punch bowl.
It’s believe the punch bowl (a hollow rock formation) was formed by the collapse of the roof over two sea caves, which was then shaped by the waves. The cool thing is you can view the punch bowl from both the lookout up top and also by going inside of it during low tide. Just make sure you check the tide before venturing down as it’s not safe when the tide is coming in.
Tip to get inside of the punch bowl:
Go to the end of C Street (which is the street just after the parking lot, and just before the parking at the lookout) and you’ll find a trailhead on the left. Once you’re on the beach go left along the sand until you reach the large rock arch that forms a gateway.
Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
Now if you only have time to go to one viewpoint (I've listed a couple below), go with Rocky Creek!
It’s a park on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and trust me the views are spectacular. There isn’t much a guardrail so you’ll be able to climb out onto the rocks and sit and watch the waves crash against the bluff. The rocks also provide spectacular nesting areas for birds, and you may even get lucky and see some sea lions, harbor seals and gray whales! These rocks are an official viewpoint for spotting whales.
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
This is another great lookout point that is close to Lincoln City. Slightly different than Rocky Creek in that a fence will prevent you from getting out onto the rocks, Boiler Bay gives an awesome panoramic view of the basalt-rimmed bay and also is another spot to catch gray whales year round.
In addition to watching for whales this is also one of the best places to see ocean-going birds (like albatrosses, pelicans and oystercatchers), and during low-tide you can even see the boiler of the J. Marhoffer ship – which sank in this spot in 1910 from an explosion.
Depoe Bay (also known as the world's smallest bay)
Now Depoe Bay could be a place that you spend the entire afternoon in, but even if you don’t have that much time it’s worth a quick stop.
Known as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast” Depoe Bay is also home to the world’s smallest bay, features a strip of cute shops, cafes and restaurants, and a resident pod of grey whales which makes its home off the shore from March through December. If you do have a little extra time you can even take a charter out for a closer look. Otherwise visit the Whale Watch Center or one of the many shore observation spots. We had dinner near the bay at Tidal Raves (more on that below) and I spotted a whale while we were eating as well as harbor seals floating out in the water!
WHERE TO EAT IN (OR NEAR) LINCOLN CITY
I was actually surprised at how many awesome food options there were – not just the typical mediocre pizza and fish and chips spots. Because this is a thing the Oregon Coast isn't exactly known for.
If you’re craving awesome Thai food head to the northern end of Lincoln City and visit Thai Bay. This came highly recommended by multiple locals and I literally died and went to heaven over their Pad Thai and Spring Rolls (the yellow curry also comes highly recommended).
Yatai Sushi is the perfect lunch spot and has fun specialty rolls named after the area. Just know this is a sushi, sashimi and poke bowl only spot as they don’t offer kitchen items like teriyaki chicken, etc.
Kyllo’s Seafood & Grill is not only an awesome dinner spot (with an awesome view) this is the spot to hit up for happy hour during your visit. Running Monday-Friday from noon to 6pm the happy hour features $4-$12 food items, $5 wine and $5 margs. I went to Thai Bay afterwards but I did try one of Kyllo’s HH fish tacos and I can say that it was well worth it. Although I did not try this, and went for the classic rose (all day), I did hear that the basil martini is special to Kyllo’s and a cocktail to try.
Another place we went that had some pretty awesome views and a great happy hour was Tidal Raves (located near Depoe Bay). It's the perfect place to stop on your way back from day exploring before heading back to your hotel. The restaurant is pretty popular but if you don’t have a reservation you can always eat at the bar, and this is where the happy hour is anyways (daily from 2-5pm). The huge almost floor to ceiling windows look out to the ocean and while we sat there for happy hour and dinner I spotted numerous harbor seals and even a gray whale!
- For a great $6 fish and chips lunch special (until 1:30pm) hit up J's Fish and Chips
- For some decent Mexican (as good as you can accept outside of California on the West Coast) stop into Puerto Vallarta
- Albeit maybe not on the nicer side of dining, if you're looking for an Orego n Coast staple you must visit Mo's Seafood and Chowder (which the Lincoln City location is conveniently right next door to The Flying Dutchman Winery...listed below)
WHERE TO GET YOUR DRINK ON (IN & NEAR LINCOLN CITY)
Want to do a little Oregon wine tasting?
Head to The Flying Dutchman Winery. It’s located on the north end of the parking lot at the Devil's Punch Bowl viewpoint right next to Mo’s (you know that place I just mentioned above), and offers tastings daily. And tip to note, if you purchase a bottle of wine your tasting is free!
Craving the happiest of hours?
Head to Kyllo’s Seafood & Grill, Tidal Raves or The Bay House for discounted cocktails (and sometimes even discounted food). It's also good to know that in addition to their "Double Bubble" 2-for-1 deal on Fridays The Bay House also has a $30 three course tasting menu in their lounge.
Looking for some local brews?
Head over to the Black Squid Beer House. Their seventeen taps feature an array of craft beer, mead, cider and wine, and is probably one of the best tap houses you can find on the Oregon Coast.
Lincoln City is a town that many have never heard of (especially if they are not from Oregon or travel to the state frequently). But I'm here to tell you that if you want an easy getaway from Portland, or are just craving a little (and accessible) vitamin sea, 2 hours SW of the 'City of Roses' is a little seaside city that will keep you busy for days.
I was an invited guest of The Coho & Green Acres, but I specifically sought them out based on their experiences, and in terms of The Coho for their views, amenities and add ons. All opinions are my own and I had an amazing time and highly recommend you experience both of them on your next trip out to the Oregon Coast!