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Driving on the beach is fun, but it is not safe or allowed everywhere. However, there are some Oregon beaches you can drive on such as Sunset Beach, Lincoln City Beach, Tierra Del Mar, and Pacific City Beaches. To learn more, here we summarize where and how you can legally drive your vehicle on the beach on the Oregon Coast.
Sunset Beach Recreation Site
Sunset Beach State Recreation Site is a state park in Clatsop County covering 12 gorgeous acres along the Pacific in an area of wetlands and sand dunes positioned between the ocean and the Northern Oregon Coast Range that’s known as the Clatsop Plains.
Roaming and driving along the wide, roomy beach is a breeze! When you come at sunset, the golden-purple rays seem to stretch across the horizon for endless miles! From the shore, the ocean appears to go on forever.
Sunset Beach is one of the few beach areas in the state to allow driving. Guests are free to drive along a 10-mile section between the picturesque coastal towns of Warrenton and Gearhart; this is the section between the 10th Street beach access at Gearhart up to the Peter Iredale Wreck Road at Fort Stevens State Park.
Motor vehicle travel from the south jetty of the Columbia River is prohibited on the shore between the hours of 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. during the period from May 1 through Sept. 15.
Besides fun driving, the low tide at Oregon’s Sunset Beach provides nice conditions for wading too. This is also the top spot for collecting Pacific razor clams. Moreover, this wide open stretch of shore is dog-friendly too so you can bring your furry companion too. Just make sure to pay attention when someone drives along!
Lincoln City Beach
The beach at Lincoln City is one of the rare Oregon beaches you can drive on by bringing your car right up to the shore. If you’re looking for the easiest drive-on beach access Lincoln City visitors can use, the beach’s main access point for cars is located at NW 15th Street. Simply drive your car right up to a parking spot in the sand.
Just don’t get any ideas about joyriding along the shore at this beach! While you’re free to drive right up to the water to park it in one spot, driving up and down the beach is not allowed.
It’s always smart to check out the weather before heading out for a trip to the beach in Lincoln City. When conditions get wet, it’s very easy for cars to get stuck in wet, heavy sand in some areas. You’ll also want to coordinate your parking spot with the high and low tides.
If you choose not to drive on the sand, you’ll find plenty of parking lots lining this long beach. The beach at Lincoln City is known for its great tide pools full of Pacific creatures. The landscape here often features moody skies, grey driftwood, and soaring seabirds.
McPhillips Beach/Tierra Del Mar
McPhillips Beach is one of Oregon’s most dramatic beaches. Part of a larger area that’s known as the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, McPhillips Beach is an out-of-the-way, lesser-known Oregon beach that’s accessed by a one-lane road that appears to emerge from the mist in front of you!
To find this beach, you have to look for an unmarked road that’s found 1.3 miles north of the main parking lot at Cape Kiwanda. You have the choice to either park in a gravel lot or keep driving your car along the shore.
Once you’ve reached this hidden destination, McPhillips Beach offers a stunning 2-mile stretch of sandy, slightly rocky shoreline. Unlike many of the flat, wide beaches that pepper Oregon’s coast, McPhillips dazzles guests with its enormous cliffs, steep bluffs, and statuesque rock formations. While stunning, this beach tends to be a little quieter than neighboring beaches due to its concealed entry.
While exploring the Cape Kiwanda area, dip into a small village called Tierra Del Mar that offers other vehicle access points to the beach. While there’s not much going on here, Tierra Del Mar does offer stunning views facing Cape Kiwanda’s dune and sea stacks.
The official rule for cars on the beach throughout the Cape Kiwanda area is that all street-legal vehicles are allowed on the beach north of the cape to Tierra Del Mar. Parking is also allowed between Pacific Avenue and Porter Point.
Pacific City Beach
Pacific City Beach is famed for its great surfs and long views! The big draw of this beach is the large sea stack that can be seen jutting from the water. Visitors also love to watch surfers and fishing boats. Large sand dunes create perfect viewing stations for watching the surf crash with fury and elegance against massive rocks.
Pacific City technically offers two vehicle access points, but you need to be careful here as one of for boaters only, while the second one is tricky. The first access, located beneath Cape Kiwanda’s headland between Pelican Brewing and Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa now allows only vehicles involved in boat launch or retrieval.
The second is located across the bridge right at the end of Pacific City Avenue, but this access is not as flat as the other ones so you can easily get stuck in the sand. Therefore, it is not really recommended to drive onto the beach here unless you feel yourself a professional and have the right vehicle.
Things to Know Before Driving on the Beach in Oregon – Useful Tips to Follow
There’s no doubt that driving on the beach is so much fun. Or, being able to park on the beach during a beach visit with your family can make things easier. There’s no need to lug coolers, chairs, bikes, and other items uphill or downhill from a parking lot. However, it’s important to be a responsible and respectful beach visitor.
The big thing to know about “beach and car” etiquette on Oregon’s beaches is that cruising is generally prohibited. Generally, cars are only permitted on the beach to allow visitors to find parking spots right next to the shore. If you want to explore the full beach on wheels, purchase or rent some fat-tire bikes.
It’s also so important to keep an eye on the tides! When parking at low tide, you may be positioning your car in a spot that will be enveloped by water when high tide rolls in. Avoid parking in wet sand that indicates previous water coverage. Your car could be stuck if the incoming tide begins making the sand around your car wet and heavy.
Make sure your car is in good condition prior to your beach vacation. If your car is leaking oil or fluid, get the issue corrected before heading to the beach. If you’re using a rental car, give it a quick inspection to ensure that it’s not leaking any fluids. Car fluids contain pollutants that can be hazardous to coastal wildlife.
If you’re heading to the beach to visit with your family, coordinate where you will park ahead of time. It’s important to space out your cars properly. Clustering several cars together can block views for others.
Some Questions before you drive on a Beach in Oregon
Is it legal to drive on the beach in Oregon?
While not all beaches in the state allow cars directly on the shore, there are several Oregon beaches you can drive on. Sections on Sunset Beach Recreation Site, Tierra Del Mar, Pacific City Beach and Lincoln City Beach permit cars on the beach.
Can you drive on Cannon Beach Oregon?
No motor vehicles are permitted on Cannon Beach. In some cases, cars can be issued permits by the Cannon Beach Police Department or the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation for special circumstances. These permits are generally only applicable for people with disabilities, people gathering driftwood for personal use, contractors, or people participating in weddings or organized events.
Do you need a permit to drive on the beach in Oregon?
No, you will not need a special permit for a street-legal vehicle in an area where beach driving is already permitted.
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