The more I’ve traveled over the past decade, the more I’ve come to appreciate how many world-class photography destinations exist on the Oregon Coast! This is one of the greatest travel lessons I’ve learned!
Each time I’ve returned home, I have found myself going for a drive along Highway 101. Despite having been to most of these places so many times before, I always discover something new to photograph on the Oregon Coast.
Whether your interest is seascapes, tide pools, sunsets, or even (especially?) night sky photography, you will be delighted with the abundance of unique places available for Oregon Coast photography.
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Famous For: Yaquina Head Lighthouse
I have seen a ton of amazing photos of Yaquina Head Lighthouse, most of which taken at sunset. However, I have never had the fortune of actually seeing it myself! Of the times I have attempted to photograph here, a thick marine layer has spoiled the party each time.
Still, when conditions allow, it is hard to understate the photogenic setting in which Yaquina Head Lighthouse shines!
Check out Nye Beach as not only does it provide a good angle on the lighthouse, but the sand dunes that form here are of photographic interest in their own right!
9. Otter Rock
Famous For: Devil’s Punchbowl
Otter Rock is home to one of the most interesting and photogenic landscapes on the Oregon coast, known as Devil’s Punchbowl. What remains of this collapsed sea cave is a visual delight for any coastal photographer.
During the low tide, you are able to access the inside of Devil’s Punchbowl. Take great care if you do, however, as there will be no escaping if you take too long photographing and get caught in a rising tide. This is unlikely, but should be considered.
Famous For: Oregon Sand Dunes
Florence has become a major destination for motor-sport enthusiasts and other hobbyists who flock to this region to enjoy the incredible Oregon sand dunes.
While the sand dunes of Florence offer plenty in terms of experience, I have personally found photography opportunities somewhat limited. Nevertheless, the interesting textures and color pallet that exist here make it an interesting, unique place to score some one-of-a-kind photos.
In particular, Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park has some nice hiking and dune access.
7. Harris Beach State Park
Famous For: Seastacks, Camping
Just outside the city of Brookings is the impressive Harris Beach State Park and picnic area. This is not only a great place to camp, but to photograph the impressive sea stacks and coastline that make Southern Oregon so unique.
Those of you who have never explored the Southern Oregon coast will undoubtedly fall in love with Harris Beach. While I recommend spending plenty of time there, you should know that things only get better as you head North!
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6. Heceta Head Lighthouse
Famous For: Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Caves
Most photographers will have a natural affinity for seascapes and lighthouses. The Oregon coast is a treasure trove for both, and few places “shine brighter” than Heceta Head Lighthouse and the companion beach.
This is a spectacular place to photograph in the evening. The sun sets almost directly behind the lighthouse from any one of the numerous roadside lookout points.
Strap on a nice telephoto lens and fill your frame with golden light and this treasured lighthouse for a photograph that will inevitably find its way to the top shelf!
I also found myself enjoying the sea caves which can be accessed during low tides. These provided an interesting frame for some night photography and Milky Way chasing.
5. Pistol River
Famous For: Seastacks
I always love driving by Pistol River on my way South to Samuel H Boardman but I could never bring myself to spend the day here. It is absolutely one of the most interesting landscapes for photographing the Oregon coast. However, the tides greatly impact your ability to get creative.
When the tide is out, the massive sea stacks monolith allow you to get in and get creative with your compositions. Because this stretch of beach is so flat, be warned that the time can rise and fall very rapidly.
While sunset is quite spectacular here, it has always been night photography opportunities that I have found so appealing at Pistol River. The silhouetted shapes of the Herculean sea stacks create an impressive scene, especially when decorated by Southern Oregon’s famously dark skies!
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4. Cannon Beach
Famous For: Haystack Rock
Haystack Rock is by far the most popular place for Oregon coast photography in terms of visitors. But much of this has to do with the proximity of Cannon Beach to Portland.
City mice looking to get some salt air in their lungs frequently set their GPS for Cannon Beach as an easy weekend getaway. This popularity is great for local commerce but unappealing for landscape and seascape photographers.
Despite the large crowd magnetics of Haystack Rock, this is still one of the best places to photograph the Oregon coast. While much of the Northern beaches are flat, the sea stacks that pop up here provide an interesting subject for your foreground.
Aspiring astrophotographers and stargazers have taken to Cannon Beach as well. There is a lot of light pollution to contend with, but the fact that you can see stars and Milky Way makes it one of the best options within driving distance of the city.
FIND MORE OREGON INSPIRATION: Best Places to Visit in Oregon
Famous For: Wizard’s Hat, Devil’s Kitchen, Coquille River Lighthouse, Face Rock
Bandon is one of those places that will grab your attention immediately. The shapes and saturation of staggered sea stacks that decorate its beaches are simply phenomenal.
While Wizard’s Hat and Face Rock get most of the attention (and rightfully so!), there is actually a lot to discover along the coastline here. The pristine sand textures at Devil’s Kitchen, for example, look like something nature created with the finest brush. The ridges and dunes are simply special at sunset.
The city of Bandon casts a lot of light pollution on the beach, making night photography an interesting proposition here. While the light can be nice for providing detail for your foreground, it does make it more difficult to pick up the stars and Milky Way. If you want to avoid this, the Face Rock stretch of beach will be much darker than the Wizard’s Hat region.
2. Cape Perpetua
Famous For: Thor’s Well, Cooks Chasm, Devil’s Churn, Forest Walks
Cape Perpetua is a savage and perpetually windy section of the Oregon Coast that deserves more attention than it often gets… But, unlike Cannon Beach, this lack of attention makes it somewhat more appealing!
Rather than typical beaches and sea stacks, Cape Perpetua has unique geological marvels such as Cook’s Chasm, Spouting Horn, Devil’s Churn, and most notably, Thor’s Well.
Thor’s Well is my absolute favorite seascape to photograph in the entire world. Is is technically a collapsed sea cave, but in photos it looks like someone pulled the plug on the ocean drain!
This is an absolute bucket list destination for any aspiring photographers looking for inspiration on the Oregon Coast. However, great caution should be taken as there have been some deaths at Thor’s Well. Plus, every time I go I see at least one person’s camera take a fall or a salt bath. Both of these fates will likely be the beginning of the end for that piece of equipment.
I had never been able to find a source that answered the questions I had about Thor’s Well prior to visiting… Therefore, I decided to write one myself! If you are considering a photography trip to capture Thor’s Well, queue up and bookmark our Ultimate Guide to Thor’s Well.
1. Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
Famous For: 10 Miles of the most dramatic coastline on the planet
We travel worldwide full time and have done so for almost a decade now. After exploring the most world-renown landscape photography destinations such as New Zealand, Iceland, and Scotland, I came home to Southern Oregon and finally realized how special the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor truly is. It is one of those dream destinations that should be on everyone’s bucket list!
This 10-mile stretch of savage coastline is a veritable goldmine for Oregon Coast photography, by day or by night! Endless sea stacks, arches, natural bridges, and geologic masterpieces dot the rugged beaches and cliffs. There is literally no end to the opportunities for creative compositions.
The best part about Samuel H. Boardman is that many of the most photogenic scenes are somewhat secret. There are seemingly endless unsigned trails that lead to hidden beaches and lookout points. Every time I visit, I discover a new favorite trail.
It will come as no surprise that the Western-facing views are great for sunset. But what really puts Samuel H. Boardman over the top is the incredibly dark night skies. With the small coastal city of Brookings being the only light source for miles, every star seems to shine and the Milky Way sparkles even to the naked eye.
You can find much more information on our favorite compositions and destinations in our guide to Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations.
We have a variety of guides for the Pacific North West that you may also find helpful:
- Best Places to Visit in Oregon
- Top 15 Oregon Waterfalls
- Waterfalls in Southern Oregon
- Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations
- Beautiful Places for Photography in Southern Oregon
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Thors Well
- Things to do on a Northern California Road Trip
- Guide to Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Burney Falls Camping Guide
- Photographing Olympic National Park
Finally, feel free to browse our Oregon professional photography gallery for prints and inspiration 🙂
Final Thoughts on the Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations
This list could easily be expanded to a Top 20 list, especially if we broke down that Top 5 into specific locations. The fact is, the Oregon Coast photography opportunities are legitimately infinite.
We are also trying something new with the “slideshow” style of displaying our images to keep the page clean and load times down; what did you think?
Have a favorite place you insist must make the list? Let us know! We welcome and actively invite all comments, feedback, and constructive criticism in the comments below!